Mar 17, 2013

A Study in Contrasts

That sneak peek project is finished - well, at least the top is done. Now it is on to the quilting. I had an epiphany yesterday as I was pressing the top. I thought to myself- are you crazy? How in the world would you have the strength to hand quilt this! The fabrics are densely woven- think batiks and there is no way my poor hands could even try to needle through them. The decision is made; it will be machine quilted. Simply. Linear. That is exactly what it needs. This week, I will use the left over fabric and some Kona Black from the stash to piece a backing.Where does this contrast I talk about come in, you may ask yourself?? Bear with me! I'm about to free think, but I am sure you will go there with me. At least I hope you do.
A couple of years back the "modern quilting" crazy really started to hit close to home. I was still working at the LQS then, and the books reflected this shift. Some of the newer fabrics that arrived signaled a move in this direction as well. Co-worker and I would commiserate on what we then called (and frankly still do) "dumb-downed" quilts. It didn't take much to cut a bunch of squares and/or rectangles and throw together a quilt. Easy Peasy! We did admit, however, that it could be a good thing. It seemed to be bringing in younger sewers who were going to be making their first quilt. Our craft that we so loved, our craft that has stood the test of time would live on. We just didn't find anything redeeming about this "new", "modern" stuff.
Don't get me wrong. I love the happiness of the new lines out there. I love Kaffee Fassett's fabrics. I've made several "easy peasy" quilts with much success: Yellow Brick Road, Lasagna Quilt. If you need a fast, go to pattern, these can't be beat. But those who know me, and those of you who have been kind enough to follow this blog through thick and thin, know I'm a traditional kind of girl. Show me a reproduction fabric and my heart stops. Mention Barbara Brackman and I sigh. Primitives make me happy. Deep, dark, depressing colors....or those cheddars and poison greens. Oh how my heart sings.
That mentioned contrast? If you have been reading my blog for sometime, you may remember this post on Rosie Lee Tompkins .  Her quilts were on display at the Shelburne Museum. I took tons of photos and wrote at length about what I learned of her. She reminded me so much of the wonderful women of Gee's Bend and the quilts that came out of that community. And here is where I find my personal study in contrast.  I consider the quilts that came from this remote Alabama community to be compelling, historical, and utterly fascinating. I have a beautiful coffee table size book that was given to me by eldest daughter. I adore this book. I marvel at the story, the women and the quilts. They are bold. They are linear/geometric. They are icons of the era, and were unique. So, what makes them different from the "dumbed down" quilts I've shook my head at these past few years? Any Internet search for modern quilting/modern quilt guild will show that these present day quilts are, in their own way, bold, geometric/linear. They are "easy" quilts, and the art of quilting has a new audience. This is all a good thing.

Moving forward- what has this girl been up to? She has gone bold, she has gone linear, she has gone a bit "modern".
Just before Christmas, I happened upon a kit for a Gee's Bend Quilt (packaged and sold by Windham Fabrics) tucked away in the back of the scrapbook supplies at a local Tuesday Morning. The price was right. I grabbed it up.  I had seen the kits before and had a few favorites (this was not on the favorite list, but it is now!). I just didn't want to spend the kind of money they were originally commanding. This was a steal, and it was a lesson to me in, yes, contrasts. I could branch out and make a reproduction of a "newer" quilt, and I could love it:

my reproduced quilt- with liberties taken

The kit's design was inspired by Blocks and Strips, made by Loretta Pettway Bennett. Loretta is the youngest living quilt artist/member of the Quilters of Gee's Bend (having been born in 1960).

Loretta P. Bennett

Loretta's quilt pattern is an example of her "one block quilt" style:
Loretta's Blocks and Strips
50" x 60"
 As I write this entry, I will stand corrected on "dumbed down" quilts. I will marvel in the geometric patchwork of these simple yet narrative quilts. Take a look at them yourself. Flying Geese, Log Cabins, Half Square Triangles. They are all represented. Those quilt elements we learned when we first started. Those elements considered "traditional". It is all in the way one interprets it, isn't it?? Years from now all that matters is that this form of expression lives on. How we as quilt makers do that is a personal choice. We just have to make sure we continue to stitch. I will have a photo of my entire top for you as soon as I can figure a way to photograph it outside without making it a muddy mess! But until then, I will continue to stitch, and I hope you will as well.


Monica said...

oh my gosh I am DYING over the sneak peak of your Gee's Bend repro. You are the mother of an historian, after all :-)

Nancy in MT said...

I've been tempted to buy one of those Gee's Bend kits. Yours looks like it's going to be beautiful.

Mary Ellen said...

So this is what you've been up to. I agree with machine quilting this. Can't ruin your hands until a certain special quilt is done - and not even then!! I'm anxious to see the finished project. (Sunday maybe?)

Noel said...

So truly said! "Smartened Up" may become a new mantra in your capable hands. Design is design poorly or well done. What some of the contemporary quilts are is design well done (emphasis as always on some), but then that's true of all quilts, isn't it!

McIrish Annie said...

I had that same opinion about "modern" quilts. Lots of time the fabric is doing all the work. However, when they are more in the "gee's bend" style, it is an opportunity to let the quilting shine. Don't know if you have googled Angela Walters (quiltingis my but she has some really great examples of how quilting adds to the "modern" quilt. take a peek.

Your quilt is going to be fabulous!

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