confessions of a fabric obsessive

Modern Vs Traditional…

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. These two Chur...

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If you go by reading quilting blogs (as I do, because I have very little real life contact with other quilters) you would think that there is a bit of a rivalry between Modern Quilters and Traditional Quilters.

The quilting (stitching joining the top, back and wadding/batting) is often the same (whether hand or machine-stitched), it’s actually the patchwork that is different between the two groups.

Modern Quilters like to use bright punchy colours, geometric designs with a plainer background (including white), just do an image search (see this post from a little while ago if you don’t know, or can’t remember, how to image search) for “typical modern quilts” and you’ll see what I mean.

Here are some of my favourite modern quilts (see more on my pinterest boards here) as ever, hover on the photos for info about them, click on them to see the original blogs/websites

See what I mean about bright colours including white?

Traditional quilters are a bit more of a mixed bag. You can see a lot more muted, earthy tones, a lot more use of patterned fabrics, more symmetrical quilt blocks. Although they have been made recently with modern fabrics, I see a more vintage look to them.

Here are some of my favourite traditional quilts, some of these are antique:

For a more in depth discussion of traditional/modern quilting I going to refer you to Piecemeal Quilts and to the Modern Quilt Guild‘s website.

By the way, in case you are wondering why so many quilting blogs out in blogland are written by US bloggers, quilting is part of the US national psyche. Back when the USA was a British colony, the Brits banned cotton imports from the Old World to the colonies in any ships other than UK registered ones. This meant that wool and linen had to be used for everything and were in short supply. Clothes would be worn until they fell apart, then cut down to make children’s clothes which were worn until they fell apart, and were then cut up and used to make or stuff a quilt.

Winters were cold, blankets were hard to get hold of and expensive to buy, and a quilt made from old clothes and stuffed with paper, leaves or bits of fabric too small to sew would be the difference between a family surviving the winter and not. Little wonder that quilts and quilting bees became popular. In case you never heard of a quilting bee, it’s when female neighbours would gather together and work on one quilt at a time during the warmer weather (like a barn raising but without the barn or the dancing) so that the quilts would be really for use when the temperature dropped.

Curiously enough, if you look at the history of African and African-American Quilting, a lot of the quilt tops produced by these ladies would qualify as modern quilt in their use of colour and pattern. I guess there’s nothing new after all.

These are some of my favourite African American quilts (when I saw some of these I realised that Modern Quilting might not be that modern after all):

If you look at my quilts, you would think (as I do) that I’m a modern quilt kinda gal. So, what do I want more than any other quilt, and I know I won’t ever be good enough to make one for myself?

A Double Wedding Ring quilt.

About as traditional a pattern as you can get. To me the double wedding ring pattern always has a traditional and vintage look to it (which I adore) no matter how bright and funky the colours.

An old one,

a new one,

a borrowed one (well I'd borrow it!),

a blue one.

Want,want, WANT!!

Claire Bear

Cover of "Surviving the Winter: The Evolu...English: Decorative Indian-style quilt textile...

19 responses to “Modern Vs Traditional…

  1. Marti December 24, 2011 at 22:08

    I’m honored that you chose to include my grandmother’s quilt. It’s one of my favorites too. I didn’t know the history about England banning imported fabric to the colonies and the resulting small pieces left for quilts. Makes more sense than cutting up perfectly good pieces of fabric, doesn’t it? lol

    I don’t have many real life quilting friends either, so quilt bloggers are my sources for techniques, ideas, and support.

    • Handmade by Claire Bear December 25, 2011 at 10:59

      It does make sense, doesn’t it. In the UK during WW2 people were encouraged to make blankets out of sheets of brown paper sewn together, as fabric was short then too.

      • giannis March 1, 2012 at 12:22

        Improv quilting is a wonderful release for me. This is a lot of what I do. However, I feel that I also improv with my own patterns as well. Working from my photos, then sketches, then drawing patterns, I begin the process but always change the pattern and do lots of free piecing as I go in order to make it feel right in my eyes. I have, at long last given up the pressure of what someone else would think or do . As much as I enjoy seeing what everyone else has done and often thinking “I want to make one of those” I am high on following where ever my mind/eyes/heart leads and putting myself into each piece I make.

    • iva March 1, 2012 at 03:14

      I get into an awful space sometimes with myself when I go to galleries & then start questioning what I’m doing with :Why don’t I learn to do THIS technique? Or why can’t I be like THAT? Until I come to my senses and remind myself to be true to MYSELF. And the truer I am to myself, the better the work as an expression of me.I’ve been thinking about you a lot today because I went back to your tutorial page about binding, and I am having a 2nd go at it. I struggle with BULK, but guess you do too. I am working with bias strips on the edge, and wondering if you use bias when finishing. I’m finishing off the eye candy pieces now. I’ve decided to go a 2nd time to Maui Quilt Guild. Last time I harvested such incredible books I thought I’d go again. I quilted up my piece for Erica, my daughter who has been through such an awful journey and taken the family with her. I love it that a friend allows me to drive his free motion machine and I am gradually getting used to it. All the best to you. Iva

      • Handmade by Claire Bear March 1, 2012 at 10:00

        Iva, I know what you mean about seeing other people’s work and wanting to be able to do it too. I have to hang on to what I can do already and maybe add extra skills as I get the opportunity. I want to do things well, and learning practical skills is a slow process involving a lot of practice, a lot of mistakes and a lot of unpicking. I use bias tape to edge all of my quilts and have found a number of useful tutorials online. Feel free to hop over to my Tutorial pintrest board http://pinterest.com/clairebearmade/ and see if there is anything that helps.
        Best wishes to your daughter.

    • Krista March 1, 2012 at 14:44

      What a great quilt, there are so many variations on that string piecing method. I love it! To answer your question, no you are not the only one who is daunted by a quilt of that size. I have several tops that are full/queen size waiting to be sandwiched, pinned and quilted. I keep telling myself that someday I will send them out to be quilted, or once I have moved on from this life, someone sweet will find them in a thrift store, take them home and give them new life (which is what I do with a lot of my fabric and quilts) So for now I enjoy all the lap size quilts that I have made that are lying around the house.

  2. Don December 26, 2011 at 19:42

    Have read a couple of of the articles on your web site now, and I truly like your style of blogging. I added it to my favourites blog web site list and will probably be checking back soon.

  3. Pingback: Ever thought of Quilting? « Diannajessie

  4. Mondoza February 14, 2012 at 05:49

    Excellent . I really like what you have got right here, really like what you’re saying and the way in which you are saying it. You’re making it enjoyable and you still care for to stay it sensible. I can not wait to learn much more from you.

    • Michelle March 1, 2012 at 07:46

      ClaireBear, I am emotionally invested in each and every quilt I make. If I do make something where there is no investment, I am never happy with it nor does it make me happy. I have to FEEL that ephemeral mix of what the quilt wants, what I need from the process, and how the colors want to play together. What that happens, the direction is 100% clear and absolutely wonderful. I’ve tried to be random, and I can be. I am liberated and am glad to be free of mass-produced kits. But I am always aware of and searching for that deeper connection with my fabrics.I have always considered myself an intuitive quilter. Like Improv, there are lots of definitions for intuitive. But, for me, state of mind and emotional connection to the process are key. Interesting post and conversations ~ I’ll be watching for your Improv thoughts!!

    • Aliva March 1, 2012 at 16:14

      So maybe I am weird but I think discipline provides/INVITES freedom. I know the word discipline often conjures the image of rigidity. But I think when you are focused (disciplined) in the practice of your craft you actually create the space to be free/er to leap to create. Jazz is the perfect analogy. When I think of what Charlie Parker or Ella Fitzgerald or Lizz Wright can do with a note WHEW! But the thing is they couldn’t start there. It took time for mastery before they developed their unique voice. And I love your comments about feeling/sensing the quilter through her work. I feel very present in my work. I am currently writing about creativity as an embodied experience for the artist and for the viewer . . .

  5. Rizwana March 1, 2012 at 14:16

    I have just begun using straight line quilting on some smaller tops, and it DOES seem to take just forever. When I think about breaking it up to do another project in between, that one UFO just sits on my conscience. I also use my home machine, so I checked out that book with diagonal quilting mentioned up above. I found it for $1.50 at Amazon, so it’s on its way to me as I speak. That has always been a big problem, no matter what kind of quilting you’re doing. That smaller one of yours looks so beautiful; think about how lovely the big one will look next year at this time. *S*

  6. Jamilya March 1, 2012 at 21:15

    About being present. I think the best improv quilts are the ones where the maker was presenting the design, fabric, and color choices. I think that finding one’s voice is separate from improvisational quilting. Improv could be part of your voice, but then again, it might not. I know that my artistic voice includes some improvisational piecing. But it also includes some collage, some stitchery, a desire to balance (or contrast) control and chaos, and a general willingness to let the message dictate the style. I didn’t find this through improv quilting, improv quilting found me through the voice I was developing.

  7. Carmel Colsch April 6, 2012 at 12:09

    just wanted to say fantastic blog!

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