Are Quilts Art?


Kona Color Card

Welcome to Open Line Friday!  Anyone can ask a question–feel free to do so in the “Comment” Section below, and everyone answers…

No question is too small…we will try to help…

I loved the responses from my question last week:  “Who taught you to sew?”.   Everyone was so thoughtful in their responses…so nostalgic…great reading.  Thank you!

Kona Color CardToday, I will start the ball rolling with a question (but please feel free to add your question, too!)

Do YOU consider your quilts Art?   Put another way…do YOU consider yourself an artist?

Kona Color Card

Does it matter?

Kona Color Card


I think most of us have a hard time thinking of our quilts and projects as “art”–but the danger here is in not taking ourselves seriously enough, and not availing ourselves to established “Art Principles” when we work…

What do YOU think?

I’d love to hear!


PS…As you know, I use a lot of Kona cotton for my tutorials and projects.  I recently purchased this color card HERE.  It is so much easier than picking colors from a computer screen-most are very unreliable.  Another tip….Kona solids are bargained priced at Hancocks of Paducah–just $5.47/yard!

PPS…All tutorials, images, and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog, pin, tweet, etc with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at  Thank YOU!

65 thoughts on “Are Quilts Art?

  1. I say yes!! Especially the intricate ones. As everyone knows art is in the eye of the beholder so it’s personal choice if you like it or not. However Art is not just painting and drawing, it’s about creating and designing with the end result being something visually stimulating 🙂

  2. I am not sure I would consider myself an artist quite yet but I have definitely seen many quilts I do consider art. I am constantly amazed at the way some people can use color and value to make a stunning quilt. And then the quilting motifs that enhance what you feel when looking at a quilt. And Lori, I certainly look at your work and consider it art!

    • I agree with Dottie. Most of my quilts are made from patterns. While I may change the color way from the original, that dose not count..I have a friend that does beautiful art quilts, she is an artist. Her own design from start to finish. Starting with hand dying and painting the fabric to beautiful quilting.

      • I’m in this category too. Most of what I make is from a published pattern but I do change them to a certain degree: borrowing from one, adding to another, etc. so that the final product is unique. I’m working towards being an artist that actually creates my own designs rather than borrowing from others.

  3. I do consider myself an artist. Even if I use a commercial pattern the color choices are mine. I look at ideas of others as a jumping off point to create my own version of the original idea. I do the same thing with my longarm quilting. Since I quilt for others, I find that each quilt I work on needs its own personality. I love the freedom of creating a design and enhancing someone’s quilt. Art standards? Holy smokes. I think if I had to follow “art standards” my creativity would diminish. When I first started to longarm I found myself trying to emulate other longarmers. I soon realized that although the designs were lovely, they were not me. I had to create my own style and run with it. That is what an artist does. They create their own style .

    • I have a degree in graphic art but have always been drawn to fibers and textiles. Taught myself to knit, crochet, needlepoint and sew. Even designed and hand printed some fabrics that I used in clothing. Only recently started quilting and then discovered FMQ. At first I felt “bound” by peicing and quilting “rules”, even though I always put my own spin on designs and colors. It was frustrating and I almost stopped quilting even though I enjoyed the learning. Then I remembered the most fun I had was when I broke the “rules”. Now I am starting to use my formal art training again by painting on fabric beneath overlays of appliqued sheers and adding areas of dimension to my works, then using thread painting and quilting to finish and accent. Currently working on 3 mockettes of a dragonfly and reeds trying out different colors and methods. I think of them as experiments and the thrill is back.

      I believe every person who houses the spark of creativity is persued by the “what if’s” – what if I change this color, what if I alter this piece, what if I try combining what ‘should not’ be combined. . . . We all keep pushing against some perceived barrier – real, personal or just in our imaginations. That is the creative force that drives us all, whether we consider ourselves artists or quilters.

      • Rosemary b here:
        Wow, you are amazing! I would love to see your creations.
        Your thoughts are absolutely correct

    • I agree. I consider myself an artist even with quilts from patterns. It is a starting place, but you put the love and passion you have for the fabric, it’s beauty, texture and color, into the finished project. You are infusing it with your essence. Even quilts from patterns develop a life of their own that are a part of the artist.

  4. Let’s see…manipulating color, shape, value, texture, pattern, style, and presentation. If that is not art, it isn’t anything else. To be an artist does not mean selling, ribbons, galleries, recognition, degrees. Creating a visual product is what an artist is all about. Quilts are art. They are more than that, but they are art. Grateful to be a quilt artist.

  5. There is such a wide spectrum in the quilting world, from the patch and tied cozy warm bed cover to the bejeweled, appliqué, trapunto, painted and super quilted fiber art show award winners. Probably most of us fall somewhere in between. I know I do. When we take an idea, modify it, choose colors and add textures with quilting stitches and put it altogether we are using the artsy part of our brain. I don’t call myself an artist but after years of quilting and feeling that “oh, that old thing” upon receiving compliments I’m finally giving myself some artsy credit that is long overdue and hope other quilters will too.

  6. I consider quilting an art. You have to balance color, tones and make sure they flow together. You can create landscapes, faces, flowers, compasses and add your own creativity to make it look so different from others. If you put 8 people together with the same pattern you would still see 8 different quilts. The best part about quilting is that someone can wrap themselves up to keep warm in your art where painted art can only be enjoyed by looking at it. Yes all quilters are artists.

    • One of my favorite things about quilt retreats is seeing how many variations there are of a single quilt pattern based on the interpretation of each quilt artist.

  7. Rosemary B here:
    Yes. It is art. I think making anything is art really.
    My 91 year old mom taught me to make things without patterns when I was young. So that takes MATH and thinking ahead.
    she also made Belgian lace (wow) and that is really art. I have loads of it at my house right now, saving for their move- some of it is incredible
    I am a beginner quilter, but color has always been a struggle for me.
    My time is limited and has been this past year as I have been taking care of my “twins”- my parents are 91. I am hoping once I get them moved into their Ashby Ponds community in August I will have a llittle more time, but mostly I won’t worry so much about them.

    So, I have three questions 🙂
    1. Is there any useful information out there to help with choosing colors for your quilt
    (last night I spent the entire evening unsewing my block of the month for quilt club, because the center fabric seemed to just disappear!
    2. How do you choose batting.
    Is there any good inexpensive batting that will make a good result. My quilts are not masterpieces so I figure I should wait on the super deluxe batting, but would like an intermediate choice that is not costly.
    3. Thread. How do I get those fancy spools of thread on my standard sewing machines. I have wonderful mechanical machines, they are all very sturdy and roomy but with olden fashioned spool pins.
    I have only made two quilts in my whole entire life (confessional Friday tidbit there)
    But I have made lots and lots of smaller projects like runners place mats etc etc
    All of you smart ladies inspire me.
    Happy Friday

    • Oh, and at present, I use the regular batting from JoAnne fabrics called warm and …. something.
      And thread? I use coughcough coats and clark.

      • I cough cough have used quilting thread from coats and clark also. Nowadays I’ve fallen in love with the thread from Connecting Threads. It works beautifully and their prices are great. I also love Aurifil and have wonderful experiences with it also.
        With batting, it depends on what I want my quilt to look like. My standard is 80 cotton/20 poly. I used to use warm and natural, which is a great batting, but I wanted a thicker quilt. The poly gives it some loft. I love wool batting also, and it is thicker than poly. It is great in making a warm quilt. I don’t know about wicking and using it in the summer. Maybe someone can answer that.

    • Fabric color choices come with time/experience with various situations/patterns. How colors/values interact with each other for a desired finish can be an extremely subjective topic. The batting I use is from Connecting Threads (Hobbs 80/20…cotton/poly). They run 30% off sales on it and free shipping on orders over $50. I make up a list and wait til the sale. They, also, handle thread stands ( ) that work with the cones. These, also, go on sale at 40% off. This company is a family run company and I’ve dealt with them for many years with excellent results!!!!!

      • Thank you, Doreen.
        I will write this down. I like connecting threads company.
        I should subscribe to them… well not sure I am right now.
        See, I am a sponge for knowledge and value yours greatly

    • Before you sew your block together, or even while you’re auditioning fabrics, look at them thru a red transparent sheet, of Mylar or some such. It will show you values in grays without color interference. As for choosing colors, make or buy a color wheel, read up on some of the theory and then go shopping. Look at home decor departments, wallpaper, paintings and think of the color combinations used and mimic those. There is a lot of color theory, but nature is one of the best teachers. Look out your window and find the colors of the seasons. You’ll never go wrong with those.

    • You might take a color theory class as well. It will help you understand how to use s color wheel to advantage. The red mylar is great too as suggested previously. Now you can even get fancy dancy red glasses at some quilts shops with red lenses just for the purpose of seeing value. They really help….and look cool too!

    • Rosemary, Welcome to the land of the obsessed! lol! They have a thread stand called a cone holder. It has a longer pin than on your machine and a long hooked arm. The cone goes on the pin, thread your thread thru the hook and then thread your machine. Coned thread needs to come off the TOP of the cone, not the side as a spool. In a pinch and when I go to class or groups, I carry a large coffee mug. I clothespin a ruler with holes to the inside of the mug. Drop your cone inside (hence the LARGE mug! lol), thread the thread thru the top hole of the mug and then thread your machine.

      I usually use Warm and Natural batting, but found a nice low loft poly that I use for kids and charity quilts. I quilt enough I purchased the whole roll. Both of these I found at Joanns. If you don’t find it the 1st time, could be they just had a sale!

      Email me if you would like a picture of the mug set up.

      • I am so thankful for all of your advice and knowledge.
        I get the mug set up, Beth. Great idea. I will try that as we have several large mugs we never use. I will look into purchasing one of those cone holders.
        I live in the suburbs of the Cesspool better known as Washington DC, in Virginia. We have sooooo many fabric stores close by. I am hesitant to ask questions there because I never know if they are just trying to make a sale, so quilt club and Lori’s blog are the best places for me.
        I have sewn and made things all my life — and mostly with wild abandon and no regard to color. Now I appear to have swung into the opposite direction of indecision and hesitancy. I do not want to get comfortable in this spot.

    • 1. Joen Wolfram has a handy colour chip tool that will tell you which colours play well together. Look for it. Its well worth the money.
      2. Use a thin polyester batt for economy. I only use Hobbs products, so their Polydown from Connecting Threads.
      3. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Coats and Clark thread. Or, btw, with Connecting Threads threads. If you want a goid thread tutorial, go to Superior Threads website. Lots of excellent info.

    • Rosemary, the best info I have seen about colour selection was from Kaffe Kasset in his first Knitting book .. think of something that stays with you as realy stunning —a picture, a piece of pottery, an image of a garden border ..or a rock pool ….that is your palette and reference base . Have a photo in front of you as yuor mood board if it helps hold the ideas too.That works for me and yes ,the satisfaction I get from a completed quilt , and the angst ,in the process is like creating a work of art. Freda

  8. Absolutely!!!!!! art1
    noun: art; plural noun: arts; plural noun: the arts
    the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
    “the art of the Renaissance”
    synonyms: fine art, artwork More
    works produced by human creative skill and imagination.
    “his collection of modern art”
    synonyms: fine art, artwork More
    creative activity resulting in the production of paintings, drawings, or sculpture.
    “she’s good at art”
    the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.
    “the visual arts”
    subjects of study primarily concerned with the processes and products of human creativity and social life, such as languages, literature, and history (as contrasted with scientific or technical subjects).
    “the belief that the arts and sciences were incompatible”
    a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice.
    “the art of conversation”
    synonyms: skill, craft, technique, knack, facility, ability, know-how More

    It’s about time that we step up and firmly, but gently, assert the FACT that quilts and quilting is an art form by every definition!!! And its monetary value “should” reflect that. There’s no hesitation to pay $$$$ for a painting but apply that to a quilt???? The change is coming and the education continues…………………………

  9. I agree with all of your answers! As for me, I had to stop and think about it, when I read the question. Funny thing, I have never thought of myself as an artist (always wanted to be one) and after reading some of these answers, I have thought, golly, guess in some regards I am an artist, yipppeee! When people make comments on my quilts it makes me feel happy and when they say, “You are so talented.” I really haven’t excepted that. I think for some of us, this question is an eye opener! When we look back at first quilts and where we are now, we can see how the art keeps getting better and better. I like to tell beginners, it is like baby steps and we were all there. What a wonderful journey. Now if I can just get past doing the loop de loop in my free motion quilting. Of course, it is practice, practice, practice and this absolutely wonderful Lori and her tutorials that is helping all of us. Thank you Lori.

  10. Yes, my business cards say “Quilt Artist” although I primarily make functional, traditionally-inspired quilts for my own usage, and provide longarm quilting and custom quilt production for clients. I have always considered quilts art, but it took several years as a craftsman before I acknowledged my role as artist. I trained professionally as a mathematician and statistician, so we are not given to a big dose of creativity…though problem solving comes naturally.

    • Yes, my business cards say quilt artist too.

      When I make a quilt from my own designs I feel it’s Art, but if I copy somebody else designs, it has be craft!

  11. Wow, from reading all the comments, I can tell there are many artists, fabric and otherwise, that follow your blog Lori…….that is a great compliment! U consider myself a fiber artist.

    I do have a question………what kind or markers do you use on your quilts?
    Thank you.

  12. Love your blog. Such thoughts and ideas from your followers. After reading through some I would say yes as to the number 4 definition of art about – I have been working at this for 13 years now. And the reaction I get to some of the quilts I have given as presents provoke emotions! Now, thank you, I consider myself an artist!!

  13. You mentioned that using the computer for color is unreliable. Are you aware you can calibrate your display to give truer colors? based on pantone. A lot depends on what software you use for artwork. Adobe products allow for truer colors. this is used by media artists. On the web, you are still limited to web based colors.

    Some quilters are craftsmen some are artists. I am a craftsperson. Don’t seem to have the ability to think up the amazing things I see from others but I can produce precise versions of what I see. maybe I just don’t have enough confidence to stretch

    • I agree, Lavonne. I consider myself a darned good technician rather than an artist. I’m skilled at what I do. But until I do the designing as well, I will not consider myself an artist.

    • I agree with you! I would love to be able to “see” and “think” like an artist. But I have stronger technical and “craftsman” abilities. I’m not sure sure either is better. They are just different ways of looking and doing. As long as you enjoy the process you are on the right path for you.

  14. Change of subject. Why can’t we find wholesale prices on sewing machines, fabrics, notions, etc. in this age of where everything else runs rampant on the internet? Why hide such bargaining info from us?

  15. Usually I use patterns and sometimes kits for my quits. Although lovely, they are not personally creative. But this past year I created 3 memory quilts for a dear friend, whose sister died from breast cancer. For the first time I planned and executed my very own design. I personally believe the quilts are beautiful. And when is a quilter ever truly satisfied with their own work? I felt inspired working on these quilts and tried to personalize each one for the recipients. And the clothes I had for these quilts were all lingerie. So these quilts were not only a work of love but also art.

  16. I had not thought of myself as an artist until just recently. When I purchased my long arm, someone told me i needed to quilt for pay to pay for the machine. After I countered, kinda snippily I am afraid to say, with “do you charge people for rides on your boat to pay for it?”, I realized , while I DON”T quilt for pay at the moment, my happiest times are just puttering around my sewing room making the quilts MINE. I think I just use a different medium that most other artists…..after all that….YES I think quilts are art. The best kind of art.

  17. Lori has the best blog on the net in my opinion; her patience, & generosity in sharing her talent with directions is like having a teacher at your elbow anytime you want. It is as though she takes one by the hand teaching the intricacies that make each design so beautiful. I am anxious to be back as an avid quilt artist but the time isn’t here yet.
    And, in reading responses to Lori’s questions it is obvious there are many talented artists following her. The best of the best are found here.

    Thank you Lori.

  18. I used to belong to a guild that has a biannual quilt show. We used to hold it in conjunction with a local art and trade fair called “art in the park”. They decided after a few years to withdraw their support because “quilts are not original art”. I was truly dumbfounded by that. Needless to say I never again patronized “art in the park”. Quilts are very much art

  19. Off topic. Thank you for showing the Kona cotton card. I purchased one years ago. Colors have changed. This will make it much easier to decide on colors.

  20. Many of us have had Rosemary’s experience of not liking something based on the colors we chose or the relative values of those fabrics that “didn’t work”. My sister who had taken art classes in High School told me, “color gets the credit, value does the work” – wisdom from art classes. That’s when I understood the principles of color and value from art apply to quilting and I took a color theory art class – we mixed paint colors to learn the color wheel. So yes, we are artists – some of us still learning- and the principles/theories can help.

  21. There are artists and there are artisans. I consider myself an artisan. I can reproduce and add a little but my work does not feel original enough to be art.

  22. Myself, no, I am not an artist. However, I do consider some quilts to be art. I still consider myself a beginner even though I have been piecing since 1999 and quilting since 2008. I like the traditional quilts so I guess that’s why I don’t consider myself an artist. Those who do landscape quilts, thread painting and heavy embellishments are ones I consider artist. They can take my breath away. It’s the person who steps outside the box. If my quilting is art, then it is in it’s infancy. Well, maybe toddler stage. 🙂

  23. Quilts must be art because I have found myself trying to learn some principles from the art world in selecting fabrics for my quilts. I have never considered myself artistic. However, my first few quilts did not have enough value contrast, and I have learned that I need more solids. I’ve been searching the internet for color wheel graphics. So in the last few weeks I have amazed myself by studying a topic I thought I hated. It just goes to show how school is wasted on the young.

  24. I do consider myself an artist. I have been involved in artistic hobbies for a lot of years, and even sold some of the pieces I created. But, quilting is still new to me, so my skill level is very basic. It doesn’t stop me from having creative ideas. I just have to work on the skills more! Oh, heck, I have a couple of wall pieces that I think are pretty good! 🙂

  25. I have been quilting , designing and modifying patterns for 40+ years. YES quilting is an art! It sometimes takes me a long time to finish my projects because I keep adding to it until I feel I’m satisfied.

  26. I consider myself an artist. But why do I feel like a ‘sub-standard’ artist because my current medium of choice is fabric? Many of the comments listed her are really good. I want to read them again and again. But I cannot concentrate until I tell you about
    how my friend Cheryl and I took a road trip to the National Quilt Museum in Paducah a couple weeks ago and stopped by the Hancock’s factory store. !!!! We were NOT disappointed! The Kona Cottons were so nice to feel and see all the colors. They also have a remnant section of Kona (with additional savings) and all their other fabric! I highly recommend a trip and I live over 2 hours away, south of Nashville! It was a great day, with wonderful company. Now I better get busy sewing!

  27. If you don’t have the red mylar to look through at your fabrics, lay them out on your scanner and print in black and white to see their values. I have a degree in fine & applied arts and have worked with many media. I definitely consider myself to be a quilt artist, even though I continually work on trying new techniques and still need lots of practice learning FMQ!

  28. I make art/studio quilts. I hardly ever buy a pattern anymore. I do usually use commercially printed fabric, but I almost never buy matching fabrics from one line.. My quilts are usually pictorial and often have dimensional elements.

    To me, quilting is like painting but with fabric instead of paint. If you have a chance to see the series Why Quilts Matter, there is an interesting segment titled What is art?. Lori, I consider what you do to be art. I do not call myself an artist, but one day I may feel that I have reached that level, just not quite yet. If you would like to see one of my quilts, look here .
    Jean Lasswell

    • Jean, Your quilt is beautiful and the story is fascinating. Any update from the Board of Commissioners? Whenever I travel, I love seeing the barn Quilt Art–can’t say signs, can I? Love to hear how this progresses….!

  29. Yes, I feel that quilts are definitely art. I am, however, still having a little trouble referring to myself as an artist. I like to say that quilt making is helping me find the artist within. As quilters, we work with design, color, value, and problem solving. Quilts may grace the walls of our homes and have the added benefit of wrapping our friends and family with love and comfort. I made a sign for my “studio” that says, “Call the space where you create a STUDIO – then you will take more seriously what you love to do and recognize it as the art that it is.”

  30. Sometimes the only art museum a pioneer woman ever entered was her bedroom where her own work of art was spread across her bed.

  31. I think that quilt making is an art for some. For me I don’t believe that it is. I am not creative at all. The most beautiful quilts that I have made, have been made from patterns. I have done very little to alter them. Even many of the color combinations that I choose I have borrowed from either the original quilt designer or others who have made a quilt with colors I love. I am not saying that I don’t have a talent in matching seams and sewing the quilt together and then quilting it, but I cannot say that what I do is artistic.

  32. I really believe that quilting is an art, and I am an artist when I apply different colors, combining patterns in making the quilt top. My designs are similar to coloring. I think the art is defined by the person doing the actual quilting.

    My questions:
    Where do I find information on sources to learn new techniques? (Example: Fabric painting, embellishments) I really wish there were college/tech courses available. Since I am consider myself a beginner, I am driven with the desire to learn at much as I can. Any suggestions are most appreciated.

  33. Yes I feel that I am a quilt artist. I have designed many quilt myself. I also use patterns bought from other quilt because they appealed to me. I especially like to make quilts that tell a story about the person I give it to.

  34. Yes, without a doubt. When did Art become ‘Art’. We create works of art in everything we make. Big or small that which is created from nothing, is Art.

  35. Yes, a fabric artist. Whether I’m working with fabric or yarns I’m taking dry goods and with the combination of some type of needle and my mind and skills I create a finished piece. Sometimes it graces a wall, a neck, a body or a bed- it still a little piece of me!

  36. We all took art in grade school and loved putting our children’s projects on the fridge. Most of us do not have formal training as artists nor do we make a living as artists. But, I do believe that what we create is artistic and I would call myself an artist. I use fabric to paint my canvas. Just as some artists are more revered, some of us do not create the best art, but we cannot all be Hollis Chatelaine, Pepper Cory, or Gwen Marston – some of the quilt artists, whose work I admire.

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