Quilt Design: Where are You on Your Path?

4 Dec 2013

There's a saying, "It doesn't matter where you start, it matters where you finish." Looking at the quilting scene today, I'd say the first part of that quote, at least, applies to our craft.

contemporary quilt design by sheila frampton cooper
'Life in the City' by Sheila Frampton Cooper.
My quilting style has evolved over the years, and I'll bet yours has, too. Some of us started with traditional quilts, learning techniques handed down from grandmothers. Others came from painting, embroidery or design backgrounds and discovered a love for art quilting. Still others simply fell in love with contemporary fabric and stitch and decided to learn how to make quilts. Everyone has their unique "how I became a quilter" story.

Back in 2008, Sheila Frampton Cooper didn't own a sewing machine and had no interest in sewing. But she was interested in contributing to her community, so she searched an online resource for volunteer opportunities. At the top of the list was Project Linus, an organization of volunteers who make blankets and quilts for children in need.

Sheila planned to drop off some fabric and leave, but the volunteers were so friendly and welcoming, she decided to show up at their next gathering. Next thing she knew, Sheila had turned her breakfast nook into a studio. A year later she started making art quilts, and by 2011, her entries to International Quilt Festival began to gain recognition.

Now Sheila is a fixture at Festival and in April 2013, she won her self-described "most cherished" award--Libby Lehman's Judges Recognition for her quilt "Fantasyland" at the AQS Show in Paducah.

contemporary quilt design by katie clark blakesley
At first glance, this "Cut Glass Baby Quilt' by
Katie Clark Blakesley looks nothing like Sheila's quilt.
Yet their share geometric shapes, curved lines,
and bright colors. (From Vintage Quilt Revival)
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Sheila's work features bold colors and improvisational piecing, but even the quilts with flowing, improvisational lines have a geometric quality. You can see the echoes of traditional blocks in her first studio art quilt, shown here, even though it's clearly not a traditional quilt.

"I like hard lines with curved shapes, which is representative of my personality. There is a part of me that loves to drive fast and is very intense, and that definitely comes through in my work," Sheila said in an interview that ran in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine.

Sheila's recent work includes both bold, graphic quilt designs and more quiet and flowing amorphous creations, influenced by nature.

I think Sheila's story shows that whether you came to quilting by legacy or by accident, whether you began with traditional quilt blocks or jumped in with the wonky shapes and bright colors of modern quilting, what matters is that you started. And I'd amend that saying at the top of this post to, "It's not where you start, but the journey that matters."

Vintage Quilt Revival: 22 Modern Designs from Classic Blocks is a new book that marries traditional quilt patterns with contemporary quilting. You can learn the blocks and make the projects, or let your imagination guide your quilting designs.



P.S. How did you start quilting? Is your design style different from when you began? Share your story below.


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Modernize your quilting with a variety of quilting projects and techniques that put a fresh spin on traditional styles.

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