Book report: Minimal Quiltmaking by Gwen Marston

by Judy Tucker

When I ordered Gwen Marston's book  Minimal Quiltmaking pre-publication from in February I really didn't know what I was getting.  I really liked the "Winter Birch" quilt on the cover and knew this was going to a book about contemporary quilts.  I'm always interested in reading anything about Modern Quilting.  (FYI:  This book has the fiercest copyright statement I have seen.  No part of the book may be reproduced and there isn't a "look inside" feature at  You'll need to click the links to get an idea about what is in the book).

Little did I know when I placed the order how apropos its arrival last week would be. This is a book about color and quilts!  Just what I have been thinking about a lot lately.

Gwen asked 22 quilters around the country to contribute quilts to the book and she includes dozens of her own quilts as well.  Some of the quilts were created by the women especially for the book.  Several of the quilters said in the comments about their quilt that when Gwen asked for a minimal quilt, they that to think about what that really meant.  But they had fun rising to the challenge.

The book is divided into chapters with different types of minimal quilts--they include "minimal quilts"(solids, mostly bright colors), "hard-edge quilts" (fabric cut with a ruler with sharp edges, no wonkiness), quilts with "minimal colors" (studies in pastels/neutrals), and "minimal quilts inspired by art."

I bought the book based on the image of the Winter Beech tree on the cover.  I think only 3 of the quilts in the book actually have a concrete image and even for one of those, you'd have to read the label to know what it is (a lily pad).

The rest of the quilts are really color studies: improvised designs with lots of pieced strips and blocks of color.

It was fun to see the quilts influenced by modern artists.  Here are just 3 of the artists who's work is reflected in the quilts.

I hadn't realized before that quilts that aim for "transparency" were inspired by tissue paper work done by Josef Albers.   It seems like a lot of quilters, and quilt collectors, have really been influenced by Albers.  Gerald Roy, a student of Albers, talked a lot about his work in the recent lecture I heard at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The author has made several quilts influenced by the work of  Piet Modrian.  (I'm just old enough to remember the dresses in the 1960s which were also based on his artwork)!

Paul Klee is another artist whose art influenced the quilters featured in this book. His art is a lot of fun and you can easily see why a quilter would drawn to his work.

Many of the quilts in the book were made using Kona cottons because of the wide color options available.  Cherrywood fabrics and some linen are also used.

I was able to find two of the quilts in the book made by Lynn Harris (TheLittleRedHen) on the Internet:
And a pattern for Daisy Chain.  This is one of the few quilts in the book which has an identifiable subject and isn't totally abstract.

Here are two blogs written by contributing quilters.
Over the fence designs, Pam J. Beal
Kristin Shields Folk Art  (scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Gwen Marston and Liberating Quilting

If you are interested in the Modern Quilting and the use of color and line, you'll appreciate having this book in your library.  And on your coffee table!