Working with Guatemalan Textiles

Priscilla Bianchi represents a unique personality in today’s art quilting world. She was born and raised in Guatemala City, Guatemala, where she still resides today. Her distinctive style is characterized by the use of bold, bright colors, a daring approach to choosing and combining fabrics and textures, and a thirst for experimentation and risk-taking. Her one-of-a-kind art quilts, with a definite ethnic appeal, incorporate the richness of Guatemalan hand-woven textiles, colors, patterns, and symbolism, giving life to a myriad of works of art that are fresh, vibrant, and innovative.

With a body of work of over 60 art quilts that have been exhibited internationally, her passion and enthusiasm for her work, as well as her origins, make Priscilla a truly unique quilt artist. In this story, told in her own words, Priscilla outlines why she uses Guatemalan fabrics. She also explains how other quilters can use these unique fabrics in their quilts.


Coming from a country with a rich textile heritage, but no quilting tradition at all, I’ve had to overcome many obstacles.

The wonderful Guatemalan landscape, the people with their costumes and traditions, the Mayan culture, and the bountiful harvest of fruits and flowers never cease to inspire me. My influences and views of this magic, mystical world give my pieces a Latin American flavor, and  set  them apart from the works of other fiber artists.

Guatemala has one of the richest textile traditions in the world. The country is made up of 23 distinct indigenous groups, each with its own language, culture, and customs. Many of the textiles and ancient weaving methods have survived through the centuries.

The country’s diversity is reflected in  unique  patterns  and  colors  and outstandingly beautiful clothes. Every group or town has its own dress, woven by its people, with the traditional symbolism of their history and ancient gods forming the pattern. You can identify where a person is from just by looking at their costume.

Incorporating  Guatemalan  hand-woven textiles into my art quilts evolved as a very natural, comfortable thing to do. Being Guatemalan and proud of my heritage, I wanted to imprint my cultural identity into my work. I’ve always had the freedom to experiment and try out new things without being limited by “the rules.”

Using Guatemalan textiles gives such life and vibrancy to my quilts! For me, this is a wonderful way of representing my country and my people in a positive, beautiful light.

There are many different types and thicknesses of Guatemalan fabrics. The  kind  that  I  use  in  my  quilts  is relatively difficult to find. I use 100% mercerized cotton of top-quality, light- to-medium thickness. It has a silky texture, great drape-ability, and a nice sheen. It is perfect for the many seams involved in the quilting process, and it’s also suitable for lined or unlined garments, home furnishings, and many other uses!

These hand-woven fabrics are labor-intensive to produce. Every step involved in their making is done by hand, from choosing the cotton fibers, knotting and dyeing the threads to produce ikat motifs, to the weaving process itself. Ikat motifs are patterns like flames, zigzags, trees, or human figures, created by a very labor- intensive process of tying portions of cotton thread so tightly that the tied parts do not take on the color when dipped in a dye bath. The warp and weft fibers will make up the pattern when the cloth is woven.

by Priscilla Bianchi

The fabric is usually 34″ to 36″ wide due to the size of the ancestral foot looms that men use to weave the cloth.   Many   of   the   centuries-old designs, patterns, and colors have been passed on from generation to generation making these textiles heirlooms in their own right!

Guatemalan fabrics have a number of positive qualities that lend character and personality to my designs.

They have a unique beauty – a hand-made, rustic quality, rich texture, and strong colors in stripes and ikat designs.

The fabrics are stable, and hold their shape when ironed. On the other hand, the looser weave makes it very fudge-able! When sewn together with lighter weight fabric (which I do all the time), iron seams towards the lighter weight fabric. When sewing two Guatemalan fabrics together press seams open to avoid bulkiness. I  also recommend the use of steam with these fabrics.

The fabric is reversible, a  wonderful  feature  when  working with symmetry, or when you have made a mistake and forgot to turn your template over for cutting reverse pieces!

RAIN FOREST by Priscilla Bianchi. All the fabrics in the gradated background (lime green to navy blue) are band dyed. Designed, constructed, and quilted by the author.

Prewashing fabric

Prewashing is a must before sewing Guatemalan textiles into your quilts or garments. Here’s how to do it:

  • Zigzag or serge raw edges to prevent excessive
  • Separate fabrics by color into darks and Be particularly careful with reds and blues as they tend to bleed.
  • Machine wash the fabrics using a gentle cycle with a hot wash temperature and a warm
  • To the wash water, add 1 teaspoon of Retayne™ per yard of This fixative will ensure that colors don’t run and that they stay bright. (Retayne™ can be purchased at any quilt shop.)
  • Don’t worry if the water in the machine is  tinted    This  is  theexcess  dye  coming  out  and  will  not stain your fabrics.
    • Take the fabrics out of the washing machine as soon as the complete wash cycle is finished! Leaving them damp and crumpled could stain
    • Tumble dry the fabrics for half an hour or so on a low Remove promptly and then hang until completely dry.
    • Ironing at this point is optional, but not



    Due to its handmade nature, the fabric does shrink an average of 5% to 8% after being washed. Please, take this into  account  when calculating yardage.


    Machine washing

    Guatemalan fabrics are strong and tough and hold up just fine to repeated machine washings. This fabric can last for years and years! I suggest using cold water, a gentle cycle, and a detergent with color guard to protect the colors. Use low-temperature drying.

    Guatemalan fabrics are so versatile that they fit into many different styles. You’ll find a lot of stripes and ikats,

    plaids and solids in many color ways,

    brights, and also subdued darks. Some are more cosmopolitan, others typically Guatemalan with bold colors, Mayan designs, and multicolor schemes. There are many patterns to suit every taste.

    Depending on how you incorporate them into your design and composition, they can become contemporary, African, ethnic, naïve, Mayan, and yes, even  traditional.  Take  risks  and  try using more daring fabric choices! ■

Priscilla Bianchi, quilt artist and international teacher, lives and operates her textile export business from her hometown in Guatemala City, Guatemala. An experienced teacher, Priscilla travels throughout the United States to lecture and teach. See Priscilla’s latest work by visiting her on Facebook.

This article first appeared in American Quilter magazine Fall 2002. Download the article here.

Commemorating in Cloth

In moments of great history such as wars, national tragedies, and great political thoughts and movements, Americans have responded by making quilts.

Commemorating in Cloth: Americans Stitch Their Support Throughout History

SOLDIERS VOICES by Don Beld, 2001 The blocks in this tribute to the United States Sanitary Commission are Crowned Cross and Crown of Thorns (also called Georgetown Circle and Tombstone). Made of Civil War reproduction fabrics, the quilt is hand pieced and hand quilted with large stitches in the manner of U.S. Sanitary Commission quilts.

From the golden anniversary of our nation’s freedom in 1826, to recent tragedies at the World Trade  Center, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania, American quiltmakers have shown their positions and demonstrated their devotion and support through quilting. Quilts have warmed battle-weary soldiers and memorialized significant events and people. Quilt blocks have been designed and named to commemorate events, and countless quilts have been made to raise funds for a variety of causes.

During the Spanish-American War of 1898, commemorative blocks and quilts celebrating Dewey’s victory in Manila were common.

During World War I, thousands of Red Cross quilts were made and sold in support of the war effort, and  to raise funds for relief and medical care of the wounded and displaced. One slogan of the time for quilters was “Make Quilts – Save the Blankets for Our Boys Over There.” Frequently, individual Red Cross blocks would be sold at auction with the buyer’s name being placed on the block before the quilt was made.

Great political moments, both joyous and sad, received attention as well. Log Cabin blocks were probably named during the 1860 Presidential campaign of Abraham Lincoln. In fact, one of the earliest dated American Log Cabin quilts is in the collection of the Museum of American Folk Art in New York City. It was made between 1861 and 1865 by Mary Jane Smith and Mary Morrell Smith (a mother/daughter team) in Whitestone, Queens County, New York.

The Log Cabin pattern became one of our nation’s most popular quilt designs. As the Civil War ended, the Log Cabin pattern was quickly adapted into Courthouse Steps. It was probably a tribute block to commemorate the surrender of the Confederacy by General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. President Lincoln’s death from an assassin’s bullet a few days later on April 15, 1865, further solidified Log Cabin’s place in our nation’s quilted response to history.

With the second assassination of a United States President (James Garfield in 1881), Log Cabin was once again modified into Garfield’s Monument and was a popular quilt block throughout the 1880s.

GARFIELD'S MONUMENT, c. 1883-84. Reputedly made by the author's great-great-grandmother, Anna Bailey, who had earlier served as a surgeon during the Civil War along with her husband. In the collection of Don Beld.

The Civil War and Quiltmaking

It was during the Civil War (1861–1865) that quiltmaking irrevocably established itself in our nation’s response to historic events.

Southern women made quilts to support  the war effort for the Confederacy. These quiltmakers were called “Gunboat Ladies” because their quilts were frequently made to raise funds to purchase gunboats for the Confederate navy. One “gunboat” quilt is in the collection of the Birmingham (Ala-bama) Museum of Art and was made between 1860 and 1862 by Martha Jane Singleton Hatter. This quilt was sold twice to raise funds for gunboats – once in Marion, Alabama, and again a week later in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where it was sold for $400.

GUNBOAT by Martha Jane Hatter (nee Singleton, 1815-1896) of Selma, Alabama, c. 1860. Catton, silk, and silk taffeta, pieced and appliqued. Women of the Confederacy often made quilts as fund raisers to purchase navy gunboats, hence the name. In the collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama.

Because of the scarcity of fabric and its expense (cotton fabric in the South could cost as much as $16 a yard in the currency of the time), women of the Confederacy  were  not  able  to  make  as  many quilts as did women of the North. In fact, before the war ended, and as the need for bedding continued, Southern women often resorted to using newspapers for batting between fabrics woven on home looms.

But the greatest concentration of American quilting for war causes was done by the women of the North during the Civil War. It is estimated that between 150,000 and 250,000 quilts were made and/or donated to the United States Sanitary Com- mission by northern women during the four years of the Civil War. This figure does not include quilts sent with loved ones as they went off to the war, or those quilts made by Southern women during the war.

The United States Sanitary Commission was our nation’s first great volunteer fund raising organization and the forerunner of the American Red Cross. It was modeled after the British Sanitary Commission which was organized during the Crimean War. The British effort (which included such shining stars as Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing) sought to assure that conditions in British military  hospitals  were  sanitary,  and  to  aid  and comfort the wounded.

SANITARY COMMISSION QUILT by several women members of the U.S. Sanitary Commission who signed the centers of the blocks, c. 1863-64. This is one of the rare documented survivors of the thousands of quilts made by women of the Sanitary Commission and carried into battle by Union soldiers. In the collection of the Lincoln Memorial Shrine, part of the Special Collections Division of the A. K. Smiley Public Library, Redlands, CA.

The U.S. Sanitary Commission was founded in New York in 1861. It quickly developed into a movement that not only collected funds and supplies for the Union war effort, but through its Ladies’ Auxiliary, made and donated clothing, comforters, and quilts. The quilts were usually collected at Sanitary Fairs held all across the northern states. As a fund raising organization the Sanitary Commission was unparalleled. On one day in 1863, at a fair in Hartford, Connecticut, 5,459 quilts were donated. The 1864 New York Metropolitan Sanitary Fair netted over $1,200,000 in the currency of the time, a sum that if convert- ed into today’s funds would rival the funds collected so far in our current crisis.

Sanitary Commission quilts were usually simple, and rather than quilting, often used periodic comforter ties to hold them together. Some were album quilts with messages of support, faith, and love stitched into their blocks. One woman pinned the following note onto  the  quilt she donated: “My son is in the army. Whoever is made warm by this quilt, which I have worked on for six days and most of six nights, let him remember his mother’s love.”

Through quilting bees and churches, women had a tremendous grass roots structure already in place when the  Civil War began. As part of their campaign rations or when treated in military hospitals, thousands of Union soldiers received quilts made through Sanitary Commission efforts.

Even school children joined the quiltmaking effort. One soldier who received a quilt made by children (all under the age of 12), wrote them the following note: “How highly I value it (the quilt), how carefully I shall preserve it, and how I shall take it home with me (if I don’t wear it out, and live to go home).”

Detail. The stamp of the U.S. Sanitary Commission that identifies this quilt as one of the hundreds of thousands made during the Civil War by northern women for use by Union soldiers.

Most Sanitary Commission quilts did not survive the Civil War. Constant use under battlefield conditions wore them out quickly. Those quilts used for bedding in military hospitals had a different fate. Because of the shortage of wood to make coffins, many soldiers who died of their wounds were buried wrapped in their Sanitary Commission quilt. But those few quilts that made it home were cherished remembrances of the war and of the patriotism of the women left at home.

The U.S. Sanitary Commission and its women went on after the Civil War to establish many other prominent social organizations. Dorothea Dix, a member of the Sanitary Commission in addition to her duties as superintendent of Union Army Nurses during the Civil War, continued her crusade for humane treatment of the mentally ill. Clara Barton and the Sanitary Commission branch she headed, founded the American Red Cross.

Abraham Lincoln, in remarks he made at the opening of a Sanitary Fair in Washington, D.C. on March 18, 1864, said the following about America’s quilters and the women of the Sanitary Commission:

“In this extraordinary war, extraordinary developments have manifested themselves, such as have not been seen  in  former wars; and amongst these manifestations nothing has been more remarkable than these fairs for relief of  suffering  soldiers  and their families. And the chief agents in these fairs are the women of America… I must say, that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the  world  in  praise  of  women were applied to the women of America, it would not  do  them justice for their conduct during this war… God bless the women of America.” ■

Don Beld, Civil War historian, quilter, and long time Citrus Belt Quilters guild member  founded the  Home of the Brave Quilt Project in 2004. The project provides memorial quilts based on the Sanitary Commission quilts to give to the families of military personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. By 2014, the HOTB project is nation-wide and has provided over 6200 quilts for over 5000 soldiers. (1944-2015)

This article first appeared in American Quilter magazine Spring 2002.

[Editorial Note added 2017] Don continued the tradition of the Sanitary Commission. Below is a portion of a thank you letter from Kay Taylor from the Department of Defense Overseas Schools in London, England on behalf of her daughter Michelle Thresher Taylor.

Don and Carol,
Our family received the precious quilt from your organization, the Gunboat Ladies of North Carolina, Home of the Brave Quilt Project.  We were touched that someone would do something so kind for us, not even knowing us!
We have passed on the quilt, of course, to our beloved daughter-in-law, Michelle Thresher Taylor, who is with her parents in Tampa, Florida, and new son Jake, our only grandson, trying to recover from this nightmare.  My husband mailed it UPS and she should be having the joy of viewing it today…
Michelle is a marvelous human being who will appreciate and adore and treasure your work so much.  She is having a terrible time dealing with this loss, as David was within days of coming home from Baghdad.  We will eventually climb out of this nightmare and torture, by holding hands and moving forward together with the help of thoughtful new friends like you.  Baby Jake was 12 days old when David Jr. last saw his only son and our only grandchild, as ‘he’ came from Iraq to be present for his birth.  I am temporarily here in Apex with my husband, David Sr., where David Jr. is buried in the Baptist Church cemetery, near my mother’s home where I grew up.  My husband and I attended NC State as did John, our younger son–and David Jr. went to Davidson College.
Kay Taylor
Department of Defense Overseas Schools
London, England

The Watercolor Wreath


Watercolor techniques have added excitement to quiltmaking since their debut in the 1980s. Like most quilters, I collected fabric for years, adding even more to my stash after seeing Deidre Amstead’s first watercolor work, a quilt which inspired me to design my own creations. As my collection grew, I began cutting the appropriate fabrics into 2″ squares and strips, storing them away neatly in a shoebox on a shelf.

When I finally dove into my first watercolor project, I found the technique combined my love of needlework and painting in the same medium. I realized that each fabric square became a “dab of paint” on my artist’s palette and that I could create impressionistic quilts!

As a quilting teacher, I wanted to impart my newfound enthusiasm for watercolors to students whom, I discovered, also had their own fabric collections. After attempting to teach several classes in traditional watercolor quilt techniques, it became evident that, for most students, their greatest difficulty was in understanding the concept of value.

When P & B Textiles introduced their “Summer Bouquet” fabric line, I saw it as a wonderful jumpstart into the world of watercolor quilts – without having to maintain an enormous stash. Unlike traditional watercolor quilts, it offered watercolor quilting using primarily one fabric!

There are actually three design elements in any art form – color, value, and texture. In quiltmaking, texture is usually applied at the actual quilting stage, while color is that old nemesis over which we all agonize. However, the critical design element in watercolor quilts is value.

Value is simply the darkness or lightness of an object. In this case, the objects are fabric squares, and they become a palette for the quilt artist. The contrast between dark and light allows the viewer to see the image the artist envisions. This concept seems to offer major stumbling blocks to many people who somehow get value confused with color.

But value doesn’t have to be confusing. Simply reducing the number of fabrics used in your first watercolor quilt will allow you to concentrate on value placements  within the design. Here is how it works:

Selecting Fabric

The fabric selection is extremely important to the overall success of the project. Find a beautiful bouquet fabric with a lot of background spaced between the floral clusters. I call these fabrics “wallpaper fabrics” as they resemble many wallpaper patterns. When you are satisfied that you have chosen the best fabric, begin cutting. (In the event that more light values are needed after completing the next step, you may also need a companion background fabric, if it is available in the same collection from which you selected your bouquet fabric.)

Cutting and Sorting

Begin  cutting  your  bouquet  fabric  at  random  into  2″ squares. Notice some of your squares will be filled with floral design and others will contain none. When you have finished cutting, sort the squares into five stacks,  ranging from the least dense design, to the most dense. The least dense will become the light values, while the most dense designs will be the dark values.

Your first stack of squares will contain no floral design (0% design). These light value squares will be all background. The second stack of squares will have a small amount (25%) of the floral design and represent medium/light values. Continue sorting the squares into piles of 50% design for mediums, 75% design for medium/darks and, finally, 100% design for darks. On the pattern chart below, notice the concentration of dark values (100% design) that define  the circle image. These become the basis of the wreath design.


Traditionally watercolor projects are worked on felt pinned to a design wall. However, several new fusible products are now available with pre-printed grid lines. Using gridded fusibles save time, allowing quiltmakers to go directly to sewing rows when their design work is completed. You can pin the fusible to the wall, but for best results I work on a heat resistant tabletop covered with a big, thick white towel under the fusible. Then, when it comes time to press, it isn’t necessary to transfer the design work to an ironing board. To obtain a distance perspective when working on your designs this way, I recommend viewing your work through a reducing lens available at most quilt shops, or some other device that visually reduces the pattern.

Arranging the Squares

Start laying out your wreath by defining the boundaries.

Cut a piece of gridded fusible equal to the size of your pattern. For the SPRING WREATH pattern shown here, you’ll need an 11″ x 11″ piece of gridded fusible.

Begin at the top of the grid, positioning the fabric squares from your sorted stacks onto the squares of the grid, matching the values indicated on the chart. Work quickly, without thinking about anything other than following the chart placement.

When all the squares are placed on the grid, step back, and using your distance viewing tool to help you see values, rearrange those squares that are not pleasing to the eye or that may distract from the shape of the wreath. Especially check for areas around the edges of the wreath that may form a hard line next to a background square. Create a blended look by making sure that pieces with background areas (the lights) touch other background areas to achieve a natural flow from one square to the next.

When satisfied with the arrangement, you’re ready to steam press and stitch.


Press the squares to the fusible according to package directions, and let your pressed project cool at least an hour before sewing.

Fold on a horizontal grid line with right sides of the squares together. Using a quarter inch seam, fold and sew across each horizontal row until all rows have been sewn in one direction.

Clip each seam to the intersection of the horizontal and vertical grid lines. This will allow you to press the seams in alternating directions before sewing the vertical rows.

Fold the first vertical row against the second with right sides together. Sew, being careful to maintain a ¼” seam.


After pressing the completed design, you are ready to add borders and finish your quilt by machine or hand quilting.

Watercolor designs are easy and one of this size can easily be completed in half a day. That leaves plenty of time to plan your next watercolor project. ■

Sue Bailey was a  life-long  quilt  lover who studied with many world-renowned quilters. Although a native Texan, she has also lived in other areas of the world, and began a worldwide teaching schedule while living in Abu Dhabi. She is the owner of Sue’s Quilt Shop in Bay City, TX.  (1944-2014)

This tutorial first appeared in American Quilter magazine Spring 2003.

Download the original article here.

From Surface Painter to Art Quilter: Anita Holman Knox

GENERATIONS III by Anita Holman Knox

Mimi: “Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?”

Anita: “I always knew I would be an artist.”

So began my interview with Anita Holman Knox, admired internationally as a textile artist, exhibited widely, sought for commissioned work, and  recognized as a teacher. From an African-American, Native-American, and European-American heritage, a multi-cultural woman has emerged. From painting to quiltmaking, a multi-cultural artist has emerged.

Mimi: Can your family claim you were born with a crayon in your chubby little fist?

Anita: No, but they tell stories about my early “works.” They say I loved to draw on freshly painted walls, and  they  say  I  told  them  stories  in great detail about what I had drawn.

Mimi: You design and make gorgeous clothes. Did you learn to sew at home?

Anita: My mother, a magnificent seamstress, taught me.

Mimi: And your father?

Anita: Well, he bought me whatever supplies I needed without question. Oh, yes, he did raise one question when I went to college. He wanted to know how I was going to make a living as an artist.

Mimi:  Are  there  other  artists  in your family?

Anita: I’m the only “pro” in that I work full-time in the art field, but the whole clan is creative. For example, they paint, bead, embroider, do needlepoint, ceramics, woodworking.

Mimi: Were your teachers encouraging?

Anita: I attended public schools in Oklahoma City when art was built into the regular curriculum from kindergarten through high school. Two teachers were especially supportive. One in junior high gave me special instructions, urged me to enter art competitions, and even helped in the framing of some of my pieces; and one in high school was instrumental in my being awarded a scholarship to Howard University.

[Author’s note: Anita not only attended Howard University but grad- uated Cum Laude in 1975 with a bachelor of fine arts degree. She went on to earn a master of fine arts degree in 1997 from Memphis College of Art.]

THREE IN ONE by Anita Holman Knox

Mimi: Whom do you consider the most important professional to influence your art?

Anita: A colorist.

Mimi: What is a colorist and how did a colorist influence you?

Anita: A colorist understands the emotional impact of color and that is what I wanted to do, so I started emulating  her.

Mimi: Surface painting dominated your early works but now quilt art dominates. Moving from a flat medium to a three-dimensional medium seems a tremendous leap. How did you get from one to the other?

Anita: My first attempt was to use the image from my painting, “Madonna,” which I had done in 1983. I translated it into the medium of cloth later that year. I never expected the transference of that image to go beyond my initial  experiment.

Mimi:  The  calabash  [a  bottle  or vessel made from the shell of a gourd] appears in most of your compositions. Why? What does it mean to you?

Anita: I see the calabash, or gourd, as a woman’s vessel. It has not only a utilitarian purpose – to store fruits of the earth – but it can also contain precious possessions. It’s beautiful to look at. Symbolically, it’s a keeper of cultural memories, traditions, and stories. Further, for me, it reveals my inner feelings and represents my very self in a positive way.

Mimi: You use a wide array of colors, a vast assortment of fabrics, a tantalizing variety of embellishment materials, and an incredible number of quiltmaking techniques. Tell me about these. How do you choose the colors for a composition?

Anita: I like all colors and put them together in any combination that intuitively feels right. I keep in mind that colors are symbolic. I want them to speak a universal language to help me connect effectively with the viewer – to indicate security, harmony, healing, peace, and also energy, vitality, drama, passion.

Mimi: And the fabrics?

Anita: I use all kinds – solids and patterned, heavy weight and light, cotton, blends, rayon, canvas, silk, wool, organdy, velveteen. I’m always looking for contrasts in texture, depth, and luster.

Mimi: I heard you’ve used all the quiltmaking techniques on one or another of your compositions. Is that true?

Anita: I wouldn’t say “all,” but I have tried most. Also I’ve introduced techniques into my quilts that require tools other  than needle  and thread. Some of these that you generally don’t find on traditional quilts are three-dimensional appliqué, block printing, batik, tie-dyeing, knitting, weaving, beading, tufting, stenciling, fringing, sashiko, knotting, fusing, painting, pen and ink, acrylic, water, oil painting. Some work well on one composition but not on others. Many work well in combination. I love experimenting and am overjoyed when the result is even better than I anticipated.

Mimi: I’m intrigued with your embellishment materials. You’ll use anything that can be glued or sewn to fabric, right?

Anita: Right. Everything is potential if it enhances the overall look – beads, lace, cording, rickrack, tape, braid, buttons, shells, rings, bracelets. I’m often given little objects to attach.

FACE IT by Anita Holman Knox

Mimi: It is obvious that you put much of yourself into your art pieces.

Anita: My quilts are directed by heart, mind,  hand,  as well  as  eye. In my own life I celebrate the human spirit and I see myself as a facilitator for others who find joy in the beauty and strength of our cultural heritage and diversity.

Mimi: Every quilt has a story. Do your quilts have a common story that runs throughout?

Anita: Yes, each is a personal narrative of the strength and power of women from generation to generation. They all show ethnicity, family values, and individual gifts.

Mimi: Where do your inspirations come from?

Anita:  Family  stories  I’ve  heard over the years, from friends, nature, religion, my heritage.

Mimi: I notice you like to use traditional quilt patterns and put them into a contemporary context. Why?

Anita:  Traditional  patterns  preserve traditions of the older generations and contemporary treatments of these link the present generation  to the past. I hope the combination will speak to future generations. Personally the mixture of these relates to me as an African-American woman.

Mimi: Do you have an overall goal for the way you as an artist express yourself?

Anita: I’m eager for the artist and the viewer to interact through color, or theme, or symbolism. For us to meet and embrace is my goal.

Mimi: Does your composition just grow or are the details planned in advance?

Anita: I make a drawing, then a color  cartoon,  choose  my  colors  and fabrics. Then the piece  just  grows in the direction it wants to go, despite the original plan.

Mimi:   When do you know a piece is finished?

Anita: I don’t. Sometimes I think it’s finished and go back later to look at it, decide it needs something more. But I have learned to let go and accept it as is.

In addition to being a working artist, Anita Holman Knox  has also held art education positions in both public and private schools and colleges. Currently she is serving as an art specialist for her local school district, helping to develop a  program to reintroduce art into the school curriculum at the elementary level.

Anita’s compelling quilts represent a non-traditional storytelling of life events and family tales. Exhibiting freedom from conventional restrictions, they serve to broaden the horizons of what makes a quilt, and represent individualistic expression of creativity. ■

Dr. Mimi Ayars discovered quilting in 1974 while living in the Chicago area. Quiltmaking became her art form, her therapy, her introduction to America’s incredible maternal pioneers, and her inspiration for talks to community groups.
During her career, Dr. Ayars taught sociology at nine universities in six states. Retired from academia, she is now engaged in a writing career. She has written six quiltmaking books with Patricia B. Campbell, and numerous articles for magazines and journals.

This article first appeared in American Quilter magazine Spring 2003. Download the original article here.

Special Discount Rates for AQS Members from Hertz

American Quilter’s Society and Hertz Rental Car have joined together to bring you an exciting AQS Membership Benefit. Get discounts off Hertz Rental Car’s BEST offers. AQS members may book a car rental on-line at, or call 1-800-654-2210.

On-line, go to On the home page, enter your rental location, date and arrival information.

Click ‘Yes’ I have a Discount (CDP), Coupon or other Offer. Enter your Discount Card CDP# of 1805283 and;

  • PC# 106282 for “Two Free Days of NeverLost (NeverLost-equipped vehicles)”;
  • PC# 113234 for “10.00 off a weekly rental (Any reserved car class)”; or,
  • PC# 119766 for “Up to $15.00 off a weekend rental (Any reserved card class)”.

Or, call toll-free 1-800-654-2210.

Of course, each traveler is responsible for proof of insurance and credit card.

Visit today!

PerkSpot Discount Program for AQS Members

American Quilter’s Society and PerkSpot have joined together to bring you an exciting AQS Membership Benefit.

PerkSpot is a one-stop-shop for exclusive discounts at many of your favorite national and local merchants!

PerkSpot is completely free for AQS Members, and optimized for use on any device: desktops, tablets, and phones. Enjoy access to thousands of discounts in dozens of categories such as cell phones, restaurants, and travel. Check out our local map to discover discounts near you!

AQS members may click here to access the PerkSpot discount Program.

Download this PerkSpot Membership Flyer here.