Print Friendly and PDF With Strings Attached: An evening with Gwen!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

An evening with Gwen!

Gwen Marston was in Chicagoland this past week.  I did not find out until last Thursday, which was far too late to sign up for a workshop, but the Village Quilters invited guests to come to Gwen's lecture and trunk show on Tuesday.  I asked my Magpie friend Julie if she'd like to join me.  Yes! 

VQ is not my guild, but I have friends who are members.  (Lots of "strings attached":  librarians, P.E.O.s, and AAUWs among them.)

Julie and I had second row seats.  :)

Gwen is very droll.  She compared the applique designs of 19th century quilters with their sometimes free-form pieces to the precision of conteporary applique. She said, "Why make 20 blocks that are identical? You can just make one and look at it."

She reminded us that not all mid-19th century fabrics were butternut-and-brown. That was the era of poison green, acid yellow, and Prussian blue. Don't be afraid of color!  Use many varieties of a color -- if you run out of this red, then substitute that red.

She does not have an art background, she said, "But I lived in Kansas when I was young." (And when she rode horseback out into the country she learned to discern the many tones and shades of colors.) 

About her liberated piecing -- with chopped-off points, free-form cutting, sometimes sliced to fit -- "It's not that I like sloppy work. Just think about it. [My style] is not precise.  Picasso did not paint inside the lines," and "If you're worried about your points then you're not thinking about your quilt as a whole." 

Someone asked her about pressing seam allowances. "I press from the front. I let the seam allowances go the way they want to." 

37 Sketches is a volume showing small (9 x 12) quilts that are just that -- sketches for larger quilts.  I bought a copy and she autographed it. 

Here are some of the pictures from the evening.

One of the "sketches"


  1. Wonderful, Nann! How darling to see a photo of you with Gwen..awesome fun of a night. Thanks for the photos!

  2. Great photos! Hope you said hi from the LQ'ers!

  3. I love Gwen..there is no one she meets that does not feel her sincere fellowship with a fellow quilter! How fabulous you could enjoy the show, take wonderful photos and share with us...I hope one day you can take a workshop with's simply the most fun ever!

  4. Great reporting of the evening. Glad you were able to attend the event. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Looks like you had a great time and learned along the way too. I like the comment that you aren't thinking about the quilt as a whole if you are worrying about chopped off points. Well said, although sometimes I can be a perfectionist, but not always.

  6. lucky you doubt it was terrific! maybe she will come to our neck of the woods sometime...sigh...i hope so!

  7. I took a workshop with Gwen some years ago. She is a most dynamic teacher. I have since used her liberated block making on many quilts. The people getting those quilts have never complained that the stars or log cabins are freer than traditionally pieced ones.


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