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Why We Quilt: Contemporary Makers Speak Out about the Power of Art, Activism, Community, and Creativity

Why We Quilt: Contemporary Makers Speak Out about the Power of Art, Activism, Community, and Creativity

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Why We Quilt: Contemporary Makers Speak Out about the Power of Art, Activism, Community, and Creativity

5/5 (1 valutazione)
307 pagine
1 ora
Oct 15, 2019


In this tribute to today’s vibrant quilting community, prize-winning quilter and teacher Thomas Knauer showcases a stunning collection of quilts from a wide range of contemporary makers, accompanied by their testimonials about what inspires and imbues their craft with meaning. From temperance quilts to the AIDS quilt, there’s a rich history of individuals and communities using fabric and thread to connect with others and express themselves, both personally and politically. Why We Quilt blends bits of this history with the stories and work of today’s leading quilters, highlighting themes of tradition, community, consumerism, change, and creativity. With a unique die-cut cover and a richly layered design, this book will enthrall designers, quilters, and all types of handcraft enthusiasts.

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Oct 15, 2019

Informazioni sull'autore

Thomas Knauer began his career teaching design at Drake University before turning to quilting. He has designed fabrics for several leading manufacturers, and his work has been exhibited in quilt shows and museums across the globe, including the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, Des Moines Art Center, the Melbourne Fringe Festival, and the Cranbrook Art Museum. Knauer is the author of Why We Quilt, as well as two previous books, including The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook. Find him online at  

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Anteprima del libro

Why We Quilt - Thomas Knauer

The mission of Storey Publishing is to serve our customers by publishing practical information that encourages personal independence in harmony with the environment.

Edited by Deborah Balmuth and Michal Lumsden

Art direction and book design by Carolyn Eckert

Text production by Jennifer Jepson Smith

Indexed by Nancy D. Wood

Cover photography, including front and back inside by Mars Vilaubi, except © Chawne Kimber, back (top center); © Denyse Schmidt, spine (top)

Interior photography by Mars Vilaubi

Additional photography by © Alan Radom, 98 (from the collection of Trissa Hill), 101, 164; Alethea Morrison, 212 author; courtesy of Allison Dutton, 37 t.l., 48; © Amy Friend, During Quiet Time LLC, 37 t.r., 54, 55; © Anne Sullivan, 37 b.l., 82; Courtesy of Brigitte Heitland, 177; © Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, USA. Gift of Alice Bauer Frankenberg/Bridgeman Images, 13 l.; © Carol Gander, 15; © Chawne Kimber, 136, 150–154, 208 l.; © Cheryl Brickey, quilted by Cheryl Brickey using Christa Watson’s pattern Rain from Machine Quilting with Style (Martingale, 2015), 56–57; © C&T Publishing, 94, 97 (from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2016.009.0004); © Denyse Schmidt, iv l., 22–28; © Diane Pedersen of C&T Publishing, Inc., 88, 91; © Earamichia Brown, 30, 33; © Eric Lubrick Photography, iv c.l., 149; © F+W Media, Inc., iv c.r., 72, 184, 189; Courtesy of F+W Media, Inc., 168; © Gregory Case, 129; © Hearts & Hands Media Arts from the film Hearts & Hands, 19th Century Women and Their Quilts, 44; Courtesy of Heather Jones, 134–135; © Heidi Parkes, 37 b.r., 47; © Henrik Kam, v c.r., 58, 61; © Hisham Ibrahim/PhotoV/Alamy Stock Photo, 3

Additional photography credits

Quilt patterns by the author

Text © 2019 by Thomas Knauer

Ebook production by Kristy L. MacWilliams

Ebook version 1.0

October 15, 2019

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages or reproduce illustrations in a review with appropriate credits; nor may any part of this book be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means — electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other — without written permission from the publisher.

The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of the author or Storey Publishing. The author and publisher disclaim any liability in connection with the use of this information.

Storey Publishing

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North Adams, MA 01247

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data on file

Storey books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk for premiums and sales promotions as well as for fund-raising or educational use. Special editions or book excerpts can also be created to specification. For details, please call 800-827-8673, or send an email to

For all the quilters out there making their own private histories.

For Simon, Matilda, and Katherine. They know why.


Preface: Why I Quilt


Chapter 1:

We Quilt to

Connect with a Rich Tradition.

A Piece of History: The Roots of American Quilting

Making a Statement:

Alexis Deise

Laura Hartrich

Stephanie Zacharer Ruyle

Debbie Grifka

Voices of Quilting: Denyse Schmidt

Voices of Quilting: Earamichia Encyclopedia Brown

Chapter 2:

We Quilt to

Explore and Express our Creativity.

A Piece of History: The Maturation of Quilting

Making a Statement:

Heidi Parkes

Allison Dutton

Nydia Kehnle

Jacey Gray

Amy Friend

Cheryl Brickey

Voices of Quilting: Joe Cunningham

Voices of Quilting: Lynette Anderson

Chapter 3:

We Quilt to

Move Beyond Consumer Culture.

A Piece of History: The Introduction of Standardization

Making a Statement:

Anne Sullivan

Malka Dubrawsky

Krista Hennebury

Voices of Quilting: Mary Fons

Voices of Quilting: Victoria Findlay Wolfe

Chapter 4:

We Quilt to

Create a Connection with Loved Ones.

A Piece of History: Other Voices in American Quilting

Making a Statement:

Jill Fisher

Casey York

Stacey Lee O’Malley

Nicole Neblett

Voices of Quilting: Jacquie Gering

Voices of Quilting: Heather Jones

Chapter 5:

We Quilt to

Change the World.

A Piece of History: The Role of Signature Quilts in Reform Movements

Making a Statement:

Hillary Goodwin

Kathy York

Heather Givans

Voices of Quilting: Chawne Kimber

Voices of Quilting: Linda Gass

Chapter 6:

We Quilt Because We Can —

and Because We Cannot Help But Do So.

A Piece of History: The American Bicentennial and Quilting’s Great Revival

Making a Statement:

Amy Garro

Latifah Saafir

Jolene Klassen

Brigitte Heitland

Jennifer Sampou

Jen Carlton Bailly

Molli Sparkles

Voices of Quilting: Marianne Fons

Voices of Quilting: Sherri Lynn Wood

Voices of Quilting: Alissa Haight Carlton

Epilogue: We Quilt for All These Reasons and More.




About the Author

More Books from Storey

Why I Quilt

Tea and Skittles, Thomas Knauer, 2015, 40 × 48"

By turning the shooting target that was sold after the killing of Trayvon Martin into a baby quilt and quilting it with text from the boy’s obituary, I use this quilt to question a society that claims to protect children even as it sees children of color as threats, and even targets.

My family came from Lancaster, Pennsylvania — home to the nation’s largest community of Amish, who are famously iconic quilters — but I didn’t grow up with quilts. My mother and grandmother were knitters, so we slept under store-bought comforters and the occasional knit afghan.

I suppose I first really became aware of quilts when, as a college student, I encountered the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The concepts of quilts as activism, quilts as memorials, and quilts as voices all appealed to me profoundly. And yet, though I found the AIDS quilt inspiring, I never thought about picking up needle and thread and making a quilt.

It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I truly embraced my first quilt. A friend’s mother sent baby Bee a wonderful baby quilt, and of course our first question was, How do we take care of it? The answer, Wash it when it gets dirty, has stuck with me through my years of quilting. I make quilts that are meant to be used, even as they are social commentary. And yes, some of them have stains that just won’t come out.

But I am getting ahead of myself. When my daughter was a toddler, I got a contract to design quilting fabric. Making a quilt seemed like a logical exercise for me, something to do once to see how fabric works when cut up into small pieces. So I set about designing my first quilt. I then sat down at the sewing machine my mother-in-law had given us and made a quilt top. I threw everything at it: piecing, appliqué, even some bits of hand embroidery. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, which was probably for the best; I was working unconstrained.

I finished that first quilt top in a couple of days and assumed it would be the only quilt I’d ever make. But then I showed it to my 2¹⁄2-year-old daughter. She looked at it and her eyes grew wide. She asked, Is that for me? hoping beyond hope that it would be. When I said Yes she simply ran at me — and the quilt — and barreled into me. My arms folded around her, wrapping her in the quilt. She stood there in my embrace for a solid 30 seconds. This may not seem like much, but it was the first time since she was born she had really let me hug her. You see, my daughter is on the autism spectrum and, especially when she was so young, hugs registered to her as frightening restraint. But there, wrapped in that quilt top, for some reason she felt safe. If that one quilt top could have that effect, I immediately imagined what a house full of quilts might be like. And I set to making more and more quilts.

Then came the hard part: actually learning to quilt. Over the next year I probably made another 30 to 40 quilts, just trying out new techniques and practicing the ones I already knew. I essentially apprenticed myself to myself with the help of online tutorials and YouTube videos. At the same time, I dove into the history of quilting. I wanted to understand what came before and immerse myself in the tradition. I learned how to quilt on the fly, as I was making samples for the fabric I was designing, and as I made more and more quilts for Bee. It was only after that year of learning that I decided I was ready to start making some serious quilts.


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  • (5/5)
    When a stranger learns that I make quilts I am told stories about grandmothers who made quilts. You can see in their eyes the warm memories they hold dear of sleeping under grandma's quilt, or draping a quilt over a table to build a sleeping tent, or carrying it to some shady park for a picnic. Quilts are made to be used. And they are often used up, like the one my mother-in-law gifted us in the 1980s, sun-bleached with one fabric completely decayed.Some quilts are so precious they are folded away and stored in a closet or a cedar chest.Every quilt is also the product of its creator's love of beauty and design, a tactile work of art, the quilter selecting colors and prints and designs. Quilts can be born out of frugality, using up and preserving, fabrics, like the first quilt my mother-in-law made for my husband to take to college using fabric scraps from curtains and pajamas and clothing she had made. Quilts are no longer items of necessity as during the Depression, a need to repurpose precious fabrics for warmth. But we love fabrics that come with a memory.Quilts symbolize values held by the maker, from love of family to love of country, from a symbol of healing to a symbol of protest. They represent a choice for the hand-made and the unique over the impersonal and factory manufactured.Quilts tell a story. Quilts can change our perception. Quilts are comfort. Quilts connect us with each other even when separated by time and space. Quilts are created for joy, and for protest. They are vehicles for self-expression, sharing what we love and what we fear. Quilts are personal and they are communal. They are to be used today and to be preserved for future generations.No one description can explain a quilt.*****Thomas Knauer grew up in Amish country, an area associated with quilting, but his first personal encounter with quilts was the AIDS Memorial Quilt, opening his eyes to the many uses quilting can assume. A contract to design quilting fabric finally led him to make his first quilt. Knauer learned first hand of the power of quilts when he gave that quilt to his daughter, whose reaction of excitement and love impelled him to make more quilts.Knauer's protest quilts make us uncomfortable. Like the Trayvon Martin quilt based on a shooting target, Tea and Skittles and the Sunbonnet Sues carting AK-47s in One Child is too Many. I personally respond to quilts of protest as much as respond to antique quilts or contemporary quilts made to be used. Why We Quilt addresses the many motivations behind creativity in the quilt world. Artist Statements are illustrated with photographs of the quilter's work. Voice of Quilting offers insights into the most important quilters of today, from traditionalists to innovative art quilters, including Denyse Schmidt, Joe Cunningham, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Lynette Anderson, Mary Fons and Marianne Fons, and Chawne Kimber. Each chapter includes Quilting Vocab Explained, clarifying quilt concepts discussed in the chapter.Knauer writes with love and emotion of the history of quilting, sharing antique and contemporary quilt photographs.Each chapter offers a deeper look into the reasons why we quilt:We Quilt to Connect with a Rich Tradition: The roots of American quiltingWe Quilt to Explore and Express our Creativity: The maturation of quiltingWe Quilt to Move Beyond Modern Consumer Culture: The Introduction of StandardizationWe Quilt to Create a Connection with Loved Ones: Other voices in American quiltingWe Quilt to Change the World: The role of signature quilts in reform movementsWe Quilt Because We Can--and Because We Cannot Help but Do So: The American Bicentennial and Quilting's great revivalWhy We Quilt is a beautiful book. There is a wonderful diversity and range of quilts and quilters. Quiltmakers will find kindred spirits. As a quiltmaker who loves both traditional and antique quilts and contemporary quilts, especially those that address contemporary issues of justice, I found much to enjoy. Each time I open the book I find something to inspire.I received access to a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.