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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

Painting with Fabric

Stitching together layers of padding and fabric may date back as far as 3400 BC. Quilting was primarily for practical reasons to provide physical protection and insulation. However, the art of quilting took on new purposes and forms over the centuries and across continents. Early in the 12th century, quilts served to preserve stories and events of the day. By the 1700s in Colonial America, quilts were made of delicate fabrics with decorative needlework showing off the skills of the quilter prized by the wealthy. Once we moved into the 19th century, printed fabrics appeared in the blocks and piecework of the quilt's pattern and design. Today well into the age of the sewing machine, much of the time and labor has been removed from the basic construction of a quilt, leaving more time for decorative innovation as quilts move from utilitarian products into artist keepsake pieces.

In 1971 the exhibit Abstract Design in American Quilts held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City ushered in a new age of contemporary quilters. According to the reviews of the time, "Quilters experimented with creating or dyeing their fabrics, printing, and painting on fabric, incorporating experimental materials into their designs, and conceptually challenging the notion of what quilting is or should be."

Local quilter Margit Kagerer has followed a similar journey in her evolving variety of art quilts. Growing up in a small town east of Munich, Germany, in Bavaria, Margit’s mother was her first mentor, teaching her how to sew. Margit says, “My sewing was nothing creative, just what we needed for clothing and household items. My artistic side appeared much later in life." After completing thirteen years of school, called Gymnasium in Germany, Margit studied mathematics and trained as a teacher at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. "Upon completing my education and training, I took a position teaching mathematics and physics at the 11th and 12th-grade level, eventually becoming an assistant principal until my husband and I moved to Massachusetts in the United States in 1992 for his job assignment. It was there I was introduced to the world of quilting.”

“When I first learned to quilt, my quilts were traditionally pieced using commercial cotton fabrics. I taught myself many traditional patterns; however, I soon outgrew that and wanted to add a contemporary twist."

Margit explains, “When I first learned to quilt, my quilts were traditionally pieced using commercial cotton fabrics. I taught myself many traditional patterns; however, I soon outgrew that and wanted to add a contemporary twist." Margit turned to her fascination with geometric patterns and her love for nature for inspiration, first the landscapes of New England and then to the vast open spaces found in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Over the years, Margit continually pushes the envelope on her quilting techniques; she thinks of it as “Freedom within structure.” One of her most popular quilt creations is made of recycled men’s neckties, elaborately designed, rich in color and pattern, and spectacular composition. She also began incorporating photos printed on fabric in her work, adding an entirely different quality to her quilted pieces. Today she refers to her process as, "I paint the scenery with fabrics."

Margit also has a passion for music and poetry. She grew up with classical music and sang in different choirs for over 36 years. Recently both have appeared in her quilted masterpieces, much to the surprise and delight of her admirers. The quilts of this series contain poems or pieces of German and English literature. The free-motion stitched text closely resembles handwritten text. Margit works from her home studio in Carefree, Arizona. Her quilts are exhibited nationwide in quilt shows, such as the annual art quilt show in Chandler, Arizona, and the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas, and Long Beach, California. Her work is also accepted into the exhibition at Tohono Chul in Tucson, Arizona, the Main Library Show in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Holland Center in Scottsdale, and the Sky Harbor Airport Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. Margit is a member of the American Quilters Society, the Studio Art Quilt Associates, and the Terravita Arts League in Scottsdale. Margits has written three articles about her work, published in American Quilter and SAQA Journal magazines. She is also the author of two published books, Margit's Fiber Art and Margit's Fiber Art: New Directions, available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


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