Shelly Coykendall’s quilts are so detailed, most people would rather hang them on the wall than use them to keep warm.
“I used to say I’m a quilter, but I realized people were saying I’m more of a fiber artist,” she said.
Intricate patterns of thread swirl across the top of each creation, forming feathers and flowers and animals. The flowing lines of stitches, which often pass within millimeters of each other, are all free-motion handiwork by Coykendall, who steers the needle of her quilting machine by hand around the top of each quilt, following designs she created herself.
One of Coykendalls creations — a two-foot by two-foot “graffiti quilt” — is featured in this month’s edition of Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine as the second place finisher in a national contest sponsored by the magazine. The honor is one of dozens of awards that the Hermiston woman has earned over 10 years of quilting, a hobby she picked up after retirement.
“I think it pushes me, that competitive edge,” she said of entering contests and expos.
The Coykendall house is full of quilts, hanging over curtain rods along walls and draped over furniture. A large tan quilt with colorful diamonds and a dreamcatcher adorns one wall in the hallway, while a patterned bedcover in fall colors sits in the guest room. The collection is just this season’s quilts — Coykendall has a closet full of others ready for Christmastime, spring and summer.
Many of Coykendall’s quilts mix styles, meshing pieced quilting with embroidery, raised trapunto designs and free motion stitching overlaying lines she first sketched out with a water soluble pen. While the thread often matches the color of the material it overlays, for her graffiti quilts Coykendall uses colors that stand out against the background, starting at the center of the fabric and improvising patterns as she works outward.
“Every single one is going to be different,” she said.
Coykendall said she always had an artistic nature growing up, but she didn’t indulge it much past her art classes at school until she retired from Eastern Oregon Telecom and began experimenting with quilting techniques. She is mostly self-taught using DVDs and webinars.
Her husband Dennis, who says he’s immensely proud of her, has his own hobby, woodworking, and has custom-built a number of racks, tables and desks for her quilting room.
Coykendall sometimes gives quilts away to family members and friends, but she doesn’t have an interest in taking orders or selling the ones she completes.
“I’m not in it for business, I’m in it for fun,” she said. “I don’t want to take the joy out of quilting.”
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.