TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Donna Hussain's Sewing Circle: Exploring the Art Quilt

This past fall a group of my quilter friends met to form a new sewing circle to focus on the creation of art quilts using chapters in Art Quilt Workbook by Jane Davila and Elin Waterson for reference and inspiration. While the women at the meeting were accomplished quilters, most were traditional quilters with little experience making art quilts. Everyone wanted to learn basic design skills used by artists who focus on quilting as their medium of expression. And all wanted to experiment with composition and the addition of different types of materials to our quilts. A group of art quilt novices, we thought, would provide support and encouragement as we challenged our creativity and learned new quilting techniques.

After much discussion at our organizational meeting we agreed on the following:

  • We would study a chapter of Art Quilt Workbook each month, and each make a small quilt (9 x 12 inches) using techniques described in the chapter. (The small art quilts below are the results of my exercises.)
Symmetrical Balance (attempted)

  • At meetings we would discuss the chapter and display the small quilts we had designed and sewn. We would also watch the video that accompanies the text, do exercises at the ends of the chapters, and invite members to do technique demonstrations at our meetings. We hoped that each member of the group would complete eight to ten small quilts by the time we reached the last chapter of the text.

  • The circle would be open to everyone, quilters and non-quilters, quilt guild members and non-members. Should the membership grow, we planned to form additional circles with the same agenda, giving members the freedom to choose which group they wanted to attend.
  • We agreed that individual quilters would choose a theme and/or color scheme to give unity to their series of 9 x 12 inch art quilts. I chose India as my theme because I have many appropriate fabrics in my stash.

Found Objects (Indian coin, mirrors, tikka)

Here is a report of our progress after four chapters, four meetings.

We have two groups with a stable core membership in addition to others who join us on occasion. Many of the women have difficulty meeting the target of one small quilt a month; many have their own interpretation of the 9 x 12 inch size restriction. Some members are free spirits whose quilts evolve and stray from their original intent. When completed their quilts have no reference at all to the assigned book chapter. My quilts start with a brainstorm. Later, after my quilts are completed I try to find a chapter in the book to fit. But all of us are having fun exchanging ideas, learning new skills, admiring each other's work, sharing snacks, and making new friends.

Isn’t that what quilting is all about?

Fabric Collage

California quilter, Donna Hussain, has exhibited in major quilt shows around the country, authored books, and is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus. Click on her name to see all of her past articles.

The photo shows Donna with her husband, Pascha.


  1. How cool! I hearing about groups working through the book. Excellent choice of theme and interpretation of it.



“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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