Product Design

A Minnesota-Based Company with a Modern Take on Quilting

March  6, 2017

"We’re at an age where people are connecting to stories. Quilts have that."

That's Alexandra Gray Bennett, one of the founders behind Louise Gray, whose quilts (and pillows and prints) we're now carrying in our Shop—a striking combination of modern design and age-old tradition. I spoke with Alexandra to learn more about Louise Gray and how she and her business partner, Jocelin Johnson, saw an opportunity to revive an appreciation for quiltmaking for today's consumer.

Quilting was a part of Alexandra's family background: her mom was and still is a quilter. After meeting at another consumer goods company, Alexandra and Jocelin recognized that handmade quilts are increasingly hard to come by; the non-family heirlooms are usually made to order. The two began to envision what a modern representation of this traditional art form could look like. They wanted to create something that wouldn't just be put away in a trunk, but something that could enhance the room in which it lives.

From the outset, a huge part of Louise Gray's philosophy was an emphasis on handmade and domestic production. Nearly every part of their process is done locally. Minneapolis is the home base for their design studio; it's where the quilts are made and where almost all of their packaging is sourced and produced. Supporting their local community and economy has been extremely important to Alexandra and Jocelin—and, as Alexandra noted, it's much more fun to manage the company when you can see each piece of the puzzle come together in person.

The six artisans that make the quilts are all local seamstresses and quilters. The rest of Louise Gray's team is small but mighty. Jocelin is the Creative Director; Alexandra manages sales, press, and media; and Alexandra's mother is the Production Director—with her background in quilting, she bridges the gap between design and production to ensure that their designs can actually be realized.

The three of them currently work from a spare bedroom in Alexandra's apartment (sounds like the beginnings of another company we know...). They'll be moving into their first official office space in July. Alexandra says she is looking forward to having her sewing machine on her desk—that way designs can be quickly prototyped on the spot, to see how pattern and color are coming together.

Louise Gray launches collections twice a year and all of their design work is done in-house. For each collection, Jocelin comes up with a number of designs, which then go through multiple rounds of review in order to get the balance of colors and proportions just right. The design process can take up to two months and once the quilt patterns are decided upon, they go into production.

It could take a quilter days to make a quilt from start to finish. Each person on the Louise Gray "assembly line" is specialized in their specific task, so they're able to make multiple quilts at a time. That means the person piecing the front together, the person sandwiching the batting, the person doing the binding, and so on, has one job only. And that one job is done incredibly carefully and skillfully.

Those who know the kind of work that goes into making a handmade quilt will understand why, though no small dent in your pocketbook, Louise Gray's quilts are a worthy investment. Louise Gray employs local laborers at a fair wage and uses U.S.A.-sourced fabrics—their price points reflect their ability to support those decisions. They've received a lot of interest from young professionals and plan to make smaller quilts with a lower price point in the future, in hopes of allowing more people the opportunity to welcome Louise Gray's designs into their homes.

In addition to their handmade quilts, Louise Gray designs and sells Quilt Hangers in handsome hickory or walnut, so you can use their Throw Quilts a stunning wall hanging. They also sell their quilt patterns in print-form, if you've got a smaller budget or a smaller swath of wall to fill.

New year, new designs, new inspiration...💭

A post shared by Louise Gray (@louisegray_studio) on

Alexandra mentions "mindful consumerism," and what that means to their company: Instead of purchasing thoughtlessly, Louise Gray hopes to educate consumers on why buying handmade and local matters, especially when it's something that will last. A Louise Gray quilt is a piece of art to be passed down to your children, your children's children, and so forth—for generations of cozy.

Do you have a quilt that's been a part of your family for years? Weave us your tale below.

Eds note: This article's headline and text has been updated to reflect inaccuracies and feedback from our community.

11 Comments

Helena March 7, 2017
A curious question. Isn't this a sponsored article? Don't you use any tags saying 'sponsored content' or similar?
 
Amanda S. March 7, 2017
Hi Helena! Not a sponsored article—it's just a story we wanted to tell about one of the makers whose pieces are newly launched in our shop. Olivia clarified that we're selling these pieces right at the start of the article, and it's tagged as "the shop" up top as well. Hope that clears it up!
 
Helena March 7, 2017
Ah, thank you - and thanx for quick reply :-) Just curious, lots of different rules in different countries. <br />
 
Frank P. March 7, 2017
I've been quilting for over 30 years and it wasn't passed down to me. I've taught hundreds of students, made and sold countless quilts, and have made a living quilting other people's tops for years. Guilds, shows, and retreats devoted to quilts and the art of quilting are on the rise, and definitely NOT "dying", as the article clearly states. Regardless of intention, words matter, and yours were insulting. You know what is a dying art? Scrimshaw. Not quilting. How dare you. And 6-8 hours to make a quilt from start to finish? Maybe a cheap, uninspired quilt. Another dying art is investigative journalism. How about getting into that, instead of trashing the livelihood of hard working people like me?
 
Alix March 7, 2017
Great comment Frank - 6-8 hours to make a quilt? Maybe if it's whole cloth and you're just sandwiching it together. Definitely not dying. What is dying (I think) is people's willingness to pay a fair price for a unique, handmade item. They're so used to getting cheap crap from low-paid workers in foreign countries that they've lost sight of what a real quilt is really worth. Denyse Schmidt anyone?
 
Karen March 6, 2017
Quilting has always been referred to as a dying art because it's a handmade craft. Learning to sew in school is sadly, a thing of the past so if you don't grow up in a family lucky enough to have a quilter (or more) it's something you have to actively seek out. Quilting is thriving today and there is a huge supportive and inspirational quilting community on Instagram. Etsy is full of shops with handmade quilts and for the price of the quilts in your article you can commission one to be made for you where you can pick out the fabrics yourself or leave it to your gifted quilt maker. As the other commenters said, quilt guilds are thriving, local quilt shops have beginner to advanced classes, and there are blogs and tutorials galore. The reality is that quilting has never been more accessible. Kudos to these ladies for their talent and business!!! Let's be honest though, this is still assembly line quilting albeit on a smaller scale unlike a quilt made with love from start to finish for someone special.<br />
 
babsdavis March 6, 2017
Ack--tired of the current blasé grey and white decorating scheme. Yawn--lifeless.<br />
 
Emily March 6, 2017
This seems like a great company. However, quilting is not dying, not something you need to learn from your lineage, and not necessarily old fashioned. Modern and innovative designs flourish in the modern hobby quilt world, and are very accessible. I applaud this company for offering a sustainable and fair product, as an alternative to other ready made quilts, but the framing of this article is insulting.
 
Rachelb3 March 6, 2017
Agree so much. Modern approaches to this traditional craft are flourishing around the country. The Modern Quilt Guild hosts a popular annual conference and quilt show, and there are over 150 local MQG chapters around the country and many internationally as well. Members of my local guild span the decades in ages and quilting experience. Some learned from their mothers and grandmothers while others have been recently inspired to pick up the hobby with no previous familial connections or experience. I also teach a beginning quilting class at my local fiber store that has been consistently popular for several years running. Definitely not dying.
 
Author Comment
Olivia B. March 6, 2017
Not trying to insult all the amazing quilters out there! Glad to see there is so much love for this amazing art, and hopefully your comments will inspire those not familiar with quilting to seek it out if they are interested. Only have the utmost respect for what you all are doing, and apologies if it seems otherwise.
 
Brenna March 6, 2017
I was coming to say the same thing! If anything, quilting has made a comeback in the last 10-15yrs. And the modern quilting world is amazing! There are so many amazing artists out there right now who use fabric and thread. Its not just smiling snowmen and country fabrics any longer.