Monday, January 24, 2011


circa 1930's quilt made by my Great great aunts.
Retro, reproductions, and vintage are very popular.  We have Civil War reproduction fabrics, and '30's retro-inspired fabrics.  We make quilts out of old fabrics...I guess that is vintage.  This is all wonderful and gives us infinite possibilities.  Thank God no one is interested in reproducing the double knits of the '70's.

We even have Civil War and '30's quilt patterns being reproduced so that we can make a quilt just like great grandmas. It is a great way to preserve the past.  Great grandma's quilts may be in shreds and the best way to preserve the memories might be recreate them.  We are blessed to have this possibility. 

It is all wonderful, but it can get a little out of hand.....

I have to like it
There is no joy or honor in making a quilt just because it is historic.  If you don't like it, then don't do it.  There seems to be a mystique about all things antique, they are deemed more special or more authentic because they are old.  I think that might be true about people.  I value the older people in my life for that very reason.  They are precious to me and I realize that the natural order of things demands that their time here is limited.  I honor them and protect them as best I can because they are dear and special and filled with wisdom that I have not attained.  I do not think that is true of objects.  With exceptions to objects that link me directly to a person, I grant no special value to things that are old.  What ever value I bestow upon something is held in my memories not in the object itself.  Consequently I would not copy a quilt unless I truly loved it's patterns and design.

Perpetuating a lie
I don't believe that quilters 100 years ago were any more perfect that quilters now.  I really do believe that they were just as likely to assemble their pieces out of order or in the wrong direction.  I've done it.  I've quilted for people who have done it.  We don't do it on purpose, and we often don't even notice until after the project is completed.  I'm certain our mothers and grandmothers have done it too.   Once the project is completed - pieced, quilted, bound, labeled - who is going to take it all apart to fix the offensive block?  Really?  I'm far more likely to eat my humble pie and move on.  If the error is hugely offensive the quilt be relegated to picnics and tall gate parties or stored away.  Some day my sons will find a nice collection of perfectly preserved quilts - all with wonky blocks in them.

Taking this a step further, I suppose that my great grandchildren might find these perfectly preserved quilts and be warmed by a link to the past.  I hope they do, it would be like reaching out to hug someone I've never met.  They might even decide to reproduce the quilts.  They'll find the perfect reproduction fabrics and begin the process of engineering a pattern.  Will they copy the quilt exactly as they found it or notice the error and fix it?  Really?  As preservationist of the craft of quilting, and as my prodigy, I sincerely hope that they fix the block.  I didn't make it on purpose.  I was just to lazy to fix it.  I would be honored if they took the time to perfect my creation.   To do otherwise strikes me as lazy and unobservant and just a tad like perpetuating a lie.

While I enjoy traditional patterns and colors, I do not believe that these traditional patterns and colors are a definition.  Quilting is a creative process, it has always been a creative process, and  I pray it remains so.   Traditional patterns and colors are a great place to start.  They provide the necessary foundations of geometry and design.  They teach us about color.  They link us to the past.  However, they are not the end of the story.   If that were so, than quilters would be like dogs chasing their tails...and I would have to introduce a cat just to get them to chase something new.  My heart longs for synthesis, to take the bits and pieces that I have learned and to forge them into something new.  To me, that is what quilting is all about.

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