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Patten finds joy in teaching

By JASON MORROW jmorrow@paducahsun.com

Sue Patten hardly has time to herself anymore. Between traveling across the world teaching various classes and workshops in long arm and domestic quilting, and spending time with her family, she hasn't made a show quilt in seven years.

She doesn't mind, however.

"Teaching is my all-time favorite," said the international award-winning quilter. "I love to share information."

Traveling 10 months out of the year, Patten has the schedule of a rock star, though she said it is "more like a circus" traveling from town to town, exhibit to exhibit.

Patten specializes in long arm quilting, which she started just a few years after her first quilt. She remembered buying her first long arm over the phone.

"I had no idea what it was going to cost or what it entailed," she said. "I just had the impression that it was going to quilt my quilts for me."

It didn't take long for her to realize how much work it would take to master. Now, 16 years later, she teaches beginners and pros alike.

She generally likes to focus her classes on free motion, like her class at the American Quilter's Society Quilt Week on Wednesday. She will be teaching a class called "Birds of a Feather," mastering free motion feathers, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Roosevelt II room. After that she will teach a class called "Brilliant Blocks, Bold Boarders and Stunning Sashings" from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Adams I and II room.

She will return Thursday for a free motion class for beginners from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Van Buren room.

When she first started in her early 20s, Patten never dreamed she would travel across four continents teaching what she knows.

Her first quilt hung in a booth at a quilt show in Texas when she was flown down from her home in Ontario to meet with the show owners, who had been impressed with her work.

"Before I left the show, I had met with the owner and she had written up seven classes for me to teach and I signed a contract," Patten said.

Patten has been traveling and teaching ever since.

Patten said most of her awards over the years have been for her thread art pieces.

She takes a black piece of fabric, uses different threads and makes pictures with them.

Patten said she tends to draw inspiration from the things she sees in her travels.

"(Images) embed in your system and when I get home, I want to remember it," she said. "So, rather than photographing it, I turn it into a quilt."

Her favorite piece is called "Dare to be Different," which features three birds with free motion feathers. Patten often leans toward nature with her pieces.

"My flowers have been dubbed somewhere between Mother Nature and Dr. Seuss," she said. "For some reason, I just really seem to be drawn to birds because there's just so much texture in the wing and the base of it."

Her passion for quilting has turned into a way to help others foster their passion for quilting.

"I still remember when I first started," she said. "There were so many things that got in the way of creativity that were frustrating. If I can give a group of quilters a handful of tips or tricks or suggestions, or even just permission to relax and just enjoy it again, that's what I love the most."

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