In its emphasis on bold graphic elements, modern quilting has encouraged simpler techniques. As a result, once you’ve been quilting for a while you tend to buy quilt books just for the patterns. Even then, if you are industrious enough, you could probably recreate a quilt just by looking at a photo, but it’s definitely more convenient to shell out the $19.95 and buy the book. And you feel a little bit guilty doing this, because beyond a tip or two, you’re probably not going to learn much from the other pages.
Enter Amanda Leins’ Wanderlust Quilts: 10 Modern Projects Inspired by Classic Art & Architecture (C&T Publishing), which is due to hit bookstores next month. In a testament to her time spent studying classical archaeology, Leins incorporates these ancient design motifs seamlessly into a modern aesthetic. Her mission? “I wanted to make a book where modern quilters had exposure to more advanced techniques,” she explains.
I try to reserve my salty language for special occasions, so let me just get this out of the way (and if this offends you, well, hello! Welcome to Right Sides Together!): HOLY SHIT. The combination of classical influence, modern design, and advanced quilting technique is a perfect storm of awesome. Each of Leins’s projects is taken from a photo or sketch she did while doing fieldwork years ago in Rome or Athens. From aqueducts to mosaic tiles to the draping fabric of ancient statues, the book is part travelogue, reminding us to pay attention to the art and architecture around us when looking for inspiration.
The book’s projects themselves are mostly quilts (as the title suggests) with a few pillows. Most of the quilts are small, wall- or throw-sized, though there are two bed-sized quilts and one bed runner. Because they are often intricate and involved, these small sizes allow quilters to practice techniques without getting bogged down or committing an entire year to a single project.
But what really gets me jazzed about this book is Leins’s focus on the tough techniques. Like Leonidas preparing his 300 for the battle of Thermopylae, she provides fear-free encouragement and instruction for some of quilting’s tougher challenges. Sewing curves, making scalloped borders, negotiating complex patterns, stitching Y-seams: each of these techniques is presented with clear descriptions, plenty of pictures, and no squeamishness in the least. You’ve got this, Leins seems to be saying. It’s really not that hard. And it isn’t. Part of the reason modern quilters might avoid the “tricky” stuff is because we see each other gasp and recoil. Wanderlust Quilts encourages us all to just suck it up and sew. Caesar conquered Gaul, for God’s sake. You can sew a Y-seam.
The irony of Wanderlust Quilts is that even as I’m looking thousands of years into the past, I see the future of modern quilting. Personally, I want to be part of that future. I want to challenge myself as the Masters did (and do), and I want to inspire my modern aesthetic with the traditions and techniques of the all-time greats. Ultimately, I think that Leins is communicating that the major lesson of ancient art and architecture also applies to quilting: the classics endure.
Wanderlust Quilts comes out August 17! Now available for pre-order. Trust me: you want this book.