Gwen Marston’s Minimal Quiltmaking: Book Review

I was anxious to get my hands on Gwen Marston’s latest book, Minimal Quiltmaking, from AQS Publishing and I was not disappointed.

gwenscover Gwen Marstons Minimal Quiltmaking: Book ReviewGwen Marston is one of those legendary quilters I respect and admire. She’s been making quilts for decades. She has experience as a designer, a colorist, a writer, a teacher, a speaker, a retreat planner and more. She’s friendly and casual, and in the classes I’ve taken from Gwen, I’ve liked her a lot. She’s someone you’d enjoy having as your neighbor.

I read the new book from cover to cover in one evening, but it’s the kind of book I’ll go back to because there is a lot to digest. It’s a book about one approach to design: minimalism. In other words, Gwen limited the design elements in these quilts and kept them simple.

“…the focus of designing minimal quilts is to produce work that has been reduced to its essence—stripped down to its essentials…when design is stripped down to its rudiments, when there is in fact “less,” everything counts more.”

What’s interesting as you study the quilts is that they’re anything but simple. Gwen’s observation that “everything counts more” is astute. It will take me some time to absorb these quilts and to understand why they work.

gwen1 Gwen Marstons Minimal Quiltmaking: Book Review

Minimal Composition, designed and made by Gwen Marston. Hand quilted.

Minimal Quiltmaking is chock-full of color photos and detail shots. Gwen also included work by other people and their thoughts about the quilts. It’s fascinating.

gwen2 Gwen Marstons Minimal Quiltmaking: Book Review

Turquoise, designed and made by Gwen Marston. Machine quilted by Rogene Fischer.

The chapter titles hint at the book’s contents:
• How to Use This Book
• About Designing
• Minimal Quilts
• Hard-Edge Quilts
• Minimal Color
• Minimal Quilts Inspired by Art
• Gallery
• The Grand Finale: A Baker’s Dozen

As I prepared to write about Minimal Quiltmaking, I thought of the other books I own by Gwen. I was curious to see how many I had, so I pulled them all out.

gwen3 Gwen Marstons Minimal Quiltmaking: Book Review

I own these books by Gwen Marston.

It’s quite a stack. I wonder if the woman sleeps, especially when you consider that many of her quilts are quilted by hand. As far as the books, there’s not a dud in the bunch!

gwen5 Gwen Marstons Minimal Quiltmaking: Book ReviewThe “Liberated” titles are among my favorites. Once you get the hang of liberated quiltmaking, it’s hard to enjoy anything else.

gwen4 Gwen Marstons Minimal Quiltmaking: Book ReviewAnd Gwen’s collaboration with Freddy Moran was a recipe for dynamite. They wrote two books together. Unbelievably fun!

gwen8 Gwen Marstons Minimal Quiltmaking: Book ReviewAs much as I love the books just mentioned, one of my favorites continues to be Gwen Marston’s Needlework Designs. The motifs are gorgeous.

gwen6 Gwen Marstons Minimal Quiltmaking: Book ReviewThey can be used for quilting, applique, redwork, or whatever you can dream up. Each page shows how the design looks when used in these ways.

So now you’ve been introduced to a quilting legend. If you’ve come to the place when you’re no longer satisfied to make quilts just like the pattern, get to know Gwen. She’ll help you move forward.

gwenscover Gwen Marstons Minimal Quiltmaking: Book Review

I loved the last few lines of Gwen’s dedication in Minimal Quiltmaking, so I’ll leave you with those. They’re a reflection of the wonderful woman she is.

“And as an elder in the quilt world, I also dedicate this book to the new generation of quilters. I admire their spunk, welcome them with enthusiasm, and trust them to carry the future of quiltmaking forward.”

About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email:
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3 Responses to Gwen Marston’s Minimal Quiltmaking: Book Review

  1. Charleen diSante says:

    At our LQS (Heart in Hands, in Weymouth, MA) we just had a presentation on this book. She mentioned that she had been at a retreat with Marsden a few years ago and had learned about the minimalist approach. That must have stirred something in her because she is now an author. Gwen certainly has had a long-standing influence. Thanks for posting about her book in your blod.

  2. I can’t wait to read this book… you make it sound irresistible!

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