More than a Blanket: Quilts are Art!

The Sunbeam quilt by from Annabel Wrigley for MODBLOCK.

Many have wondered, “Are quilts art or craft?” Well, the answer can be yes to either. Confused yet? Let’s start with the definition of art. In the Oxford dictionary art is said to be, “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

In that sense, quilts can be considered an artform. Although quilts are created to serve a purpose, most often to keep us warm, they are also made to be nice to look at. It takes skill and imagination to create a quilt. In addition to this, many quilts are created to celebrate a special occasion, mourn a loss, mark time passing, and so on. They are literal representations of love. Emotion is stitched into every square inch.

Contrary to this definition, are some quilts made without great skill or imagination? Sure. Are some simply utilitarian, without much thought given to the design? Yes. But these early attempts are a first step in learning how to make quilts that could be considered art. The first time we create anything is a trial period. There should be no high expectations. It’s a time to build skill and learn from experience. As we grow, we become more creative in our approach to quilting, gaining confidence in our design choices, and more skilled in quilting techniques. No matter where we begin, we can always improve.

The Oberlin quilt by Heather Jones for MODBLOCK.

Quilts can also be considered a craft. The definition of craft is, “An activity involving skill in making things by hand.” Simple enough. Quilting is a skill that can be learned by anyone and it can be fun to do even if we don’t view it as an artform. Regardless of what our intent is when we make quilts, they can be both incredibly beautiful and useful. Let’s hear what our customers had to say about quilts being art or craft:

“They are both. When I was in school, many many years ago we could make a quilt in our home economics class as a sewing craft and make another in art class as art.” -Denise Vasel

“In my 3-dimensional design art class in college, we were given the assignment of turning linocut prints we made into quilts. I would say there isn’t much distinction in my mind between craft and art. It’s all art.” -Denise Fox Eskridge

“Both. Craft because you are making something and art because the material, pattern and colors you use makes it unique.” -Paula Herbst

“A quilt is art that you craft.” -Sharon Crouch

“Both, art and craft. You create your own concept, pattern, and color, and craft because it is handmade.” -Pat Trueblood

“They can be both. I think some people are confused because a quilt is used. It’s functional art. It’s consider myself an artist.” -Julie Tierney

“Craft, art, and love.” -Debbie Torrey

“Both but also much more. They are art in the selection of color, fabric, and design. They are craft in the construction and quality of quilting. On top of all that, they are heart, and love, and passion.” -Victoria Hubbard

“Both. Quilting is a work of art and it’s like putting a puzzle together. I never knew I could be so artsy and crafty. Love love love it!” -Alice Hayden

“I was disappointed to have an art teacher tell me that quilting was a craft not art. I believe she is wrong. I have seen so many works of art made from fabric.” -Leslie Savitsky

“Quilting is an art. When you thoughtfully and methodically pick out a pattern and figure out an eye-catching layout and fabric placement for a quilt, that’s art.” -Suzanne K. Einspahr

We completely agree! You are all wonderfully skilled, artistic quilters and we love seeing what you make. Share your beautiful creations with us at #msqcshowandtell and keep on creating your beautifully crafted works of art!

Gee’s Bend Quilters: Abstract Art from the Rural South

Almost 20 years ago, the tiny, rural community of Gee’s Bend was brought into prominence when their quilts were discovered to be works of art, not just the simple bed coverings they’d always believed they had been making. Their quilts were purchased by collectors and displayed in art museums across the country causing quilting to be elevated from folk art to masterpieces. In one of the first reviews of their artwork in 2002, Michael Kimmelman of the The New York Times called the Gee’s Bend quilts “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced” comparing them to renowned artists like Henri Matisse and Paul Klee. 

The exceptional modern art style of Gee’s Bend quilts might be attributed in part to their unique community. Their isolated town is nestled in a crook of the Alabama River, surrounded on three sides by water without a bridge or ferry. Being a close-knit group of only a few hundred, the quilters of Gee’s Bend have passed on their knowledge and skill to subsequent generations, untouched by outside influences, allowing their patterns and variations on patterns to live on. In their insular community, they have taken traditional quilt blocks and molded them to fit their own preferences with astonishing results.

Another reason the Gee’s Bend quilters’ style is so unique is their utilitarian spirit. They are a make-do group of women who have taken old work clothing, worn out blue jeans, scraps of corduroy left over from a sewing contract with Sears in the 70s, and just about any kind of fabric they could get their hands on, to make their incredible abstract quilt designs. Without the means to simply buy fabric, they made their scarcity into a feast for the eyes. 

They design innately, inspired by their surroundings and what they have on hand, creating organic quilt compositions that go far beyond the precise, mail-order quilts they had once produced back in the 1960s for the Freedom Quilting Bee to sell in department stores like Bloomingdales and Saks 5th Avenue. They allow their quilts to wibble and wobble. The colors alternate as they see fit. They don’t have straight borders. These quilts don’t play by the “rules.” 

It’s such a pleasure to marvel at the improvisational prowess of the Gee’s Bend quilters—a surprising addition of yellow blocks in a mostly blue, brown, and maroon quilt is a welcome sight. A half-log cabin quilt with blocks turned this way and that feels so freeing. Rows and rows of blue jeans with faded knees turns into a master work when discarded work pants are pieced together just as they are, allowing them to speak clearly of their origins.

In the Gee’s Bend quilts are innumerable variations of the well-known “housetop” quilt block, that many of us might recognize as “courthouse steps,” a variation of the log cabin. They take this block that is built strip by strip, and add vibrant centers or ignore the centers altogether, focusing more on the contrast of light and dark in the strips themselves. They add a few pieces of striped fabric for interest wherever they please. Patterns and solids are used in wildly varying combinations and the colors just seem to work.

After taking in such freely interpreted designs, we hope you feel yourself filled with the desire to play with fabric again, cut it without squinting at the markings on a ruler, and sew it together without a pin in sight. Why not? There are no mistakes to be made when you simply allow yourself to create.

Souls Grown Deep

Ever since their quilts have been discovered to be the works of art they truly are, the quilters of Gee’s Bend have experienced a renaissance of creativity in their community. Those who had long since put down the needle and thread have picked it up again in the fervor of renewed quiltmaking, and those who had never been interested in the art of making quilts before suddenly found themselves longing to be a part of this vibrant group of quilters. All were welcomed in and during the past 20 or so years, more quilts have been made than ever before. And they’re just as beautiful and inspiring as we remember. 

To help this community continue to promote their art and to protect the livelihoods of these quilters, Souls Grown Deep has partnered with Nest to help the quilters of Gee’s Bend. The Nest team has spent time in Gee’s Bend with the quilters there, building relationships and getting to know these wonderful women to help them market their world-renowned quilts and make sure their unique stories are heard. 

Gee’s Bend has an average annual income of $12,000 and more than half of their population struggles with poverty. Many don’t have internet access in their homes and as a result, it has hindered their ability to connect with those outside their community and reach a wider audience to sell and to display their quilts. Souls Grown Deep, with their partner Nest, is working with these wonderful quilters to help them receive fair payment for their quilts and build a strong foundation for future financial success. 

To learn more about Gee’s Bend Quilters, view their quilts online, and purchase their works of art, please visit: www.etsy.com/featured/black-history-month#gees-bend

Now Available at Missouri Star: Liberty Fabrics!

In 1875, Arthur Lasenby Liberty opened Liberty on Regent Street in London. He sold imported goods from the East such as ornaments, textiles, and artifacts. The imported goods went so quickly, Liberty opened an in-house studio in which to design and print their own fabrics. Now, 140 years later, Liberty is internationally recognized as a leader in print design and textile innovation.

Each collection designed by Liberty is inspired by some form of worldly art – architecture, history, music, florals, etc. A new collection is released each season and every season the fabrics tell a new story.

Each design is created by hand using a variety of techniques: paint, pencil, ink, and even computer textile packages. Their methods are very traditional with fine detail, intricate patterns, and original color palettes.

We’re happy to announce we now carry three Liberty collections here at Missouri Star!

  • Originally designed for Liberty Fabrics in 1933, the Wiltshire collection has been transformed into a two-color silhouette creating the perfect blender. Tonal leaf and berry prints are available in multiple colorways, designed to coordinate with our vast archive of Liberty prints for a seamless mix-and-match effect. 
  • The Winterbourne collection draws inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement – a creative period from c.1860-1910 when English designers led a return to high quality, handcrafted pieces, creating elegantly stylized interpretations of botanical and historic motifs. It’s available in three complimentary colorways.
  • The Flower Show – Spring collection drew inspiration from British flower exhibits. Traditionally screen-printed onto soft Lasenby cotton, the collection includes quintessential 1930’s florals, re-imagined from our print archive. Illustrating Liberty’s rich heritage of floral design, the collection offers a tonal palette that compliments Spring.

EXPLORE THE LIBERTY BRAND

“Home is Where the Quilts Are” – Behind the scenes of BLOCK Magazine Volume 7 Issue 2

A Note From Jenny BLOCK Magazine

Writing to you from the comfort of home is a privilege in this fast-paced world. I often find myself between places, driving long distances or flying to far-off locations to visit quilters around the world. It can be hard to feel comfortable in such circumstances, but I’ve found out something incredible about the quilting world. No matter where I go, as long as I can find a quilt shop, I feel right at home. After all, home is where the quilts are! 

Home is such a lovely place to be. I recently dug into my sewing studio for some spring cleaning and unearthed some truly vintage finds! It’s been a pleasure to sort through my treasured fabric stash and remember what I really love about quilting…

…the feel of the fabric, the joy of selecting a stack of prints and sewing them together without a pattern. Cutting, stitching, pressing, and repeating the process over and over. There’s something very comforting about it and I look forward to spending time with these simple creative pursuits whenever I get a spare moment.

This spring, let’s dig into quilting with renewed vitality! Do what is necessary to start fresh, whether it’s a bit of light cleaning and dusting or a major fabric stash overhaul, and you’ll be amazed to find yourself itching to get back behind a sewing machine again. Celebrate the art of quilting by treating your machine, your fabrics, and your space with gratitude and you’ll be rewarded every time. 

Love,
Jenny


“Home is such a lovely place to be!” This message from Jenny is truly comforting as many of us prepare to stay indoors. As we watch the bustling world around us wind down, we notice the incredible way people have worked together to keep one another safe, educated, and inspired during these trying times.

Here at Missouri Star, community is something very close to our hearts and BLOCK Magazine is a big part of that. This “idea book” is a way for us to share with you how quilting has impacted our little part of the world. When you open an issue of BLOCK, you become apart of our community as we connect with you through authentic stories and photos and the sharing of ideas.

Missouri Star BLOCK Magazine Volume 7 Issue 2 Cover

We recently redesigned BLOCK Magazine into something we feel is a better visual representation of who we are and what we value: YOU and our ability to educate and inspire you to create. We still have all the same content you love, but we’ve added more for you to truly experience and feel the joy that creativity brings to us all!

Things like…

  • The Ruby Sensation Sew-Along which comes in FIVE parts! A new sew-along block will be featured in each issue that comes out this year. (If you’re not subscribed, you’ll want to do so now so you won’t miss a step!)
  • A mix and match of patterns and prints (Unique, modern patterns meet traditional prints, and vice versa)
  • Educational articles with helpful tips and tricks and even, fun articles like celebrating local history!
  • 10 step by step quilt patterns, bonus mini projects, and gift ideas!
  • Jenny’s Journal (See what Jenny’s working on. You may see something you’d like to try!)
  • And as always, there are NO ads and your subscription ships free!

Take a look behind the scenes and get a sneak peek of
what’s inside our upcoming issue:

Missouri Star BLOCK Magazine Volume 7 Issue 2 Road Trip

In the next issue, you’ll discover how to turn your adventures into a quilt filled with your favorite appliquéd states with the Road Trip pattern. Choose your own or embellish them for a customized quilt (or pillow!)

Missouri Star BLOCK Magazine Volume 7 Issue 2 Road Trip

BLOCK’S photo-stylist, Jennifer Dowling, and sister, Maggie proudly display their favorite appliquéd states next to the Christopher S. Bond Bridge in Kansas City, MO.

Missouri Star BLOCK Magazine Volume 7 Issue 2 Luminary

BLOCK Magazine’s creative director, Christine Ricks, stands atop the National WWI Museum and Memorial displaying patriotic colors in the Luminary quilt. This is a great spot to take a good look at Kansas City’s gorgeous architecture and Union Station!

Missouri Star BLOCK Magazine Volume 7 Issue 2 Wonder

Alongside the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Christine cozies up with the Wonder quilt, a design by Katie Larson.

This center, located in Kansas City, MO, only 60 miles from Missouri Star, is a place where people from all over come to discover culture and community through theater, art, music, and history.

Over $50 worth of information is packed into each bi-monthly issue of BLOCK Magazine for just $7.99! ($9.99 bi-monthly for Canadian subscriptions.) 

SUBSCRIBE TO BLOCK MAGAZINE TODAY

What inspires you to create? Let us know in the comments!

Going Against the Grind with Tula Pink’s New Collection

Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t throw a monkey wrench into the machine.” The phrase is about industrial-sabotage, meaning to prevent a process from going smoothly by deliberately trying to ruin it. Horrible, right?

Well, not always! Sometimes, the unknown path is the best path and who better to throw that monkey wrench into your life than Tula Pink, the queen of quirky, against-the-grind, free-spirited fabric design!

Set your quilt planners, color coordinators, and simple prints aside. Tula Pink’s latest collection, Monkey Wrench, will be the perfect storm you didn’t know you needed! Check it out:

DIY Scrunchie, DIY tech case, Tula Pink Monkey Wrench

Monkeys, frogs, ladybugs, parrots… it’s seriously bananas! Dive into Tula’s fanciful world and create something fun like a tech case or a scrunchie!

DIY Scrunchie, DIY tech case, Tula Pink Monkey Wrench

To make a tech case, you’ll need:

Watch the tutorial >


DIY Scrunchie, DIY tech case, Tula Pink Monkey Wrench

Or make this scrunchie
You’ll need:

Watch Jenny and Misty whip one up in just a few minutes >

Just follow these six easy steps!

  1. Lay your strips right sides together and sew together down one side. Turn the strips over and sew down the other side, creating a tube.

2. Turn your tube inside out. (Iron if desired, but not required since it will be scrunched up by the end.)

3. Grab your elastic and attach a safety pin to one of the ends of elastic and through the end of the tube so the elastic doesn’t fall through.

4. Scrunch the tube up over the piece of elastic.

5. Sew back and forth across the elastic to close the ends together. (You can also tie a knot.)

6. Now, place one end of the tube into the other end and stitch down. Viola! You’ve got a cute, new scrunchie!

Try mixing and matching with other collections by Tula Pink!

What is your favorite Tula Pink collection?