Modern Quilt Perspectives {book review}


It’s finally here, the book that Thomas told me he would someday write way back when we first met at Quilt Market. Houston in 2011, right, Thomas?

I’d already fallen for his first collection, Pear Tree, and its lovely muted colors (the same just-off hues that would sucker me into every TK collection).  We’d talked online thanks to my work for FabShop News magazine and I was both awed and honored when he went out of his way to talk to me in the wide aisles of Market. He told me his ideas for a book and I knew this guy was different.

Spend five minutes talking to Thomas and you’ll be awed by his vast knowledge and ability to pull info, facts and connections seemingly out of thin air. I like to think the guy is a genius. He chalks it up to a lot of schooling. I’ll agree to something in the middle.

Thomas’ skill at drawing connections and thinking beyond the “Isn’t that pretty?” that infiltrates the fabric world continues to amaze and inspire me. And it is in that unique way that Modern Quilt Perspectives unfolds.

Essays. Quilt patterns. Sidebars of wisdom. It’s a remarkable book and I can’t recommend it enough.

In particular I want to share about the Excess quilt. No, I didn’t have anything to do with it (though I did make an ‘I’ for the Identity quilt!).  It’s just one that symbolizes all that this book does.

Here, take a look:

Lovely, right? It is an incredibly long quilt (13 feet, in fact!) and when I was flipping through the book for the first time, it caught my eye with its size and the preponderance of reds and dashes of green and blue. It’s scrappy the way scrappy ought to be, I thought.

It wasn’t until I stopped to actually read the accompanying essay, that I understood its importance as a piece of art, an unspoken message.

And that’s something that Thomas never  forgets or looks past. Quilts are art. They can be powerful, awe-inspiring, meditative and breathtaking. This quilt took my breath away.

In Excess, there are 1,600 of those little 2-1/2″ blocks. It’s not a random number, something picked out of the air or decided on when the quilt got to the right size. No, that number was chosen for a reason.

Every year, approximately 1,600 women and men are killed in acts of domestic violence in the United States, victimized by their partners and spouses. … Excess is a memorial to this overwhelming reality, a visualization of the forest of loss. Each of the 1,600 squares in the quilt represents a death, with each red or orange stripe a woman killed, and each blue or green one a man.

Now go look at that quilt again and meditate on those numbers, that issue.

Then go read how Lisa quilted it with the text from the United States’ Violence Against Women Act.

This is what makes Modern Quilt Perspectives more than just a quilting book. There is substance and depth and meaning, so much meaning, to all of it. Thank you, Thomas, for reminding me (us?) of the import of it all.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .


I decided I  would make the pattern myself (this is a quilting book after all), though not in the numbers that Excess originally calls for. Just a few dozen in my favorite greys. I haven’t decided how big I’ll make it, or quite what I’ll do with it when I have pieced it together. But I can tell you that the quilts in Modern Quilt Perspectives are not only powerful art, but that they are well-written patterns as well.


So get to it–go get the book, read it, learn from it and venture onward. I can promise you this: it will change the way you look at quilts and the messages they can send.

Thank you, Thomas, for an amazing book, jaw-dropping quilts and for being you.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

A giveaway! I almost forgot. Tell me what issue/message you’d quilt about if you could. Personally, I’m pondering ways to put the struggles and joys of solo parenting into fabric form. Let me know if you have any ideas. Comments will close on Monday 4/7 at midnight. Winner announced 4/9.

44 thoughts on “Modern Quilt Perspectives {book review}”

  1. Tabitha Keener

    I would probably do one on reading and literacy. It’s something I’ve always loved and I am always getting anyone I know to try to read something as often as possible! I know I do when I’m not sewing! Thanks

  2. Human trafficking would be my choice. No idea how I would do it, but human slavery is still alive in this world… I made a few blocks for this quilt without knowing the theme. Incredible quilt.

  3. I would love to do a quilt for missing children. Each block dedicated to a specific loved one who has not been located yet.

  4. I would make a quilt in support of early education. Those little minds are so eager to learn and there needs to be an eager parent or someone to feed them!

  5. Brighton Claire

    I would make a quilt to acknowledge MND and raise awareness for it – but it would have to be subtle like the excess quilt with a powerful accompanying note. It would be dedicated to my mother.

  6. There are so many things that I could put down here… Is there a way to convey love in the form of a quilt? Not just love of man/woman, or grandmother to grandchildren kind of love, but the love we should all have for each other? Just something that has been going through my mind for the last little while… From what I have been reading about Mr. Knauer, I would hope to meet him one day – I believe he would be truely inspiring to talk with!

  7. Maryann Scanlon

    So many issues speak to my heart. My granddaughter was raised in a lovely middle class suburb, lots of love but also lots of advantages. She did a post grad internship this year as a counselor in an inner city middle school. She often comes in tears and tells my daughter about her students who come to school hungry, without coats or in shoes with holes. And now understands in a very real way not just from the news or pulpit about poverty and the circle of poverty in our country. I have been pondering on that a lot. Thomas’s book is amazing, ( and I have an “I” too)

  8. I’d like to convey my oldest daughter’s struggle with mental health issues and the stigma attached to the disease. She is doing wonderful right now, married and has a beautiful seven month old. Oh the journey she has been on to reach this place.

  9. Michelle Freedman

    I’ve had a type 1 diabetes statement quilt on my mind for a while – this inspires me to make one block for every shot or finger poke my daughter has endured since her diagnosis in 2006. Over 12,000 so far. Great post! Thanks for the chance to win!

  10. Maxine Reisenleiter

    I would love to memorialize my mom somehow. She has lived a long life, she’s 90 now, and these last few years have been a test for her stamina. But every day she struggles to maintain her independence and she does it quietly without asking for help unless she’s desperate. She has a lot of dignity.

  11. Katelyn Vawter

    I would love to do a quilt that somehow symbolized education, or the lack thereof, in our country. As an educator, it is getting more and more difficult to educate children. The saddest part is that they want to learn – but the ways in which we are told (made) to teach them are ridiculous. Children learn through play, but many are not allowed to do that at school. I would love to make something that shows that struggle.

  12. Kimberly Carlson

    Being a single mom often means making something out of nothing, right? Or, ‘giving the clothes off your back’ for your children. I propose you use scraps of your leftover clothes to make a child’s quilt. You’re quite literally giving all you have to wrap your child in warmth and comfort. 🙂

  13. I would like to have a quilt tribute people who struggle with a chronic illness. Especially kids who deal with so many issues trying to get through school when they have to miss many days. The other side of it would show the strength, something strong and persistent…. what it takes for these kids to keep going every day.

  14. I would like to have a quilt that reminds me to feel happy everyday and to appreciate the little things in life.

  15. I would love to have the message of how asylum seekers are so nastily and negatively portrayed by some media and populist politicians who don’t have a spine or ethical bone in their body, especially the horrid practice of keeping children in detention (sadly my country’s government is particularly disgusting on this issue)

  16. I actually make a quilt a few years back for my teenage granddaughter who was going through a very rough time thinking that no one really cared for her. I contacted all of our family members and her friends and askedd them to send me a list of words that came to mind–both good and bad–when they thought of her. The quilt was balck and white fabrics with her favorite flowers from her front yard appliqued on the bottom corner. My friend did a wonderful job of quilting all of those words along with the names people who wrote them. It was a very healing quilt for her. It took her quite a few days to discover the quilting. We sat and laughed and cried over all of the messages from everyone. It is her go to quilt when she is feeling down and a reminder of how much she is loved.

  17. I would like to design a quilt that spoke of the problem of elder abuse and neglect.

  18. I’d like to make a quilt signifying depression. It’s such a stigmatised illness.

  19. I would love to make a modern scrappy quilt about environmental care. Longing for T. Knauer’s book, it takes some time to get to France!

  20. For me I would do Autism, my older daughter is Autistic so it is important to me.

  21. Crystal Cooper

    This is honestly the most inspiring quilt I’ve ever seen. I’d never realised it was possible to quilt words before! Similar to this awe-inspiring example, I’d choose to make a quilt about women’s rights. So many people seem to think that feminism’s day is done, but in my experience true equality is still a long way away.

  22. I would do one for caregivers of terminal family members. I was my husbands caregiver when he was suffering with cancer. The caregivers really put the heart and soul into it, giving up sleeping and anything that resembles a normal life. It’s really tough and a beautiful quilt would be very appreciated. Thanks

  23. The need for organ donation is very important to me. My father received a kidney transplant. My niece received a heart transplant. Every donor has the ability to save many lives.

  24. I’d like to do one that reflected the message “Money can’t buy me love . . .” maybe a wedding quilt.

  25. Our small group continues to make quilts for the local women’s shelter so my thoughts would be against domestic abuse.

  26. I am most interested in health care and children and there are many issues
    my key interests are in autism and in prematurity( not unrelated )—decreasing the occurrence of either


    I’ve never been so anxious to READ a quilt book vs looking at all the pretty pictures! Thanks for a chance I’m enjoying the book tour

  28. Jennifer Dewing

    I would quilt about any and all issues that deal with children in need: abuse, neglect, adoption, foster care, illness/cancer, abortion, …. I love all children, their sweet faces, thei infectious smiles, their need for protection, …. thank you for making your review more than just the eye candy. It’s what we all need sometimes.

  29. I’m working out some ideas on how to honor my dad, who has dementia. I treasure the memories of who he was, and want to work that out into a quilt.

  30. what a moving post.i m also a solo mother. i cant win so ilive overseas
    but it s so graceful to read so moving posts Thanks so much

  31. I’m currently working on a series of quilts, quite stylistically varied, using recycled fabrics. I’d like to do something that more obviously addresses waste and the detrimental effects that fast fashion have on both the economy of developing countries and on the environment.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top