Modern quilts with a vintage twist

Twisted: Modern Quilts with a Vintage Twist by Mary W. Kerr, an American Quilt Society certified appraiser and an award winning quilter, offers an eye-popping treat to quilters who want to incorporate vintage textiles to their work.

Providing 20th century vintage textiles to 24 quilters, Kerr asked them—with little instruction—to incoporate the pieces in a contemporary design that resulted in an impressive collaborative effort she shares with readers.

Kerr begins the series of quilts with Deb Levy’s happy medallion quilt. The quilt composed of stars on sunny yellow background, started as blocks in bad condition. Ragged strips of fabric were carelessly string-pieced together on tissue paper. Levy had the challenge to work with differing sizes of blocks. Taking what she had, Levy ironed the star units to Wonder Under Fusible thread and then trimmed the edges to create a smooth line and removing the frayed edges. Arranged on a bright yellow cloth, Levy machine-stitched the stars using a buttonhole embroidery stitch. She writes, “My working name for it became ‘Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.’ And while working on this quilt, I pondered whether the maker of the star blocks ever wondered if the future would view her work kindly. I hope the original maker of these blocks would be pleased with what I have done.”

“Dahlias in the Snow”, created and quilted by JoAnne Blade and Kim Diamond, was pieced together from a poorly made top from the 1940s. The two quilters, who combined their talents using their longarm quilting machine, were able to take apart the fabric to create 14 appliqued blocks. After experimenting with several designs (and keeping with the contemporary theme) Kim decide to use a dahlia and other modern motifs. By sheer luck, Kim found fabric to piece the dahlia,which matched the pink in the 14 blocks. Piecing together the quilt wasn’t as straightforward as the two quilters anticipated. Both Kim and JoAnne explain, “We wanted the flower buds to be put in on the same way each time, and we wanted the angles in the new fabrics to match as well. We used some special templates to help with the process. The dahlia is so large that it had to be done in two different passes. Kim created a stitich map telling JoAnne exactly what piece needed to be sewn, and in what order.”

For “Ojo de Dios” (God’s Eye) Candace West was given three orphan blocks. The pineapple blocks had thinning pieces of fabric that were reinforced with another layer of fabric fused on the back. Two larger blocks were pieced together with a solid gold background. Another block with a log cabin was appliqued in place. When West received the blocks she felt excited and anxious about the project stating the vintage had never been her “thing” and yet the pieces captured her imagination, reminding her of Pueblo weavings or kites against a sunset sky. For her project quilt she decided to create one with graphic design elements from the mid-20th century. “In the vintage blocks I hand quilted simple lines with a heavy thread and a primitive big stitch, to pay homage to the era the blocks came from. The balance of modern and vintage primitive quilting provided a playful juxtaposition of styles.”

Each quilter was up to the challenge of combining vintage with modern design. Kerr and her fellow quilters write with enthusiasm of taking schmattas and turning them into heirloom quilts. Although not an instructional how-to book with step-by-step instructions, Twisted provides intermediate and advanced quilters with ideas to make their own quilts that will become treasures for future generations. 

Twisted: Modern Quilts with a Vintage Twist by Mary W. Kerr is available on



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