Monday, February 15, 2016

Designs for dreams

From bits and pieces to beautiful quilts

L. Thirties small square top, 1930s.            R. Bright squares. Kaffe Fasset, 2014. 
I remember the times when my mother, aunt and grandmother spent a day piecing leftover fabrics together and machine stitching the resulting tops to batting and a back cover. Beautiful art quilts they were not, but they provided warmth family beds.

I made a quilt once, but I'm not a quilter. My one-off is a cathedral window memory quilt that was made of scraps from some of the many pieces of clothing I made for my children over the years. That's it.

Red Squares, 2014. Designed by Kaffe Fasset,
constructed and quilted by Pauline Smith.

Color and design

Blanket Statements, a current exhibition nearing the end of its run at  the Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pa. is all about quilts. This wouldn't normally be a draw for me except that Kaffe Fasset is involved in the show and I've long been an admirer of his work, which are characterized by bold designs in rich vibrant colors.

Fasset's distinctive style and bold colorways transcend a variety of media. I tend to associate him most with textiles--fabric, knitting, needlepoint, and patchwork--but that is too restrictive. His work extends beyond textiles to painting and mosaics.

I went for Kaffe Fassett, but left with a deep appreciation of quilts both old and new. The show features 35 historical and contemporary quilts. Fifteen of the new quilts were designed by Fasset with inspiration from an equal number of historical quilts dating from 1780 to 1949 from the collection of the Quilt Museum and Gallery, York, UK

In this exhibit, there is no question of confusion between Fasset's designs and their historical inspirations, which are displayed either below or adjacent to them. The two quilts at top right show kinship, but Bright Squares, which was constructed by Liza Prior Lucy and quilted by Judy Irish, is unmistakably contemporary. 

My favorite quilt was Red Squares (at right). Designed by Fasset and constructed and quilted by Pauline Smith in 2014, it is bold not only in color, but in its use of fabric motifs. Most historical quilts are based on small pieces of fabrics where any pattern, if not already small, is reduced beyond recognition. In this case, the fabrics large floral motifs are central to the design and emphasized by the quilting. Quite dramatic.
Canadian Red Cross quilt, 1939-1945.

One solitary quilt was more reminiscent of the quilts my grandmother made from fabric scraps and a stark reminder that not everyone had beautiful fabric to work with. They were made from what was at hand. In this case, plain, checked and striped suiting fabric from sample books. The quilt on display is a Canadian Red Cross quilt, 1939 to 1945 and its three layers tied together with wool.

The exhibition ends soon. Get there if you can. If you can't, consider purchasing the museum's booklet filled with photos of the quilts. In the meantime, here are two more Fasset quilts I liked.
L. Earthly Herringbone, 2014. (partial) Designed by Kaffe Fasset, interpreted and constructed by Judy Baldwin, quilted by Judy Irish.                                           
R. Diamond Jubilee, 2014. Designed by Kaffe Fasset, constructed and quilted by Pauline Smith.


  1. If you'd like to see more pix, I blogged about my visit there with three stitcher friends, wonderful road trip!

    1. Good to hear from you! Loved the exhibition and glad to hear you did, too.