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Quilting Terms: What is a Liberated Quilt?

Updated on September 20, 2018
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A lover of arts and crafts, Shasta Matova enjoys making artistic, applique, pieced, traditional, miniature, modern, and crazy quilts.

Quilts can be put in to many different categories. A liberated quilt are a type of quilt. This hub will help explain the term liberated quilting, show you some liberated quilts, explain their history, and introduce you to some liberated quilters.

A liberated quilt does not follow the rules of traditional quilting.
A liberated quilt does not follow the rules of traditional quilting. | Source

History of Quilting

With the Bicentennial of 1976, people in the United States developed a resurging interest in American history and in quilting. Many people made traditional quilts like the ones that quilters had made before them. They were able to make them faster and easier with the rotary cutter and a sewing machine. More and more people became quilters, and the industry grew. Quilt shops sprang up, and fabric was manufactured particularly for quilters.

Instead of a quilting bee, people got together at quilt shows and quilt retreats to show off their quilts and get new ideas. Quilt shows required some standardization and some ways to measure the quality of the workmanship in making the quilt. With the revival though, came critics in the form of the quilt police. The quilt police is not an official organization, but some people, many of them quilters, took it upon themselves to point out quilting mistakes, presumably in an effort to help them improve.

They pointed out lines that were not straight, points that were not sharp, angles that were not lined up correctly, and seams that did not match where they should.

Of course all people, being human, make mistakes. Many people were new to quilting, and were pursuing quilting as a hobby. They wanted a way to relax after a hard day of work, not get uptight about following the rules of quilting. Being resentful of the quilt police, they decided to deliberately break the rules of quilting. And the genre of liberated quilting was born.

A liberated quilt is more free and playful than a traditional quilt.
A liberated quilt is more free and playful than a traditional quilt. | Source

What is a Liberated Quilt?

A liberated quilt is a quilt that deliberately breaks the rules of quilting. It is generally not made with a pattern, although some quilters do attempt to make a pattern for people who are entrenched in traditional quiltmaking. The quilter takes pieces of fabric, often small, and arranges them in a pleasing manner. She makes her own rules to follow, based only on her own aesthetics. She may add traditional blocks, but she will likely adapt and liberate the block so that it is not straight lines and matched points.

The "rules" are not followed in quilting, except those that are required for quality construction. But these quilts are not slapped together. The quilter pays close attention to composition, color, balance, and detail. These quilts can be quite complex. Since there is no pattern, each quilt tends to be unique but the style of quilts is quite recognizable.

A liberated quilt is fun and playful.
A liberated quilt is fun and playful. | Source

Making Liberated Quilts

Making liberated quilts can be quite freeing, since there are very few rules. They are fun and playful. They can be difficult to make though, though, particularly since so many ingrained rules have to be broken in order to make a liberated quilt. It can be difficult to break the rules that have served you well in making quilts in the past.

Since there aren't explicit directions on making a liberated quilt, quilters have to become quilt designers in order to make liberated quilts. Some find it challenging to design their own quilts, and wonder about whether the quilt will be appealing when it is finished. A liberated quilter is a quilt designer. She has to trust her instincts, and take the risk that an idea or method will result in the intended outcome. Many times the outcome is not intended, but is sometimes better than anticipated.

If you want to make a liberated quilt, I recommend starting with a small one. With practice, you can learn which rules can be broken, and can develop the freedom required to make liberated quilts.

Books by Gwen Marston

Liberated Quilters

Liberated quilts are contemporary quilts. Although similar quilts have been made in the past - think Gees Bend quilts - their popularity is relatively recent. Most people would put them under the modern quilt umbrella.

Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran brought liberated quilting to the forefront in 1996 with their book Liberated Quiltmaking. This book is no longer in publication and remains highly sought after today, even after Liberated Quiltmaking II was published. Many quilters took on the challenge to become free of the rules of quiltmaking. They made liberated quilts. They joined together by forming liberating quilting guilds, both in person and online, and liberated quilting blog rings. They made their presence known by sending liberated quilts to traditional quilt shows, and by presenting their own liberated quilt shows.

Some liberated quilters are:

Gwen Marston

Freddy Moran

Ami Simms

Mary Lou Weidman

Nickel and Dime Ranch Thank you to Bridget for letting me use the photos in this post.

Tonya Ricucci

Liberated quilting is a fairly new phenomenon, but it has taken a strong hold in the quilting industry. Quilt enjoy the freedom of making their quilts their own way, and enjoy challenging the rules of traditional quilting.


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