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10 Questions with Leni Levenson Wiener

Meet Leni Levenson Wiener, author of  3-Fabric Quilts and Photo-Inspired Art Quilts!

We asked Leni 10 questions about her background, her inspiration, and much more. We know you’ll find her answers as interesting and inspiring as we did. It’s nice to have a little sneak peek into our authors’ lives.

After you’ve gotten to know Leni, be sure to check out the fantastic deal we have on her most recent book, 3-Fabric Quilts, from now through Sunday, March 11, in the Martha Pullen Store. This book features 12 easy quilts, perfect for beginners, each one requiring only three fabrics! Each quilt also has yardage requirements for a large-size and a small-size quilt. This week’s deal offers a 50% discount on the book, for a savings of over $12!

So without further ado, let’s get to know Leni!

All in a Row Quilt, from 3-Fabric Quilts

Question: When did you start crafting? What craft did you start with?

Leni: I have been doing craft projects for as long as I can remember.  My mother was an artist, so art and craft supplies were all readily available when I was growing up.  We weren’t allowed to have coloring books; my mother thought it was more important to make our own art rather than color in someone else’s design.  I do remember being in a Saturday morning ceramics class at the Boston Museum of Fine Art around pre-school age.  I guess I have always been making things out of available materials.

Q: What other crafts do you do besides quilting?

    L: Over the years I have done lots of things—sewing, needlepoint, bargello, macramé, paper making, clay sculpture, basketry, and photography.  These days, I make art clothing (because there are only so many beds in the world but a girl can never have too many clothes!); jewelry; traditional quilts; but my most passionate pursuit is art quilts—the topic of another of my books, Photo-inspired Art Quilts.  My work has been exhibited around the world, and making art quilts now occupies most of my time.

    Q: What made you decide to write 3-Fabric Quilts?

      L: Although I now focus most of my time and attention on art quilts, I have never given up the wonderful connection with generations of women before me by making traditional quilts.  Every baby I know gets a “Leni quilt,” and I still enjoy teaching beginner quilting at Nimble Thimble, a quilt shop near my home.  It was while teaching these beginner classes that I began to see a trend—more young women were in my classes and most of them weren’t interested in making traditional “grandmother” patterns—they wanted to learn the techniques but make more modern interpretations with lots of color and using the gorgeous-large scale prints in the stores.

      3-Fabric Quilts is based on what I heard from these younger, newer quilters—they wanted fast and easy, they didn’t want to have to match up the seam lines to fuss over perfect points, they wanted to use those gorgeous large-scale prints without cutting them up into little pieces, and they wanted quilts that weren’t going to be so complicated that choosing the fabric became a frustrating process. That is what inspired 3-Fabric Quilts, and every quilt in the book was designed with these criteria in mind.

      Q: What is the best part about writing a book? What is the most difficult?

        Block and a Half Quilt, from 3-Fabric Quilts

        L: I love the process of writing a book, it is an extension of teaching.  I enjoy sharing what I know and it thrills me to see other people getting excited and feeling proud about what they are able to make themselves.  What might be the most difficult part of writing a book for others—being self motivated and working alone—is actually what I enjoy most.  I get to be my own boss and work when it suits me.

        The best part is the emails I get from people around the world telling me how much they enjoy my books and sharing photos of what they made; the most difficult is waiting to see the book materialize after I have submitted all my work and the publisher has to do theirs!

        Q: How do you get inspired when you’re feeling a lack of creativity?

          L: We all have creative blocks now and then.  At any given time I have a project in work (I am not one of those people who can be working on more than one thing at a time), one in my head, and dozens on the computer.  I keep files of photos and ideas on the computer that I want to implement at some point.  When I can’t find something to work on, I go to these files for inspiration.  Sometimes a fabric will inspire me; sometimes it comes from an unexpected source (I even get ideas from watching TV—a pattern on a wall behind someone, or the design on a shirt can get me started).  One quilt was inspired by the light and shadow of the window blinds in the dentist’s office while I was having a cavity filled.

          Usually, a lack of creativity means there is some other unresolved issue I am avoiding dealing with.  That means I really have to face what is bothering me so I can get back to being creative.  For many people the blockage comes from feeling they don’t deserve to spend time on themselves—something I got over a long time ago!

          Q: What is the skill or technique that most intimidates you?

            L: To be perfectly honest, I always feel like my technique could be better.  This is the part of doing what I do that keeps me interested—I am always trying to improve or work more efficiently.  I like to challenge myself by trying new things; working through the challenge is part of the fun for me.

            Q: What’s the best advice you could give to a new quilter?

              L: Embrace the process.  Quilting can be a source of relaxation—for me, sitting at the sewing machine is like meditation.  I put on my favorite music, I close the door, and I let the rest of the world disappear.  Especially in the beginning, quilters are often too hard on themselves—this isn’t perfect or that could be better—and that sabotages their enjoyment of the process.

              I have made and given away lots of quilts in my lifetime and no one has ever given me back a quilt because it wasn’t perfect enough.  Let go of the idea of perfection and just enjoy doing something for yourself—every quilt you make will be better than the one before it.  We all have enough stresses in our lives; quilting doesn’t have to be another one.

              Q: What’s your favorite quilting blog, and why?

              L: Well, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you my favorite blog was my own— I love sharing the things I am working on, and sharing what I know. Writing a blog is like teaching a class, but I get to stay home in my sweatpants.

                Modern Basket Weave Quilt, from 3-Fabric Quilts

                Q: What tool, notion or material can you not live without?

                  L: There are lots of notions I love, but I guess I would have to say my rotary cutter and rulers.  Newer quilters take these simple tools for granted, but I can remember cutting templates and individual pieces of fabric with scissors—time consuming and so inaccurate!  The first log cabin quilt I ever made was king sized and I spent months cutting out each little piece.  When I sewed them together, every block came out a different size.

                  Then one snowy Sunday afternoon, I saw Eleanor Burns on TV making a log cabin quilt using rotary cut strips and strip piecing.  I was in awe.  The next king sized log cabin quilt I made took only a weekend.  Rotary cutting with a ruler is so fast and so accurate; and strip piecing makes the whole process a breeze. 

                  Q: How has quilting changed your life?

                    L: I used to have a real job in the real world, but at one point I made the decision to change my life and start teaching quilting.  That part time job became the beginning of a career I had never imagined—as a fabric artist, author and instructor.  Now, besides teaching in the local quilt shop, I give workshops for quilt guilds in lots of places—including an amazing experience teaching in Taiwan, and a scheduled teaching assignment this summer in Italy.  How is that for a life changer?  (In fact {shameless plug here} if your guild would like me to come teach, speak or do a trunk show of my work, you can contact me via my website

                    My art quilts have been in exhibitions around the country and abroad, I have written three books, write a regular blog and run a monthly quilt group.  I get to share what I love with others, and most importantly, I get to do what I love every day.  Not bad.

                    Don’t forget to visit Leni’s blog to find out more about her and her process. And be sure to pick up your own copy of 3-Fabric Quilts, here at the Martha Pullen store.

                    Leni Levenson Wiener is an art quilter, author and instructor living just outside New York City.  Her work, which has been exhibited across the US and internationally, can best be described as fabric collage with thread painted details.  Photo-realistic in nature, her themes focus mainly on the faces and body language of people caught in ordinary moments of their everyday lives. All of Leni’s pieces begin with a photo or a combination of photos which are translated into commercially available fabric. 

                    Leni has authored three books; Thread Painting (2007), Photo-inspired Art Quilts(2009) and 3-Fabric Quilts (2011).   She lectures and teaches extensively. Please visit her website at for information on workshops, talks and to see more of her work.

                    3 thoughts on “10 Questions with Leni Levenson Wiener

                    1. What a fabulous lady Leni Wiener is!
                      I love her book Photo Inspire Art Quilts.
                      Leni has given me much needed help with my art quilts ~
                      Thanks for the great interview 🙂

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