Helena Wentzlaff’s quilts are to quilting what Mt. Rushmore, apple pie and country living represent in American folklore. Heritage, home and roots. There’s no question one of her quilts could be shown around the world and people would identify it as one of the more wonderful things made in our country.
For some, the creative itch starts with color or texture, but Helena loves fabric. Her sewing room has lovely north facing light and is beautiful with built-ins, sewing areas and big closets that have shelves filled with folded yardage sorted by color. Helena has sewn her entire life–clothing, coat and undergarments, too. First for herself and then for her children. But it was a mere 30 years ago when she started to quilt. Taking a community ed class, she soon found herself working in a quilt shop (the basis for early stash acquisition)! Helena’s grandkids encourage her with many requests!
Having such a broad overall experience with sewing, it takes a lot to stump Helena’s quilting intuition. She prefers highly complex piecework and enjoys working with small fabric piecing. It’s like a puzzle with a great amount of enjoyment in the figuring it out part. The traditional style quilt gives Helena the opportunity to flip blocks, change colors and still follow the geometry of the pattern. A well thought out pattern will allow the quilter to add color by the number of pieces in a block. By just looking at a quilt, she can mentally take the quilt apart and walk through its construction.
One of her favorite styles is Civil War reproduction fabrics and patterns. This quilt is called Our Civil War Tribute and is from the Civil War Block of the Month series made with Judie Rothermel reproduction fabric. It measures 108” X 108”. Here’s a picture of Rob hanging the quilt on the porch for its picture! This quilt was designed by Homestead Hearth and came in a kit. A big kit.
A couple of years ago I bought the ‘Nearly Insane’ quilt pattern book at a quilt shop in Waunakee, WI. I saw the sample hanging in the shop and was transfixed with the colors and block designs. I thought I might ask friend to make it for me for, say, 13 sweaters in exchange. Not anymore. Helena said it took her years to finish it and I like my friend and don’t want her to expire while trying to make this beast. It’s still amazing!
Helena’s daughter is a wool dyer. Well acquainted with that process, Helena enjoys purchasing cotton from independent fabric dyers. Of course the fabric is washed before being cut and pieced. Usually just once. This indigo dyed cotton took seven washings before it was stable enough to work into a quilt.
Helena is also a rug hooker by way of her daughter, Paulette Wentzlaff. One of my favorite quilts Helena made is an all hand dyed wool crazy quilt. I don’t have a picture of it, but if I ever take one, you’ll know about it. Helena lives on a farm in southern central Minnesota.