Basket Quilt: Tribute to Gwen Marston

I have so much to say about this quilt, hopefully I can articulate my thoughts!

Let's start at the beginning.

A few years ago, (actually after the first Quiltcon) I began percolating the idea of a giant basket quilt.

Actually, let's back up a bit.  Even more years ago, like 10?  I stumbled upon Gwen Marston's Liberated Quiltmaking book.  I loved so very much about it, and the first quilt I made after that was a basket quilt using her technique.

(well used and loved!)

So now back to my idea after Quiltcon...  After seeing the quilts shown there, I thought it would be fun to make a giant basket, using Gwen's improv technique.  It would be titled 'Basket Quilt Sneaks into Quiltcon'.  Wouldn't that have been funny?  I thought so!

Anyways, that never happened.  The main reason being that making a large improv quilt of that type takes a different type of energy.  It's more draining, and like I've talked about here before, I often prefer to make simpler things that energize and relax me.

The idea and vision for this quilt still bounced around in my head occasionally though...  and then I heard that Gwen had passed away.  I started crying and felt such a sadness knowing she was no longer out there, bringing her special presence to the quilting world.  Of course I have never met her, but it's hard to explain the effect she had on me, the positive vibes I absorbed from her books (although I did speak to her on the phone once!  total celebrity moment for me)  After hearing that she had died, I immediately knew that I would go start that basket quilt and it would be in memory of Gwen.

So now let's try to go backwards and remember the process of designing the quilt.

Originally my idea included juxtaposing a mix of modern and traditional.  These are the points it included.

-One solid color for background, one solid color for basket (Solids would be the modern element, although they could also be tradional)

-Basket Shape (Basket is about as traditional of a block as you can get.  It would be constructed using Gwen's technique which is improv/modern)

-Hand quilted on a slight angle (Handquilting is traditional, but a slight angle would be unusual and a bit jarring)

Once I decided to make this quilt as a tribute to Gwen, I changed/added a few elements.  I also decided to add a bit of a theme of contrasting my own style/tastes with what I associated with Gwen.

-Didn't have enough of any one solid for the entire background so decided to use multiple fabrics but staying in one color family.  I would say that solid fabrics were definitely a theme from Gwen, but adding prints is definitely my flavor.

-Adding elements of the color red because from looking at Gwen's quilts I would say she used a LOT of red.  I pieced a small bit of red into the basket, and also knew that the binding would be red.

-The original block technique from Gwen does not include a basket base, but I felt this basket needed that extra interest.

I felt that the shape of the handle was crucial to the quilt, so I carefully pinned this and hand appliqued it on.  Gwen's technique used topstitching, which I would definitely use if I was making a whole quilt full of baskets, but in this case decided to use hand applique as it adore the look of it.

As you can see in the above photo, I used part of a vintage tablecloth that had all this lovely floral applique.  I've been using bits of this table cloth in some of my projects and will be sad when it's all used up!

I also inlcuded this rainbow bit of color in the top left corner.  Not sure why?!  I think it was an inward protest against a two color quilt, because I love lots of color and pattern LOL.

So now the quilt top was complete and it languished for months.  Then in October I had to idea of entering it in Quiltcon.  I went back and forth on the idea, but decided since it was a tribute to Gwen, I should at least try.  So I put it on my quilting frame and we (including my mom,grandma, aunts and friends)  frantically finished it up before the Quiltcon entering deadline.

Immediately upon entering I regretted it.  I won't go into those feeling here and now, but it was with some relief that I found it was not accepted.  

So now let's analyze the completed quilt.  My feelings about it are mixed, I must say.

 I think it's one that will grow on my over time, as it's meaningful to me.

It's just that when I look at it, or more accurately, look at a photo of it, I don't find it pleasing. 

The shape of the basket feels right to me.  I like the mix of background fabrics as well.  I'm not so sure about my overall choices of color though.  

I might have liked a darker richer color for the background.  And a color other than gold for the basket.  

To show you what I mean, I inverted the colors just for fun.  Doesn't this look amazing?  I love it in these colors!  

So there's the story of this giant improv basket quilt!  Oh yes the size...  I think it's around 70"x85".

Overall I'm happy with this quilt and it's out of my head space so  I can move on to new ideas!

Edited to Add:  Adding this to the Fourth Quarter FinishalongHere's my post with the original list of quilts to finish.


  1. I absolutely LOVE it!!! Thank you for sharing your process and the story of the quilt. Blending your own style with your vision for a Gwen tribute made it SEW perfect!

  2. I love hearing about your process and thoughts for this quilt! I think it will grow on you...I think it's really soft and beautiful, and quilting is more about the journey than the finished product anyways right?! Happy New Year!

  3. Beautiful basket quilt! I'm inspired by it.

  4. I think the quilt is PERFECT! Thank you for sharing your thought process as well. Very inspiring.

  5. I love the quilt. I would hang it on the wall above my bed. I need to make one.

  6. I think your tribute is beautiful. I think anyone that appreciated Gwen's esthetic should also make a basket quilt too. You could start a movement in honor of a much loved quilt artist and pioneer of our era. Thank you for sharing.

  7. I LOVE IT also! I love the background color and the basket colors and the little bit of color at the top right is perfect. I love everything about it and QuiltCon was wrong not to accept it but I've learned myself that quilt judging is totally subjective so don't fret about that at all. It is wonderful!

  8. Every quilt has a story to tell, and I am so glad you shared the details with this one. For me, the process of creating is equally important to the finished product. There is much to learn...

  9. Oh my, I just love this crazy big basket! Gorgeous quilt. Might have to readdress my big basket quilt series that I thought was done.:)

  10. This quilt has huge impact on so many levels. As an art piece it is stunning. I can see it gracing the cover of a book. A simple and elegant quilt at first glance, diving in you slowly begin to take in the details like the rogue rainbow. It's a work of art that will keep you warm, win win!!

  11. Oh my! that is a lovely piece...and so very organically grew from an idea to another splash of an emotional connection...and then it took shape! I think it's a definitive piece. Yes.

  12. This is really cool and I am so glad you shared this process and inverted colors. All very clever.

  13. That was a very nice tribute. I'm sure Gwen is looking down & saying Great Job!!

  14. Jolene, I think it's beautiful. You might want to put it away for a while. I did that with one of mine, pulled it out to look at years later, and now it's one of my favorites.

  15. I'll preface this by saying that I like everything you have made and shown here in the past couple of years since I've been reading. Your color choices appeal to me in particular, especially the way you play with value.

    I like the quilt in the original colors better because it is a tribute quilt. The grey shadow behind the basket and all that negative space above speak of the emptiness that a beloved person leaves behind in a way that the version in inverted colors does not.

  16. I love this quilt! Yes, it would also look fabulous in the darker colours but it’s perfect as it is.

  17. What a beautiful piece of art! I love it......hang it & enjoy it every day.

  18. I loved Gwen and her simple but wonderful message that quilting is to be enjoyed and fun. I have one of her liberated strings books and take it out to remind me if I get uptight about exact seams, etc. I loved your tribute piece, your colours and the basket which is a favourite motif of mine. And the darker colours also suited. Beautiful, inspired stitching!

  19. Love this tribute to Gwen. Thank you for sharing the process. I get what you mean about improv--I am stuck a bit on a flannel scrap quilt that is improv using magic numbers. I don't let myself really play around with it. I love both versions of yours though, both the original version and the reverse. Sometimes photos just don't communicate the quilt--especially the warmth and life in it. The close ups do.


  20. That's the advantage of a blog, isn't it? Thank you for your post. I read the announcement on Instagram and looked forward to reading it. I would like to congratulate you on this quilt and thank you for pointing to Gwen Marsten. I did not know this artist and am looking forward to one of her books that I have just ordered. Best wishes and a blessed new year!

  21. I love it. Gwen was one of my first quilt teachers. It was so over my head as a new quilter. I'm sorry to say I wish I would have taken more. Your quilt is lovely, I'm absolutely sure Gwen would have loved it.

  22. Love everything about this quilt - colours, improv, fabric used and the tribute to Gwen. I was lucky enough to be in a class with Gwen here in Melbourne some years ago.

  23. What a great tribute quilt and I think it is fabulous. I love the shock of red and the background fabric mix is just right!

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