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I love all things sewing!  It's all about the creative journey.  All my blog posts are letters to my sewing alter-ego - Lola!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Modern, New - Where Do I Fit Into Quilting?

Dear Lola,
I recently attended the Sewing and Quilt Expo held in Raleigh, NC from June 21 – 23, 2012.  It was a new event to the Raleigh area.  Wow!  It was “sew” much fun.  I took 5 fabulous classes; watched countless in-booth demonstrations; viewed the Quilt Alliance’s travelling competition and exhibition Home is Where the Quilt Is; saw lots of my favorite sewing sisters; and walked until I practically wore out my shoes! 

How fun that my friend Sandi Shover won a really nice embroidery/sewing machine from Brother!  The event seemed to be well attended and the planners of the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo promise to return to the Raleigh Convention Center next year.  Yippee!

There were vendor booths inside the main Expo Hall representing far away places and local favorites.  The displays were inspiring and thought-provoking.  Anyone who attended would be hard pressed to say there wasn’t something for everyone!  I saw many new-fangled sewing tools displayed along side the tried and true.  It was great to meet new people and see local friends like Elegant Stitches.  The classrooms were filled with fancy new machines, video presentations and enthusiastic students from all walks of life.  The class topics covered a broad range of sewing and quilting including heirloom techniques, handwork, garment construction, traditional quilting and art quilting. 

I particularly loved and ultimately purchased some of the really cool rulers from Studio 180/Deb Tucker.  The demos are what really sold me on these rulers!  It was great to learn that my local quilt shop Wish Upon A Quilt carries these rulers too.  I know I will want more than just the two I purchased.  If I had only owned the Wing Clipper Ruler, I might had a much better time with my flying geese that I blogged about a few weeks ago! 

I broke down and bought myself a really good cutting mat from Martelli that was an excellent price for the show.  I have already noticed my cutting is “sew” improved by using it! I came home with a bundle of bright batiks that were graduated in color to use in my projects that I learned from Frieda Anderson.

Friday evening, I attended an event “Quilters Take Raleigh” to benefit the Quilt Alliance and won a gift bag from Free Spirit/Westminster Fabrics.  I got to meet some of the “Rock Stars” of the Quilt World including Jodie Davis, John Adams, Tula Pink, Beth Hayes, Christine Zoller, Holice Turnbow (sorry to call you a “Rock Star” Holice), and Pepper Cory.  The event launched a new project – “Go Tell It At the Quilt Show” and showcased stories of quilters, family quilts and the personal importance of these quilts.  Janice Pope's BFF Round Robin Quilt Story brought tears to my eyes.  The quilt is stunning and so colorful just like Janice!

John Adams of Quilt Dad moderated the panel in the discussion of “Trendspotting Across the Quilt World”.  While this seems like a fairly benign topic - This is when the conversation got heated and interesting. 

As someone who reads whatever I can about sewing and quilting, I have seen many articles and books lately regarding “Modern Quilting”.  I had no idea however, that there appears to be debate about the methods used by “Modern Quilters” to piece their quilts together; choose their fabrics, and ultimately quilt the sandwich. 

Judging these “Modern” quilts in shows and events creates some friction in the “Quilt World”.  It appears from the discussion that the “Modern Quilt Movement” is viewed by “quilt purists” as something that is not truly a representation of “real, authentic quilting”.  The simple, clean designs used by “Modern Quilters” were criticized by some members of the audience for failing to meet “standards” that have been used for judging quilts in shows for years.

As a relative “newbie”, I cannot speak to the rules of quilting, showing quilts, and the history of quilts, I can however let you know that I was disappointed by this heated debate about what really makes a quilt a quilt!  The whole event was intended to celebrate quilts, encourage documenting quilts and share the history of quilters and their quilts.  The Quilt Alliance is a non-profit organization looking for new members to help their mission.

I realize that quilters who enter their quilts in competitive shows need rules and regulations to make the contests fair for all the entrants.  All competition requires fair play, but when you add elitism to the mix – the competition stops being fun to watch!  The foundation of competitive quilting starts with the “newbie” or people like me.  While I doubt I will ever enter a serious quilt show, each quilt I make is competing with the quilts that came before it.  I am looking to improve my techniques and increase the overall technical difficulty.  Although I am sure there will always be some “quick” quilts in my mix for gift giving or charity.  I am, however, looking to compete – at least with myself!  I am sure there are other newbies out there who will eventually compete for “real” in shows and contests.

An oversimplified correlation to the heated discussion of the evening would be comparing and contrasting a painting by Michelangelo against a painting by Picasso - comparing a painting by Andy Warhol and Leonardo DaVinci.  These artists and their works all have a place in the history of art. Hanging them in a gallery next to one another helps us understand the entire spectrum of art.

Why not make our mutual journey into all that encompasses quilting inclusive?  Why not create a world of quilting that celebrates the simple beauty of creativity without animosity?  The collaborative spirit that is at of the core of what art represents should encourage all comers to leave any elitism at the door. 

I thought it was really amazing to have someone like Holice Turnbow in the same room as someone like Tula Pink.  I loved seeing the antique North Carolina “Cheddar” quilt presented by Brenda Brickhouse that has been in her family for generations right along side my dear friend Cathy McKillip’s very modern, Perfect Ten Quilt.  There is a place for both of these quilts in the same room at the same time. 

I am so happy that there are so many choices for me to make as a newbie.  I can learn traditional quilting, modern quilting, art quilting, and all the mutations in-between.  I can choose to do it by hand, or machine, or a combination of both.  I can dye my own fabrics, purchase them, or repurpose clothing items. 

Since, I am in my fifties, I don’t really meet the definition of a “Next Gen” quilter.  Some people seem to think “Modern Quilters” are “Young Quilters”  – so that rules me out of that category.  To be honest – do I have to fit neatly into a category?  Do I have to choose one type of quilting over another?  Can’t I appreciate all of it for the joy it brings so many others and me?  Quilts aren’t just for hanging in museums to be preserved; they are for covering our loved ones in beauty and warmth.  Quilts and quilting are reflections of creativity, self-expression, devotion to craft.  I don’t think anyone should ever act like quilting is some exclusive club that only allows perfectionists to join.  I’m guessing that even Michelangelo and DaVinci were beginners once.  Their art may have even been thought of as “Modern” once upon a time!

I am giving myself permission to love it all, encourage it all and learn from it all.  I’m glad we aren’t still sewing with bone fragments for needles and catgut for thread.  Thank God, we continue to improve and modernize.  As we expand our horizons, we can still embrace and revere the past.  We can keep one foot in the past, our heart in the present and our eye on the future.

Sew to sum it up – As opposed to being a Modern Quilter - I am a quilter in a Modern World – and I am NEW quilter as opposed to a YOUNG quilter AND it’s ALL GOOD!  Be kind to each other, being part of the collaborative spirit of sewing and quilting is good for the soul.  Every quilt can be a masterpiece to someone and every quilter can create their own personal masterpiece.  Quilting - ONE SIZE FITS ALL!

Hugs and stitches,