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Otos wins American Quilter’s Society award
A quilt titled “Your Place or Mine” made by Ketchikan quilter Marva-Lee Otos won a second place award from the American Quilter’s Society. Photo courtesy of Charley Lynch

Daily News Staff Writer

Ketchikan quilter Marva-Lee Otos recently won a second-place award from the American Quilter’s Society — the largest quilting membership organization in the world.

The show took place at the AQS QuiltWeek-Spring in Paducah, Kentucky.

That show featured nearly 700 quilts from 44 states and 16 countries, according to AQS information.

Otos’ quilt, “Your Place or Mine” also is slated to brighten the AQS 2020 calendar, Otos said in an interview Monday afternoon.

The pattern, created by Australian quilter Wendy Williams, bursts with lively color and charm in Otos’ interpretation.

When asked why she chose that pattern, Otos said, “Because it’s wild lookin’!”

Her queen-bed size creation was quilted by Ketchikan’s Margie Kraft, with a moveable long-arm machine.

Otos said it was unusual for her to pay someone to quilt her works

“I almost exclusively hand quilt,” she said.

When hand quilting, Otos said she uses a heavy oval-shaped hoop on which to stretch the fabric in order to make the tiny stitches that both decorate the quilt and hold the layers together. She said the challenge with having hand-quilted works in judged shows is that the judges are looking for perfect, tiny and even stitching.

She said the bright colors and the wool applique method used in her winning quilt is her favorite method.

Applique, in quilting, is ornamental needlework in which pieces of fabric in different shapes and patterns are sewn onto the top of the piece. There are two applique methods, Otos said: one in which the quilter turns the edges under before sewing the fabric piece onto the quilt’s top, and one where the edges are not turned under. She prefers to use felted wool for applique, which doesn’t need to be turned under, because it doesn’t ravel.

Her winning quilt also got positive attention at the Puyallup fair in Washington state last year, Otos said.

“I won reserve grand champion,” she said.

She then described the award, spreading her hands about eight inches wide. It was “a purple ribbon that is this big. It is huge; And, I’m thinking, ‘reserve grand champion — don’t they give that to cows?” She laughed at the recollection.

At a “Road to California” show in January, the quilt won “Staff’s Choice” and “People’s Choice” awards, and at a Utah Quilting & Sewing Marketplace show, she won “Honorable Mention.”

At the local Ketchikan Rainy Day Quilt Guild show earlier this year, her “Your Place or Mine” quilt won eight ribbons, including Best in Show. Kraft also was honored for her quilting work on the piece with “Best Machine Quilting.”

Otos said she has spent more than $850 in postage sending the quilt to different shows so far. Quilt shows typically only allow a quilt to be shown for two years after its creation, she said. She plans to send it to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, next.

Otos also will have two quilted pieces at Ketchikan’s Main Street Gallery invitational exhibit, slated for June and July.

Otos said her feeling about quilting was not love at first sight.

Her sister invited her to a quilting class in 1982, and the method used then was different from the strip piecing method she learned later.

“They did everything by templates, and I hate templates,” she said.

A couple of years later, she was tempted to try another quilt class, in Craig, and she was coached in using strip piecing to create an Irish chain quilt. She dove in deep, and created not only an Irish chain pattern, but a more challenging double Irish chain.

That project piqued her interest, and she became a Rainy Day Quilt Guild member. She since has created countless quilted items for the guild’s various charity projects, such as bibs for Pioneer Home residents, lap quilts for Ketchikan PeaceHealth Medical Center infusion patients and Quilts of Valor for veterans.

When Otos was about five years old, she said her mother taught her how to embroider, and she still plies those skills on her quilts, in conjunction with other techniques. To create her “Your Place or Mine” quilt, she used not only hand applique, but also beading, decorative stitching, embellishments and machine piecing.

Otos said her first step in creating a quilt, after choosing a pattern, is to choose her colors. She starts with the background color, then builds from that.

Since retiring recently from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough revenue offices, Otos said she quilts several hours every day. She said she is driven to solve problems as she works.

“Oh, I’m not going to let it defeat me,” she said she thinks as she faces quilting challenges. “You’re solving things, and I’m thinking, ‘Well, is that like playing Sudoku?’”