What It Takes to Make a Modern Quilt
Kiva Motnyk’s approach to bringing her painstakingly hand-sewn, patchwork quilts to life is more like cooking than baking—it’s not an exact science. “I don’t have a very rigid process,” says the Thompson Street Studio designer. Instead of following super-precise patterns or relying on the consistency of a Singer, Kiva lets things flow organically. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t start with a game plan, and she’s taking us behind the seams to show us it looks like.
STEP 1: FIND FABRIC WITH A GOOD BACKSTORY.
“I collect materials from all different places, like during my travels or when I’m antiquing in Upstate New York. I don’t throw fabrics away—you never know what could come to good use! Old jeans and shirts that I don’t wear anymore make great materials for quilting. Sometimes, I use pieces I’ve had for years or fabrics that were given to me. The more history in the fabric, the better.”
STEP 2: MAKE MINI COLLAGES!
“I usually don’t sketch before working on a quilt. Instead, I like to make a small example of what the quilt would look like in the actual fabrics just by laying them on top of each other. This way you can really see the way the different colors and textures work together, sort of like a collage or painting.”
STEP 3: PILE ON SOME TEXTURE.
“I love mixing unexpected materials like shiny silky fabrics with matte textures or playing with transparencies and different weights of fabric. It’s fun to play and not think too hard when I’m creating these small samplers. It allows for more freedom and experimenting—more room to create something unexpected. When I have something I like, I pin it together and start hand sewing it to a layer of batting.”
STEP 4: SEW IT ALL TOGETHER (BY HAND).
“I don’t worry about making my stitching perfect. That’s why hand-sewing is so special: You get beautiful imperfections that give it personality. Once I have my design pinned to the layer of batting, I sew all the layers together, experimenting with different weights of threads, colors, and stitch sizes.”