Monday, July 20, 2020

Anna Williams Quilt

Julie Silber loaned us her Anna Williams quilt for our Out of Control
exhibit at the Iowa Quilt Museum. 

The Rule that Anna broke so well was
"Some Pieces Are Too Small To Save."

This small work of art, unquilted but attached to a backing and not bound, illustrates well why there is no piece too small to save.

Deb Rowden & I were thrilled to see this in person; we'd never had the privilege of viewing one. Roseanne Smith got to sew the sleeve on it and she studied it quite closely. It is certainly not "Out of Control". There is always a set of rules to Anna's quilts. You just have to figure out what they are.

How did Anna make color that is all over the spectrum work so well?
A closeup tells us why this one is so successful: 
Black and white geometry.
Dots, stripes, plaids and checks---the fabrics attract our eye but rather than
distracting us from the color the compelling patterns act as a neutral to pull it all together.

And at a distance the look may be colorful chaos,
but studying the pattern we can see her formula for this quilt,
which I sketched in EQ8.

She string-pieced rectangles with some care for contrast.

Cut the rectangles in half diagonally, shuffled the triangles around
and inserted a strip of string-pieced fabrics cut at a different angle.

We are going to try this at home, but you know
we just don't have Anna's sense of color (or stash.)

Here's a different Anna Williams quilt with a different
pattern formula from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

Teddy Pruett was lucky enough to visit Anna Williams in Louisiana a decade or more ago and posted photos of two Anna was working on. Similar idea above of cutting a rectangle and inserting a diagonal strip---but she began with solid color rectangles.

Different formula

Anna photographed for a 2003 Rowan Quilting Magazine: "Colourful Journey".

"I always wanted to do something that other people would enjoy."
Anna Williams

See our show Out of Control: Quilts That Break the Rules at the Iowa Quilt Museum---up through October 4, 2020.


  1. I wish I had 1/10th of her sense of color and arrangement. I adore every quilt I have ever seen of hers. Remarkable. I would love to see one of her treasures in person.

  2. Certainly wish you could see this show. We had such a good time dissecting her method---mixing my metaphors.

  3. Simply brilliant. I wish i could see more of these quilts. Will there be a virtual tour of the exhibit?

  4. Thanks for sussing out the control in what could be considered cluttered chaos. Her work is wonderful.

  5. A woman after my own heart. Everything goes with everything...........it just looks different! Amen.

  6. Lucky me—I'm on duty at the Iowa Quilt Museum all day today from 10 to 5, so I can look at Anna Williams' quilt as much as I want. The museum is in the little town of Winterset, Iowa, only about 13 miles off either I-80 or I-35. Admission is $6. Come take a look at the array of "unusual" quilts Barbara and Deb assembled for our gallery!

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