It’s Been a Long Time

It has been a long time since I’ve posted, but I think I’m going to get back to it. So stayed tuned for updates…

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There’s a New Book Coming…

So, I have a new book coming out soon — October 15th to be exact — and I am really excited about it. It is a departure from my past books; there are no patterns, no designs to try out. This one is a big picture book, the kind of thing I have been wanting to do from the get-go.

No, this is where I am supposed to tell you all about it, but I am terrible when it comes to coming up with a synopsis, so I’m going to let the official blurb for this book do it for me…

In this tribute to today’s vibrant quilting community, prize-winning quilter and teacher Thomas Knauer showcases a stunning collection of quilts from a wide range of contemporary makers, accompanied by their testimonials about what inspires and imbues their craft with meaning. From temperance quilts to the AIDS quilt, there’s a rich history of individuals and communities using fabric and thread to connect with others and express themselves, both personally and politically. Why We Quilt blends bits of this history with the stories and work of today’s leading quilters, highlighting themes of tradition, community, consumerism, change, and creativity. With a unique die-cut cover and a richly layered design, this book will enthrall designers, quilters, and all types of handcraft enthusiasts.

So, there it is. I hope a ton of you will love it. You can pre-order it on Amazon here, or wait until it is officially released and bang you on local quilt or book shop to get it in for you.

Hopefully, more will be coming from me soon; I know it has been a long time since I’ve been on this blog. I hope to fix that, at least a little bit…

Much love.


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QuiltCon 2017…


This was supposed to be a lazy QuiltCon: do some book signings, maybe have a quilt in the show. Honestly, it was supposed to be a bit of a vacation after the ill-effects of this last Quilt Market. But I should have known better than to plan for relaxation, because this QuiltCon has taken a turn for the crazy…

I’m never sure if the gods love me or hate me, but I do know they don’t particularly like when I make plans. Clearly a busy QuiltCon is a good thing; it means I am likely to be headed in the right direction. But after the last couple of months of psychological imbalance a gentle re-entry to the public quilting universe certainly presented advantages.

So, here’s the schedule for those of you coming down (over? up?) to QuiltCon:

I’ll be doing book signings for The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook with the fabu Intown Quilters (from the Atlanta area) all four days of the show. I’m pretty sure you could reach out to them to pre-order a copy of the book for signing to make sure they have one available for you. Let’ see if anyone goes for my legal signature this time instead of having me print my name…

I’ll also be doing demos for Handi Quilter the first three days of the show. Since the demo area is not long arm equipped, I’ll be demonstrating ways to design quilting motifs using typography, binary code, Morse code, and Braille. While I do computerized longarming, what I’ll be showing can also be used as pantographs for those not yet as deeply in love with robo-quilting as I am.

Oh, and I’ve been added to the QC faculty at the last minute; I’ll be doing a lecture titled “ Critique of Perfection: The Perilous Allure of Technique.” Already the schedule is getting busy, but I simply can’t say no when given the opportunity to talk Feminist theory and Marxist analysis, especially in the quilt world. (Nope, I’ll never stop being a massive geek…)

Critique of Perfection: The Perilous Allure of Technique
Friday, February 24
1:30 PM – 2:15 PM

The pursuit of perfection in quilting has had an enormous effect on the quilting industry, the quilts we make, and most importantly our fundamental relationship to the practice of quilting. This lecture will explore some of the factors that have contributed to the emphasis on perfectibility, and then turn to significant important moments in Modern Art to examine the ways in which technique and perfection/precision have been erroneously aligned in the quilting world. Finally, this talk will look at the detrimental messages that inevitably arise from the intersection of perfectibility and the marketing of quilting, along with the important roles the Modern Quilt Guild and quilting communities can play in reclaiming a more authentic relationship to the quilting tradition.

And then I ended up with three quilts in the show. I’m not going to tell which three (gotta leave some surprises), but I went pretty deep for these. Not that having quilts in the show adds to the activity load, but it does change the vibe a bit. It seems that this QuiltCon won’t be nearly as low-key as I had planned…

So, if you are heading to QuiltCon this year, come and find me. I may be frazzled, but will be more than happy to sit down and chill. Or even better, invite me out for a drink; I’m sure that by the end of each day I’ll be dreaming of a Tangueray and Tonic…


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The Invisibility of Invisibility…

Most of the time I feel invisible.

There are dozens of hours of video of me out there. My quilts and Net.Art pieces have been in exhibitions around the country and the world. My books reside on shelves far and wide. My words have been disseminated in print and online across the globe. Yet, more often than not, I feel profoundly invisible.

That is the nature of having a chronic illness that others rarely see, that does not register on the spectrum of the visually manifest. It is essentially unseen (except, unfortunately, by my family). It affects every cell of my body, and has over the years twisted my minds into profoundly dangerous positions, but to the rest of the world I am well, typical, exactly as my surface would appear. The fact that that is not me, is not the case, leaves me to feel invisible even in my most visible moments.

And invisibility is another form of solitude, but one played out even in the midst of the ordinary world. Its confinement is not physical, but psychological. I leaves me, and so many others like me, at a perpetual remove, watching the world rather than plainly in the world. It is the invisibility of feeling irrevocably a step apart.

We all have our burdens. I would never compare mine to anyone else’s. Each and every one of our struggles is tragic; there is no scale of legitimacy. That is the nature of trauma; it is always real, intense, and individual. I don’t write of my struggles with my body (and mind) to elicit empathy (or pity), but to explain, perhaps just for myself. The words I write are a means to making sense of the life I live.

While I am grateful for the many blessings (a term I use without religious connotation) in my life, no amount of good can cover up or erase trauma. It is a scar, a wound (more often than not perpetually open) that exists and is carried independent of the rest of a life. My wife, my children, no matter how much I love them (and they, me) can never eradicate the reality of and psychological effect of my illness; the extraordinary good of them can never truly touch the existential centrality of pain, of radical difference, of brokenness. Clearly they are a balm, but being soothed is not the same things as being repaired.

And that is the ultimate truth of this invisibility; even they cannot truly see me because they can only access the after-effects of my core condition, the ripples my illness creates rather than the stone it is in the pond of my being.

And there is my truth: it is impossible to see me. My difference is played out at the microscopic level, with mast cells and ion channels, yet I must inevitably reside on this macroscopic plane, a place where who and what I am will remain forever invisible…


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He calls himself a big-M Modern quilter for now, but he’s out to rename the genre, and perhaps even revolutionize the quilting world.

-Rachel May in Quilting with a Modern Slant

A few years back Rachel May wrote those words about me in her book Quilting with a Modern Slant. They made sense to me then, seemed to reflect my goals. But over the past few months I have realized that they no longer apply. Not in the least. It is not that Rachel got something wrong; it is just that I have changed. Or more accurately that I have remembered who I am…

1. I am not big-M Modern.

2. I am not out to rename the genre.

3. I am not interested in revolutionizing the quilting world.

One might well ask how I could have gotten so much wrong about myself just a few years ago, but there it is. I suppose I was trying to be a quilter, whatever that might mean, but I certainly wasn’t being me, not that I am entirely sure I know exactly what being me means.

So, lets look at that list…

1. I can’t actually remember the last time I considered myself part of modern art. It isn’t that I don’t make art (or something that at least fits within that vague construct we call art). It is simply that I have always had deep concerns about the whole Modernist project. Modernism always smelled too much of essentialism to me, of aesthetic, cultural, and political truths (or at least the assertion that such things exist). Far too much energy was spent on the idea of purity during those Modernist decades, which I regard as both dangerous and simply idiotic. The best art is complicated (conceptually if not aesthetically); it poses questions, not answers. It is critical, but not self-certain. It is dangerous because it questions truths, not because it insists on dangerous truths. In short, art, at its best, is a reflection of the world not its solution.

2. I used to struggle with the modern in modern quilting. Because it jumbled together two understandings of the word modern (the temporal construct and the art-world construct), I felt it was terribly awkward, open to endless misinterpretation. I still have those concerns, but now I simply don’t care. As I separate myself more and more from the mainstream quilt industry side of the quilt world I see a lot of things differently. In the much quilt industry, like every other industry, terminology is perpetually co-opted if it seems like it might serve some marketing purpose; as such my problem was not so much with those using the term modern quilting, but with how it was used and abused in the industry writ large (modern solids?). Nowadays I am inclined to advocate a proliferation of terms, not just for taxonomical purposes, but simply to suit a moment, a whim. I now variously call myself an activist quilter, a political quilter, an advocacy quilter, an agit-prop quilt, a quilt punk, an esoteric quilter, a hyper-traditionalist, and quilt theorist. I’m pretty sure by next week I will have added a half-dozen more to that list. When in doubt hit it where they ain’t.

3. I truly have no interest in revolutionizing the quilt world; honestly my sites are set far higher: I want actual revolution; I want to change the world. All of it. With the resurgence of white nationalism, homomisia, misogyny, etc, etc, etc, I find the idea of making quilts to revolutionize quilting utterly trivial (no matter how much I think quilts matter). It is precisely because I think quilts matter that they have become my medium of choice. Going back to #1 on the list, the best art is revolutionary, not just aesthetically, but literally. Art can change the world, or at least be a powerful voice for change. The quilt industry can have caution; I have proverbial pipe bombs to throw…


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