MAKING A BED PAINTING: QUILTING FOR BABY

by Daughter Fish

Photoshopped quilt sketch

A few weeks back, Mr. Fish and I did a studio visit with an artist friend of ours. I’m not an artist (or, at least, not a fine arts/visual artist…that’s Mr. Fish’s department), and I haven’t done many studio visits. At first, I was really nervous about having something to say about the art (was I going to sound stupid with my lack of art history knowledge?), but once I got to our friend’s studio, I found that I couldn’t shut up. One of the reasons for this—the ice breaker, if you will—is that along with her fine art, this friend happens to be a very skilled textile artist (an artform I feel more at ease talking about).

Hanging in the back of her studio was a beautiful quilt in progress, which she’d been commissioned to make. In fact, she called it a “bed painting.” The quilt was made of hundreds of thin rectangles set in a jagged, abstract pattern, reminiscent of a cityscape. It immediately reminded me of the Gee’s Bend quilts, which I’ve lusted after for a few years, and when I mentioned this to our friend, she pointed out a book of Gee’s Bend quilts sitting on her desk. These quilts were made with whatever the women of this community had on hand— old clothes, old bedding, and other scraps—and they’re absolutely stunning.

Lately, I’ve felt a little restricted making anything for ‘lil Thunder baby, because we’re not finding out the gender. But looking at our friend’s quilt, and the Gee’s Bend book, I decided I could make my own little bed painting—which, by definition, would be gender neutral. I mean, just because you use pink in a painting, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s a female painting, right?

This weekend, I dug out 4-year’s worth of scraps I’ve been hoarding and arranged them in a color wheel.

Since most of these scraps are from clothes I’ve made for myself, there are a lot of florals, reds, oranges, and some denim. I started ironing the pieces, and pulled out the ones that attracted me most.

Hum…overwhelmingly red, orange, purple, cream, and….girly? Whatever. As long as I keep the design abstract, I think I can make it work. I started trolling the web for inspiration, collecting a  Pinterest board of images of abstract, modern-looking quilts by the Gee’s Bend ladies and Denyse Schmidt, and I’ve even been dipping  into some of the work of  Anni Albers, a textile artist I wasn’t familiar with until our artist friend mentioned her at the aforementioned studio visit.

I was going to sketch out my design ideas on paper, but then decided Photoshop seemed like a nice option, as Mr. Fish can help me actually insert images of fabrics into the virtual quilt blocks.

Of course, now I’m kind of falling in love with the idea of just having big black or solid-colored quilt blocks on a white background, but maybe that’s just because of my Photoshop sketches. At any rate, sketching my ideas out electronically has been fun, and now I’m eager to insert some images of my fabrics into the “quilt blocks” to get a hint of how my little one’s bed painting might work.

For you quilters out there, have you ever made a baby quilt when you didn’t know the gender? Any advice? And how do you go about planning out your quilt blocks? I’m also curious if anyone has good suggestions for the best batting. I’ve used cotton batting from Purl Soho before, which was lovely, but would love to know if there are other good sources.