Monday, January 14, 2019

The Homage Quilt

It was June 1 of last year when I last had a turn to declare the prompt for the Bee Sewcial improv bee. Over our time together, we had been inspired by such a wide variety of prompts, but never by a person. And it came to me that a quilt inspired by Gwen Marston's liberated patchwork would be a glorious thing indeed.

(photo of Gwen by Kathy French courtesy of John French)

I met Gwen just one time, having the pleasure of hearing her lecture late in her career. Let's just say she made a big impact, and seeing her quilts that night, as well as those in many of her books that I've collected since, has influenced my improvisational work a great deal. 

The night I heard her speak, Gwen said, "Just have a good time and try stuff," and that's exactly what I asked my #beesewcial mates to do for this quilt. Inspired by Gwen's techniques and style, I asked for one block each, a 'sketch' as Gwen would call it, in white and redS. And oh, they did not disappoint. Below, where I've listed the makers, I've linked back to their block, so you can see more clearly the actual block definitions and the creator's own words about them.

Top row: Silvia, Kari, Felicity
Middle row: Anne, Marci, M-R
Bottom row: Karen, Leanne, Stephanie

For me at least, this kind of quilt, with its blocks of various shapes and sizes, takes a while to arrange in a layout I'm pleased with. And odd as it may seem at first glance, below was my final layout. Yes, there was plenty of space to fill in, and to do that I both made sections from scratch as well as used little bits and trimmings my mates had sent along and added to them. When they call this kind of quilt top creation 'puzzling,' they aren't joking.

Then along about October, I finally had a finished quilt top measuring 56"x60" and I was smitten.

As much as I wanted the quilting on this one to be 'perfect,' I also really wanted to tackle it myself. So the next several weeks I quilted away, hoping to have it done to enter into QuiltCon. But I had decided to quilt very improvisationally - figuring out each section as I went - and considering I was using my walking foot, there was much turning and struggling, and let's just say it wasn't a fast process. So I convinced myself to be good with that, took December off to do other sewing, then got back to it this month. Reunited, I was momentarily overwhelmed to get started again, but I focused on thinking about Gwen, focusing on her quilts and those reds(!), enjoying the shapes my beemates had created for me, and just kind of soaked it all in. Several times it crossed my mind that Gwen hand-quilted so many of her quilts, which takes time, so in my own way, I was taking that time to savor the process too.

For thread, I used three Aurifil 50wts - #2021[Natural White], #2250[Red], and #1103[Burgundy], using the white in the larger white areas, and randomly switching between the reds in the red areas. With all the various reds used in the piecing, it was nice to have a couple of different red threads too. Occasionally one of the threads was used on the opposite color - whenever the block design or size deemed it logical - and as you can see, the white threads show clearly on the Kona Rich Red wideback. There are grids, curvy and straight-lines, matchstick quilting, square spirals, Xs, triangles and spikes. For better or worse, I'm declaring it perfectly imperfect. That said, I had trouble capturing the quilting well in my photoshoot photos, but I'll try again. (See here for some in-progress shots.)

For now, wrapped up in a faced binding, this little quilting journey comes to a close. Inspiration upon inspiration shared with my Bee Sewcial friends, I couldn't have enjoyed it more. Times of challenge for sure, but more than that, I was captivated by the whole process. Inspired by the work and playful spirit of Gwen Marston, I feel we've connected in a way larger than that one brief meeting.

Gwen has said that her 'sketches' were a way to risk an adventure, and I'm thankful my bee-mates were willing to go on this adventure with me. Thank you Leanne, Marci, Karen, M-R, Silvia, Stephanie, Felicity, Kari, and Anne for all the ways you inspire and for sharing my vision for this quilt. And of course.... thank you Gwen.

See more at #beesewcialhomagequilt and #inspiredbybeesewcial.


  1. The quilting was definitely worth the time you took to consider and implement. And I love your perspective of savoring the quilt as you finished it, too.

  2. Gwen has been one of my biggest influences. And every time I see her she remembers the time we spent together!

  3. What a great journey with your Bee Sewcial Friends with a wonderful result. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Phenomenal! Gwen has inspired so many of us. I too met Gwen towards the latter part of her career, though I'd admired her work and quilting philosophies for many years. She's had a big influence on my quilting and countless others, as evidenced by the number of her "offspring" now teaching and exhibiting in major venues. Your quilt is breathtaking and a true testament to Gwen's influence.

  5. I love it . . . just have fun!!!
    If it's not fun, then you need to find something that is, right?
    This quilt is amazing . . . and looks beautiful against that lovely blue sky.
    Happy Quilting!
    Connie :)

  6. Marvelous! Both the story behind it and the bold, luxurious quilt itself! Congratulations on this extraordinary quilt!!!

  7. i am totally blown away by this quilt and the blog post was fabulous!!!! I know I have told u before but really Debbie, u are such an inspiration to me and i just love ur work. Thanks so much for sharing ur process! :)

  8. I am totally in love with this quilt Debby! You and your bee mates nailed it! I'm glad you took your time with the quilting. Not just for the texture you created, but for your personal satisfaction! It's spectacular!

  9. I'm always curious to watch all of you in the bee puzzle the individual blocks together into cohesive finished quilts. Well done all around including tackling the quilting yourself and taking the time it needed.

  10. I'd love to see it closer! So many details in each block and in the quilting to admire. Great job!

  11. The quilt top is already spectacular. So I agree, I guess one should admire all the beautiful quilting up close and personal. So many designs, decisions... Maybe it wil get its chance at QC 2020... Enjoy your finish! It is truly breathtaking. xo