Karen Griska | January/February 2010

Karen Griska

Karen Griska

An Interview with Karen Griska


Quiltmaking is my passion. My favorite quilts have lots of tiny pieces and many fabrics. They involve some improvisation. I enjoy making a quilt that tempts the viewer to spend time discovering its secrets and surprises. The best quilts look impossible to make, but they’re really easy! That’s what I like most about Fandango. Once you get the hang of making the fan block, it goes fast and it’s so rewarding. I love the movement and seeming complexity of this design. I was surprised to see the secondary patterns in this quilt: long, spiky pinwheels.
I love to add these “made by eye” fans to my quilts. Sometimes I use one at the base of a tree of life to suggest a root system. I have used them in pairs at the top of a quilt like a pediment on furniture. Sometimes I use three in each corner of a quilt to “round the corners.” They add pizzazz to all kinds of quilts. For Fandango, I wondered what would happen if I made a boatload of fans and put them all in one quilt!
The inspiration for this block came as I experimented with string quilting. That’s the process of sewing bits of fabric together willy-nilly, trimming it into a shape and using it as a block. I think a fan made “by eye” is more charming than a uniform block you’d get using a method such as paper piecing.
I was inspired years ago by quilter Anna Williams of Baton Rouge, LA. She made stunning improvisational quilts with lots of tiny pieces and a shocking combination of fabrics. I saw one of her quilts at the MAQS and decided that her style of quilting looked like lots of fun.

Here’s an idea that I got from studying Anna’s quilts: find a fabric that has big polka dots, and fussy-cut a big dot. Season your scrap quilt sparingly with these dots. It really adds sparkle. I would like to encourage quilters to loosen up and not let the pursuit of perfection steal any of the fun from quiltmaking.

Ironically, although this is an easy block to make, the difficult part can be getting comfortable with the idea that all your blocks will be a little different. In fact they won’t all even have the same number of pieces, and that’s okay! I hope you’ll have lots of fun making Fandango because, after all, that’s why we quilt: to have fun and astonish ourselves.
My mom showed me how to sew clothes on her Elna when I was 10 years old. I made my first quilt at age 13. I’ve now made well over 200 quilts, all original designs. My first book, “Quilts from the Selvage Edge” was published by AQS in 2008. I live in CT where I hope to be snowed in this winter making quilts.

Appeared in:

Leave a Reply