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Author takes quilting in new directions with Paint Shop Pro

Talk about quilting and one might imagine a group of grandmotherly women poised over patches of cloth, chatting to each other, and nodding their bonnets. But Mary Ellen Kranz, who grew up in New Jersey, says quilting is anything but a dying art. "Both my mother and grandmother sewed," she said. "I’ve had a needle in my hand as long as I can remember."

Today, the technological revolution that has put a cell phone in everyone’s hand has also revitalized quilting. "You now have sewing machines that can be directly connected to laptops. You have all these quilters-yes, even some grey-haired ladies—downloading designs from their laptops into their sewing machines."

Kranz is familiar with the impact of technology on this time-honored art. In fact, it’s been the focus of her career. "I used to work as a technology manager," Kranz said. "But I started getting interested in quilting again just when the technology started allowing for some really interesting possibilities." Kranz left her job in the computer field and began working part time at a quilt shop. She began experimenting with the use of images on quilts and soon started teaching classes on the subject all over the country.

"Right now the technologies have all kind of come together. We now have printers that can print directly onto fabric that are basically home, ink-jet printers. At the same time, we have digital cameras that are allowing people to more freely take pictures. Combine that with image editing software that is getting easier and easier to use and you’ve got opportunities for quilt makers with very average equipment to do some pretty exciting things in terms of integrating photographic imagery into their quilts," Kranz said.

"Paint Shop Pro has always been my image editor of choice," Kranz continued. "It’s what I teach in my classes. It’s so easy and intuitive. I’ve found that within an hour or hour and a half I can teach people who claim to be ‘computer illiterate’ how to edit their images and print them out on fabric with Paint Shop Pro."

“Certain Paint Shop Pro features work particularly well for quilters. One of the features that I really like is Print Layout.”

Mary Ellen Kranz
A Patchwork of Pictures

Certain Paint Shop Pro features work particularly well for quilters, Kranz said. "One of the features that I really like is Print Layout. Quilters are, by nature, thrifty people and when you’re getting ready to print onto fabric, you really don’t want to mess it up. There’s a fair amount of work involved in preparing that fabric and it’s also somewhat costly. Print Layout lets you place the pictures on screen in a very intuitive way, similar to how you position templates on quilts. You can be sure you’re not wasting any cloth. I haven’t found a print layout feature as easy and intuitive in any other program."

"It’s also really helpful that you can work with your scanner without leaving the Paint Shop Pro environment. The icon is right there. This helps quilters download images without getting lost.”"

It is clear that following the thread of her passion has lead Mary Ellen Kranz in many interesting directions, both personally and professionally. She teaches all over the country and enjoys meeting quilters who share her passion.

"I met a woman named Cheryl Hayes while working at the quilt shop," Kranz explained. Her meeting with Hayes led to an exciting collaboration. Kranz was teaching in New York State when the editor of American Quilter magazine asked her to do an article about integrating photos and effects into quilts. The article appeared in the Spring 2003 issue. Soon after that, Kranz received a phone call from Penny McMorris, president of the Electric Quilt Co.

"She asked me if I wanted to write a book," Kranz said. "I told her that Cheryl and I had been toying around with the idea of writing a book for some time and would love to write it."

It took Kranz and Hayes about ten months to finish their book, Blending Photos with Fabric. The book outlines the process for transferring digital imagery onto quilts and is filled with innovative techniques. "Paint Shop Pro is featured heavily in the book," Kranz said.

“Print Layout lets you place the pictures on screen in a very intuitive way, similar to how you position templates on quilts.”

Mary Ellen Kranz
A Patchwork of Pictures

The book is currently available in quilt shops and online at Electricquilt.com and Quiltingimages.com.

"I’m thrilled," said Kranz, who believes this to be the first book published on the topic. "We’re always learning. Cheryl and I have already developed enough new projects to write a second book with different techniques."

Wherever the future takes her, Kranz is certain Paint Shop Pro will continue to be a part of her evolution as a fiber artist. "Paint Shop Pro is the image editor specified in the first book. And now that Paint Shop Pro 9 is out, there are all kinds of new features that open up possibilities for quilt makers."

With three grown sons and a job that takes her around the country, Kranz seems to be in a perfect position to follow the possibilities that emerge as technology, quilting, and Paint Shop Pro continue to grow.

"I can’t wait to see what happens next," Kranz said. "Quiltmaking is the most fantastic art form because our palette of materials is so rich and varied. Cottons, silks, wool, and batiks combined with photos and images on fabric give us an enormous range of possibilities. Quilts, historically, have always reflected the spirit of the time in which they were made and our quilts today do the same."

One can almost picture the grey-haired ladies, sans bonnets, turn from their laptops and 1.5-gigabyte sewing machines, and smile.