Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Modern quilting -- what is it?

I wrote last week about a new "blogzine," Generation Q Magazine, that is going to cover "modern quilting."  I'm intrigued by this concept, and wonder exactly what it is.  Last week we learned that in modern quilting there's "more going on than bold, graphic quilts with a lot of solids and wonky cuts."

This week we learn more.  "It’s about quilting that has a more contemporary aesthetic.... It’s for people who are interested in quilting that breaks the rules… we don’t want to be confined by tradition."

The article is framed as a phone conversation between the with-it 34-year-old heroine/writer and her painfully not-with-it mom, who keeps interrupting to wonder when daughter is going to get pregnant, worry that she's hanging out with lesbians and Democrats at the modern quilting guild, and report that at mom's good old-fashioned quilt guild, everybody has either a cane or a wheelchair. (I'm not making this up.)

Daughter eventually despairs at getting Mom to understand.   Finally she wails, "Look, I can’t explain to you what modern quilting is. But remember when you were in high school and the music you listened to started changing? And your parents didn’t understand it, because it wasn’t what they were used to, but you knew it wasn’t just different, it was yours? It was like it was meant for you. It fit you and your life and they way the world had changed since your parents were teenagers. And now you still love to rock out to Jerry Lee Lewis and Bill Haley, but you also love the crooners your parents listened to. You had your own thing, but it was based on what came before, and you embrace them both. It’s like that."

Bill Haley and His Comets -- breaking the rules by standing on the bass

So if I can parse this explanation, I think that modern quilting is for young people who don't want to have much to do with old people and want to break the rules.  Plato and Socrates would recognize these yearnings, which were already kind of cliches three millenia back.

I'm not sure exactly which rules they want to break, or which traditions they find confining.  Still hoping to find out something a bit more specific, and still wondering whether by any chance anything about my own work and the work of other quilters I admire could be considered modern.  Since this is the internet and not a real quilt guild, the young folks wouldn't even have to find out that we're old. 

In case you don't want to read the blog every day, I'll keep an eye on it and let you know what I discover.


  1. Thanks Kathleen for this post - it made me grin. At age 44, I consider myself no longer young (young at heart of course - guess I'm barely 20 when it comes to that!) but I'm still one of the youngest in my quilt guilds. Maybe what lays at the bottom of the "modern quilt" discussion is where young quilters want to start their journey. They use the internet naturally (I had to learn it ...) and maybe the idea of "sew a sampler in nicely coordinated fabrics first, so you can learn all those important things about correct patchwork" just makes them yawn. What I see when I look at websites / blogs that are named "something modern" are mostly easy patterns in a contemporary colour palette. And they make nice and wonderful quilts out of it. I keep asking myself where will those 20- to 30-something years old quilters be in 10 years? I'm pretty sure a lot of them will have moved on to another craft. But some of them ... might become wonderful art quilters. Looking forward to see them emerging ;-))

  2. Once I heard a college student humming a Petula Clark song. "Oh, so you know Petula Clark?" "Yes...I'm a music history major." Ouch! I think you're right about blogland--although you can pick out trends or groups, still it can be anonymous which is leveling, making it somewhat democratic.

  3. LOL! When I read that I gasped. I wanted to leave a sarcastic comment, but sat on my hands instead. I too am wondering about those rules. What rules are left to break?

  4. Oh, well, that’s just another way of saying, “I couldn’t sew a straight line if you paid me, so I’m going to pretend I did it on purpose.” You don’t need a guild for that, honey.


    Gerrie, me too.

  5. I am amused how the young who sew think they are reinventing everything i.e. making you own clothes, accessories and home decorating.
    I think the young are like that with everything they attempt.
    In fact I think I may have been like that myself when young.
    It is refreshing and amusing to see their approach to life in general.
    Cheers Jan

  6. "maybe the idea of "sew a sampler in nicely coordinated fabrics first, so you can learn all those important things about correct patchwork" just makes them yawn."

    I'm 58 (and have been sewing clothes since high school--not very well) and it makes me yawn. I'm not actually quilting anything, just doing patchwork, so maybe my technical flaws don't matter as much. I'm definitely doing art, not practical stuff, so if I can get it to look the way I want it to, that's what counts.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  7. Great post.....I have a hard time believing our creative talent has anything to do with how old we are. I was tempted to comment on that patronizing phone interview but thought better of it. I like your take on this stuff.

  8. Just checked out the authors blog.
    Been quilting for three years.
    Not a lot of sewing.
    A desire to get her humour published.
    Don't think there will be too much serious discussion.
    As one comment on the article said,"Get over yourself".

  9. I also had to sit on my hands. Perhaps she has a hard time explaining "it" because there's not much to explain. Simple, bold, and graphic has been around forever.

  10. Sincere thanks for this post.

    I'll let you read this blog for me.

  11. oh dear, here we go again. It's hard for me to read both the article in the ezine and this post and comments. I am a modern quilter, I have gray hair (more than a few), and this article doesn't speak to me or about me. It pains me to see a movement which is bringing more folks, both young and old, male and female, into the art of quilting, represented and talked about this way. However we self identify as quilters we shouldn't let others define us. Wouldn't it be a good thing to support each other as quilters, no matter our aesthetic or quilting philosophy. Please don't let one post, or one site define a movement.

  12. Jacquie -- I'm with you in terms of not letting one site define a movement. I'm not even sure there is a movement but I'm trying to figure that out.

  13. I am a little late to the post but I thought this so called movement seemed weird. Thank you for your explaination. I still only see thing as either black or white. I guess the gray or gay fabric represented something else.