Sunday, April 18, 2010

Musings on quilting

Have been musing about quilting. I see the new "modern" quilt trend as an extenuation of Depression Era quilt. So many quilters think of pastel wedding rings and grandmother's flower gardens. They were just the most common patterns people used. Partly because they had the time to hand piece due to reduced incomes, more time at home and the desire to return to a past that lived mostly in nostalgia. Many of these quilts were best quilts and weren't given the used of everyday quilts. This is why so many have survived in such great condition.

However, there was so much more during the 30's and 40's. Many innovative blocks designs influenced by art deco style and the burgeoning quilt industry. Most of these blocks I have never seen in actual quilts. I think the designers were ahead of the times. It seems that many of these designs are still being consigned to oblivion. Mainly, it is lack of availability of these blocks that keeps many of them unused. Personally, I could spend the rest of my life making variations of Nancy Cabot blocks.

Then as now commercial patterns and those published in women's (today quilting)magazines are the most commonly reproduced. Block and quilt patterns need to appeal to many people to have the publisher of the pattern to make a profit.
This is not bad and I applaud those who make businesses out of their quilting skills, but it does narrow the field of choices. There are still many choices a quilter has to make a pattern her/his own. This is good too as it helps many people feel creative with the bounds of their imagination.

When many of us started around the time of the bicentennial calicos were the mainstay and then with better dyes and printing techniques patterns on fabric went wild. Then came designer fabrics, it started slowly and has snowballed in to coordinating lines of fabric which help most people with color choices. Now the movement has turned to solids as a reaction to busy, busy prints and quilts with little contrast. Finally a place to rest the eye before moving on to other parts of the quilt. Glad I saved all those solids from years ago, but I will have to say I didn't think they would ever come back.

In recent the reproduction fabrics got browner and browner. So the quilts got mushier and mushier. It seemed like a was to escape color choice. No quilter from long ago wanted a brown quilt; you lived with brown all fall and winter why wouldn't you like to have a colorful quilt to brighten a room. They loved color!! and they had such a limited palate. They mostly used white muslin to add some contrast to make the design pop out. There are even those who defied convention in their quilt designs (probably in utility quilts) and look as though they had fun. I think they would be appalled to see their common designs so dull when there is so much color out there. They loved Turkey Red, used Perkin's Purple (mauve from first aniline dye)and embraced the new dyes plus old dyes like indigo and madder. They loved printed patterns and were delighted with the new calicos available to everyday women.

Now we have the "modern" quilt movement. A movement away from brown and very busy prints to a modern group of pastels. A very interesting group of coral pinks, aquas, neither too yellow or too blue greens. They do appear very fresh and refreshing.
The prints remind me of the 50's and early 60's.

Also, their seems to be movement beyond the conventional block pattern ( blocks that are not symmetrical or use different shapes like a diamond). Interestingly the blocks are often put together in grids with or without sashing. There is more improvisation within the "block" format. Many of the "modern" quilters are young and have absorbed the best of the 30or so years of quilting. I understand the feeling of wanting to "break away" from the past, but we all stand on our creative foremothers shoulders. The new builds on the past and pushes it farther along, but there is so much in the past worth keeping that it doesn't go away. You just see a new perspective. After spending much time studying old quilts and their history, there isn't anything that someone else hasn't tried. It follows the old saw the more things change the more they stay the same.

Interestingly too, the blocks that people are making are vaiations on known patterns: Dresden plates, log cabins,shoofly, crosses, free-pieced squares,
Again new ideas are sprouting from quilts gone by. They have changed perspectives and added to the creative spirit of all quilters. I think quilters will be around for a long time to come!!


  1. Great musings! As usual you are dead on with your thoughts. I think the modern movement into quilting is sort of a reaction to modern women (and men) wanting something tangible to do. Some project that has a beginning and an end. And a hobby that encourages social interaction with like-minded individuals. I love quilting. I made my first quilt top in 1981 when I was in high school. Then made an occasional baby quilt. But the fabrics were very limited and as my life changed, I drifted away. My Mom has sewn forever and she got back into quilting in the late 1980's, hand piecing and quilting. Then my son grew up and I needed something to do to fill the time, so my mom gave me a new sewing machine for Christmas. And the quilts started to invade my dreams! Quilts are necessary for warmth, but the artistry of quilts is necessary for our souls. Even people who do not like art, love and understand quilts. I am very grateful for the Modern Quilt movement.

  2. I'm so glad you posted the Bonnie, you know my thoughts as we discussed this... SO many good points in here...
    Your artist in my book!

  3. Hello, I think the Modern Quilt movement is a sign for a new generation of quilters appearing. In our part of the world we say "Nur alte Weiber quilten". I would be happy to hand over my passion to younger women. Greetings from Vienna! Elisabeth