By Amaris Castillo

acastillo@lowellsun.com

DRACUT -- As Helen Rosenberger descended the stairs into her basement one recent afternoon, a sign on a wall revealed the main purpose of the space: "Quilts this way," the sign reads, with an arrow pointing right.

The long, brick studio is where Rosenberger, a longtime quilter from Dracut, works on her craft. Spools of colorful thread are organized neatly on a wall, and materials are everywhere. A machine she uses for quilting takes up most of the space.

In a corner sat Rosenberger's husband, Joseph.

"This is my apprentice," Rosenberger said, pointing to Joseph as he worked to lift fur from a quilt. "I have two ragdoll cats and, the minute I put a quilt out, they lay on it."

"I'm the emergency help around here," joked Joseph, who often helps his wife with small tasks in her studio. "It beats staying home, doing nothing. You just hang around the house, you go crazy."

Helen Rosenberger, 64, has made hundreds of quilts over the years, but one in particular is the focus of an upcoming international quilt show.

Rosenberger and her friend, Mary "Mo" O'Hearn-Seemann, of Lady Lake, Fla., were recently named semifinalists for the 2017 American Quilter's Society QuiltWeek for their quilt called "Finished-4th of July."

"Finished-4th of July," which in April won second place in the Emerging Entrants category at the Machine Quilter's Exposition Quilt Festival, will be displayed along with 272 others in the AQS contest.


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AQS has the largest quilting membership in the world, according to its website. First-, second- and third-place prizes will be awarded in seven categories, along with seven overall awards, including Best of Show, in August at the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"I think it's amazing. I am shocked," Rosenberger said of being named a semifinalist with O'Hearn-Seemann. "I did not expect to do anything with this but Mo's quilt was beautiful."

The women split the work to create the quilt that measures about 91 inches wide and 108 inches long. O'Hearn-Seemann told The Valley Dispatch it took about a month to piece the quilt. She then turned it over to Rosenberger, who took care of the batting -- the filling of quilts with cotton or other material -- and stitching the quilt together.

The result is a quilt bursting with blues, purples, yellows and greens (as well as other colors) and with an intricate patchwork of squares, semicircles and other shapes.

O'Hearn-Seemann, 65, said the quilt has nearly 4,000 pieces. "I think it's beautiful," she said. "I'm stunned... maybe because I worked on it for so long. I just think it's very, very pretty."

On a recent afternoon, Rosenberger wore her love for quilts, though not quite on her sleeve. On her ears hung glass-blown blue spool earrings shaped in spools, and on her neck, more colorful spools were pieced together in a necklace. Her metallic-grey hair had blue and purple streaks in it -- Rosenberger's attempt to "punk-rock" herself.

Her eyes lit up when she was asked what she loves most about quilting.

"I wake up quilting. I go to bed quilting. I quilt every single day," she said. "It is therapy. It's very educational. ... You're always learning."

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.