Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This is about inspiration from Down-Under. Ever since I first started reading Australian quilt magazines, learning about Australian quilters, and then acquiring books written by them, I’ve been in love with the work produced in Australia. It inspires me in the sense that it expands my field-of-view in much the same way that traveling the world broadens our horizons. It reminds us that there are options – other ways of thinking and doing.
(This is also a long post and if you like quilt books… it’s not my fault.)
If you’ve been quilting for any amount of time, you’ve seen the published work of Australian quilters. You may not even have realized where it came from… though with “Australian” in the title of the magazine, that probably helps. I think the first time I saw Australian Patchwork & Quilting was around 1995.
This wasn’t the issue – this is the latest. I stumbled upon an issue of Australian Patchwork & Quilting at a Ben Franklin store… before it became Craftsmart… before it become something else… before it went away. What will remain memorable about the place for me is that it opened up a whole new quilting world for me… okay, and there were those Lang boxes that I still love and use.
In trying to find as many back issues as I could, I went to every quilt store in Phoenix – this was before the boom of “pj shopping” – and along the way, I found Australian Quilter’s Companion…
… and Homespun.
It’s hard for me to explain what was different about these magazines. It wasn’t that they were better, they were just a different experience. The quilts used the same blocks that I knew from traditional quilting, and sometimes they were using the same fabrics I’d seen in my local quilt shop… that I might have in the bins and baskets in my workroom. But the feel of the quilts was different from most of what I was seeing in books, quilt shops and magazines at the time.
The only way I can describe it is like this – swimming is swimming. You’re in a body of water, moving your arms and legs, trying to stay afloat and move from one place to another. But swimming in a swimming pool is definitely a different experience than swimming in a lake or pond, or in the ocean. There might be similarities but the view and challenges are not the same. It’s a different experience.
Through the magazines, I learned the names of quilters whose work I loved. When books by Australian quilters started showing up in quilt shops, and when Australian quilters started coming to Quilt Market regularly, I was all in. It might sound shallow and very superficial but if a book was authored by an Aussie quilter, I was probably going to get it.
I may or may not have bought most of these books without looking inside, just because of the name on the spine.
I know that I’ll never make every project in each book, or even at least one project in each book… but the books still inspire me to think outside boxes, to consider a different approach to mixing color, pattern and style of fabric. They inspire me in the same way that Freddy Moran’s books do, that Gwen Marston’s books do. In an odd way, these quilters and quilts remind me that what matters most is individuality.
Just so you know, I’m not the only one energized by the work of Aussie quilters. This is on a co-worker’s “inspiration board” – Jamie.
I was going to pick just a few but I couldn’t bring myself to leave someone out, and if I was going to include one of their books, I wanted to include them all. Choose a favorite? As if! With all the things I gave away while moving to Texas, there wasn’t any chance these books weren’t going to make the trip with me. At least two in this stack were published after the move – but I still bought my very own copy. (Drooling on “office” books is sort of frowned on.)
Books and patterns. Mountmellick and Lollypop Trees are patterns. Mountmellick is by Di Ford and Lollypop Trees is by Kim McLean. Bring Me Flowers is by Jen Kingwell and Desert to Sea is a compilation book put together by Jane Davidson – QuiltJane from yesterday’s post. All are examples of the kind of extraordinary workmanship that the best Australian quilters do. Apparently “fast and easy” doesn’t translate well in the Aussie dialect. Gidday?
Kim McLean is an extraordinary quilter who is known mostly her needle-turn applique quilts – and patterns. If you’ve ever seen one of her quilts, her style is immediately recognizable for its use of color and pattern, and for the elaborate, intricate applique. As it is with so many Aussie quilters, Kim’s quilts are embraced by both traditional and modern quilters as an example of the best kind of work they do.
Desert to Sea is a self-published book by Jane Davidson – QuiltJane. The book is a compilation of ten quilts from eight Australian designers giving it a wonderful variety. (If you read Linzee’s post chatting with Jane, you know that there are some terrific patterns coming soon from Want It Need It Quilt, Jane’s pattern company.)
It’s still a favorite. The use of color and pattern still takes my breath away after all these years. Okay, it’s not that long ago, MO was published in 2009. Material Obsession Two came a year or so later.
Kathy Doughty owns the Material Obsession shop in Australia and has published a couple more books that continue to expand on her ideas of color, pattern and the vibrant mix of both. (The shop and a class are on my “bucket list”.)
Sarah Fielke’s first book was Material Obsession and it was the first of five published books, soon to be six. Old Quilts, New Life is based on quilts from the American Folk Art Museum and it will be published in October of this year. (In about six weeks.)
Anni Downs of Hatched and Patched. The first time I saw any of Anni’s work, it was in an advertisement in one of the Aussie magazines, it was for her shop. I loved her line drawings and the quirky style she had mixing applique, embroidery and piecing. She also makes everything! Dolls and quilts, pincushions and little sewing needfuls, if you can make it with a needle and thread, Anni’s made it. Her colors and fabrics were very different from the bright, bold fabrics used by some of the quilters I’ve already named, but it was still very original. (She’s also very nice – and very cool. I met Anni and her husband at a Quilt Market in Portland a few years back when we were back-to-back booth neighbors.)
Irene Blanck – this is one of the books I bought earlier this year, I’d been waiting for it. I met Irene at Quilt Market last year and she’s the sweetest woman. She was a little surprised that I knew who she was and could name many of her quilts and patterns. She was a little worried when I told her that I’d seen a picture of one of her early quilt patterns, Floral Beauty, and that it had taken me quite some time to track it down at a shop in Australia. Floral Beauty is included in Focus on Applique.
Michelle Yeo! I met Michelle last Fall in Gretna, Nebraska at the Quilted Moose. If you’ve seen her book, Of Needle, Thimble and Thread, I was fortunate to see most of these quilts in person and yes, they’re even more spectacular in person. Michelle’s specialty is elaborately pieced – hand and/or machine – reproduction-style quilts, often made with templates and/or paper-piecing.
Di Ford’s quilts are also Reproduction-style combining traditional blocks and motifs in a way that is still distinctive. Like many Aussie quilters, she’s a fan of fussy-cutting pieces to create secondary patterns, and for broderie perse.
This book wasn’t included in the other stack because I couldn’t find it before I left for work. I had to take and include this picture later – at home. But I found the book! Brigitte Giblin – also a Reproduction-style – or vintage-inspired – quilter who combines applique, English paper-piecing, traditional piecing, embroidery, fussy-cutting and a host of other techniques to make spectacularly original quilts.
Will you ever look at your fabric the same way?
And finally, these books were all published in the last year or so.
Jen Kingwell. Quilt Lovely. ‘Nuf said. I wasn’t at Jen’s first Quilt Market but like so many other quilters, I remember the first time I saw Steam Punk and Midnight at the Oasis. They’re both on my “quilt bucket list”. Someday, right? Of course, every time Jen publishes a new pattern or book, that list gets longer.
Gail Pan! What is it about Aussie women and embroidery? Or hand-stitching? They incorporate it into their work – small projects, quilts, everything. And it’s always beautiful. Gail is another one of the lovely women whose name I kept seeing before I had the pleasure of meeting her.
The last book is by the late Kathreen Ricketson. I found Kathreen’s work through her blog, Whip Up and what I liked was that sense of a shared passion for making stuff. I liked her “voice”.
That’s probably the common thread through all of these books – the authors – quilters – have something to say with their work.
Looking at these books, one thing is very clear. Those Aussies are a talkative bunch.