Monday, July 6, 2015

Abstract Quilts in Solids

My weeklong class at Madeline Island School of the Arts was Abstract Quilts in Solids taught by Gwen Marston.

Here are the solids I selected for class, these and a very dark brown background fabric called Expresso.

The class started with Gwen talking about using solids, the impact they make on the lines of a quilt, how using solids keeps a quilt from being dated, and the bonus of solids not having a wrong side, no front or back.  Then she told us to just get started, to start small and experiment and play. 

My idea was to piece a medallion quilt so I started on my center.  The first thing I did was create several strip sets using varying widths of fabric and randomly selecting and sewing the strips together. For me, that was as "liberated" as I could get.  

It took me all day to make the center.  I added the outer border on day 3.  I liked what I made but didn't think it was near liberated enough, I thought I needed to challenge myself to be more open.

This is a quilt of Gwen's called Summer Fruit Salad, the blocks finish at 3 inches.

On day 2, using Summer Fruit Salad quilt as my inspiration, I started making 4 inch liberated blocks.  I started with liberated log cabin blocks and grew from there.  Over the course of 3 days I pieced these blocks.

I like my colors and do have a plan for turning these blocks into a quilt.

I never could work without a ruler, that's something I'll have to practice.  One student didn't use a ruler at all.

Here are a few pieces made by my classmates.  Out of a class of 18 we had a variety of experience.  Several ladies had taken classes with Gwen before.  One student taught Gwen"s methods at a shop at home, and two ladies had personal projects in books published by Gwen.  So there was plenty of experience in the room.  But there were also students who were new to quilting in general, had maybe  pieced one quilt. Then there were students like me, experienced quilters looking for inspiration and ideas on creating our own quilts.

This piece uses most of the demo's Gwen taught over the course of the class, 
liberated triangles, little squares, and skinny slightly curved insets.  I think this piece uses color very well too.

This piece uses a batik with the solids.

We all worked with different color pallets.

In my soul I am not a liberated quilter but I can be a more modern quilter, and it took this class to find that out about myself.  And while there are degrees of modern quilts and liberated quilt making, I like order and neatness too much to get too crazy.   But I did learn several things that I will use in my future quilts, for one, solids are powerful.  I've been lazy about incorporating solids into my projects, mainly because I don't have solids on hand in my stash.  I've already started changing that, I bought several solids just to have, and plan to add more.  Gwen's main message was one of empowerment, that we can make any kind of quilt we want, there are no rules. I plan to spend more time drawing and working on my own designs.  But for the most part I will continue to do what I always do, start with a pattern and tweak it to make it more my own. This is my hobby, I don't want to turn it into work.

Gwen and my classmates made for a fun class. There was a lot of laughter, I enjoyed every minute. The bottomless chocolate chip cookie jar didn't hurt either.

Gwen is retiring after 2016.  I am so thankful I was able to spend a week getting to know her, her philosophies, and her techniques. Here is a link to Gwen's class schedule,  I hope you're able to attend one,  I think she inspired me to be a different quilter, I think she'll inspire you too.


  1. Thanks for sharing Thelma. It sounds like it was an inspiring class. I admire Gwen and her techniques. It is difficult for me, maybe impossible, to be a liberated quilter and I like how you intend to incorporate some 'liberation' into your quilts, and continue make them your own. I could use some more liberation in my quilts and I'm inspired by your post.

  2. So much eye candy and wonderful creative things to think about in this blogpost Thelma! The course sounds like it was very inspiring!

  3. Looking at the samples, it looks like a great class! I've taken several classes with Gwen and she is a great teacher, able to describe her process in a clear and approachable way and very fun and funny too!

  4. Your blocks are so fun. Looks like a couple of little beach houses and I can see some sun rays, a beach umbrella (3rd down on the left column), a kite (the quarter block kite shape) and even a surfboard leaning up against a pier (bottom left corner). I do love the one with the addition of the batik too. Thanks for sharing.


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