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Fiber Artist, Teacher and Author


Linda Cantrell: appliqué, perfection and humor


When I moved to North Carolina some years ago, people kept asking if I had seen Linda Cantrell's work. Pretty soon, I saw one of her quilts in a show, and boy, what a treat! I felt that I had taken a plunge into one of those "Where is Waldo" books, except that the picture was on the wall and was made out of fabrics: a scene with dozens of little people, no more than an inch or so in height but yet each with a very definite personality. The longer I looked, the more details and funny, unexpected things kept popping up. This was not only a masterpiece in hand appliqué, but also a lesson in humor born of the observation of familiar scenes.
'Halloween' by Linda Cantrell
Click on picture for larger image
'Thanksgiving' by Linda Cantrell
Year after year, I have admired Linda's creations, a whimsical account of historical or current events and traditions. There is also a more "serious" side to her work besides the funny "little people" quilts: incredibly intricate floral applique quilts she calls " tapestries". The workmanship and sense of color in all of Linda's quilts is unbelievable. I find her to be one of the most friendly and funny persons I know. Linda shares her applique methods and her humor in workshops and lectures all over the country. But right here, you can enter her wonderful world and find out a little more about her and how she works.
Here a some of her answers to my questions:

Q: How long have you been doing the type of work you do now?

LC: I actually started with pictorial quilts, well, my second quilt was a pictorial applique quilt. My background is as a painter so it seems logical that I would be moving in that direction

Q: How did you learn how to appliqué?

LC: It was mostly trial and error. Lots of trials and errors! Finally I realized after more errors than necessary that I needed a class and took one. But I consider myself self taught.

'Christmas' by Linda Cantrell
'A Midwinter's Day Scene' by Linda Cantrell

Q: Did you start with the floral designs or with designs including little people?

LC: I stared with landscapes. But then, they were kind of bare, so I added the people. And then, people were so fun, that I started adding more and more people.

Q: Why did you start making the tapestry quilts?

LC: Someone I know asked me when I was going to stop making the little squatty people and grow. So, I just wanted to prove that I could do something else and started making the tapestry quilts. Now, I try to alternate making what I call a "pretty" quilt - the tapestry quilts- and then a little people quilt which I have fun making. To me, the tapestry quilts are more boring to make, I want to make the people quilts!



Q: What kind of applique do you teach?

LC: I teach the floral appliqué because in the process students can learn the methods that I use to make the little people. The floral designs have more different shapes so students learn more. If they decide to get into making little people, they have learnt the basics from the floral class.


'Fantasy Garden' by Linda Cantrell
Click on picture for light background

Q: How did the miniature tapestry quilt come about?

LC: Stupidity, that's what it was! Well, the very first large tapestry I did was with the dark background that I was not happy with. Then I did the one with a light background and I liked it better. But I thought it would be better with a red border, so I thought I would make a miniature version and put the red borders on it, thought it would take only about two weeks, and then I would be finished and would not have to do this again. Well, it took me eight months! I really just wanted to see how it would look with a red border. And now, I think the border could have been a little wider…but there is no way I am doing this again!

'Squatty Little People' by Linda Cantrell

Q: Where do you get your inspiration for the little people?

LC: Well, they just come to me. For example, I am working on an apartment complex quilt now. So each little apartment has a balcony and the people are in their little rooms. The people just come to me and pretty soon I know who they are and I give them what they need in their room. I have this little guy in his recliner. I know who he is, he is a sports fan, he is watching football, and as I am working on him, I know what I need to add in his room.

Q: Do you usually have everything planned out?

LC: No, I have nothing drawn, except when it really needs to fit together, like the Christmas house for example. That one needed a drawing. Normally, I start with an idea but I don't know where it is taking me. And things change from the original idea as I progress.

Q: Do you ever use a sewing machine, for applique or quilting?

LC: No, I don't. The only time I use the machine is to join the blocks and sew the borders and binding on. The machine makes me nervous.

'Barn Dance' by Linda Cantrell
For more information about Linda's work or information about her workshops and lectures, please e-mail her at
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