I don’t usually write opinion pieces, but today is an exception. I just read a couple of recent posts by Sandi from Piecemeal Quilts and I cannot sit still. Her criticism of superstar bloggers who are modern in their approach to quilting (she mentioned Sew, Mama, Sew! in particular) got me to thinking about what it means to be a modern quilter. You might want to read what Sandi said in Part 1 and Part 2 and come back here. If nothing else, you should know the title she chose for these posts is The Dumbing Down of Quilting. Craft Gossip readers, I would love to hear what you have to say about the following in the form of a comment on this post:
How do modern quilters and guilds differ from traditional ones?
Should modern quilters be allowed their own language to express their experiences separate from traditional ideas of quilting?
Do you think modern quilters – who blog about their quilting and have learned much of their sewing skills from online tutorials – miss essential elements they could get from traditional sources such as traditional guilds or traditional publishers?
Does the modern approach to quilting inevitably lead to a lesser product than those made by traditional quilters?
The Modern Quilt Movement and its Offspring
Here’s some background if you are new to blogs and quilting. There is no disagreement that we are in the midst of a modern quilt movement; and it’s international thanks to online connectivity. The love child of this modern quilt movement – springing forth from the blogging community – is The Modern Quilt Guild. The first group met up in Los Angeles back in October 2009. Now there are chapters all over the world. Here’s the order. People met virtually first through blogging, then decided they must meet in person to learn and sew together.
A traditional quilter might say this is an altogether unnecessary remake of regular guilds. They might add it’s not as if the massive count of quilt guilds in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, Africa and United Kingdom, etc.,. have been running in place. Visit any one of them – with their guest speakers, libraries and retreats – and they guarantee you will learn the craft of quilting, including how to make an art quilt. So what is all the excitement over these newer modern guilds? I believe it’s mostly a mindset followed by a difference in focus. I’ve created a list of adjectives that, for me, describe the differences I see between trad and mod quilters.
The Modern (Mod) Quilter
1. Enjoys simplicity in piecing
2. Rule breaker
3. Focus is on the creative process and having fun with sewing buddies
5. Tends to be younger (under age 35) and is very comfortable with computers
6. Promotes inclusiveness among quilters
7. More likely to blog and learn quilting from online tutorials
The Traditional (Trad) Quilter
1. Enjoys complexity in piecing
2. Rule follower
3. Focus is on the end product and mastering “tried and true” techniques
4. Seeks out competition where there is a clear winner, especially for workmanship
5. Tends to be older and less computer savvy
6. Promotes exclusiveness among quilters
7. Less likely to blog and learn quilting from online tutorials
The Traditional Quilt Guild
I am not knocking traditional quilt guilds or those who take a solely traditional approach to quilting. I am sure there are many happy and contented members of trad quilt guilds who receive all the encouragement and support they need for their quilting journey. What I am expressing here is my own personal experience with them. Over the years the ones I’ve touched have offered me little in my growth as a quilter. I’ve waited many years for the likes of the modern quilt movement, as here I feel right at home.
When my child was young, I was a member of a decent trad guild, but I longed to be a part of another local trad guild, one that seemed friendlier. But for a working mother, meetings held only at 10 AM on a weekday are impossible to make. As far as I know, meetings of the Modern Quilt Guild accommodate working people. Back in the day, most trad guild members were over the age of 50. For a quilter like myself who started in her twenties, it was a lonely experience trying to find common ground with trad members. The mean age now of a trad quilt guild member is probably around 65. Another thing, most trad guild members are female and do not go out of their way to make men quilters feel welcome.
The Green Eyed Monster
Sandi, in her post The Dumbing Down of Quilting used the phrase “blog taught” as if the words were giving off a crap smell. In closing, I will share what I think I’ve gotten a whiff of from this quilter and more like her – jealousy. When superstar bloggers who quilt within the modern tradition get awesome book deals there’s bound to be some grumbling, especially among those who believe it’s happening to quilters who do not deserve it.