Karen Powel stands proudly next to a wall-sized quilt on which she stitched various kinds of fruit. Powel is a finalist in a national quilt contest. (DON LEACH, HB Independent / January 21, 2013)

Perfection was a quality she knew she had in her since she was a child.

Even her chosen career demanded such flawlessness.

Prior to her retirement, Karen Powel, 65, of Huntington Beach, worked for Boeing. She was a software engineer for Boeing's Delta IV rockets.

Such a job requires meticulous attention to detail, making sure the coding is just right to allow the rocket to function properly.

On the second floor of her house is a small corner decorated with award plaques given to her by the company.

"That's the way I was all my life," she said. "I always have to do something fabulously."

Now out of the aeronautics scene, Powel is deep into a hobby that requires just as much attention to detail: quilting.

And just like her work at Boeing, her quilts are starting to earn her attention.

This year, Powel's latest quilt — which she named "Carousel Fantasy" — is a finalist in a national quilting competition called Road to California.

She is one of 250 quilters from around the country vying for awards in their categories, as well as the coveted Best of Show award.

These nominated quilts from around the world, along with the quilting enthusiasts who created them, will congregate at the Ontario Convention Center Thursday through Sunday. Not only will the winners be announced, but quilting vendors will be available and classes will be offered.

This isn't Powel's first time as a finalist. She has been entering the competition since 2011 and has always reached this stage.

"This is the third time I've submitted something and I finally decided that this time I want to win," she said.

"Carousel Fantasy," finally finished after a long gestation period, came to her some time ago when she visited South Coast Plaza and saw the carousel there.

Like being struck by a lightning bolt, the idea to make a carousel-themed quilt came to her in a flash and the process of what needed to be done to create it began.

Prior to her current entry, Powel had submitted quilts using patterns by other designers. But she knew she had to mix it up to be noticed.

"I finally decided that you have to submit an original quilt to really be competitive," she said. "Carousel Fantasy" filled the bill.

Not only had she taken the time to think of her own quilting pattern, but she also paid close attention to the details in her piece.

Powel used her $8,000 embroidery machine to make the eight horses found on the top layer. She also added 1,100 crystals and Mylar fabric to mimic the lights and mirrors one would find on a carousel.

Going even further, Powel used her background in math and her husband's expertise in electrical engineering to perfectly lay out each piece in relation to the others.