Modern Quilt Perspectives (Almost Weekend Reads)

Well, you know I am a fan of quilt books that are more than a collection of patterns. So imagine my delight at one where the patterns, at first, feel like an afterthought! Then, after a careful read, they are not. Rather, they are part of an integral whole story. Not just of the specific quilt, but of the book.

Meta? Yes, I know I'm pushing it a little, but bear with me.

Modern Quilt Perspectives is a book about the practice of quilting more than the quilts. But in that discussion is the inherent story of a quilt. For every quilt has a story. Don't believe me? Wait for it, I will get to that.

This book tackles the many reasons and themes we make quilts. Conversations, Identity, Social Commentary, and the Quilting Tradition are all tackled. Through a brief discussion; the story of each quilt; running commentary of design, technique, and decision making in quilts; and the pattern itself. Thomas Knauer reveals so much of himself in the practice of making his quilts. Central to all of these discussions is that each quilt has a story.

Thomas introduces so much here. It is a structured bit of work for a guy who freely speaks his mind and isn't afraid of challenging norms. The book really is his, right down to his explanations of basic quilting tools. And the stories he tells of the quilts are emotional and vibrant. Not to mention inspiring.

When I first started the book I grumbled a little that patterns were included. The discussions Thomas presents are thoughtful, if not cerebral. They are a direct challenge for us to examine the way we think about quilts and our making of them. I believe every single quilter would benefit from taking the time to examine their making. So when I came to patterns for each quilt it frustrated me. If the goal is to get the reader to reflect on their own quilt stories, why would we be encouraged to simply recreate a quilt Thomas made? Then I read this:

"The pattern is only a map, a set of guideposts along the way to make a quilt. In many ways, a pattern is the quilt boiled down to its essentials, not just technically, but conceptually, and each remaking is an investigation of the ideas under consideration. I think of most of my patterns as a set of possibilities, the starting of a conversation about an issue, thought or world view. The specific materials you choose and the ways you might vary the pattern are responses and replies... I have come to really love the idea of quilt patterns, the idea of these quilts being made and remade in untold variations and the ways in which these quilts will become parts of people's lives."

It puts into a words a completely different perspective on patterns. It isn't about recreating the quilt on the cover or the page, it is about making that quilt yours and part of your story.

For sure, there are quilters who walk into a store and ask for the exact fabric on the pattern cover. Or they buy a kit. But you know what? That's their story. You don't know why they need it to be perfectly matched, they may not even know. But something in the fabric, in the pattern spoke to them and they want to join the conversation.

How many times have you been at a guild or retreat show and tell and someone stands up and just says, "I don't know why I chose these fabrics, I just liked them." Well, that's a story. Thomas, in Modern Quilt Perspectives, invites us to dig a little deeper into that story too. Why those fabrics? Why that pattern? What spoke to you? Find the story, even when you don't think it is there.

So, this book couldn't exist without the patterns because they are indeed part of the conversation. Twelve different tangents of a long, winding conversation. And who knows where they will go?

F&W, the publisher, is giving away a copy of this book to one of my readers. I was provided with a review copy for this post, part of Thomas' blog tour. Leave a comment here by midnight MST on Sunday, April 13. Tell me how often you work from patterns and kits.