Lisa Sipes (the Modern Quilt Perspectives blog tour…)

(You can read Lisa’s post for the Modern Quilt Perspectives blog tour right here. Go. Read. Now. Well, after you read this…)

It was late October 2011. I was at Quilt Market in Houston for the first time. I was overwhelmed and exhausted; I had been getting ready for Market (and the launch of Pear Tree) for months. And I was kinda scared: some guy in a cowboy hat at one lunch place actually asked me if the unisex toilet we were waiting for was, “one of those bi-sexual bathrooms like they have in California.” In short, I was afraid.

thomas-knauer-sews-lisa-sipes-3And then there was Lisa. Neither of us really knew anyone, and I am I naturally shy as all heck unless I am at the front of a large room, but we kept seeing each other. At one event we tried talking, but pretty much failed because we are both pretty damn awkward at that sort of thing. But just as she was leaving, we bumped into each other at an escalator and she told me we should do something together. At that point I was pretty much wary of everybody and everything, but had the sense that this person who I don’t know at all might get it.

So, I looked her up, and saw that she was damned accomplished, but that didn’t really mean a thing to me. I wasn’t looking for skilled or talented; I was looking to work with a quilter who really got everything else, who understood what in my mind was already becoming this book. So, I sent Lisa an audition top. Yep, I did. I bet that came off as arrogant, but having spent the better part of my life as an artist working with collaborators (glassworks and machine shops, specialized typesetters and custom optics, and goodness knows what else anymore) it has become an essential part of my practice. It lets me feel out the relationship, not just the work.

thomas-knauer-sews-lisa-sipes-1So, I sent her this top that would require all kinds of pain-in-the-ass stuff, and she banged it out and sent it right back. She got it, and she also told me that she could do a zillion times better. And that was when I knew I was in love. She got it. She understood that the goal is to make things right, not just good. Sometimes right is simple, and other times it is insanely complicated, but it is always about following the idea, never one’s style…

Since then Lisa has been my quilter of record, and always will be. Now there are projects that don’t need her time, which is insanely valuable, and there will be times when she is just plain booked up. But if it is one of those pieces, the really real ones, it will always be Lisa I turn to…

Yes, she is a technical wizard, and yes she has a great eye, but those have so little to do with it. Lisa works from the inside out; she inhabits the quilts, what they mean, what they are, what they are about. And that is why I am so grateful to Lisa for doing all of the quilts in this book (except the one that just screamed for me to hand-tie). When insanity was required (like in In Defense of Handmade, Palimpsest, and Excess) she went all the way. When a light touch was needed she held back. We talked and talked about each quilt: sometimes I had a plan, sometimes I turned to her for a solution, but in every case I went to Lisa for advice and ideas. She is truly a partner in all of these quilts, and I could not have done them without her.

thomas-knauer-sews-lisa-sipes-2For that reason, and many more, I will always think of this as our first book. Yes, I designed the quilts and wrote the words, but none of them would be complete without Lisa. I am going to hold off on talking about the quilting of any particular quilt; I’m going to leave that for Lisa’s post on the blog tour. But please know that I cannot imagine doing this book, or any other, without Lisa at my side. I am lucky, and grateful, and incredibly proud to be able to work with Lisa, and more than that to be able to call her a friend…

Now, on another note. All of you go over and donate to Change Philly Today, Lisa’s efforts to create a shelter for LGBT youth dealing with homelessness. Not only is she an extraordinary quilter, but she is also a remarkable human being. Please, go donate, no matter how much. This is the favor I ask of you…

And thank you Lisa. I love you and I love you and I love you…


PS: The book is worth the price just to see all of Lisa’s amazing quilting. Just saying…

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2 Responses to Lisa Sipes (the Modern Quilt Perspectives blog tour…)

  1. 1
    suzanne says:

    I can not wait to get my book. And I have a quilt in mind that I simply want her to quilt. I have some vintage (unusual to me) blocks that need to be made into a quilt. I want a modern touch with these vintage blocks and want her to quilt it. I dream big!

  2. 2
    Lisa Sipes says:

    Hi Suzanne! I’m not sure you will see this message, but I have visited your blog and tried to find a “contact” link to no avail (I do most of these things from my phone, so perhaps I would have more success on my laptop if I took more time to sit in front of my computer). I would love to discuss the quilting of your quilt with you! I can be reached at

    And T, as always, I love you so much and feel so fortunate that a chance meeting at that damn escalator led to such a beautiful relationship both professionally and personally. You are one of my very best friends, and I’m so fortunate that you made your way into my life.
    Much love,

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