Sunday, February 28, 2016

QuiltCon 2016: 20 More Pieces of Modern Eye Candy

My previous post showed 18 striking things at QuiltCon 2016, which was only a fraction of what I photographed. Here are a dozen more Modern quilts from the show, followed by more vendor goodies.

1. "Aerodynamics," by fabric designer Heather Givans, quilted by the legendary Karen McTavish (who I was thrilled to see walking around at the show!) Heather's label says it was "paper-pieced in an improvisational way," which to me, is an oxymoron.
(That is sunlight streaking across the quilt, sorry about that.)

2: "Line Study #1", by Andrew Steinbrecher of Cincinnati, Ohio. He combined vintage striped sheets with commercial cottons:
The picture above is taken straight on. The quilt struck a chord with me because this is what usually happens when I try to make a square quilt! But I suspect Andrew made it wonky on purpose.

3. Rebecca Burnett's pixellated "Every Little Hungry Schoolgirl's Pride and Joy," based on a photograph. (My picture is taken from an angle; this quilt is a regular rectangle.) Those circles are appliquéd. The label states that the person in the photo is a celebrity named George. An informed reader told me this is George Michael, and the title is one of his songs. Thank you, Tara!

4. Rebecca also made the next quilt, "Horseshoes and Hand Grenades," based on a design by graphic designer Tilman:

5 & 6. Two more pieces by quilt world rock star Gwen Marston. Seeing her in person at QuiltCon was a huge thrill for me, as confessed in my last post

7. Next, "Holyoke 1938" by Timna Tarr of Northampton, Mass.  It's a small piece, 22" x 29" .

8. "Don't Look Back," by Hillary Goodwin of Auburn, California. "It was improv pieced out of linen and Ikea canvas, and the binding is made from a repurposed suede skirt." 

9. "Group Self Portrait" by Gina Pina of Austin Texas. Gina invited studio visitors to draw self-portraits on fabric with permanent markers. She stitched together the results:

10. "Enthusiasm," by Rossie Hutchinson of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Constructed improvisationally in one sitting!

11. Burgundy is my least favorite color, but then Pantone renamed it Marsala and declared it  'color of the year.' And then quilter Kristyn McCoy of Ontario, Canada, put just a little bit of it into a roomy setting....
...and surrounded it with fantastic freemotion quilting....
 ...which made me think maybe I could learn to like the color?! Or not. (Or only if another fabric company renames it "merlot," "cabernet sauvignon." and/or "Cherry Garcia.")

12. "Better Together" by Laura West Kong of Loma Linda CA is a pixellated, improvisational celebration of diversity.

13." Balancing Act" by Stephanie Ruyle of Denver, Colorado, charmed me utterly. 
Very mid-century/Jetsons chic!

More from the Vendors
14. A mermaid dress! There were no wearables in the juried show, or even in the vendors' booths, but in the Michael Miller booth, we found this "Into the Deep" display dress made by Alyssa Halub. 
Along with 3D scales, it has a boned corset, and is made from a fabric collection by Patty Sloniger, here. (Just as awesome: On the right, my friend Saraj was wearing a Japanese fabric jacket  and pants that she'd stitched herself!)

15. Batiks. You don't go to a Modern quilt show to look at batik quilts (I didn't see any), but fortunately that prejudice was not evident in the vendor booths. I bought the following spectacular fabric strips from  SewBatiks. (My first-ever precut strip packet! Up to now, I've been faking them.)
Plus a yard of this rainbow fabric from the same booth. It is my deeply-held belief that everybody should keep polka-dotted rainbow batiks around the house in case of emergencies (but don't throw them on kitchen fires).;..

16. Speaking of dots: Saraj gifted me with this insanely great, Japanese fabric by Yuwa. Each of those dots is 2" across. 

17. Last week I showed off this yard of awesome octopus fabric:
(Squid? Octopus?) This fabric does have the most gigantic selvage I've ever seen (except on fake selvage fabric.) The white area is about 1.5" high.  
 I was worried that there might not be enough non-selvage to make this one-yard purse  But there was enough!  The purse is hot off my sewing machine, finished yesterday:
One of the side pockets is a pseudo-Celtic knot print from my stash: 
You've heard of Celtic Women? Now I proudly carry a Celtic Octopus handbag! (The pattern is  Yoyomama Designs' Fort Street Market Bag.)

18. Here's the Japanese octopus fabric that got away from me - I didn't buy it, but seriously thought about it,,,, 
It's called "Lolita Octopus," - oy! - and Lolita and her ilk were sold by a vendor called Bunny's Designs LLC, from Austin Texas, which specializes in dangerously adorable Japanese prints. Many of the wares in their QuiltCon booth are also available in their online Etsy store, here. Hide your credit card before clicking. 

19. My Dad was a writer who, before begrudgingly entering the computer era, typed everything on a huge black metal Royal typewriter. So I had to buy this yard, from Windham Fabrics. (I think this print has been around for a long time.)

20. Finally, I walked by a booth that had an assortment of Star Wars fat-quarters for a couple of bucks each. How could I not pick up a FQ of illuminated Star Wars polka dots?  I'm thinking tote bag, or potholder, or even a yarmulke?
So much to look at! So much to try not to buy! It was stimulation overload! I'm still recovering from QuiltCon 2016! 

Monday, February 22, 2016

18 Surprises from Modern Quilts: Gaping and Shopping at QuiltCon 2016

Are you into Modern quilting? It's a new movement with roots in 20th century modern abstract art; in African-American quilting (especially Gee's Bend), and in art quilting.

Just because a quilt was made recently doesn't mean it's Modern-with-a-capital-M. Modern quilts often have one or more of the following traits:
  •  A sparse appliqué or pieced design
  •  Dense quilting, often in straight lines, usually by machine
  •  Abstraction
  •  Solid fabrics, and/or trendy prints, often large-scale prints
  •  Low contrast
  •  Lots of neutrals: greys, whites, beiges, etc.
  •  Improvisational
  •  Assymetrical
  • Conceptual. A Modern quilt can be much more than the sum of its (relatively few) parts. 
  • None of the above! 
Yes, some Modern quilts break most or all of the preceeding "rules". It was fascinating to see the  assortment last weekend at The Modern Quilt Guild's annual show, QuiltCon West, 2016, in Pasadena, California.

My friend Saraj joined me for the show, flying down from Northern California. We gawked and shopped for two days, knocking ourselves out. Here are some of the delightful surpises we encountered, from the juried show and the vendor booths.

1. The movement is hugeSince the founding of the Modern Quilt Guild (MQG) in 2009, the Guild has grown to 10,000 members!

2. The enthusiasts are diverse 
- The show was thronged with people of all ages, from tattooed young women with piercings and assymetric haircuts, to new mothers (and fathers) pushing newborns in strollers, to not-visibly-tattooed mature women with symmetrical coiffures (such as moi). The mix of ages (and hair) created a fantastic vibe.

3. There are Modern groups around the world -
 The show featured dozens of twin-size group challenge quilts, made by MQG chapters not just from the US, but also Australia, Brazil, Canada, even South Africa. There are more than 150 MQG member guilds!  Here's a locator. Learn more movement history here.  Below is the Pittsburgh guild's submission:
(Read about it here.)
Next,  Calgary's  teepee-themed quilt, with its makers before quilting...
Below, how it appeared at the show.
Read about the Calgary quilt here.
The Seattle Modern Quilt Guild's entry was a jawdropper:

4. The winners were unexpected. The show's prizewinners are on this page. The grand prize winner was a quiet, mostly white, quilt with a few small cross-shaped patches made from torn  denim jeans. It was a memorial by quilter Melissa Avirinos to her tragically deceased brother.
Below is the machine quilting-category winner: Molli Sparkles and Jane Davidson's "No Value Does Not Equal Free."
Yup. That's it. It's pieced from 36 different white squares. It's a pun and a comment on how much it costs to make a quilt, even a quilt with no value differentiation.  The "no value" title is heavily quilted into the background. Molli explains the quilt's meaning, shows a cost worksheet, and offers construction details on this page.

5. One big concept is empowerment.  When I walk around art or traditional quilt shows, I often find myself thinking, "I should retire from quilting right now, because I could never make something that incredible!" Have you ever felt that way? I thought so. By comparison, many Modern quilts seem...well.. doable! No wonder young women are drawn to them! If you're 6 months pregnant and start on a Modern baby quilt today, you will probably finish before your baby hits kindergarten. Here's an elegant, almost-hexagonal "Bullseye" quilt by quilter Vicki Reubel:
The bullseye actually has 7 sides! When you look closer at the quilting, you see it's not so simple. Check out the closeup here. If you're making a baby quilt, you could use the same basic idea - one giant shape - and vastly simplify the quilting. 

On the other hand, another hexagon-themed quilt at the show defied most of the rules at the top of this post. It's in a category of it's own! The quilt was made by Wanda Dotson, a wonderful quilter who blogs here
6. Gwen Marston is a rock star. Read about Gwen's impact here, She coined the term "Liberated Quiltmaking," which is in the title of her two collectible books. It was a huge thrill to come across Gwen in her exhibit area. Following her around the room were mobs of starstruck quilter/paparazzi, snapping pictures and calling"Gwen! Gwen! Smile! Gwen! Stand here! Stand there!" I didn't know what to stare at first - Gwen-in-the-flesh, or her iconic quilts, which I have spent so many hours over so many years staring at in books and online. Here's a bit of both:
I couldn't resist thanking her for sharing her work and ideas with the world.

7. Speaking of strong women - We found Hillary. Not campaigning at the show; Ms. Clinton was depicted in the "Hillary Quilton" by Diana Vandeyar (mentioned in Saturday's LA Times, here.). Here's the quilt with Saraj, who is a marathon runner (so, like Hillary, she also has mega-tenacity).
(I didn't see any other quilts about any of the other Presidential candidates.)
8. Music Inspires Modern - Moda Fabrics had this stunning David Bowie quilt in their booth. It was made by Holly of This is what I Do.  (The link has a much better picture of it.) 
Stacie Dolan from Massachusetts made the next whole-cloth machine-stitched quilt, a tribute to Prince. It's densely machine-quilted with text.
9. There were powerful social and political statements. The LA Times coverage also discusses the next two quilts, and other statement Modern quilts. Read the article here. The first one was made by Chawne Kimber.
The second one is made by Karen Maple.
(Yes, the word "black" is backwards in this thought-provoking quilt.)
10. Speaking of text, there was a fair amount. Here's another of my show favorites, also made by Chawne Kimber. This quilt defies many of the norms of Modern quilting. It's high-contrast, high-value, colorful, crowded, and mostly symmetrical:

The caption along the bottom reads,"In essence, I am a sophisticated cotton picker." What a great use of text, a terrific sense of humor, and a bitterly ironic allusion to African-American history, and the history of the cotton industry. In short, it's brilliant.

11. No BeDazzlers! - Modern quilters don't do a lot of embellishment. I didn't see ANY beads, buttons, hot rhinestones, nuthin', not on the quilts, and not in the vendor's booths.

12. Sew many zippers! - Modern quilters must be making a lot of handbags. We saw purse zippers galore in the vendors' booths, but not on quilts. The zippers came in all shades of the rainbow, especially neons. I was particularly struck by the designer zippers at including lace zippers, print zippers, and fascinating zippers in which the interlocking "teeth" are giant colorful spheres.

13. Similarly, batiks - Many vendors sold batiks, but I don't recall seeing many/any in the show quilts.

14. Abundant kooky animal prints - Saraj found this groovy badger fabric, in several colorways. There were also vintagey polar bears that I should have purchased.
Not to mention Octopii. The universe twisted my arm until I bought a yard of this Charley Harper organic fabric (It had better be organic, because it cost $16.50 a yard. Ouch! That price was not unusual at this show.)
[Update, 3/3/16: I made a handbag out of it:
15.  Similarly, Japanese fabrics - Scads of vendors sold Japanese fabric, from traditional to artsy. There were also Japanese purse patterns; notions, sashiko threads, mysterious marking pens whose packaging I could not read, etc. But I didn't notice any show quilts with Japanese motifs. Saraj bought  more than enough Japanese fabric to cover my sewing room floor. Here are a few of her selections:
I loved these traditional-motifs-plus-animé-cats fabric: 
16. Moda makes a fabric with fake selvages -OK, you have to be a stitcher to find the following hilarious. In one of the vendor booths, I spotted this bolt. It's got all the same stuff you see on selvages, but blown up and all over. Modern quilters enjoy making things out of selvages. (See my selvage-and-denim pillows here). With this fabric, we can make bigger things. 
17. Robert Kaufman's color of the year is, you're kidding - This yellow is their Kona color of 2016. Their booth was entirely decorated in this shade of yellow, which was challenging to gaze at for more than a few seconds.
I resisted buying a pack. However, it often happens to me in my quilting journey that I start out loathing a new trend, and then become obsessed with it. So I won't be entirely surprised if I find myself making a Modern quilt in this color. any minute now!

18. The quilts of Molly Upton - Molly was a fiber artist who lived from 1953 to 1977. She worked with garment and home decor fabrics - velvet, corduroys, polyesters, stuff that quilters today would sniff at. Upton turned dross into gold, creating innovative pieces that foreshadowed the art and modern quilt movements by four decades. Learn more here, (underneath the info about Gwen), Below is one of her category-busting pieces from the show. It's sort of  a cross between Chagall and Ann Brauer. Here's a wonderful appreciation of her work.

So that's my report from the front lines of the Modern movement. Did you go to QuiltCon? What surprised you? Have you made a Modern quilt? Are they growing on you?

UPDATE: Part II of this post is at

UPDATE, 2/25/16: A deep look, with behind-the-scenes stories, from Quiltcon is at
UPDATE: 2/27/16: Fabulous shopping at the show: