Quilt Journalist Tells All 
A newsletter from Meg CoxApril 2011
In This Issue
Stitched: Movie Review & Interview with the Director
Behind the Scenes: The Scoop on the Red & White quilts
Alliance Contest Quilts: See Them, Hear Them

NEW: Quilt Art Gallery in New York City
city quilter gallery



The City Quilter fabric shop in Manhattan is on every quilter's list of city sights, and it never disappoints. Co-owners Cathy Izzo and Dale Riehl have cutting-edge taste and great teachers in their Chelsea shop, but now there's even more catnip for quilters here. 


Not only has the quilt shop itself expanded, but some of the new space was set aside to become the ONLY commercial art gallery in the city devoted to quilts. Since Chelsea is the hottest neighborhood for contemporary art now, this will bring all sorts of potential new patrons in touch with textile art of the moment. The first exhibition, up until May 28, is devoted to the works of Daphne Taylor. The next show will feature works by Japanese quilter Noriko Endo. 


Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm




Who is Meg Cox?

President, Alliance for American Quilts

Author, The Quilter's Catalog: A Comprehensive Resource Guide
56,000 copies in print

Columnist for The Quilt Life and Quilter's Home magazines

Quilter for 20+ years

Former staff writer for The Wall Street Journal

Lauded lecturer, teacher, networker, and the Johnny Appleseed of quilting 

For more, go to

quilt out loud
On Quilt Out Loud with Mark Lipinski & Jodie Davis

Click on image to order the book.
book cover

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Dear Friend--  
     Even more than the fall, this is my favorite time of year as a quilter. Instead of winding down with the warm weather, everything ramps up. The big Paducah show starts April 27, followed in a few weeks by Spring Quilt Market, and this being an odd year, the biannual Quilt National Show of art quilts kicks off Memorial Day weekend in Ohio. Then, of course, a veritable parade of summer festivals, retreats and shows, from the National Quilting Association show in June to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England in August.
     It's like we are formally leaving our winter cocoons, eager to show off all the stuff we made and see how the quilted landscape has altered in the meantime.
      That doesn't mean we stop quilting, of course. I'm currently working on a very special family Christmas quilt, but I can't say more: you'll see it in The Quilt Life magazine later this year.
       As usual, I've taken my readers behind the scenes of the quilt world. In this issue, that includes interviews with Jena Moreno, director of the quilt documentary Stitched, which recently had its debut and Tom Hennes, who designed the red and white quilt show that created such a stir last month.
      I hope you enjoy my April issue, and please, feel free to forward this free newsletter to anyone who might enjoy it. There is a "Join Our Mailing List" button in the lefthand column if you are not a subscriber yet. 
 A Movie Made For Us: STITCHED
caryl on dvd

     We've been waiting a long time for this: a documentary that will explain our crazy cult to the rest of the world.
      This 72-minute nonfiction film, called "Stitched: Behind Every Stitch, There is a Story," had its formal debut before 300 quilters at the IQA show in Cincinnati and the buzz is building. More screenings are planned, but for those who can't wait, DVDs of Stitched are already available on the film's website.
     I recently had the chance to preview a copy and want to share my thoughts. The narrative arc of Stitched focuses on three quilters hoping to win Best of Show at International Quilt Festival in Houston. The stars are Caryl Bryer Fallert and Hollis Chatelain, who have both won the top prize previously, and Randall Cook, known especially for his provocative male nudes, who has studied with Hollis. The film follows each of them to their home studios (that's Caryl above being filmed at her nifty studio in Paducah, Kentucky), where they work on a quilt for competition and talk about their personal quilt history. 

     As a viewer, you really do get a good idea of these three quiltmakers, their stories, purposes and techniques, as well as a sense of the wider quilt world, and how big shows like those in Houston and Paducah build stars. Although there is a sense of drama, ups and downs through the story, there was more humor than I expected in Stitched. I loved seeing Quilt Man, the Paducah guy wearing a patchwork cape and driving a Segway, scoot through the streets of Quilt City. 
     Putting my critic's hat on, I think Stitched does have the feel of a first-timer's project here and there. I think it meanders a bit off-topic, getting bogged down at the Houston awards show. That said, it covers a lot of ground, including a discussion of the tension between traditional and art quilters today, and is extremely entertaining if you care about quilting. Also, great choice of music. I think Stitched would make a perfect Mother's Day gift for the quilters on your list. Guilds may want to buy a copy of the DVD and rent it internally, or schedule small group showings.
     Full disclosure: I was interviewed for Stitched, and appear as an on-screen and voice-over narrator, talking about some of the big trends in quilting today.
     For more information and to order the DVD ($19.99), go to:

Following are highlights from my recent Q & A with director Jena Moreno,who works as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle. She made the film with cameraman Tom Gandy, her husband:

Meg: How long ago did you have the idea for this documentary?

Jena: The idea came in 2005. I live and work in downtown Houston and pass the George R. Brown convention center twice a day. It had ben full of evacuees after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and suddenly, it was back in business, attracting tens of thousands of quilters. What would make them travel to Houston so soon after the hurricanes, when the city was still in recovery mode?

Meg: Did making the film turn you into a quilter?

Jena: My grandmother tried to teach me to crochet a scarf, and I wound up with a crooked purple pot holder. I doubt I could become a good quilter. But I really love many art and traditional quilts. I didn't think I would like them before I attended by first quilt show, International Quilt Festival in Houston, 2009.

Meg: Now that it's done, what was the hardest part?

Jena: The hardest part was editing it and deciding what to leave out of the film after we collected more than 250 hours of footage. We had so many great interviews.


Meg: What comes next? Do you have plans to show Stitched outside the quilt world, which is obviously welcoming this with cheers? 

Jena: We will have multiple screenings at Paducah, then two screenings at the Museum of Fines Arts, Houston on June 1 and 2. I plan to try to book the film to screen in museums and independent theaters. We will also enter it into film festivals in the U.S. 


Meg: Are you working on a new film? 

Jena: About two years ago, before our lives were taken over by quilters, we shot a travel show pilot. We have to edit it and pitch it to networks. We are also planning to do a short documentary about the international mariachi festival in Guadalajara, Mexico. My father is from that city and he was the leader of a mariachi group.




Red & White Update: What Happens to the Quilts Next?
tom honnes
Tom Hennes, designer of Infinite Variety

    When the Infinite Variety show of 651 red and white quilts ended its 6-day run last month at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, collector Joanna Rose sent a case of champagne to the offices of Thinc Design. Anybody who saw this remarkable show knows how hard they worked to earn it!
     By March 30, nearly 25,000 people had come to see the stunning unique display, breaking records for the venue. Evidence of the strong word-of-mouth reviews is that by the final day, a Monday, people were streaming into the armory at the rate of 1,000 an hour. It was kept open an extra half hour on that last day. 
     For myself, I have to confess this show was a peak life experience. 
     It's hard to describe the impact of walking into that cold, vast hall and feeling like the warmth, weight and color of the quilts are all rushing toward you. I think the power had everything to do with stark contrasts of dark and light, intimate versus anonymous, hard versus soft. The two disparate concepts that lodged in my mind were "cathedral" and "clothesline." The quilts were hung in rows and spirals on specially designed cardboard tubes, conveying a sense of domesticity. Yet everyone seemed to whisper when they stood there: it felt like sacred space.
    Thoughtful design decisions turned these humble quilts into powerfully inspiring imagery. Tom Hennes explained at the press preview of the show that he built the show around two principal elements.The circle, including the empty chairs with quilts draped over the backs, represents the community of quilters. The second element was "tornados," the spirals reaching to the ceiling, "which represent the fecundity of all the quilters' creativity."
     Tom said his biggest challenge was to arrange the quilts in such a way that viewers would have a sense of the entire collection, while also being able to clearly see each individual quilt. To that end, he and his staff shined a different spotlight on every single quilt.
     "One of the reasons we took this direction is we thought 650 of anything would be taxing, even 650 Picassos, if that many existed," Tom explained. 
Good News for Those Who Missed the Show
     Since the show ended, the collector and the American Museum of Folk Art, which helped curate and organize it, have been besieged with requests to tour the exhibit.
     Tom Hennes said he wasn't sure that would happen until the last day of the show, when he was told to put all the specially made cardboard hanging tubes in storage: he had been ready to recycle them.
     Where and when will Infinite Variety tour?
     Susan Flamm, the PR person for the museum, says that a book contract is in the works and the idea is to sync the publication with a road show. Obviously, the travel will be somewhat limited by the enormity of the collection: it can only travel to venues where the ceiling can support the weight of 651 quilts, for one thing. Susan says the publishing and planning phase will take one and a half to two years to complete. 
      In my opinion, the planned tour will lift this startling show to the iconic stature of the 1971 Whitney exhibit of traditional quilts, and the more recent Gee's Bend exhibits. Those shows became milestones partly because they toured widely and I think Infinite Variety is worthy to join their company. 
      I'll keep you informed when news breaks on this topic.
      If you aren't sated yet on images and reactions to the show, your best bet is checking out the blog record kept by the tireless Pat Sloan which lists media reactions, photo albums on flickr and other bloggers' reactions: 

       For more from my interview with Tom Hennes of Thinc Design, look for my Trade Talk column in the June issue of Fab Shop News.      

Alliance Contest Quilts Hit the Road: See & Hear Them
didi's quiltThis year, the nonprofit Alliance for American Quilts received 119 quilts for its 5th annual contest. As usual, the contest quilts are 16 inches by 16 inches. The theme was: Alliances: People, Patterns, Passion, and quilters were amazingly creative in depicting this. There are many quilts showing alliances in nature, quite a few dog portraits and even two that took the democracy protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square as their focus. 


I'm especially partial to Gerry Krueger's quilt, "It's a Mn's World Unless Women Vote!" (no. 62), full of photos and memorabilia about the women's suffrage movement. Talk about a powerful and effective alliance! The purple quilt above by Didi Salvatierra celebrates a modern alliance-- it's called "Salute to Ami's Army" (no. 29) and honors Ami Simms' groundbreaking quilting philanthropy to aid Alzheimer's research.

For sheer fun, you can't beat Hoodie Crescent's doll-covered quilt, called "A Veggie Doll Has a Dream" (no. 97) And I'm dying of curiosity about the quilt called "Give Thanks" (no. 76), an amazingly complex work of applique that includes everything, including Sunbonnet Sues with angel wings and a working clock. 

Another personal favorite both for craftsmanship and interpreting the theme is the quilt made by multiple members of the Broadway Gentlemen's Quilting Auxiliary, most of whose members actually do work on Broadway (no. 116). These men and women pieced together mini quilts representing the original colonies (our foundational alliance), and it's a group quilt, but if that weren't clever enough, it's a two-sided quilt, in which one side gives a traditional interpretation of the mini blocks, and the other a more updated feel. 

Come Hear the Quilts: Here's How

One of the cool features that is new this year: participating quilters were all invited to dial a toll-free number and record their artist statements. Many did. When you view the gallery on the Alliance website, click to make the thumbnail images bigger and if there is a bar at the bottom, you can click and hear the recording. The maker of the "Give Thanks" quilt adds a puzzle to her statement: she says there is a "mystery" to the quilt that only the person who buys it next fall, when the quilts are auctioned on eBay, will uncover. 

Click on Gerry Kreuger's piece below to see the full gallery:
It's a Man's World Unless Women Vote!

Lucky you, if you are traveling to the big Paducah show later this month: ALL the contest quilts will be exhibited there and you can vote for Viewers Choice at the show. Plus, the big winner of this year's contest will be announced at the show, at noon on Wednesday, April 27.

I'll announce the winner in my May issue, and also provide a list of the other venues where the Alliance contest quilts will tour.


Can You Help Promote the Alliance's August fundraisers?
I've got bundles of postcards promoting the AAQ's August 5 & 6 events in NYC, featuring Marianne and Mary Fons, Mark Lipinski and other surprise guests. If you would like to pass some out at your guild or in your local quilt shop, let me know. Full details of the events will go live on the AAQ website in early May, when tickets go on sale.

Wow, that really came pouring out. Hope I didn't overwhelm you. Thanks for hanging out with me again. See you on the quilt trail.


Quilt on!


Meg Cox
Quilt Journalist Tells All

Tiny print: This free newsletter is written, published and copyrighted by journalist Meg Cox, who protects her mailing list like a Mama grizzly. If you are getting weird e-mail, look elsewhere for the blame. If you like it, she'd love to know that. If you want to become a sponsor, let's talk.