Mid-Century Modern Quilt Wins the Prize

Prize quilt
A quilt inspired by love for mid-century design won the People's Choice award at a major quilting convention. Photo by Bill Bohnhoff

Quilters are known to honor their own, which is why when members of the South Bay Quilters Guild, based in Southern California, banded together in 2019 to jointly produce a very special quilt, they decided to give it to Julie Limbach Jones, who had served as the guild’s president twice, 2008 to 2010 and  2018-20.

“There is a tradition of giving gifts to presidents who do two terms,” Julie says.

“They asked me what kind of quilt do you want?  I said mid-century mod.”

As it turns out, mid-century mod is the sort of quilt a lot of people want. The 69-by-59 inch quilt, ‘It's a Mad, Mad, Mid-Mod World,’ won the Peoples’ Choice Award at the 2021 QuiltConTogether, a worldwide gathering of quilters that was held virtually this year.

  Front quilt
Work started on the quilt before the pandemic hit and involved the collaboration of several talented quilt artists. Photo by Bill Bohnhoff

“I was just flabbergasted it was the peoples’ choice,” Julie says. “It was very different from the other quilts in the show.”

The convention, put on annually by the Los Angeles-based Modern Quilt Guild, attracted 7,032 people from 39 different countries, Julie says. Her group, the South Bay Quilters Guild, has about 150 members who live in the beach and inland cities that stretch from LAX into Orange County.

“After we won the People’s Choice Award I got a lot of Instagram messages saying, ‘I live in a mid-century modern house here, or a mid-century modern house there,'” Julie says. “All these people kept commenting on it. It was fun.”

Online too people have commented.

“I’m going to hop right on making a duplicate, and that is a hardy-har-har. What an accomplished group of designers and quilters,” Pat Gibson wrote.

  Julie and quilt
The quilt was made as a token of friendship for Julie Limbach Jones (above), who treasures it. Photo by Alex Tsubota

“Fantastic, love it,” wrote Carolyn H. Anderson, “reminds me of a colleague's [Frank Lloyd Wright’s] home on the Potomac."

“I live in such a house, an Eichler, so this is definitely my favorite! Congratulations! Beautiful and gorgeous quilting!,” wrote Gretchen Michaels, a custom quilter who lives in San Mateo.

The homes in 'Mad Mad Mid-Mod’ are not quite like Eichlers, but they do imbibe from that spirit.

Julie does not live in a mid-century modern home. “If I could have a mid-century modern house I would have it, but in my area there aren’t any,” she says. Julie and her husband live in Manhattan Beach.

But she is crazy about the look. “My husband and I have bought and sold a few houses, and we started looking at mid-century modern stuff,” she says.

Group shot
The group behind the quilt (left to right): Rain Burch (in front), Jenifer Briggs (behind Rain), Nadine Kirk, Julie Limbach Jones, Donna Bowker, Nancy Payne, Melanie Dreike, Marie Cortez. Photo by Alex Tsubota

“I just looked at the Eichlers in Thousand Oaks, but I don’t know if I want to live in Thousand Oaks. My son is in Colorado and our daughter is in Massachusetts.”

She and her husband have an eye on Denver as a spot to relocate because it’s near their son and has several great modern neighborhoods, including Arapahoe Acres.

Behind ‘Mad Mad Mid-Mod’ are guild members Melanie Dreike, Marie Cortez, Nadine Kirk, Sue Glass, Julie Limbach Jones, and the only man in the bunch, Matt Randall, who took the various pieces and actually quilted them together, adding backing fabric, batting, and the marvelous stitchery on the front that links the design together with a pattern of swirls and chevrons.

“Ideas came together and creative people put their talents to work,” Julie summarizes. The quilt was about a year in the making, finishing up before the Covid pandemic hit.

“Quilting can be really collaborative, or it can be very personal,” she says.

  Design wall
A "design wall" was created by the quilting artists to work out the final look of the quilt. Photo by Julie Limbach Jones

“Each member had to design and make images and submit it. We put all of our designs on a design wall,” and laid out the pattern, Julie says.

“The technique for assembling the houses was a new technique for a lot of members,” she says. Many found it difficult.

“This is the first time I’ve done this foundation paper piecing, and wow it’s tricky!” some would say. "They said, if we weren’t doing it for you, Julie, we wouldn’t do it.”

“Yes that is my dog, and I made that part,” Julie says of the image of a dog at the bottom right of the quilt. Bailey is “a little brindle mutt.”

The pandemic may have contributed to the quilt’s popularity at the QuiltCon. “It was probably the right quilt for this time,” one of the event leaders told Julie.

“Maybe it spoke to people because we’ve all been stuck in our homes for the year,” she says. “The circles [seen in the quilt] are stepping stones connecting the houses. It’s a neighborhood, and they are a path from one house to the other houses.”

The quilt is destined for Julie’s bedroom wall. The Guild will sell a ‘design packet’ for others to copy. But Julie won’t be turning out replications herself.

“This one was a labor of love. It was done as a gift,” she says. “Nobody thought that this would get the attention we got. It’s not something we want to replicate. This was something that was very personal. I personally would never take it on as a commission.”

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