Unconventional and Unexpected Indeed

Thanks to the Iowa Quilt Museum in Winterset, Iowa, I learned about the quilt collection of Roderick Kiracofe and his book “Unconventional & Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar 1950-2000.” Through Ohio’s interlibrary loan program I was able to borrow a copy, a good thing as Amazon has only one copy left in hardcover for $494.99 and five other book sources (including the author) say they’re sold out. I see there may be a new printing, so my fingers are crossed. You can buy it as an ebook, but my bargain basement Kindle is black and white only.

The book’s essays are better than the usual quilting book essays, but the real stars are the quilts. Most are from Kiracofe’s collection and represent his personal tastes. These are not the sort you’re likely to see at guild meetings. They are not pretty, they do not follow patterns, they are way off the reservation, and I love so many of them.

Here’s a baker’s dozen of my favorites, photographed from the book.

As with many of the book’s quilts, the maker is unknown. I love the light yellow and the gingham.
I love the seafoam green circles in the upper left, and the tan printed fabric strip at the lower right.
The turquoise vertical strips anchor the busy-ness of the squares.
You’d think the bold white and red print used in sashing would be too much, but it unifies and works well with the bold solid sashings.
The curves really move your eye, and then turn back in the last right column.
The unevenness of the string piecing transcends the block format.
I love the touches of red-orange at the upper left, lower right, and left end of the middle white propeller shaped piece. Gwen Marston made some quilts that look similar.
The pompoms used as ties unify and soften all the polyester knit fabrics.
What 9 patch wonkiness, yet the maker included two conventional 9 patches as if to say, I can make them regular but my way is more fun. The bold red, white, gray, and black fabric used diagonally carries your eye through it all.
The brown and dark green fabrics remove any pastel taint.
Not your usual grandmother’s flower garden. Check out the two red hexagons in the upper right orange.
Sparing use of brick red and yellows gives zing but doesn’t overwhelm.
The book’s caption says these are furnishing fabrics. The stripes and diagonal patterns make my eyes happy.

I only wish the makers of these wonders could have been recognized and compensated for their vision, but most of their names were lost long before Kiracofe bought them.

I am linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Books

11 responses to “Unconventional and Unexpected Indeed

  1. Thank you for sharing these! They are wonderful!

  2. I got my copy of this book at a museum store a few years ago, but if you want one at a decent price you might get it through a second hand service like Abe Books.

    • The physical book isn’t available anywhere, including second hand bookstores. The Amazon price for the one copy is now $768.

    • Mary, don’t go looking for this book on your shelves, because you sent me your copy a few years ago! (You wrapped it in that Michael Miller fabric that looks like solid colors pieced, and the black fabric with white quilty sayings on it, if that helps you remember.) And I enjoyed it, and then I passed it on to someone else! Probably my local library.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. Each one is just fantastic. I’m liking the little rebel in each of them!

  4. Those are fantastic. Lots to say about all of them. The 9-patch amuses me in multiple ways, including the very regular use of the big print in 4 diagonal strips of blocks. It is not a haphazard arrangement. Thanks for sharing. Now I wish I’d bought the book when I had the chance a few years ago.

    • If it’s reprinted you’ll have another chance. What I love about all of the quilts in the book is that they are sui generis. No patterns, no carefully coordinated fabrics, just what was to hand.

  5. DJ

    Love to see these crafty mavericks!

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