Toronto-based quilt maker Lindsay Stead takes a decidedly hands-on approach to her craft.
Lindsay Stead received formal training in furniture and textile design. One of her professors introduced her to the Quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama, a group of women who have been quilting for over a century. With few resources, they were able to produce striking abstract designs. "Sticking mainly to solid colours, and using slightly altered versions of traditional quilt patterns, they made pieces that are truly works of art," Stead says. "Their completely changed my perception of what a quilt could be and I began working on some of my own." Stead based this piece off of a traditional log cabin motif but focused on a corner of the pattern and introduced different colors into the horizontal and vertical bands.
Stead has been quilting for about seven years. "In the beginning I was hung up on trying to make something that was completely unique and it took some time to let that go," she says. "Over those years I realized I was really drawn to certain design elements and began to incorporate them into my work. I think that letting go of what I thought I should be making and really embracing what I wanted to make has lead to a very genuine body of work." This pattern is an interpretation of an Amish Bars quilt.
Along with traditional patterns, like the pinwheel shown here, Stead employs traditional techniques. "All of my quilts are entirely handmade by me, which is very rare in the modern quilt movement," she says. "My choice to hand stitch all of my work is equally for aesthetic reasons as well the enjoyment of the process. Hand-quilted pieces have a much lighter, softer appearance. Lines are series of slightly imperfect stitches and spaces whereas machine quilted lines are hard, solid lines of thread. I feel that softness of hand quilting really balances my bold, graphic designs."
Stead's quilts are 100-percent cotton, from the thread to the fabric to the batting. "When you are making heirloom objects that are intended to last a lifetime it is so important to choose the right materials," she says. "Polyester thread is definitely easier to work with, but over time it will eat through cotton. I always have the longevity of my quilts at the forefront of my mind when making material choices." This piece is based on a flying geese pattern; a black version was exhibited at the Modern Family Pavilion at Dwell on Design.
This piece is part of Stead's flag series. "I enlarged quilt blocks to the full size of the quilt," she says. "The patterns resembled nautical flags so I chose to run with that idea and stuck to solid navy and white." For more on Stead's work, visit lindsaystead.com.
"For me, the process of hand quilting really solidifies my connection with each quilt and makes the work very personal, almost as if each stitch holds a memory for me," says designer Lindsay Stead. "In this era of making objects as quickly as possible, I think that what I am doing is sadly very rare." Stead bases her patterns off of traditional motifs but introduces a modern twist by playing with positive and negative space, low and high contrast colors, and a variety of scales. "I have been categorized by others—and now have begun to adopt this classification myself—as a modern quilter, but I feel that my work really blurs the line between traditionalism and modernism," she says. We're taken with her sensibility, modern or traditional or everywhere in between.