A multicolored quilt, each section representing a different book the designer read that year.
The completed quilt.

This quilt was created using the data from all the books I read in 2023. It measures roughly 11×16 inches, was assembled on my sewing machine, and quilted by hand.

I would place this piece squarely in the “data art” camp – I wanted the colors and patterns to mean something, but I didn’t need those meanings to be immediately obvious to a viewer. Instead, I like the idea of hanging this on my living room wall and being able to regale my unwitting guests with the origin story of the data that created the structure of this fabric.

But for those curious souls who can’t stumble upon this in real life, here is the story of how it came to exist.

I have wanted to incorporate fiber arts into my work for a while, and this felt like a great chance to try making a quilt. I decided on my books-read data because I used it for a “quantified self” project last year, knowing it would be straightforward and yet personally unique to me.

A multicolored quilt, each section representing a different book the designer read that year. The top right-most section is highlighted.
The colorful blocks in the center represent the books and the brown border is a simple frame.

Each square on the quilt represents one book I read in 2023. The books start on the top right and are listed from left to right, row by row, organized by the date I finished reading them.

The pink highlighted square is the fourth book I read last year out of 28 total.

Book Genre

I used color to indicate the genre of the book. For this, I created a palette of 6 color families, each with several different fabric tones so I could break up each square into parts. These color families aren’t perfectly the same hue because I was using fabrics I already had.

A breakdown of each quilt square broken down by the correlating genre to each book, where fantasy had 8 books, contemporary fiction had 7 books, data visualization had 5 books, historical fiction had 4 books, romance had 3 books and thriller had 1 book.
Book genre chart.

Fantasy is a favorite genre of mine. I also read a lot of data visualization and data-related books in 2023 for my master’s, with them being the only non-fiction books I read.

The lone thriller book was one I read for book club and might be the first I’ve read in the genre!

Book Length

I encoded the book-length based on the 100’s of pages in each book. Since none of the books contained fewer than 100 pages, I started the encoding at 100 where a solid square represents 100-200 pages; a square broken into two fabric halves represents 200-300 pages, etc.

This was the most challenging part to quilt. I’m a very new quilter, so piecing together small fabric pieces and keeping track of which color went where was tricky! I made myself a guide in Figma that laid out all the squares, their colors, and their shape so I could make sure I didn’t mess this part up.

A breakdown of each section of the quilt, separated by number of pages the correlated book had, where 2 books had more than 100 pages, 5 books had more than 200 pages, 13 books had more than 300 pages, 7 books had more than 400 pages and 1 book had more than 500 pages.
Stacking up the quilt blocks shows trends in book length.

Most of the books I read were between 300-400 pages. One particularly long book, The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, was 582 pages long.

Publish Date

Although I didn’t choose to represent this in my quilt, something else fun I discovered during this data exploration is that 8 of the books I read in 2023 were published in the same year! This was new for me and happened because I started using the subscription service Book of the Month. Many of the books they offer are new releases so it was a great way to discover books by up-and-coming authors.

Individual squares with 8 of them highlighted, designated them as having been published in 2023.
Books published in 2023 are highlighted.

It makes sense that these are relatively evenly spaced throughout the year as I got a new book delivered every month.

Closing Thoughts

This project was a bucket list item and I can’t wait to make another quilt project! The teeny quilt turned out with such a squishy and yummy texture – I love it. The data also helped me get over my design fatigue and just follow the template (generated by data and some simple rules) instead of waiting for inspiration to strike and improvise a quilt design.

Each section of the quilt deconstructed, placed into 6 color piles correlating to a specific genre.
Assembling the color palettes by genre
Three photos showing the deconstruction to constructed squares to be put into the quilt.
Assembling the quilt blocks into a quilt top.
A close up of the constructed quilt.
Getting ready to hand-quilt the quilt top, batting, and backing fabric together.

Luisa enjoys finding ways to tell stories and create art with data. She’s currently a graduate student at MICA studying data visualization and information design. When she’s not on a screen designing, coding, or wrangling data, she’s likely reading and sipping coffee, enjoying nature, or chipping away at her goal of creating a hand-made wardrobe.