Gwen Marston

I just read that Gwen Marston has recently died and wanted to share my condolences. Her books Liberated Quiltmaking and Liberated Strings both influenced my quilting and I was sad to hear of her death. I came across a link from Quilt Folk with a recent interview/article and I was struck by something she said about the reliance of quilters today on patterns. While I don’t describe my overall style as “liberated” and I use many traditional blocks, I agree that many quilters don’t understand the basics of how to draft or even adapt quilts to suit their style or need.

My website is a place I share details about the quilts I make for the readers of my blog. I share some basic construction details , block and quilt sizes, and I share some options for the quilts but what I don’t do is write formal patterns. I hope that you haven’t been disappointed or frustrated that I don’t provide complete step by step patterns – that’s not my intention or the purpose of my website but I do hope that you have found some inspiration in my quilting like I found in Gwen’s.

Her influence found its way into my many string quilts and my strips and strings log cabin quilts.


  1. I was fortunate to take several classes from Gwen Marston over several years. I loved her story about learning to quilt with the Mennonite (?) women but was dismayed when she changed her entire focus from traditional quilts to modern. I am a definite traditional quilt fan, and maker! She had so much personality, energy, and joy in teaching others to quilt. She was smart, strong, talented, funny, and such an interesting person. I know many others will miss you Gwen. I will too, very much! Brenda King

  2. I’ve not made any of her quilts but it’s always sad when someone we follow passes away. I have always used patterns but I do deviate from them in some way. Maybe I change the border or make just one thing different. I started sewing skirts when I was 11 years old and the first skirt didn’t have a pattern. I made many skirts during my high school years that were full gathered or pleated. I always read the patterns but this last quilt showed me I didn’t read it completely because when I went to join my final seams, I had not pressed my big blocks correctly. So it’s back to the ironing board to re-press them. Next time I will read all the instructions and highlight the pressing parts. Your quilts today were eye candy to me, you certainly make gorgeous colorful quilts, which I love.

  3. I thought about this post for a moment after reading it. I think I really discovered Gwen’s books through your blog. As a person who is new to quilting, I will tell you that I find so much inspiration in your blog posts. I love that your share instructions on stitching blocks. I recently bought a pattern to make a quilt for a gift. Mostly because I wanted information on the size and count of the pieces I should cut. I had in my mind how I would stitch it all together, but I followed the instructions. Well, I was not really happy with the end result and I realized that I would have been if I had done my own thing. I have already selected my next project from a link on your website. So, I’m here to tell you that you truly ARE inspiring. In fact of all the blogs I follow you have helped me push myself to the next level. Thank you for blogging and for sharing your knowledge and experience and yes, a bit of your private life too.
    xx, Carol

  4. I have always appreciated your short concise details when sharing your quilts allowing me to make the quilt my own creation. The times I have followed a pattern without any changes, I am usually a little disappointed. It is similar to following a recipe when cooking; why add ingredients that you don’t like.

    • So sorry to lose Gwen, what an inspirational person she was! It is quite a long time since I made a quilt from a pattern, I really like to do my own thing, and like Shirley, have felt a little dissatisfied when I have stuck rigidly to a pattern. I also once made a quilt top all from one fabric line, and it didn’t feel like mine when it was done.It has never made it to the quilting stage, either!!! Love your quilts, Mary, you have such a great eye for colour! It is always a pleasure to read your blog, and I too love the bits of family life included.Happy anniversary to you and

  5. Gwen was my inspiration. Her class that I took in Asilomar really set me free to use traditional blocks however I want. If I use a published pattern, I usually change it in some way. Otherwise, I just play around with blocks and see how they want to go together. Although many quilters like to buy kits, that seems like such a boring project to me. (Maybe because my piecing skills are not my strong point. Why would I just want to assemble someone else’s quilt?)

    I love taking a collection of orphan blocks and seeing how I can turn them into a special quilt.

    Gwen was such a fun teacher and was so encouraging. She challenged us to let go of our “quilt police” mindset and let our creativity loose.

    I enjoy seeing your quilts, Mary, because you take very traditional blocks but have fun with them. Your sharing spirit and your partnership ventures with your Mom help me to be more generous with my time and skills. Thank you for being so faithful in keeping up your blog.

  6. I never met her but had also found inspiration in photos of her work that I saw. I also tend to design as I go sometimes. And I love to find a pattern I like, then do the math and figure out how to make it. So thank you to people like Gwen and to you, Mary, for sharing with us.

  7. I was never able to take a Gwen Marston class, but did take one from Freddie Moran, her collaborative partner in some of her quilting endeavors. Such fun personalities; Gwen will be missed by all who followed her throughout the years. Mary, you and your quilts have inspired me greatly, and I continue to use my leftover strips in string quilts! They bring smiles. :o)

  8. What a loss to the quilt world. But I share your sentiment that many quilters don’t have a clue how to draft a pattern or change the size of one. Happily, I am not one of them. It helps to have patterns when you are trying to decide fabric quantities. Or if you just want to pop out a fast quilt. But some days I go with blocks I’ve made and then figure out how to set them. Your blog is an inspiration and I love your web page with basic directions. That’s all I need to make a block just like yours or bigger or smaller. Thanks for sharing so much.

Leave a Reply