In this winter of hunkering down at home, there’s a trend that’s just right for the times: quilts as decor and as art.
An artistic quilt might be displayed prominently on a wall, thrown over a couch, or just folded and hung from the rungs of a ladder. (Or you could cozy up with it.)
“Quilts bring warmth, depth and texture to any room,” says Suzy Williams, a quilter and graphic designer in Oak Park, Illinois. She offers tutorials and patterns for quilt making on her website, Suzy Quilts.
“Step back to the far edges of a room and see a quilt’s geometric design and color patterns as a whole composition. Or stand inches away and observe the luxurious combinations of fabric, stitching, batting density and glorious handmade variation,” she says.
Contemporary artists have added new twists to the age-old craft.
“Designers are modernizing and refreshing the aesthetic,” says Laura Preston, founder and designer at Vacilando Quilting Co. in Austin, Texas. Since she introduced wall quilts in 2018, she says, they have become the company’s best sellers.
“Hanging a quilt on the wall or incorporating quilted items into your home is a tactile alternative to traditional decor that can provide texture, softness, and even sound dampening,” Preston says.
Other uses of quilts in decor: “We’ve made quilted pillows, pouches, table runners and even coats, and hope to continue experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what a quilt can be,” she says.
Mixing old and new
Los Angeles-based artist Sabrina Gschwandtner has created a quilt series stitching together 16 mm and 35 mm film strips and backlighting them with a lightbox to illuminate the patterns. She began the project, “Hands at Work,” in 2009 when a friend gave her some film being cleared out of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Anthology Film Archives.
One example from the collection will be on view at Bentonville, Arkansas’ Crystal Bridges Museum of Modern Art in February. Gschwandtner has other works at Los Angeles’ Shoshana Wayne Gallery.
The project “uses film from every movie in my collection,” she says, and includes footage “of hands at work on many forms of craft, like dyeing, knitting, crocheting and quilting.”
Another quilt artist, Colleen Clines, went to India while attending the Rhode Island School of Design; working with textiles with women there inspired her to found the non-profit Anchal Project with her sister Maggie. They now employ over 150 artisans in India as well as in their native Louisville, Kentucky. Their minimalist quilt designs (some available at the retailer Brooklinen ) reference landscapes, architecture and photographs
Other quilters are melding the motifs of vintage fabrics with modern design. The retailer Garnet Hill’s Johanna quilt, for instance, features mini-floral printed circles laid out in a grid and sown onto a solid background. The Agnes quilt has a graphic block-print pattern in either vibrant red or soft gray, on a creamy white background.
And at Kiva Motnyk’s Thompson Street Studio in New York City, there’s a patchwork quilt fashioned from over 200 pieces in an array of blues, creams and whites. It calls to mind vintage ceramic tiles as well as traditional quilt squares. Her Sol cotton/linen quilt is a geometric abstract rendered in soft hues of berry, lavender and pink.
Brooklyn-based quilt maker Caroline Z. Hurley offers a large ash wood quilt hanger. Clamp the edge of the textile between two wooden straps, and an aluminum cleat attaches it to the wall.
Vacilando’s wall quilts come with a wooden dowel and hanging tabs.
You might want to mount your quilt on something; Williams’ site suggests materials like foamcore or composite board.
The Louise Gray studio in Minneapolis offers two sizes of quilt hangers, small and large. Choose hickory or walnut wood, with black, brass or silver hardware. The studio’s “little quilts” measure 3-by-4 feet. Designs are minimalist, and the color palette is a soothing mix of hues like nutmeg, peach, heather, mango and yarrow.
Mini quilts, or quilt fragments, can also be framed in shadow boxes or sturdy picture frames; you’ll find DIY videos online.
New York interior designer Glenn Gissler, who frequently includes contemporary wall art in his projects, advises quilt owners to take care with the textiles.
“They need to be out of direct sun. Keeping air around them would be a good idea,” he advises. And give them a gentle but thorough shake now and then to remove dust.