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Quilts by Jean Hillis

Including some collaborative pieces with longarm quilt artist Karen Cole

Artist’s statement

For the past forty-three years, I have been able to indulge in the joy of making quilts.  My main focus has been on attempting to make beautiful bed quilts, but from time to time there have been challenges calling for smaller pieces.  For me, working with a wide assortment of fabrics in various colours and values and making them work together to achieve the desired effect, is the most compelling part of quiltmaking.    Quilting the layers together, by hand or machine, further enhances the design and makes it come alive.  Recently, I have been collaborating with longarm machine quilter, Karen Cole from Dorchester.  Karen’s artistry adds a wonderful, extra layer of creativity to the pieced designs.


  • Founding member of the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre – (1972) Chair – 1979-85.  Have served on Board continuously, mainly as Program Director.  Newell Award Recipient – 1999
  • Founding member of Oxford Quilters’ Guild (1979)  President – 1983-85
  • Charter Member of the Canadian Quilters’ Association – Served on Board of Directors 1983 – 88 – President – 1986-87  – Presented with the Dorothy McMurdie Award for contribution to quilt making in Canada – 1999
  • Quilting teacher at the Creative Arts Centre and beyond.
  • Work accepted in the Canadian Quilters’ Association National Juried Show and other juried exhibitions, and have received several awards

Have received several  ‘Viewer’s Choice ‘ Awards over the years, including the Viewer’s Choice at the most recent ‘Pieces of Magic’  Quilt Show – 2019

Jean Hillis’Boxes and Boxes of Memories” – 2019
84″ X 103″

When I began quilting in 1976, I had no idea that I was entering a wonderful world of friendship, travel, learning and accomplishment. I was inspired to make this quilt when visiting speaker, Sandy Lindal showed her’ Tumbling Logs’ quilt as she spoke at our guild in 2017. Employing scraps from past projects stirs up memories of good times past. Combining two very traditional patterns- Baby Blocks and Log Cabin, and blending and transitioning the colour across the surface, adds to the depth and mystery of this 3-D design, pieced using the no-tear freezer paper method. Karen Cole’s creative longarm quilting has emphasized my Memory Boxes and surrounded them with a wonderful ‘fantasy’ border.

Jean Hillis’ “Classical Jazz” – 1985
53″ X 53″

In 1984, Nancy Crow came to teach contemporary quiltmaking at Oxford Quilters’ Guild.  She introduced us to working on a design wall, and also forced us to look at the negative spaces in our work, and to give them equal importance.  I found that this workshop had a profound influence on the way I approach my work.  We designed two simple blocks, which we then combined in a pleasing arrangement.  Some sections were strip pieced for more interest.  Hand quilting was done to enhance both the design and the background. Classical Jazz was the resulting piece.

Jean Hillis’ “Dandelion Patch” – 2019
70″ X 70″

When the Oxford Quilters’ Guild members were challenged to explore variations of the traditional Dresden Plate block for the   2019 ‘Pieces of Magic, Quilt Show’, I recalled a quilt by Japanese quiltmaker– Keiko Miyamoto, that I had seen on the cover of a Quilters’ Newsletter Magazine (June 2001). It consists of nine bright and cheery dandelions, with jagged leaves, surrounded by puffs of fluffy seed heads.  Although this quilt is not made using the traditional methods, I was drawn to make it and was challenged to limit myself to the fabric ‘on hand’. As it turned out, I had two similar pieces of batik that I chose to use for the background.  Combined, they fell very short of the requirements, as listed.  Because of careful planning and the use of the no-tear freezer paper foundation method, I was able to eke out the quilt, with barely a few threads left.

Confession – I did have to purchase a small piece of a similar batik to do the background of the tiny spiked border, to complete the quilt. Longarm Machine quilted by Karen Cole.

Jean Hillis’ “Daydreaming” – 2018
82″ X 100″

I was the custodian of a wonderful antique Log Cabin quilt, made by my great-grandmother, Mary Ann McLagan, at 16 years of age, in 1864.  So I felt that I, too, should make a Log Cabin quilt, but wanted to try to do it with pastel colours.  When I began to lay out my blocks, a ‘straight furrow’ seemed to be right, so I did not follow my Great Grandma’s ‘star’ plan in the end.  My blocks were made using freezer paper foundations (no tear) and attention was paid to colour movement in the layout to create a ‘dreamy, blurred effect’ that occurs when you are daydreaming.  Karen Cole, Dorchester, added the beautiful custom longarm quilting to complete this quilt.

Awards:  Viewer’s Choice Ribbon – ‘Pieces of Magic’ Quilt   Show 2019                                         

  Note*   My great-grandmother was married in Mitchell ON in 1874 and so her antique Log Cabin Quilt has been donated to the Perth Museum, along with her wedding dress!

Jean Hillis’ “Homage”2016
69″ X 69″

This quilt may have taken the longest of all!   It was begun in the early 1990s and was inspired by a quilt that Jinny Beyer, our first major workshop leader, showed us on her second visit to OQG.    Using striped fabrics that she had designed, and employing precise piecing techniques, taught by our great teacher, Anne Larock, I hand pieced the intricate blocks that I had designed.  Much of this hand work was done on a six week tour of Europe in the fall of 1996, with pieces cut and packaged before embarking on the journey.  Upon returning home, the small packages were set aside and more pressing work took over.  Finally in 2016, I decided that I must carry on with the project.  There were almost enough blocks or parts of blocks to make a wall quilt and so I completed the necessary units and decided on the setting. It was machine quilted on my domestic sewing machine.  It is called ‘Homage’, a fitting tribute to those two early teachers who set my life in a new direction over 40 years ago.

Jean Hillis’ “Island Spirits” – 2010
29″ X 53″

This quilted wall hanging is made from traditional batik sarongs from Bali, Indonesia. It was created in a workshop entitled ‘Patchwork Play’, taught by Margie Davidson, Edmonton, AB. Machine pieced & quilted.

Jean Hillis’ “Lighthouse”2014
27″ X 33″

In 2014, the members of the Creative Arts Centre were challenged to pair with a member from a different discipline to create a piece using the same subject. My piece was created after seeing Jacqui Poole’s painting –entitled ‘Lighthouse’. I had prepared the background for another project that was not working out, but immediately, I could see that it would be perfect for a rocky shore with a lighthouse. Hand quilting was employed to reveal the waves, rocky shoreline and beach.
Hand appliqued lighthouse.

Jean Hillis’ “Windmills of My Mind”2017
82″ X 104″

“Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning wheel
As the images unwind,
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind,”

A wonderful quilt by South Korean quiltmaker, Chungsu Lee, featured in the Oct./Nov.2010 Quilters Newsletter Magazine stuck in my mind. I had almost given up ever making it but had been inspired to adapt the setting idea for ‘Gypsy Dance’ (Dresden Plate) in 2014.
In August of 2016, I decided that I needed to make a version of this quilt!! For the next 5 months, I was totally consumed by the project and it was constantly on my mind. The lyrics to this song, by Michel Legrand, seemed to describe my obsession.
Hand applique, Machine piecing.
The exquisite longarm machine quilting is by Karen Cole.

Jean Hillis’ “Oxford – On Thames – Early Settlement 2001
60″ X 65″

This quilt was created for a special exhibition, recognizing the ‘Heritage River’ designation of the Thames River (LaTranche) in Southern Ontario. It represents the role of the river in the settlement of this area, specifically our own community of Ingersoll, originally known as ‘Oxford – on -Thames’, established in 1795, by Thomas Ingersoll of Massachusetts. A collage of traditional blocks, set on either side of the ‘river’ suggests the early days – Log Cabins, Crossed Canoes, Mill Wheel, Bears Paw, Arrowheads – all tucked into a multitude of Pine Tree variations. Machine Pieced, Machine Quilted.

Jean Hillis’ “Mandala Mystery” 2014
39″ X 39″

Design inspiration from a workshop entitled ‘Magic Mirror Mandala’, taught by RaNae Merrill. Colour inspiration came from the Jane Sassaman fabric which ended up on the back of the piece!! An exercise in patience and perseverance!!!
Paper pieced construction.
Longarm Machine quilted by Karen Cole

Jean Hillis’ “Adagietto”2015
85″ X 97″

Quilting and music are my passions! At the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, the Canadian Ice-Dance Team, Virtue & Moir, were awarded gold medals for their exquisite interpretation of the hauntingly beautiful ‘Adagietto’ from Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Both the performance and the music remained in my mind and inspired me to create this quilt. Could I create this same soft, dreamy and mysterious feeling in my work? Using the traditional ‘True Lover’s Knot’ block and batik fabrics for the centre section, soft colours were selected to move smoothly across the surface. The original design for the border was created, exploring the use of simple shapes to represent imaginary flowers.
Hand Pieced, Hand appliqued, Hand quilted.

  • Viewer’s Choice – Pieces of Magic – 2015
  • 2nd place Rosette winners – Quilt Canada – 2016
Jean Hillis’ “My Special Corner of the World”2001
47″ X 24″

This wall quilt was begun in a class taught by Gail Hunt, called ‘This Little Pig’s House is Made of Cloth’. I chose to depict the back yard of our house, with my sewing room overlooking the garden, as that is where I spend most time. It was challenging but fun to find fabrics to recreate our house in cloth. Tucking gave the right look for the board and batten and a green batik was perfect for the window glass, reflecting the trees. Although it was started earlier, it was not until the water garden was added to the landscape, that I could finish my quilt. The applique was done by hand, with some machine piecing and quilting.

Jean Hillis’ “Bali-Go-Round” – 2005
85″ X 99″

Using the traditional ‘Winding Ways’ pattern and a large collection of batiks, purchased in Bali, I hand pieced the blocks while visiting our son and family, twice, on this beautiful island. To complete the quilt, an appliqué border was created using simple shapes to represent the bright tropical flowers and the colourful, undersea life found in and around this tropical paradise. This quilt is for our Balinese daughter-in-law, now living in Canada.

  • Honourable Mention – National Juried
    Show – Quilt Canada 2006 – Ottawa
  • Viewer’s Choice – Pieces of Magic – 2006
  • Curator’s Choice –Grand National –
    Fantasy – KWAG – 2007
  • Viewer’s Choice – Grand National –
    Fantasy – KWAG – 2007
Jean Hillis’ “Northern Shoreline” – 2003
74″ X 39″

The Ontario Association of Artists issued a challenge – The Water Project – in response to the Walkerton water tragedy and in July 2003, sixty-seven exhibitions ran concurrently across Ontario. The CAC held ‘THE WATER Exhibition’. Using the traditional ‘Storm At Sea’ block, manipulating the size and arrangement, and using a wide variety of fabrics, I have depicted a scene from Northern Ontario, which is teeming with fresh water lakes that we need to protect. Double sided strips have been inserted into the seams and folded over to create the ‘white caps’ on the water, using a technique developed by Caryl Bryer Fallert and taught at the CAC by Carol Shaw.

Jean Hillis’ “Thidwick – The Big Hearted Moose – 2011
38″ X 50″

“Well, what would YOU do
If it happened to YOU?
You couldn’t say ‘scat’ cause that wouldn’t be right.
You couldn’t shout ‘scram ‘cause that isn’t polite.
A host has to put up with all kinds of pests,
For a host, above all, must be nice to his guests.”
Dr. Seuss

A favourite story book for our children when they were young was Dr. Seuss’ – ‘Thidwick’, – the big-hearted moose that was taken advantage of by all sorts of critters, because he did not have the heart to say ‘NO’ to their demands!
Our daughter, Jennifer requested that I make a ‘Thidwick’ story quilt for her.
It was so much fun creating all the characters in fabric and in colour (the book is only in black & white, with splashes of red & turquoise).

Hand & Machine Applique, Machine Quilting.

Jean Hillis’ “Inside Passage – 1985”
20″ X 13″ – 2018

In 1985, our family traveled on the Alaska Marine Ferry down the Inside Passage. The scenery was beautiful and we took lots of pictures.
In 2018, I attended a class, taught by Roberta Masecar, in which landscapes were created using narrow strips of torn fabric, collaged on a background piece. I chose a photo of the wake of the ferry, taken at sun down, on that long ago trip, as my inspiration. Bits of wool roving were added to soften some of the lines and create texture (ripples in the water). The finished layout was covered with a layer of grey tulle and then quilted through all layers. I was amazed at how closely it resembled the original photo!!