By Erika Steele, Contributing Writer
Southborough – For 35 years Pamela Arsenault has been in the quilting trade. Her love for designing, piecing, appliquéing, and binding fabric and thread into impressive and eye-catching patterns drives her passion to create quilts that display her amazing talent to family, friends, and others in the art community.
The Southborough resident is an award-winning quilter who learned the craft from her now 87-year-old mother who still makes about eight children's quilts a month that she donates to Project Linus, an Illinois-based organization that provides blankets for ill or traumatized children.
“My mother was an awesome teacher – she showed me all the fundamentals on how to sew and hand quilt,” said Arsenault, who owns of the best quilts her mother has ever made. “It hangs in my living room and serves as a daily inspiration for me.”
Though Arsenault started with hand piecing, she has kept current with technology without losing old fashioned techniques. She does about 90 percent of her quilting on a Long Arm machine where she imports the designs she creates into a computer system. Using practiced techniques, she creates function, fashion, and art with styles from traditional to art quilts.
Her favorite quilt was based on the popular child's book “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown. It was a present for a newborn and incorporated in the quilt was the baby's name, the story, and the book's main illustration with all of the objects featured in the book.
“One of the women in my local guild back then was also a librarian and she used to tell me she would dream about that quilt because she loved it so much,” Arsenault remembered.
With such obvious talent for the craft, Arsenault entered competitions and became involved in the quilting community. She currently belongs to four local guilds including the County Line Quilt Guild based in Southborough.
Said Arsenault of the group, “There are some very talented quilters who are enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge and love for quilting. The best part about belonging to quilt guilds is the show-and-tell where you get to see all of the creative and beautiful quilts people make.”
A humble Arsenault is making waves of her own. In August, she placed third in the juried quilt competition at the 2013 Lowell Quilt Festival for the category of “Bed Mixed/Other.”
“Competing can be very intimidating because there are so many extraordinarily talented quilters out there and even local shows draw entrants from all over the country,” she said.?”It really helps to see what other quilters create and competing pushes you to learn what makes a quilt stand out.”
Her favorite competing memory was winning first place in the Computerized Quilting Category at the national MQX Quilt Festival earlier this year for her quilt, “Music of the Night.”? To date, it is the longest time she ever spent on a quilt??”a king size for her daughter to represent her 30 favorite albums. It took her four and a half years to complete.
“It was an honor to win first place,” Arsenault recalled. “Competing makes me want to do everything the best I?possibly can and to fix any problems along the way instead of accepting that it's “good enough.””
Though all these commitments and competitions might lead one to believe quilting is Arsenault's fulltime job, the senior director of financial planning and analysis for a biotech company quilts in her free time.
“I'se been encouraged to pursue it as a fulltime job but I's reluctant to turn something I love into something I wouldn's want to do because I had to,” she explained. “Quilting is an excellent hobby for counterbalancing the stress from my fulltime job.”
Most of the quilts Arsenault makes she gives away as gifts for weddings, baby showers, Christmas, or to commemorate significant events; however, she also gifts her quilts to cancer patients and the Children's Hospital.
Arsenault is a mother of two and, though neither has picked up their mother's hobby, she holds on to hope that her family talent will be passed along into another generation in some way.
For more information and monthly meeting times for the County Line Quilt Guild, visit clquilters.org. To see more examples of Arsenault's quilts visit communityadvocate.com/southborough.