For the past three weeks I’ve been living and working in San Francisco. My 15-year-old daughter Lilian is doing her summer intensive ballet training at the San Francisco Ballet School, and since no housing was offered, I made the *huge* sacrifice of coming with her. 😉 Last weekend I took the train south to visit the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles and new Quilt Alliance board member Nancy Bavor, who works as the museum’s Curator of Collections.  I enjoyed a wonderful presentation by powerhouse quilting twins Mary Mashuta and Roberta Horton, both of whom have been interviewed for our Q.S.O.S. oral history project.

Among the current exhibitions was a show called “Milestones: Textiles of Transition,” which includes a fascinating video piece by the Luminarium Dance Company. The video shows images of quilts projected onto dancers performing in front of those same quilts. The result is sort of a visual quilt, a shifting and rich sandwich of images. Coincidentally, Luminarium founder, dancer and quilter Merli V. Guerra contacted me about a month ago to reach out to the Quilt Alliance about the Threading Motion Project. I asked Merli if she would write a piece about the work for our readers and I’m happy to present it here.

Quilting and motion have always been linked for me. One could say the movement of a thread and needle in a quilter’s hand is motion enough; that the swirls of color and patterns playing across a finished piece are motion to the eye. Yet for me, quilting means dancing. It means standing on the dining room table as a four-year-old, practicing what my mother had coined as “the frisbee method,” as together we tossed quilted hearts onto our fabric below. If we found we did not like what gravity had given us, we would pick them each up and start again—leaving us in the end with a set of quilts full of “motion,” and a little girl thrilled by the joy of the dance.


Quilt Vignettes
A series of short films using video projection to merge dance with quilts.
These films will be played on loop as part of the Silk! exhibit.
Choreographer / Filmmaker: Merli V. Guerra
Quilter: Judith Content
Performer: Merli V. Guerra

Twenty years later, I am still that little girl. I am still thrilled by the color, movement, energy, and emotions that greet the viewer at a quilt show, be it contemporary or traditional in design. I am also that ever-too-eager Joann Fabrics frequenter who has more newly-begun quilts filling her closet shelves than finished ones. Perhaps traditional quilting is not for me, which only adds to my amazement and wonder to find my work now on display on the East Coast (at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA) and West Coast (at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in San Jose, CA), with calls coming in from other parts of the country, from Pennsylvania to Kentucky. A few short months ago, I had never heard of the Quilt Alliance, and the word “Paducah” certainly did not ring any bells! Yet throughout this process, the more I learn, the more I realize how impressively large and supportive America’s quilting community is, even to a non-quilting interdisciplinary artist like myself.

I encourage you now, if you find yourself near either of the museums above in the next month, to take a peek at Luminarium Dance Company’s Threading Motion Project. I am writing this piece on the three-year anniversary of Luminarium’s founding in Boston, MA, and have no doubt that neither I, nor my co-director Kimberleigh A. Holman, would have guessed back in 2010 that one of our most successful projects would involve quilts! I began this series several years ago with a conversation with a local curator about my desire to show the “movement of a quilt.” After a year of determining what this meant, and how it could be accomplished visually, I picked up the phone and called Connie Barlow, the now former director of the New England Quilt Museum (NEQM), to propose the project, and soon after received funding from the Lowell Cultural Council to make the Threading Motion Project a reality for Luminarium’s 2013 Season.

Collaborating with NEQM’s exhibition Silk! and with the invaluable help of curator Pam Weeks, I selected six images from the quilt-show-to-be, projected these images onto my dancers in the studio, created six short vignettes ranging from two to three minutes in length, and filmed each in a way that allows the viewer to, for a brief moment, enter the world of the quilt. What does each express, and how does it express it? How can my dancers embody this, and set it into motion? Indeed, the Threading Motion Project quickly became an exercise in how to take a two-dimensional work of art, and redesign it for the three-dimensional, all through the use of light on skin.


“Cynthia Star”
Quilter: Janet Elwin
Performer: Jess Chang


“Gilding the Arbor”
Quilter: Bethanne Nemesh
Performers: Rose Abramoff, Jess Chang, Melenie Diarbekirian, Jessica Jacob,
Matt Johnson, & Amy Mastrangelo

As I end this narrative, that I can only hope will encourage you to take a peek at this film series by visiting one of these two museums (and more to follow!), while providing a glimpse into the thought process behind the work, it is most important to me that I call attention to the quilters directly involved, as it is their artwork that has led to my own. These five quilters come from all over the country, bringing their unique approaches and backgrounds to each of the vignettes now on display: Sonya Lee Barrington, Judith Content, Janet Elwin, Diane Loomis, and Bethanne Nemesh. I cannot thank these women enough for sharing with me their insights and enthusiasm throughout the process, as each artist’s thoughts inevitably shaped the way in which I interpreted the work into its current life on film. They are also the reason I now have such an appreciative understanding of the vast and supportive network that is the quilting community, as I now curiously await the news of where my Quilt Vignettes film series will travel next.

Thank you for reading, and happy dancing…

Merli V. Guerra
Artistic Director, Luminarium Dance Company

Merli’s “Quilt Vignettes” are currently on view at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA, through July 7 (alongside all six original quilts), and at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in San Jose, CA, through July 21. For a sneak peek of the work, view the trailer at:
All Threading Motion Project films and materials copyright of Luminarium Dance Company 2013.

How To Trim Flying Geese Without A Specialty Ruler

If you don’t have a Bloc-Loc ruler, you may find trimming these flying geese challenging. But by following these steps, you should be able to get four accurate geese in each color!

First, line up your ruler so the point of the flying geese unit will be trimmed exactly ¼” above the point. Try to line the unit up as straight as possible on the other three sides.

Next, flip the unit over. Line up the edge you just cut on the 2” line of the ruler as shown below, and trim the excess from the top.

Flip the unit right side up again. Line the lower left corner up with the 3 ½” mark on your ruler as shown above. Trim the excess on the right.

Finally, flip the unit over again so the point is pointing towards the 2” line. Align the left edge of the unit with the 3 ½” ruler mark as shown above and trim the excess on the right. Your flying goose unit is now ready to be pieced into your block!

Quilt Documentation Tip

 Andrea’s block story is all about the importance of quilt guilds. Quilting can feel solitary, but guilds bring us together. It’s a topic of conversation that was discussed with two Birthday Block of the Month Designers in a recent Textile Talk where the participants all shared emotional stories about their love for their guilds. 

Did you know that your guild can document your quilts as a group? Consider hosting a quilt documentation day in your guild! Follow these instructions and have members share three minute stories about one meaningful quilt in the Quilt Alliance’s signature Go Tell It documentation program. You could even host a screening so all of your members can see the videos! Get in touch at:

See You in October for Month Seven!

Thank you so much to everyone who has participated in the Quilt Alliance’s Birthday Block of the Month so far! Our designer for next month, the seventh block we’re making together, is Bonnie Hunter herself! 

Be sure to tag @quiltalliance and @3rdstoryworkshop on Instagram with your block photos this month, and use the hashtag #QuiltAllianceBOM. And leave any questions about this month’s block in the comments below!

1 Comment

  1. Louise Chavis

    What an interesting concept. Would love to see it. Good luck on future projects.


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