Latifah Saafir: Modern Quilt Maven

The keynote speaker at QuiltCon 2022 was Latifah Saafir, one of the co-founders of the Modern Quilt Guild. Her influence on the modern quilt movement has been profound. She has said that her inclination is to seek out and gather like-minded quilters who have a flair for non-traditional quilt design. This has resulted in a community that many people describe as a place where they ‘found their people.’ We are thankful for her contributions that helped create and build the MQG. 

As part of being the featured speaker of the conference a collection of Saafir’s quilts hung in the show. Saafir is well known for her fresh take on clamshell pattern, but a look at some of the following quilts will show you that her repertoire extends vastly beyond that. 

The Big Log (2009) by Laatifa Saafir

The Big Log (2009)

Saafir says this quilt was made using a technique she likes to call “Measured Improv.” This technique combines improv with pre-cut and measured pieces of fabric. She says that, visually,The Big Log is one of her favorite quilts. A chunky binding was made to create cohesion with the 1” strips that create the structure of the quilt’s design. 

Up in the Air (2010) by Laatifah Saafir

Up in the Air (2010)

At the first quilting bee hosted by the Los Angeles Modern Quilt Guild, Saafir gave attendees the assignment to make an improv block using a stack of fabrics she provided. Up in the Air was inspired by a quilt block made as a result of this exercise. The quilt reminded her of scenes you see from an airplane window, hence, its name. 

Stairway to Heaven (2011) by Latifah Saafir

Stairway to Heaven(2011)

The inspiration forStairway to Heaven came from a photograph Saafir saw of a staircase painted with colored stripes against white walls alongside the stairs. The choice to use the traditional log cabin pattern is a perfect representation of stairs. The juxtaposition of the colored stripes alongside the stark white strips creates an interesting void and the quilt is aptly named. 

Sweet Pickles (2014) by Latifah Saafir

Sweet Pickles (2014)

Saafir used ½” and 1” bias tape applique to create her ‘pickles.’ This quilt was made as a submission for Casey York’sThe Applique Book. The negative space of this quilt helps the eye travel through the twists and turns of its curves.

We Still Matter (2022) by Latifah Saafir

We Still Matter (2022)

Saafir says about this quilt, 

“On April 18th, 2020, Steven Taylor was murdered by the San Leandro Police Department. This quilt was inspired after sitting with the pieces of clothing leftover after making three memorial quilts for Steven Taylor’s two sons and his Grandma Addie who raised him. I wanted to create something meaningful with these sacred scraps and let them inspire this quilt. Among other things, the fist represents power, solidarity, and resilience. It also represents a symbol of hope and strength for the family. This quilt was created in the middle of the pandemic where the very traditional and grounding log cabin quilt block became a cornerstone of much of my work. The background and palm in the fist both embrace the log cabin. The idea of using the rips found in Steven’s jeans as knuckles in the fist came to me as I was communing with the scraps. I explored ruler work to quilt the background creating a feeling of an organic fractured surface almost as if the fist is busting through resistance. It is accented with hand quilting on the fist. This quilt already has a spot reserved on Grandma Addie’s wall as she continues to fight for justice for Steven, something she never dreamed she’d be doing in her retirement.”

We Still Matter (2022) by Latifah Saafir

We Still Matter stopped us in our tracks as we walked the convention floor. Power and love emanates from the quilt. To see it in person was an honor. 

We featured Latifah Saafir’s quiltConvergence inCurated Quilts, Issue no.7: Curves. Purchase your digital copy today! 

By Brittany Bowen Burton

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