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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Little Quilt "Sketches"

Gwen Marston refers to her small quilts as "sketches" in the new book 37 Sketches. She says she likes to make small quilts because it allows her to experiment without spending excessive time and money, to explore different construction techniques, try new and different fabrics, and most important, to look at new design possibilities.

At Gwen's Beaver Island Quilt Retreat she showed us some full sized quilts she made based on her little fabric "sketches" and they were all beauties. The small quilts gave her new ideas for the larger ones.

I found while making my own small sketches that they can become deeply involving, choices coming out of my ears! Do I want to make some little log cabins here? Maybe a curve along this edge. What colors should I choose? It really made my brain cells proliferate,

Here are the three little sketches I made at the retreat. I like one really a lot, another is okay, and the third is one I didn't like at first, but I like it now.

Someone said this quilt reminded them of the beach, and it does, the sandy colors contrasting with the brighter blues, oceanic greens and multicolored stripes.
It's fun to study the many "parts" (Gwen's term) to this piece. My favorites were the strata on the left with the curves and the liberated log cabins.

This quilt doesn't have backing and binding yet,  but it looks like it should be on the wall in a child's room. The strips around the border remind me of party streamers. I cheated a little making the pieced center, strip piecing some .75 inch strips, cutting them into .75 inch rows of squares and then turning them and repiecing the rows to mix the colors up a bit.

This liberated log cabin piece has confounded me. As I sewed the center, keeping to a controlled color palette, I got bored and started adding unrelated fabric colors. I am still not sure if that was a good idea or not, but I am beginning to enjoy this quilt and its little details.

For traditional quilters this stuff is hard to understand.  To wrap your head around modern quilting after many years of looking at traditional block piecing is a giant leap. Nonetheless, it's a fun exercise, one that really makes the quiltmaker think, plan, and play around with design and color in ways they might not have ever imagined.


  1. fun stuff! so glad you had the opportunity to go - I'm envious!

  2. Again, thanks for sharing! I spent quite a bit of time just looking at the elements of your quilt. That log cabin piece is wonderful--well I know overused word and all, but to me it has lots of elements I'd like to use. for more solid color fabrics in my collection!

  3. Bridget...I just loved how you made me think, today. Your comments about Gwen's gave me so many interesting new perceptions about all of this. I had just written a post this past week about quilts vs art quilts and got some realllly interesting emails even more than comments. Now, you've truly made me dig even deeper. Thank you!

    And you know, I had the same feelings about my work when I took a class from Jean Wells. She wouldn't show us how to do anything, I didn't have the class book everyone else did so when I got down to sewing blocks in class, I tried too hard on some of them and finally had to just do it instead of trying to do it. At first I judged and compared them to the others and hers, then I sought out how happy they made me and found so much to love about my process. This is just how I feel about yours. They show a feeling and a process as well as being lovely to look at!

  4. I wanted to add something to what Michelle said, which gives credit to Jean Wells. It was at Jean Wells' home that Gwen started making these 37 quilts, practicing Jean's techniques and later adding her own "parts" sensibility to the mix. Jean writes the forward for Gwen's book.

  5. These are all great - I really want to make some liberated quilts, and yours has given me wonderful ideas. Thank you. When I get to them,I hope I can make mine as free and beautiful as you did yours.

  6. How fortunate you are to be there with Gwen! I got to go to the BI retreat a few years ago, and would go every year if I could. Gwen's my very favorite teacher. She takes any mystery out of quilt-making.

    I love your pieces, all three. The last one intrigues me most, and I'm not sure why. I think with some stitching--maybe try deep colored thread?--it's charm will be more evident.

    I also had fun reading your latest post.


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