What is modern quilting? As a traditional quilter I’ve never really gave it a second thought. Occasionally I see a quilt and I think “that’s modern”. The use of gray backgrounds or traditional blocks made with solid fabrics seem to be a clue. Though not all the blocks in a modern quilt are traditional. Many blocks are more organic in the style of a Gees Bend quilt. But how is a Gees Bend quilt modern? They weren’t even recently constructed. It all boggles the mind, yet I still feel the need to know and so I went looking for an answer to what modern is.
This is what the modern quilt guild has to say.
“Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. “Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.”
So according to that little blurb, my latest baby quilt is just that, modern.
How did this happen? I thought I was a traditionalist. Am I still a traditionalist? I seem to have checked more that one of those modern boxes. Bold colors, high contrast, expansive negative space and alternate grid work.
Gees Bend quilts influence the modern quilter. They can influence any quilter! How they used fabric to make a blanket to provide warmth. I don’t think their first intention was to make art. It was a necessity first. But make art they did. Or were they just being frugal? They say necessity is the mother of invention. As a child I made up stories to go along with my village of stick people. At the time I was unaware of my lack of toys, I just made do and I was happy.
As a teenager I became aware of those around me with fancier name brand clothes, newer cars and “normal” homes. I was embarrassed of my Kmart clothes but once again necessity knocked and I learned to sew many of my own clothes, which several girls seemed to be impressed by.
My Grandparents car was big and old compared to the 80’s smaller cars. Fast forward to today when my son tells me that their car was a muscle car and he would have loved to have it.
Then there was my Grandparents home. A very small simple shack they bought in 1943. Over the years my Grandfather added several additions to that shack. Sure it will never be considered “normal” but it has it’s charm and it means a lot to me.
Isn’t it funny how our perceptions change?
When I first started quilting, I thought all quilts should be made from one line of fabric. I thought they didn’t “match” unless all the fabrics were related. Now I really have a hard time “not” using everything, as long as it matches in color.
I used to think that a house with a matching couch, love seat and recliners were the ultimate in home interiors. Now I couldn’t stand to be in such a sterile room. Give me patterns, as long as they match in color.
But back to modern quilting, isn’t it a statement of being frugal? Fewer fabrics and simple lines. Doesn’t this all add up to making do and being frugal? This is what the Gees Bend quilters did. I did it too, with my binding. Sure I could have bought more fabric but why not just use up the strips that were cut away? This would have made my Grandmother so proud! Once I made a doll and I glued the dress to her. Yes I GLUED her dress to her! My Grandmother learned me a lesson with that example. I learned that that doll would forever have that dress and I couldn’t even change it even when it got dirty. I learned that lesson real good! Slipcovers became my new motto, for everything!
Scraps, even if I can’t see the use of them (at that moment) can later become the best piece for applique. So now I ask, is it frugal or hoarding?
Today I can see the charm in all things old. I could literally go back in time and kick my teenage shelf for not seeing the beauty in things!
Gees bend quilts may not be my cup of tea but there is a beauty in them, a love that can be seen by the work they put into these quilts for their loved ones. A quilt is a real work of love, be it of sewing, creating, for a family member or just the fabrics themselves. That’s me to a “T”.
This quilt may not be my favorite but I learned something new and I did enjoy creating a new quilt for a soon to be arriving baby, there is nothing sweet than that!
(except maybe this!)
Every quilt is an expression of ourselves, it just can’t be helped. We put our love into a quilt and that shows every time someone admires it. But you and I know just how simple this quilt really is! But we will lie and tell everyone how long and hard we worked on it, at least I will so don’t give me away!
Sorry for the long post, these were just the thoughts that were going through my mind while I sewed a bunch of straight lines.
One thing I learned about myself in this process was that I will always think of modern quilting as frugal. That and I will always enjoy quilting in any style.
Take care my friends, Brandie