Quilts and quitmakers changed my life. It sounds sappy, but it's true. In my wildest dreams I never imagined the inspiration and friendship that exist in our community. The story that brought me to quilting was painful and traumatic, but the joy I've found in quilting and studying quilt history is unmatched. That's why events like QuiltCon matter so much to me. Four whole days each year of nothing but learning about quilts, looking at quilts, and spending time with friends who quilt?! I'm down.
For those of you who are new to QuiltCon, it is the annual show of the Modern Quilt Guild. For four days each year, quilters gather to see hundreds of quilts from around the world, learn in lectures by scholars and some of the best quilters around, take quilting workshops, and celebrate all things quilting.
QuiltCon 2018 in Pasadena was transformative. More than anything, I valued having time to catch up with quilt friends who live in other states. I am fortunate to count some of the quilters I admire most as dear friends, and it's always a joy having time together. The lectures I saw floored me and the special exhibits took my breath away (more about lectures and special exhibits in my next QuiltCon recap post). I also had the pleasure of seeing hundreds of quilts in person.
Minimal Design and Use of Negative Space always steal the show for me. Beautiful black and white quilts popped up everywhere. And this year, message quilts appeared in each category. Some message quilts utilized big, bold words to guide us to their political message. Others used minimal design and abstraction, requiring us to look deep and even do research before the full message was revealed. These activist quilts stand in a long and global history of quiltmakers using their craft to agitate. My heart swells with pride for the quilters today who continue the tradition of activist quiltmaking, and as a new board member of the Social Justice Sewing Academy I know the future of activist quiltmaking is strong.
What follows are the quilts that gave me the most heart eye emojis. Some are quilts that made me think or encouraged me to look deeper. Some are quilts that carry powerful personal or political stories. But all of the quilts here and dozens more at QuiltCon are beautiful, inspiring, and aspirational works.
Now, enjoy your tour of my favorite quilts at QuiltCon 2018!
"One rectangular block with four pieces and three colors creates a world of puzzles. What shapes are in front? What shapes move from back to front (and back again)? How far can you follow one unbroken color?"
Double Wedding Knots
"Inspired by the wedding of close friends, I designed Double Wedding Knots as a modern alternative to the traditional double wedding ring quilt. The knots, which overlap one another to give the feeling of actual knots, were foundation paper pieced using only warm and cool solids from my scrap collection. I machine pieced the background using different white/off-white/cream solids and tone on tone prints to evoke the sense of traditional wedding dress fabrics. I then placed the overlapping knots to the background and applied using hand needle-turned applique techniques. The scrappy binding is coordinated to be an extension of the two knots."
String Star Quilt
"I am a scrap hoarder. It's a problem, so every few years I need to cull down the strips. I had just completed a lone star quilt and was not done working with the star shape. I wasn't quite sure how I would address the corners though. I tried a few different ideas out before settling on this. I absolutely love how the dark areas make the star look incandescent, and has led me to think not so much about the interaction of color, but how color can create form."
"A totem is defined as a sacred, magical object. Textiles are sacred and viscerally meaningful to me: powerful, omnipresent, ancient, and new. I am often searching for new ways of expressing myself through fiber, via the art of patchwork. To that end, I've appliqued a totemic motif of improv strip pieced blocks to a wholecloth, indigo dyed ground. This piece was made during my residency at Lillsteet Art Center in Chicago, Illinois."
"Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights." -Hillary Clinton
"I made this quilt for the Women's March in January 2017 in response to the US presidential election. Quilts and sewing have been a source of comfort to me, so I knew I had to make a quilt for the march because I REALLY felt terrible. (Plus I don't know how to knit so a pussy hat was out.) Wearing the quilt during the march was amazing. As I walked, I gained strength. I felt the strength of the women and men and children and families that we were marching with. After feeling so powerless after the election it marked a change in my attitude: that we must keep fighting and stay strong and that there are millions of people that agree with me. Stay loud!"
Geese Study #1
"The second in a series of quilts, exploring dense quilting and using contrasting 12 weight thread to create a feeling of more piecing than is actually present. Influenced by the handwork of Chawne Kimber and Heidi Parkes and the 'ghost' quilting of long arm quilters."
I am enough.
"This quilt is a way for me to be vulnerable in my struggle. I often feel that I'm not ____ enough - not pretty enough, talented enough, nurturing enough, driven enough...Celebrating is the best way I know to be open about my shame. The path to more love and belonging in my life is to believe that I'm worthy of it. In all the many competing messages in my head, the one I want to be simple and clear is that I am enough, just as I am. This quilt isn't perfect - but it is enough."
Allison Chambers, Pieced with Emily Robbins
"Creating quilts as a call to action is nothing new. Women, confined to their sphere of domesticity, used their domestic tasks in subversive and powerful ways, creating quilts that reflected their views on politics or social issues. We wanted to honor the women who taught us to quilt, to fight, and those who have used quilting to fight against injustices. We designed letters that could be pieced thereby keeping within the custom of traditional pieced quilts. We sewed this quilt side-by-side in homage to the tradition of women gathering to quilt together while helping one another."
Bobby Dole's Blue Jeans
"This is a geometric study of the traditional recision-pieced pineapple quilt block, stretched and dilated in white linen-textured cotton and my own deep tonal hand dyed indigos. Configurations of neutral spaces call back to geometric folk imagery."
Miriam Coffey, Quilted by Emily Coffey
"Feminism - too often is regarded as the other F word. In current society the meaning has been misconstrued and contorted to be a dirty word or even used as an insult. This quilt celebrates the fight and continual need to stand up for what is right and to redirect the conversation back to what it means to be a Feminist - a proud human fighting for equality, opportunity, and autonomy for all."
"I am often inspired by patterns and rhythms found in nature and agriculture. The inspiration for this quilt was corn stubble left in a field after harvest. The repetition of short stocks - each cut to the same height but left askew by the machinery - created a textural field that was both minimal and visually complex. Each block was cut to size before the lines were added. I used a ruler to guide a permanent marker, but the angle was random ensuring that each block would be slightly different. The speed in which I moved the marker influenced the weight of the lines."
"Walking behind an Oslo grocery store, I saw a 6' tall ironwork circle installed next to the building. It had one set of chevrons pointing towards the top. I loved the series of angles inside huge sweeping curves, and back at home, I played with the shapes digitally until I found an arrangement that felt complete. And yet the final quilt varies slightly from the last digital version because the process of sewing and trimming the quarter circles yielded alternating colors in the squares where the circles touch. This design mixes architectural inspiration and happy accidents.
Karen Lee, Quilted by Christina Lane
"Each block consists of a pieced, inset oval, sliced, with strips shifted and sewn back together to form the appearance of a sliced circle. I chose a neutral, yet interesting background fabric and a subtle print in a bold color to emphasize the deconstructed circle shape."
"Meant to transcend the moment at hand, this quilt is in reaction to and encouragement of the current social awakening in the US."
"Veer expresses my concern over the direction my country is moving and my disappointment in its leadership. It also reaffirms my commitment to political and community action and to be part of the solution."
Shine a Light
"'Shine a Light,' 'Be the Change,' 'Bring the Positive'...This quilt and design were a call for action to me after the depressing reality of our polarized post-election country. I decided in the quilt and in my life to always stand for important ideas but in doing so to spend less time criticizing 'the other side' and more time volunteering in my community, being a better neighbor, and lending my voice to those causes and people in need. We all have something positive to bring to our community regardless of political party, religion, etc. This quilt is a reminder of that goal and the powerful potential of our collective efforts."
"Inspired by redlining and home ownership, this work posits the viewer on the outside of a picket fence, raising questions about who does or does not have access to the American Dream. By preventing the viewer from accessing the lush field of green, questions are raised about how American neighborhoods are constructed, and why groups of Americans are systematically segregated."
Damn Right I've Got the Blues
"Mental health issues, English paper piecing, and Blues music - who knew all three could be combined. This quilt reflects my mental state in early 2017 and shows the determination I had to clear my mind of overlapping negative thoughts, with a little help from Buddy Guy's music."
"Inspired to create unexpected shapes with negative space in tradition (but large) log cabin blocks, Going Up mixes the hard of high contrast and graphic lines with the organic look of Essex linen and straight-line quilting. This original design was created in Photoshop and machine quilted on a domestic machine."
Cause you can't you won't and you don't stop
"One big note to self."
"This quilt is the first of a series of four quilts exploring color and form and narrative. Narrative is integral to my work and this quilt uses geometry to tell the story of my emotional reaction to the current political climate. The dark red stripe is woven throughout the quilt top as a representation of how these emotions are permanently changing how I see and react to current events. Weaving the fabric privides a means of exploring the form of the quilt as an open vs. closed object."
America the Beautiful
Ann Guiam, Quilted by Colleen Haraden
Made at a Social Justice Sewing Academy Workshop
"I created this quilt because the mass shootings and terrorism that have occurred during my lifetime have unfortunately led me to question the true beauty of America. These acts of violence have impacted the lives of so many people both directly and indirectly and I hope this quilt will serve to bring awareness to this societal issue and also honor the lives of those who were harmed. The bottom half of the quilt is simultaneously supposed to symbolize the American flag and a classroom because I worry that kids in school are learning to normalize these horrible events becuae they occur so frequently."
"I have been striving to create order and calm amid anxiety caused by the increasingly inflammatory and divisive language that is so common these days. Focusing on creating 'quiet' quilts that push the boundaries of minimalism is meditative; I am reminded that we are a single stitch in a vast timeline. Grids and stripes are common motifs in my work. I am drawn to horizontal stripes, which remind me of rock strata. I have also recently made a connection between my quilts and my love of printmaking and architectural drawing. In addition to being a meditative pricess, this series is an opportunity to study the way stitches line(s) can alter values and create atmosphere."
Reed v. Reed (Log Cabin Variation)
"This quilt was inspired by a quotation made famous by United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg: "[l]aws which disable women from full participation in the political, business, and economic arenas are often characterized as 'protective' and beneficial. The pedestal upon which women have been placed has all too often, upon closer inspection, been revealed as a cage." Traditional toile fabric depicting women engaging in domestic activities is justaposed with narrow white bars and large swaths of black. The extension of the white bars into the negative space, as well as the use of the traditional 'log cabin' setting suggests the 'caged' sensation alluded to in the quotation."
"Constructed with my grandma's clothes and linens, shapes inspired by pennies we used to flatten on the train tracks behind her house, and featuring shorthand symbols that list the attributes I admire in my grandma, this is a memory quilt that has several layers of meaning."