by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
ORONO — Carole Halteman of Orono has throughout her years as a quilter kept detailed records of the nearly 950 quilts she has created since she took up quilting “nonstop” in 1988. Approximately a dozen albums are a pictorial record of the quilts she has made, for whom, when, size, name, special techniques used and whether or not it was made from her own design. She is the owner of her home based business, Colorfest Quilting.
“I thumb through the albums to get new ideas,” she said. “Or customers can look through the albums to help them decide what they may want [for me to make as a commissioned piece]. The albums, she said, “reflect my growth as a quilter.”
Halteman made her first quilt in 1974, the era of the bicentennial of the United States when quilting made a comeback that is still resonating with women and men today. “I thought that quilt was so beautiful,” she said of the coverlet she constructed from a kit containing a preprinted, counted cross stitch design. She sometimes shows that quilt to quilting students she has instructed both privately and through quilt shops, and tells them to never be ashamed of where they started as quilters, that with practice their work will improve and evolve.
Halteman, a member of the American Quilters Society, sews in what was a former bedroom of her home. The room has a cutting table set by one window; her Janome 6600 sewing machine, which she has had for several years, is placed in front of the other window. The ironing board stands in front of a design wall where she can pin swatches of fabric and experiment with color combinations and design ideas. The far wall has placed against it several cupboards with doors where fabric is stored. In her stash are fabrics from Africa, Japan, Australia, Russia, Indonesia and South America, reflecting her interest in the textiles of other cultures.
Halteman, who is for the most part a self-taught quilter, said she quit her job as an insurance agent in 2004 to devote all her time to quilting. “I quit because this is what I love to do,” she said. She wasn’t certain what would happen after she quit her job, so she began sending quilted pieces to her sister in Hartford, Conn., to vend at local PTA and other fairs. To her delight, they began to sell. And after several years of such exposure, she began to get commissions from people asking her to make specific pieces.
Halteman loves to try quilting techniques new to her. Her latest interest is sashiko, a traditional method of quilting in Japan. “If it can be done with a needle, somewhere in my life, I have done it,” she said. But her favorite aspect is hand quilting. “I could hand quilt, all day,” she said. Hand quilting is an essential aspect of sashiko.
Recently she started working with wool felt, paired with cotton Civil War reproduction prints, and embellished with a sprinkle of beads and touches of embroidery.
She also plans to try her hand at incorporating metallic fabrics into her designs. “Once, I raided my husband’s tool box and used actual nuts and bolts as embellishments on a quilt. It was a kind of urban skyline. I called it Urban Jungle,” Halteman said. And then there is wool roving — hand dyed fleece that has not been spun — she has acquired and is thinking about how to incorporate that into her work.
The majority of Halteman’s pieces are one of a kind ranging in price from $55 to $150 for wall hangings, and $200 to $250 for lap-size quilts measuring 50 by 60 inches.
Each year Halteman shows her work at the University of Maine Homecoming craft fair, the United Maine Craftsmen shows in Augusta and Bangor, the Maine Craft Guild in Bar Harbor, the WLBZ Sidewalk Art Show, UMaine Page Farm and Home Museum and several other venues.
“My fabric talks to me,” she said. “It leads me to a design. Every quilt I make has a home somewhere, it’s just a matter of time to find it.”
For information, go to www.colorfestquilting.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.