Monday, October 24, 2005

Gee's Bend, Denyse Schmidt: whoa, where do I begin?

I've been toying with the idea of making my first quilt for quite a while now, and I think I've finally found the right the quilt for me.

A number of years ago (maybe ten?) Garnet Hill carried some of Denyse Schmidt's quilts, and at approximately the same time Martha Stewart did a nice article on her. I was fascinated by the approach Denyse took and the colors she used. It all seemed so contemporary and intuitive. Then Gee's Bend came to the Whitney Museum and I fell totally in love. Oh my gosh, those amazing denim quilts, the irregular piecing, the fantastic colors and composition!

I don't know when the quilting business really picked up, but it seems like there are many, many books out there that can teach you to make a traditional quilt. And I'm amazed at all the quilt shops that have sprouted up across the country and the number of classes that are offered. It's all good. But I guess what excites me about both the Gee's Bend quilts and Denyse Schmidt's work is that it seems to involve different skills than traditional pattern and color selection, cutting and sewing. It seems to be a little more spontaneous and loose. It's not fussy and meticulous, and you make a lot of decisions as you go. And if you know me, you know that's more my style.

So that's why I'm a little disappointed with Denyse's new book. It doesn't really explain the process that she uses to make her quilts. I certainly don't want to follow a pattern, since that's completely the opposite approach that attracted me to her quilts in the first place. I guess I'll be improvising.

I have two favorite Denyse Schmidt quilts: this one and this one. I want to make a quilt similar to these, but I decided to use silk dupioni instead of cotton. It seemed like a good idea to try making a pillow before attempting the full quilt. And here's the pillow - sorry for the really bad photo:

It's a darn good thing I started with just the pillow, because look what happens with the silk. I suspected that this would be a problem:

The silk is so delicate and so loosely woven that the seam allowances are ripping out! Which means that it's time to try my hand at foundation piecing.

Oh, and one more thing: I want to make my quilt into a duvet cover, not a traditional quilt. Which I suppose means that I should refer to it as a patchwork, not a quilt, since I won't really be able to quilt it. All the same, I'd like to at least do some stitching on the patchwork for texture and stability. I suppose that calls for more experimenting.

I was sort of hoping to join the Modern Quilt-Along, but obviously this project has developed into an animal all its own. I'll have to save the Quilt-Along for another time.


  1. Would using iron on interfacing on the silk help prevent the seam problem?

  2. Your pillow is gorgeous, so pretty.