Sunday, March 11, 2018

Past Perfect: Jinny Beyer

Inner City by Jinny Beyer, 1980

This month's featured Past Perfect quilter is Jinny Beyer who has been providing inspiration for quilters for over forty years.

Inner City is my favorite Jinny Beyer quilt. I can
recall when I first saw it. 
Uh Oh! Brand new stash necessary!

 If you weren't quilting forty years ago
you won't know of the changes she wrought. 

Jinny won first prize of $2,500 in a 1978 contest
sponsored by Good Housekeeping magazine.
Her quilt "Ray of Light" stood way above the other nearly 10,000 entries.

Good Housekeeping Contest

Ray of Light, Jinny Beyer, 1978

To illustrate my point: Two representative quilts from the period:

Muncie Quilt Guild, fundraiser for the Childen's Museum
Early 1980s, Indiana Project & the Quilt Index.

Mary Schafer also won a prize in 1978 with her Dutchman's Puzzle.

Jinny taught us to see quilt design, fabric and color in a new way

Jinny Beyer, Sunflower, 1974

Or rather in an old way.

Medallion Quilt by
Sophonisba Angusciola Peale Sellers (1786 - 1859) 
About 1830. Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Jinny, from Virginia, had lived in India, where she began a hexagon quilt using scraps of Indian fabric. This accident of geography echoed the scrapbag of early American quiltmakers who used traditional Indian calicoes and European prints copied from Indian calicoes.

Hexagon quilt dated 1825 of Indian prints

We can also guess that Virginia with its history of medallion quilts had some influence on her ideas.

Quilt by Jane Gatewood, dated 1795, Virginia.
West Virginia Project & the Quilt Index

Blue Star Sapphire by Jinny Beyer, 1983

She showed us how to look at composition large scale and small.

Each piece is carefully cut to focus on layers of design---
Another antiquated idea that she revived.

Here's Sophonisba's center star with stripes and florals carefully cut
(but not as carefully as Jinny would do it.)

See more of Sophonisba's quilt here:

Jinny wrote books, chose patterns that would be enhanced by fussy cutting...

Showed us how to do it,

And designed prints to cut up.

Ode to Vasarely by Jinny Beyer, 1985
Mitered borders like an ornate picture frame---a radical idea
at the time.

She's still showing us how to do it well.

Lotus by Jinny Beyer, 2014

See what she's up to today at her blog:

Free patterns every month

Her website is full of Jinny Beyer style.

Read a 1981 article about her in Mother Earth News. 


  1. i remember 'ray of light' very well, and she truly did break quilting ground back in those days. she kicked the era of bicentennial quilts up several notches when she came onto the scene....a true oldie but very goodie!

  2. I am a huge fan of Jinny. "Ray of Light" inspired me as a new quilter in 1985. I clearly remember saying "I want to make a quilt like that someday." A few years ago I realized how many medallion quilts I have made, with many pieces and fabrics, and understood the connection to Jinny so many years ago. Thanks for this tribute to her.

  3. I was lucky to have taken a class taught by Jinny Beyer many moons ago. If my memory is correct she hand pieced most of her quilts. A true living quilt legend.
    Thanks for the memories. Terry

  4. Being a newer quilter with not as much history under my belt, I appreciate this journey through Jinny's quilting past. Am a huge fan as well.. Thank you for this fantastic post!

  5. YAAAS! For me it was her book "Designing Tessellations" .. I practically slept with it under my pillow for about 3 years of college.

  6. Was she the first to produce a line of designer's fabrics made specifically for quilters?

  7. I loved her Color Confidence for Quilters". What an inspiring book! Who knew you could put orange and avocado in a quilt and make it look beautiful. She's a truly gifted artist...thanks for looking back at her inspiring work. She continues to inspire me!

  8. Wonderful tribute to one whose work has enriched us all.

  9. Thank you for this wonderful tribute. For me, it is one legendary quilter saluting another.

  10. El año pasado tuve la gran suerte de cumplir mi gran sueño. Conocer a Jinny Beyer.
    Hoy leyendo esta entrada en tu blog, me han venido a la cabeza recuerdos tan bonitos de aquel día.
    Sus libros lo han sido todo en mi aprendizaje del patchwork.
    Y poder haber visto en vivo su trabajo, para mi fue uno de los momentos más enriquecedores.
    Un beso grande desde España.
    Aquí: http://recalculandoelrecorrido.blogspot.com.es/search/label/Un%20día%20con%20Jinny%20Beyer

  11. Beautiful quilts. I have some of Jinny's books and now I will cherish them even more. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I love history of any kind but these quilts are unbelievable! Thank you for sharing.