Darlene Friesen: Quilt Artist and Coach
Quilting and sewing coach serving the North Okanagan in British Columbia: Classes offered in my studio or your home. I provide consultation to aid your personal projects. I also provide longarm quilting service.


(posted on 8 Sep 2014)

My first memories of sewing, was sitting on the front porch of our east Vancouver home. I was 5 years old and I was wearing a lavender coloured party dress with a nylon overlay. I loved dressing up! I was very excited because in my hands I held a threaded needle and a scrap of cloth. I was very intent on sewing, and so I was busy creating a bunched up ball of fabric with big random stabbing stitches. But I was enthralled by this process. I was sewing. It was all very fascinating until the moment came when I ran out of thread and as I held this balled up fabric on my lap, I cut, cutting right through the sheer layer of my party dress. Horrors!

Fast forward to a new house, and my yearning to learn to sew intensified. My Mom, a busy stay at home Mom, had a friend who had a hard life. On the days when my rather proper Mom would look out the window, and say to herself, "Oh no, I don't have time to visit, I have work to do", as she watched her lonely friend weave up the laneway with a bottle of red wine under her arm. I took a different approach. I knew this women knew how to sew! I brought out my sewing basket, and begged her to teach me how to embroider french knots and daisy chain, and flowers. I was so excited!

Then came grade 5 and a wonderful teacher who taught us how to make a fabric doll. I was in heaven. I remember purchasing my fabric with care, and doing the extra embroidery on the apron.

Soon I was asking for fabric from my young girlfriends that came to my birthday parties. While in grade 6 I badgered my older sister to show me how to sew. After all, she had taken sewing in home ec. She was less than compliant with my demands. So, I took matters into my own hands and went down to Eatons and bought a pattern and some fabric. I just did it. Nothing was going to stop me. Not even the fact that I didn't know how to sew. I think my sister eventually partially rescued me, but not before I made darts in the front of my linen jumper that came up from the bottom and from the side, and met in a perfect point! And I wore it. Stubborn.

So part of my telling you part of my sewing journey, is to say, 'Where there is a will there is a way', and partly to recognize that I am at a phase of my life where I realize it is time to give back. As a longarm quilter, I meet quilters who are at different levels of experience. This summer I quilted for two rank beginners, and as I heard their quilting journey, I realized that I would have liked to help them more.

While I remain fascinated with the way sewing has tradtionally been passed down through the generations from the older to the younger, I am also so pleased that youtube has opened avenues for young sewers who don't have the benefit of a sewing Mother or Grandmother, or teacher that happened to share a unit on sewing a doll.

I suppose us older women do have some experience to share though..... and here's mine.

When you are starting out quilting, be aware of the costs involved. One of the big initial expenses is a rotary cutter, cutting matt and ruler. Try to borrow a set of these to start. Or shop for sales. Fabric stores that offer membership card, do have good sales on these items occaisonally. Go into the store, and ask when the next really good sale - 50% off is going to be. A birthday or Christmas coming up? You might want to ask for a set as a gift. When not on sale, they will cost about $100.

A sewing machine. I have had many machines through the years, and my experience is for quilting all you need is a reliable machine that does a straight stitch. I have seen used machines in marketplace online adds for $50. Look for one that has recently been serviced. I have great respect for older machines that do the job well. Ask around, maybe someone has a machine they are not using that they might lend you. I presently use an old, old Pfaff, and that is a wonderful machine that a friend gifted me with as she upscaled her machine.

Beginner quilting designs that I recommend are Trip Around the World, Rail Fence, or Turning Twenty. These are all fairly fast to make. I recommend keeping your first quilt a lap size.

Once you've chosen your quilt pattern, shopping for fabric, or collecting fabric, is the fun part. Yes, shop at sales, but also shop at thrift stores, and on line. Mention to your local thrift store that you are a beginning quilter and are looking for quilting fabric. Maybe they will take your mission to heart and phone you when some comes in. Wouldn't that be great? Another expense is batting. Cotton batting is the best if you are machine quilting your small quilt. Recent experience has taught me the necessity of waiting for sales. I needed to purchase batting to finish a lap size quilt for a client. No sales were happening. I balked at the $60 I would need to spend on batting that was not on sale. A sale of 50% off is worth waiting for.

So, all this to say, if you are a quilter at any level, you are a creative person. I hope these tips inspire you to use that creativity to move ahead on your quilting journey with confidence and excitement!


Had a great time in Vernon, teaching a lovely group of women. They explored the strata, tree trunk and leaves techniques, to create their own original art quilt. Such fun! So proud of their adventurous spirits!


Exciting news here! The Lake Country Art Gallery has opened up a teaching space right next door

to the art gallery, and it is called the Art Haus. I am excited to offer a class on art quilting.

Thursday Evenings:
This class starts with an introductory night on Sept 26th from 6:30 to 7:30. I will introduce the sample
and discuss fabric options and requirements.
Four classes, beginning Oct 3,10,17,24 from 6:30-8-30.

Earth, sky, bark and leaves are the elements used to explore art quilting during this 4 week course.
Techniques covered:
-Creating strata that allows for plenty of exploration of texture, value, perspective, and techniques
used to create visual drama.
-Create bark with ragged edged applique and leaves with layers and cutaways.
-Expand your machine quilting horizons, using stitching to enhance your piece. See what
straight stitches can do and and discover free motion options
- Learn fabric framing options or choose to bind and hang using traditional methods.

Class size sample measures 27"H 18"W. This class is designed for you to explore
your creative side. I will not be teaching you to reproduce the class sample, but
rather teaching you the methods necessary for creating your own art quilt with strata and trees.
Prerequites: Sewing machine in good working order with a free motion foot and an adventurous
Fabric requirements and supplies will be discussed on the introductory night.
Class size maximum 7- class size minimum 3.
For more information, contact the Lake Country Art Gallery at 250 766 1299 or me at info@DarleneFriesen.com
(posted on 13 Sep 2013)

I decided to make a quilted wallhanging in memory of Kate. In 2012 her life ended in a brutal manor. She was a good friend to me and a dynamic contributor in our book club that had met for 11 years. As I came to grips with the shock and loss of her death, I began to formulate a quilt in her memory. This creative process focused the grieving process for me. What started as a very dark and painful design,eventually became a design that reflected something quite different. As my grieving changed, so did the design of the quilt. This process of design mirrored the grief I felt in my heart. Many months passed until I came to a place of peace and acceptance with her death. I then started working on the quilt. Inspiration came from a scarf her husband had given me, and from the colour of Kate's newly renovated kitchen. I invited the friends of Kate in our book club to share words that described Kate. These words were stitched into the quilt.

When the quilt was complete, I felt my grieving was complete. I presented it to our book club women, and they now share it amongst themselves, passing it from home to home.

I am grateful for creativity. It is a tool that allowed me to grieve and to come out on the other side of grief.

Kate, you are always remembered.

Sometimes simple is best.

I was out for a walk with Hobbes the dog, one sunny winter day. I looked up and was struck by the beauty of the deciduous trees along the edge of the country road. Stark branches against a dazzling blue sky. With this wallhanging, I have tried to replicate this effect with commercial blue fabric that I altered using a printmaking technique. I wanted to make a vibrant, shimmering blue that matched that winter sky.

The angles of the branches create a dynamic design, echoing the beauty of this winter scene.

For hanging this piece, I experimented with different configurations of branches to frame the work. After many hours of auditioning, many combinations, in the end, I was most happy with just a simple branch hung from copper loops that were attached to rings sewn on the back of the quilt.

So, sometimes it is the simple things in life that are the best. The simple act of taking Hobbes the dog for a walk, and noticing a stand of deciduous trees. Taking the time to observe how the light bark provided a stark contrast against a dazzling winter sky.

For 22 years, we have lived in beautiful Lake Country. When we first moved here, we would be driving to the beach, and rounding a corner would elicit the response, “Wow, look at that view!” Our 2 year old son would yell,

“Yook yake”, meaning “look lake.” His excitement said it all.

This month’s offering in the “Desire fulfilled is a tree of life series”, is called My Neighbourhood Strata. It is a more contemporary piece that evolved in a unique way.

My Neighbourhood Strata

I had been admiring a lot of Emily Carr’s work and loved her representation of trees. I was struck by her portrayal of movement in the trees and sky. I felt captivated by her work, and set out to recreate a similar image using fabric.

Because my work is mine, and not Emily Carr’s, I was delighted, when on one of my walks in our neighbourhood with Hobbes the dog, a rather magnificent tree caught me eye. I was excited. An Emily Carr tree just a block from my house! I could own it. It was mine! Once home, I brought out my fabric paints and started the printmaking process on fabric. At this early stage of this work, I made a pact with myself. NO more commercial fabrics, only printmade original fabrics for this series! I felt quite virtuous and smug. But, then an interesting thing happened. My work stalled, sputtered and stopped. A roadblock. Hmmmm.

From the corner of my eye, I noticed my collection of commercial landscape fabrics, overflowing in their basket.

They beckoned, they screamed, “Come play with us!” Play? Me? “ Enticed, I thought, “ What can it hurt? I’ll play for just a bit, and then get back to work.”

And so I began making pleasing combinations of colours, cutting random shapes. The curve of a landscape emerged. I really had no idea where I was going with this. I simply took the next intuitive step. Layers emerged and this piece evolved. What I had thought was going to be blue sky, revealed itself instead to be mountains. I continued to work intuitively, knowing when to start and when to stop. It was play and it was pleasing to me.

Once the strata was done, I begun working on the tree, focusing on the texture of the bark. Yarn, organza, silk and cottons conspired to create part of a tree. Roots dangled daringly from the bottom.

The machine quilting part was next, pure joy as always.

When I stopped to view the finished work, it didn’t feel finished. Even though I was tempted to add more detail to make the tree look more like a tree, my husband wisely cautioned against it.

Instead, I used a rough cut batik wood like fabric to create a rustic frame.

Then I finished my work by adding another larger quilt as another frame. While I had left the main work unchanged, here I took the liberty to machine quilt branches and leaves, hoping to give a more tree like effect to the piece. So, I did. Couldn’t’ help myself. This piece had evolved into something that I hadn’t expected.

An interesting discovery for me was to realize that the process of play had led me to where I wanted to go all along. I had the beautiful backdrop, sky with movement, mountains, movement within the strata, and I had my grand tree.

This tree of life is a tree of life for me. It surprised me and the process of creating it gave me joy.

Similarly, when we moved here 22 years ago, it was not for the beauty of the area, and yet we have been fed by its beauty since.

As we have lived our life here, busy with raising a family and work, it’s beauty has caught us from the corner of our eyes, beckoned and enticed us. It has given us joy, just like my basket of landscape fabrics. Beckoning us, it calls, “Come, play….”

Desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

(posted on 30 Jan 2013)

The other day my daughter and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. It was one of thos misty, foggy days, when everything is drenched in water. It was quiet and beautiful. We walk through orchards, and along lanes, admiring the offerings that nature had to bring on that day. As we rounded a corner, I saw a building that I had seen on this route so many times. But this time, something different happened. When I saw this building, I felt tension drain out of my body. This was tension that I didn't even know I was carrying. My whole body sighed. So what was different about this building this time? Colour. It had been newly painted the most gorgeous shades of green, and had a wonderful muted red door! Now, this building is nothing special. In fact it is a public works yard building. Concrete block construction. The change was so magnificent because for 20 years this building had been painted Greek blue. Now, I have nothing against Greek blue. In Greece. I would love to see it reflecting the hues of the ocean. But, this building is in a rural setting with a backdrop of everygreens behind it. So on this day, with the mist rising behind it, this building looked stunning. It fit. There was nothing jarring about it. Peace and serenity pervailed.

I tell this story to honour my love of colour. Colour brings me joy! I used to think this was kind of hokey, this joy in colour thing, but that is who I am. By telling it, maybe you will be free to find joy in colour too! That is my wish.

My connections with trees is multifaceted. I grew up on the west coast, the daughter of a faller. Also, about the time I was born, my maternal grandfather purchased a second growth forested acreage on the Coquitlam River. Forests provided my father with work during the week, and on the weekends, the forest that my grandfather had purchased was our family retreat, far away from the bustle of suburban Burnaby in the 60's.

The forest my mom's family owned was 6 acres set on the Coquitlam River. As a young children, my siblings, cousins and I were enticed to explore this dark interior. It was beautiful. The smell was dank and musky, and a little sweet. Wildflowers and ferns flourished in the rays of sunlight that made it through the canopy overhead. The moss and rich undergrowth felt good under our small feet.

We would tell our parents,"We're going to play in the forest", and off we went, confident we woud always find our way home. After all, it was only 6 acres, and our parents were fine with that. Before long, and thanks to my older cousins, the forest boasted many forts. Along the trails, was the tin fort, the fallen log fort, and the fort with real dishes in it. But, the real treat was the forest itself. Quiet and magestic, this sacred space held me. My senses were drenched with its beauty.

The light danced through the forest, always changing the way I saw this space. It was usually damp, and sometimes the light made things sparkle. I remember random shafts of light beaming towards the forest floor. I stared at those light shafts, watching small bugs dance through them. The whole place was alive.

When my little forays into the forest were over, I remember the feeling of emerging from the forest, heading back to the clearing where our families gathered. My sensed had been drenched by the forest, and now as I emerged, I had to readjust. While I believe the sacred space that I had experienced stayed deep within my soul, the notion of being back "in civilization", required me to tamper it down. I was back where I needed to talk, relate and behave. But, I knew that my childhood magical forested world could be visited again, and often. It was the most wonderful part of my childhood.

(posted on 1 Nov 2012)


This month's tree of life is a branch from our apricot tree. We have been blessed with two "old faithful" apricot trees that grow in our yard. We inherited them when we bought the place 21 years ago. I am happy to report that they have soldiered on despite our neglect. We don't spray, rarely prune, and yet are rewarded year after year with the most gorgeous apricots.

Recently I have begun using these apricots to make homemade wine. Hmm, hmm, good. Well almost....It appears I still have lots to learn about winemaking. But, I have tasted my more experienced neighbour's apricot wine, and it is delicious!

So, this month's tree of life is our apricot tree. To wine, jam, and fresh eating fruit, this is my tribute to this "tree of life".

The leaves and fruit are printed onto commercial fabric. The apricots where printed onto ultrasuede to mimic the feel of an apricot. The background and branch are batik fabric. This piece was machine quilted on my longarm machine.

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