Gwen Marston Retrospective at See How We Sew + Giveaway Winner

Quilt-J: Gwen Marston Quilt Featured in Minimal Quiltmaking
“Turquoise” 41 x 45 inches, 2013, by Gwen Marston.

Hello dear readers! Gwen Marston is always a hit when we feature her at See How We Sew. Today we’ll take a look at more quilts from her latest AQS title, Minimal Quiltmaking, and revisit past posts about Gwen written by our blogging sister Darra. Gwen and Darra have been both friends and collaborators for years. In fact, Darra’s skilled editorial hand can be experienced in a number of Gwen’s quilting books. Keep scrolling to find the name of the lucky winner of Minimal Quiltmaking.

Throwback Posts

Darra gave us a peek into Gwen’s creative process back in February of this year in The Latest from that Amazing Quilter Gwen Marston.

And, before that in 2012, Working in a Series Gwen Marston and 37 Sketches.


Quilt-J:  Gwen Marston Quilt Featured in Minimal Quiltmaking
Minimal in Neutrals, 35 x 35 inches, 2012, by Gwen Marston

Giveaway Winner

And the winner is, Kathy in Florida–Congratulations! Many thanks to Gwen Marston for her continuing support of See How We Sew. Perhaps she’ll return for a visit soon?!? I hope so!

Final thoughts from Jennifer:  I’m taken by Gwen’s works of quilted art.  Can’t you just see these painting-sized quilts adorning the walls of a modern art museum? What if we started a grassroots movement to persuade our fine arts venues to open their galleries to our textile arts? Just a thought . . . we’ve got our Studio Art Quilters and any number of other art quilt groups. Time to come out of the shadows and into the limelight with the rest of the artsy crowd!






Gwen Marston Drops By to Share Minimal Quiltmaking (+ a Giveaway!)

We’ve got a special treat today at SHWS:  Gwen Marston is in the house! Yup, she’s going to review her latest and greatest quilting title, Minimal Quiltmaking. Sure, it’s unorthodox having an author write her own book review, but why not? She’s Gwen Marston and she’s super fabulous! Scroll to the end of the post for giveaway details–here’s a hint:  enter to win a copy of her new title.

Hello everyone! I’ve been invited to write a review of my new book Minimal Quiltmaking so let me say right upfront: it’s going to be very favorable!

Book-J:  Minimal Quiltmaking by Gwen Marston

It’s always a thrill when I get to see a just-off-the-press copy of my latest book for the first time. In the case of my most recent book, Minimal Quiltmaking (AQS Publishing, 2014), I couldn’t have been more pleased. Reviewers are calling it “beautiful” and I have to agree.

I’ve always been the “less is more” girl, preferring straightforward, uncluttered design so keeping it simple, aka minimal, is my natural default setting. This book includes both examples of my early minimal work and more recent pieces as well. It also includes the exciting work of twenty-two contemporary quilters (some are also quilt teachers) from across the country. I was so very pleased to be able to include their work in my book because it adds an indispensable flavor that makes it all the more tasty.

The book (95 pages, $24.95) has lots of full-page color pictures of the quilts and is packed with design and construction tips on how you can make your own original quilts without patterns using my “liberated”, intuitive, free-pieced methods. So, let me show you some of the quilts in my new book.

Discovering Lancaster Country Amish quilts in the early 80’s set me off on a virtual tangent of making quilts in that style as a way to understand the Amish sense of design and use of color. It also taught me the value of working with solid fabrics, which I’ve continued to do to this day.

ONE PATCH, made in 1990, was the first in a series of thirteen minimal quilts, all shown in the book, inspired by the Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928).

Quilt-J:  Gwen Marston's Quilt One-Patch from Minimal Quiltmaking

I have a chapter about Hard-Edge Quilts, inspired by a California art movement from the 1960’s called “hard-edge painting”. MINIMAL COMPOSITION is in that chapter.

Screen shot 2014-06-11 at 4.48.18 PM

I talk about the process of designing minimal quilts, how to apply the principles of minimal art to create your own distinctive work, and give suggestions on where to find inspiration for working in this style.

And to whet your appetite, here is a small sampling of the stunning quilts made by made by contributing quilt artists included in the book.

Quilt-J:  Split Cherry by Marjorie Tucker in Minimal QuiltmakingSPLIT CHERRY, by Marjorie Tucker, from Boston, Mass, and MINIMAL PURPLE, made by Kristin Shields, from Bend, Oregon, are both contemporary quilt artists and teachers who have their own style and definitely know what they are doing.

Quilt-J: Minimal Purple by Kristin Shields in Minimal QuiltmakingI hope you enjoy the book as much as I did writing it. Carry on! GM

Giveaway Details Here!

Leave a comment by Thursday afternoon, June 19, answering the question:  What’s your quilting pleasure:  less is more or more is more? I’ll announce the winner of an autographed copy of Minimal Quiltmaking by Gwen Marston in the Friday post. We’ll also take a look a more quilts from Gwen’s new title and revisit retired blogging sister Darra’s past posts on Gwen’s quilting style.

See ya!


The Latest from that Amazing Quilter, Gwen Marston (+ a Giveaway!)

1-Giveaway IconAt one time or another, I suspect we’ve all had the experience of meeting someone new and feeling that immediate “click” of connection–the perfect description of my first encounter (in 1989!) with legendary and beloved Michigan quilter, Gwen Marston.

Gwen Marston
Gwen Marston

I wrote about Gwen, her then most-recent work, and her wonderful book, 37 Sketches, in a post back in January 2012. It’s a tribute to Gwen’s enduring popularity that this post remains one of our all-time, most-often viewed here at See How We Sew. Now, two years later, I decided it was time to check back with Gwen to find out what’s new. The answer? Lots!

First up: Gwen Marston, Contemporary Quilts, a solo exhibit at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City, MI. This exhibit runs through April 27 and includes work that Gwen has created in the past eight years, in which she continues to simplify, to melt the elements down to their most basic forms, allowing the color to speak in a stronger voice. Some of the pieces are the Small Studies from the aforementioned 37 Sketches (2011).D_Jan 27_37 Sketches Cover(1) (2)

"Small Study 4 (9" x 11") made and machine quilted by Gwen Marston; 2010
“Small Study 4 (9″ x 11”) made and machine quilted by Gwen Marston; 2010

Others are from her earlier book, Ideas and Inspirations: Abstract Quilts in Solids (2008).

Ideas and Inspirations cover

Broken Dishes (38" x 37"), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2008
Broken Dishes (38″ x 37″), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2008
Three Triangles (35" x 36"), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2010
Three Triangles (35″ x 36″), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2010
Red Square VI (39" x 42"), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2008
Red Square VI (39″ x 42″), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2008

Still others reflect Gwen’s ongoing explorations, in which she pushes even further, working in a decidedly minimal style. This fresh, exciting, stripped-down approach takes center stage in–more news!!!–Gwen’s brand-new book, Minimal Quiltmaking, scheduled for publication by the American Quilter’s Society on March 1!

Gwen's newest, publishing March 1
Gwen’s newest, publishing March 1

Wouldn’t you like to be first among your friends to own Minimal Quiltmaking? Well, it happens that we’ll have a copy to give away to one of our readers as soon as the book hits the shelves. Just leave a comment by noon (PST) Thursday, February 20, telling us whether you consider yourself a “minimalist” or “maximalist” quilter (for example, in style, size or variety of your fabric stash, reliance on notions, degree of advance planning) and I’ll announce a winner in my Friday, February 21 post.

Finally, here’s a special treat! The Dennos Museum Center has placed Gwen’s entire presentation from the exhibit’s January 18 opening reception on YouTube. Watch and enjoy!

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!Darra-signature

Top Ten Posts for 2013 at See How We Sew

A peek at a portion of Candace Kling's vast ribbon stash.
A peek at a portion of Candace Kling’s vast ribbon stash.
Candace’s posts were widely popular this year at See How We Sew.

As bloggers, my SHWS sisters and I review our readership numbers regularly to see what posts have been popular with viewers. That certainly helps us figure out if we’re writing about topics that are appealing, informational, and–we hope–fun.

Here’s the rundown for 2013. Clearly you like clever people, projects, products, and how-to guidance. Some pre-date 2013, which shows that we’ve truly hit on a topic of universal interest.

See How We Sew’s Top 10 Posts for 2013

  1. FREE Patterns
  2. He’s Here, He’s Here! The Santa Claus Block is Ready!
  3. 10 Things I’ve Learned From Hanging Out With Candace Kling, Ribbon Worker Extraordinaire
  4. Candace Kling, Masterful Manipulator of Fabric & Ribbon–Giveaway Today!
  5. Gallery and How-To Videos
  6. Soft and Stable: An innovative alternative to batting. A perfect choice for Placemats & Totebags
  7. Neutral Palettes: Sophisticated and Sensational!
  8. Working in a Series: Gwen Marston and 37 Sketches
  9. Walk Your Stitches Right Out of the Ditch: Fresh Ideas for Quilting with a Walking Foot
  10. Housing Projects: Schoolhouse Quilts, Then and Now (Part 1)

    "Small Study 10" (2010) by Gwen Marston, from her book, 37 Sketches
    Another fan favorite this year: “Small Study 10” (2010) by Gwen Marston, from her book, 37 Sketches.

Other Matters of Interest on the Eve of a New Year–Pati Fried Gives Herself an INSANE Challenge!

UFO Marathon

Giveaway Winner

The winner of my Santa Smiles Tree Skirt pattern giveaway is Jennifer Willard–congratulations!

On the eve of a new year, we wish you the very best and fun/safe frolics!


Diana McClun: Her First Quilts and Her Latest Quilts

Quilts-J:  Diana McClun's first quilt experiments
1930’s 9-Patch by Diana McClun

Diana McClun’s quilting story starts in her childhood with doll quilts made from fabric scraps. She attributes some of the visible wear to her precocious love of laundering her doll clothes–you’ve got to love a child who enjoys cleaning!

Quilts-J:  Detail of Diana McClun's first quilt experiments
Detail of a well-loved and laundered doll’s quilt.

Here’s what Diana had to say about her very first quilt project:  I made my first quilt when I was seven from my mother and grandmothers’ house-dress scraps.  I also did my first machine quilting for this project on my mother’s new Singer sewing machine.

Quilts-J:  Detail Diana McClun's first quilt experiments
Embroidered detail from Diana McClun’s second doll quilt.

In her second quilt Diana experimented with embellishment. The tiny blue bird in the photo was her very first experience with embroidery.

Quilts-J:  Diana McClun's first quilt experiments
The yellow bird shows her growing expertise with needle and embroidery thread.

There’s a lot of family history in Diana’s second quilt:  I made my second quilt when I was nine. My brother Don drew the birds on squares of sugar sacking material. I learned to embroider while making this quilt and the progression of skill is amazing. These doll quilts were washed frequently. During The Depression and World War II we used every scrap and bleached all food sacks for cloth.

Quilt-J: Diana McClun's first quilt experiments
Diana’s first mixed-technique quilt.

Diana McClun Reconnects With Her Quilting Muse

Diana and my blogging sister Laura have spent most of the 25 years of their collaboration making teaching quilts. While those quilts showed their combined tastes, they had fewer opportunities to make their own quilts following their personal aesthetics.  Diana’s version of “retirement” has allowed her to reconnect with her quilting voice and the results have been fantastic due, in no small part, to her deep familiarity with an abundance of quilting techniques, styles, and design aesthetics. She was, after all, the co-founder of the Empty Spools Seminars and the chief talent finder for those sessions. And now, rather than serving as a seminar host and facilitator, she’s a frequent student at Empty Spools. Here’s a peek at her latest handiwork:

Lilac Rose by Diana McClun 2013
Lilac Rose by Diana McClun 2013

Lilac Rose was designed and made by Diana and machine quilted by Beth Hummel. This quilt is her post-book therapy quilt.  As she says:  After all the photographs and quilts were completed for the new edition of Quilts!Quilts!! Quilts!!!, I needed to unwind and do my own art. I’d purchased Kerby Smith’s lilac rose fabric (he was the chief photographer for our book) to feature in a quilt. Initially, I cut up the fabric in big sections, but I used too many different fabrics and the image was overwhelming. I called my dear friend Dale Fleming to the rescue for a critique and now the roses are the main interest.

Diana McClun Does Silk . . . Twice

Quilts-J:  Diana McClun's Silk Quilt I
Silk Quilt I by Diana McClun 2013

Silk Quilt I is designed and made by Diana McClun and machine quilted by Kris Spray. Diana made this quilt as a birthday present for our own Laura Nownes. She says this about the birthday quilt: I was gifted with a big box of vintage Thai silk from my friend Carol Van Zandt which inspired a number of other friends to bestow stacks of silk in all varieties as well. I thought Laura’s quilt would be a perfect opportunity to do an interpretation of the Somersault pattern (one block up/one block down) we feature in our new book.  I knew the pattern’s simplicity would allow me to concentrate on developing an interesting color story with that of inventory silk fabrics.  

Quilts-J:  Diana McClun's Silk Quilt I detail
Detail view of Silk Quilt I and the color value changes progressing across the quilt’s surface.
Quilts-J:  Diana McClun's Silk Quilt I--quilting detail
The reverse side of Silk Quilt I by Diana McClun–highlighting the gorgeous machine quilting by Kris Spray.

What does a quilter do with the remnants of her silk-fabric experiment? Well, she makes another extraordinary quilt for herself: Since I’d prepared and backed so many pieces of silk fabric for the big birthday quilt I needed to make a scrap quilt. I enrolled in Gwen Marston’s session at Empty Spools and made seven pods in different sizes, one being a Log Cabin, following her design process. I put them on my design wall and, like the Lilac Rose, there was too much visual confusion. I called on Dale Fleming again for her insight. She took one look and and said I should repeat the Log Cabin blocks many times so the viewer could follow the path throughout the quilt.

Quilt-J:  Diana McClun's Silk Quilt II
Silk Quilts II by Diana McClun approaching completion.

Silk Quilts II by Diana McClun and machine quilted by Kris Spray displayed on Diana’s design wall.

Quilts-J:  Diana McClun's Silk Quilt II detail
Detail of Diana’s Silk Quilts II and featuring stellar machine quilting by Kris Spray.

And the Winner of the Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! Giveaway Is . . . 

Congratulations Mary Rubino, you’ve won the latest edition of Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!!

Jennifer’s Holiday Matters:  The Quilt Life and New Christmas Patterns 

Pattern-J:  December 2013 Quilt LifeFor those of you who enjoyed my holiday series last year–if the activity on our Free Pattern page and holiday Pinterest boards is any indication of your enthusiasm, you’ve have downloaded the Santa and Christmas tree patterns thousands of times! I’ve got good news twice over:  The December issue of The Quilt Life features a pattern for the table runner I featured last year + an online pattern for a larger quilt. Check it out on newsstands and at The Quilt Life. And, . . . see below.

Santa Smiles Tree Skirt & Table Topper Available Now

It’s been a long haul, but I’m ready to debut my Santa Smiles pattern which is available for purchase at my Rosie Quilters website. So, if you’re a last-minute Lulu and love the challenge of making a tree skirt before Christmas Eve 2013 (or 2014 when you’ll be waaay ahead of the game) . . . click the image below:

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles Tree SkirtI hope you’ve had a lovely Thanksgiving and a chance to share a meal with those near and dear to  you.  We’re now, officially, amidst the holiday season:  stay sane and make something “quilty” that makes you happy!


Working in a Series: Gwen Marston and 37 Sketches

One of the most appealing and satisfying aspects of quilting is that no matter how long you’ve been engaged, there is always something new to learn, as long as you remain open to the possibilities.

Gwen Marston is a well-recognized–and beloved–figure in the quilt world. She has taught quiltmaking in the US and abroad for over three decades, including at her popular Beaver Island Quilt Retreat, which will celebrate its 29th year this fall. (This year’s theme is Liberated Medallion Quilts.) Her work has been featured in solo exhibits all over the world. She has written 26 books, contributed to numerous quilting magazines, and inspired countless quilters with her passion, knowledge, and playful techniques, including Liberated Quiltmaking, with which she has become synonymous. With so many accomplishments, most of us might be content to sit back on our laurels. Not Gwen!!

Gwen holding forth at one of her Beaver Island Quilt Retreats.

About a year and a half ago, Gwen embarked on a new quilting journey. She had been teaching for her friend–quiltmaker, author, and shopowner, Jean Wells–in Sisters, OR, and found herself with a four-day gap before her next teaching gig: not quite long enough to make the long trip home worthwhile. Jean invited Gwen to stay, and the two looked forward to four glorious days in Jean’s studio.

"Small Study 1": The first quilt Gwen made while visiting Jean Wells in 2010.

Gwen decided to focus on making a few small pieces combining a number of Jean’s techniques (narrow curved insets and small accent squares) with some of her own signature methods. Making small quilts is not new for Gwen; over the years, she has made approximately 450 of them! She explains, “I feel that constructing small quilts developed my technical skills and aesthetic understanding more than any other single factor.” In the past, working small has allowed her to experiment efficiently with a variety of ideas, to be more adventurous due to the reduced risk in time and materials, and to audition new techniques, compositions, and fibers. But this time, something unexpected happened.

"Small Study 4": By Day 4, Gwen was exploring horizontal composition.

Over the course of her visit, Gwen completed four small pieces, attempting each day to create a new composition while staying within the parameters she had set for herself in size (small), fabric (mostly solids), and technique (freeform). “When I began, it was never my plan to work in a series,” she reveals. However, when she eventually arrived home, Gwen’s head was spinning with ideas stemming from the little pieces she had made during her four-day “sabbatical.” She also had begun to recognize the link between these little quilts and the sketches a painter makes to work out ideas regarding color and composition. With a healthy block of uninterrupted time now available to her, Gwen decided to continue what she had started in Sisters.

"Small Study 10" by Gwen Marston (2010).

The end result was a series of 37 small pieces, or “sketches,” and what Gwen has described as “a crash course in design.” The typical piece finished approximately 9″ x 11″, and she usually was able to complete one a day. She took a short break after making #19 to refresh and regroup, but was soon back at work, enthusiastically committed to a new composition each day.

“Small Study 33” by Gwen Marston (2010)
“Small Study 34” by Gwen Marston (2010)

When the last little quilt was finished, Gwen realized that she had something to share. She gathered the 37 pieces, and worked with fine-art photographer, designer, and publisher Harry Littell (who generously provided the quilt photos for this post) at Six Mile Creek Press to create a beautiful, 96-page, hardcover book, 37 Sketches, that chronicles her experience as she followed her muse, and the astonishing work that resulted from her journey.

The book itself is a work of art; it was recently honored with an award by the 2012 New York Book Show. It is not a “how-to” book, with patterns and instructions, but a book filled with inspiration and offering unique access to the design process of a very talented quiltmaker. It opens with a foreward by Jean Wells and an introduction in which Gwen describes how the series evolved, where she draws her inspiration, and how she works, with insight into the series process. The remaining pages are devoted to the quilts, with a two-page spread dedicated to each of the 37 pieces, shown in the order they were made so you can follow Gwen’s progress.

37 Sketches is beautifully designed to showcase the quilts.

Wouldn’t you love to own a copy of this special book for your personal library? Well, Gwen has generously offered an autographed copy to one of our readers! Leave a comment below by midnight (PST), Wednesday, February 8, telling us your thoughts about working in a series: Have you ever tried it? What was your experience? If haven’t, would you like to give it a try? I’ll announce the winner, chosen by random drawing, in my February 10 post. If you can’t wait that long, and want to purchase a copy, check your local quilt shop or order an autographed copy directly from Gwen. 

As for the 37 quilts: their journey has just begun. Gwen has added a new class, Small Studies, to her teaching repertoire. Among other venues, she’ll be teaching it at Quilter’s Affair in Sisters, OR, in July 2012. In July 2013, all 37 quilts will be shown in a month-long solo show at the Taupo Museum when Gwen visits New Zealand to teach at the Taupo Symposium 2013 Fabric Art Festival

In the spirit of working in a series, I’ll replace my usual avatar this time with one of the little quilts I’ve been making since the first of the year to explore new ideas and to jump start my creativity.

‘Til next time, happy sewing!

January 19: D is for Darra (3" x 5")