Saturday, 4 January 2014

modern? traditional? how do I become a better quilter?

source

There's so much gorgeous modern fabric and so many great quilt patterns but sometimes it feels like quilting is about things being fast and simple to make. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a sweeping statement about modern quilting, there is a lot of complicated piecing and amazing quilting going on too. Perhaps it is just that I am drawn to the modern quick makes (I don't have a lot of sewing time) or maybe because I still consider myself a beginner and so avoid difficult patterns because I don't think I would be able to make them. It is making me tired though. Tired of rushing, yes, but also tired because it is too easy.

source

This year I would like to push myself further. Yes I would like to try new techniques but not for the sake of it. I really want to learn to be a better quilter. In the relatively short time I've been sewing I've tried many things - practically all of it was learnt through blogs and online tutorials, for which I am truly grateful. I would like to trust myself more, use what fabric I have and chose patterns that speak to me and will push me out of my comfort zone.

I've been thinking hard about what I want to sew and have realised that so much of what I yearn for is hand sewn and hand quilted. I also want to add more to my Etsy shop and try to grow it, so while I work on my hand sewing skills I will still make some machine quilts for the shop.

I've had piles of fabric set aside for specific patterns almost since I began quilting but now my ideas are changing and I'm willing to be braver.


It is highly unlikely I am ever going to write patterns, my brain just doesn't think that way, but I can still use quilt blocks to create something unique - isn't that what all quilts are anyway?

One skill I would love to try is hand applique. I have to say I'm really not very drawn to the traditional floral patterns but I may be willing to give them a go. I saw Green Tea and Sweet Beans by Jen Kingwell and that's more the sort of fun and whimsy I want to try. I have a birthday coming up soon and that's on my wish list! I have my Bee A Brit Stingy bees working on butterfly blocks for me this month and I'm planning on attempting some applique flowers too, my daughter has picked out her favourites. I recently bought some bargain books second hand from Amazon and they are proving so inspirational. A lot of the traditional block patterns and the very old quilts in these books are incredibly modern looking to me (click the books to see more):

    
    


There is a lot of talk about 'modern' and 'traditional' quilting and I've been thinking about where I stand on it and which is more me. It's practically impossible and, while I think there are certain distinctions, the division is really limiting and even trying to make some sort of crossover is limiting too because it feels too contrived. I read a fantastic article by Thomas Knauer in Quilters Newsletter Dec/Jan 2014. It's part of a series (annoyingly my Dad got me this copy on a recent trip to the US so I will miss the rest!) and it really got me thinking about the terminology. He writes, "Traditional and modern are just two words, and we do both genres of quilting a disservice when we fail to look beyond these generalizations and engage with each quilt on its own terms. I prefer to talk about quilting tradition, that large umbrella that encompasses everything we do, and then consider the differences that makes that tradition so remarkable". So I'm not choosing, instead I will just appreciate aspects of all quilting styles and pour myself into every quilt I make.

That said I'm joining Erin in her Classic meets Modern QAL, which I think will be really interesting... to see how everyone interprets the blocks and also to try making different blocks. The first block is the {Polar} Bear Paw Block, and you know I love those Bear Paws! I'm going to have a good think about what fabric to use and how I will interpret 'modern'.


Sew at Home Mummy



I am not a perfectionist but I really have a strong desire to be good. Get really good. Be able to make beautiful things with my hands. I want to say I am a good quilter and really believe it myself.
My word for 2014 is 'better'. Appropriate in all aspects of my life right now, though also comforting and motivating. Getting better all the time.


38 comments:

  1. My word is challenge, I suspect we'll both be working on 'better' and 'challenge' as we aim for our individual words!

    If you ever want to use some of that quilting fabric for bag making, let me know, I'd love to send you a pattern :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I always thought you were a good quilter! I feel in the middle of modern and traditional too and have just decided to make whatever I like. Love GT&SB which inspired how I finished my Basket Quilt! Love a challenge and the ability to learn - just as well with your gorgeous butterfly block! Only joking - looking forward to trying it out!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great word for 2014. Not sure what mine will be yet... but 'better' is fab!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lovely post Lucy. I have been thinking along similar lines myself. It was a combination of EPP and doing a BOM with hand piecing that made me realise that slow quilting is very satisfying. So in my mind I am now going to make two sorts of quilts - bed quilts - for practical everyday use and baby gifts (and which are satisying to finish, but not so much to make), and wall quilts - with hand piecing and other lovely things, which I will hang on the wall and admire. Then I can do a bit of both.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have a 1931 printing of 101 patchwork patterns, it is one of my favorite quilting books :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love love love a quick finish, but the Midnight At The Oasis is making me so happy! My Marcelle Medallion was my favourite finish of last year because I felt like I had really achieved something when it was done. Mixing it up is good xxx

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think quilting has a way of satisfying the soul (if we let it). Sometimes we need the gratification of seeing something pop into existence before our eyes. I have only ever had one quick finish, but it was so satisfying! So wonderful to see something that had been in my head the day before spring to life, before I'd had time to get sick of it or lose my vision or get bored with my fabric choice. And sometimes it is the long slow journey that is satisfying. The time spent sitting and stitching and contemplating and pottering with a quilt. I definitely feel the slow projects are better when they're hand projects, because you can be anywhere to do them. And then the quilt becomes part of the everyday something, which purse soul into the quilt itself.
    Sorry, I'm rambling, but I really liked your post and it makes me want to ramble. I guess what I want to say is, there's a place for slow and a place for quick, but you should do whichever it is that makes your heart sing.
    E xx

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think it is a natural progression. I think it's about finding your own creative path and you don't need any more labels than that. I don't want to make things for making sake so am concentrating on improving technique this year too. You are a great sewista, have faith in your talent and follow the road less travelled xx

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sounds like a great goal! Finding your style is the next step after you've learned from others, and it's something I'm working on now too for my quilting. I think I'm going with the principal that my bee blocks/Brit Bee medallion will keep my hand in on traditional blocks/block shapes, while I explore in my own stuff

    ReplyDelete
  10. Good evening, I found your blog from a mutual follower. I love that you make so many wonderful projects . . . there is so much inspiration here. Great blog. I've been wanting to make a couple yoga bags. Yours is perfect :)
    I am a late bloomer to quilting just started a few months ago and I am loving every minute of it. So much that I re-cycled my husband’s old saw horses and made myself a quilting frame, LOL. He never used them anyway :)
    Please come over and help me celebrate my second year blogging anniversary :)
    I'm your newest follower and blogging sister, Connie :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I am enjoying watching your quilting and if it gets even better that would be lovely but it is already most excellent. I think that although I love making more traditional patterns too, I am definitely a more modern quilter, at least as I define modern quilting.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Beautiful post. I for one am all for thoughtfulness in our creative endeavors, and this is such a lovely part of that conversation. P.S. I'll keep an eye out for the QN issues with TK's series and would happily post them to you if I can get my hands on them :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, you're in luck! Digital issues are sold here: http://www.quiltandsewshop.com/category/quilters-newsletter

      Delete
  13. I too an having trouble classifying myself. I used to think I was on the modern quilting train... however the more defined it has become the more I feel drawn away from becoming defined. I think I just enjoy creating and I am leaving it at. Good luck with your new adventures in quilting and can't wait to see what this year brings :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. such a great post Lucy. I find it so hard to find the balance between making things I love (usually hand stitched) and pushing my skills, both of which take lots of time, and making things quickly so I have enough gifts to give out to everyone I want to surprise,especially all those friends having babies!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great post! I consider myself a traditional quilter but I am loving some of the modern fabrics out there. I have been quilting for 20 years now (since I was 18). I love all aspects and different techniques of quilting, especially scrap quilts. I think maybe we need to not define ourselves as modern or traditional and just call ourselves quilters. I think you will really enjoy working on new techniques. I love hand appliqué. I don't like flowers much either, I started appliqueing with a basket project by Lydia Quigley. She has many nice appliqué patterns that are more "folky". I am really looking forward to seeing you work on your projects this year! Have fun!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I really enjoyed this post and agree with you, let's be down with the labels and do what we like and use what we use just because we like and enjoy it :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I really like where you're going here, missy. I'm with you - a little bored because I am not challenging myself. I'm not really a hand sewing kind of girl, but I will join you in your quest to be a better hand quilter. That's attractive to me. I'm going to try creating my own quilts too...by diving into the deep end and running a QAL with the Modern Quilt Guild of Ireland. Anyway, I say that to say this - I am with you. I want to grow and be inspired/interested again. I wish you luck and hope you (re-) find your quilting happiness!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I know what you mean. I am tired of everything having to be fast and quick and done in a weekend. I want slow, stitched by hand, year long projects these days.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Alright well I am totally going in the opposite direction (see my most recent post) but I can appreciate your desire to slow things down. Get to it! xo B

    ReplyDelete
  20. I love a quick finish too, and I am also a very simple girl at heart. I do really enjoy EPP though and can happily hand sew for hours doing that as I find it very relaxing. My word for 2014 is relax, I need to be less stressed about things being perfect in my life.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This is such a great post Lucy. I'm with you in pushing forward with skills and trying new things, with a few quickies thrown in for fun. I really dislike the modern versus tradtional divide. I heard a great tern which I like to use - I'm a nowadays quilter , I figure that covers everything.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I really enjoyed reading this and can connect with so much that you said. I belong to a local quilt guild where there choice of fabrics mostly differ to mine but they always have advice when I need it and they ask me about 'new' techniques that I've seen. I think a divide only happens when people are closed to other view points? I look forward to seeing how you get on with your hand applique challenge, Green Tea is on my bucket list too but it does scare me slightly!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ooh Lucy this is music to my ears!!! I had the same feelings all last year.
    I have just completed my 100% machined zigzag quilt, and I just dont love it.
    I am currently nearing the end of my mammoth hand quilting project and I am totally in love with it.
    You have my favourite quilting book, Country Quilts....there are so many antique quilts in there....just like you find in modern quilters books. I actually have it here next to me now. My recent mini mojo block is from the heavenly stars quilt. I am definitely a traditional slow stitcher....for now at least xxxx

    ReplyDelete
  24. Good luck Lucy, hope you enjoy your next step. It really is more fun (as well as frustrating sometimes) to try something new. However I must say I hate the word "modern" it's overused for what people actually mean to be "contemporary"- I think the modern art movement finished a couple of decades ago ;)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Great post Lucy and good luck with getting better although I think you're pretty awesome already. I certainly want to do more handsewing this year, not be dragged in to doing the latest thing and enjoying the process more. Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
  26. My word for the year is challenge. I need to challenge myself to be a better quilter, stretching myself to do harder quilts.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I love hand sewing and embroidery, it is nice to see them making a comeback. My friend made a blue check and white bears paw quilt in the 1990s and it looks very modern and contemporary, I think her key was simplicity.
    I also am a real sucker for a magazine or a quilt book.

    ReplyDelete
  28. This is a lovely reflective post and I really enjoyed reading it. Thomas Knauer was right they are only terms and what is fascinating to me that in their day, what we call traditional quilting, was once considered modern. It is all relative. I look at it more as an esthetic then the applied terms. I also think that all 'traditional' designs can be done 'modern' with fabric choice and color placement. JUst enjoy what you do and like you said work to be better. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I agree you don't have to choose between, so called, traditional or modern quilting styles; just go with what you like. As for quick or slow methods, I prefer to work slowly and mostly by hand, but this is completely impractical if you want to make/sell your crafts for a reasonable price. So a mixture of both would make for variety in everything.
    Happy quilting.
    Teresa x

    ReplyDelete
  30. This is a wonderful post - thank you! I think you're a good quilter (wouldn't have described you as 'beginner'!) and finding your own style is part of the thrill of being a quilter (I've not definitely discovered mine yet in terms of colour, etc. but it definitely involves small pieces!). A mix of quick machine projects for your Etsy shop and slower machine/hand projects sound like a good idea. I find that even the most complex patterns are a lot easier when stitched by hand - I'm not sure why so many people seem to think that hand sewing is hard as I think it's actually a lot more straightforward than machine piecing!! (I may be biased..!) I don't think of myself as a modern quilter or a traditional quilter, just a quilter.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I've been a quilter for a number of years, but if don't give myself a label. I might do something traditional, contemporary, sometimes small postcards or larger wallhangingsl but I do what I like to do. The thing with quilting is there is such variety of techniques and styles, there is always something new to learn. Just have some good resources to learn what you can to be a good quilter

    ReplyDelete
  32. Actually a good resource is on Quilting bloggers, Chris and Barbara Quilts. They're both well known quilters who have been teaching for a long time. Does that help?

    ReplyDelete
  33. What a wonderful goal for a new year! I think that Sweet Tea and Green Beans pattern is simply stunning. I looked at it a while back but all the hand sewing does not appeal to me. I once saw the term "modern traditionalism" and think that fits my style probably more than "modern" does. Speediness and ease are really important to me because I don't have a lot of sewing time either, so I want to get results.

    As far as applique goes, there is a super excellent book by Eleanor Burns called Magic Vine. It is actually a really cool book--basically the patterns all come from a serial in a newspaper (I am thinking 30's but I'm not sure). It reminds me of the Farmer's Wife. It would be a fun pattern to make by hand. One of the ladies in the class I took did hers by hand. It was stunning. She used black background and vivid batiks for all the flowers (and batiks are not something I generally like). Anyway, the book is $25 and you could make something small or large from it, kind of design your own based on the patterns you like.

    Good luck with your goals for this year. No matter what, as long as you're sewing, you're improving!!!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Lucy Green Tea and Sweet beans would be right up your street. Slow sewing and lots of hand work but not hard just fun and gorgeous! I am about one third of the way through just now doing it and totally loving it. No rush here at all just enjoying the making. I am just a quilter I wouldn't say I am one or the other to be honest. There is a great series in the US called " why quilts matter?" which is kind of similar to what thomas says in a lot of his posts. This is a dvd I think which I would love to get a hold of! Anyhoo great post! x

    ReplyDelete
  35. wonderful thoughts, lucy! I've had many along similar lines lately - about the simple vs. complex, wanting to improve, modern vs traditional. I don't know that I could define you as either camp, either. you're just lucy! I have a hard time placing myself under either definition exclusively, too. I use elements of both. and it's fun that way! the tradition meets modern group sounds like a great idea - very interesting to see the different interpretations.

    one thing I would not have labeled you as was "beginner!" but I feel the same way about myself. looking at the makes I made last year, though, I'd have to say I can't consider myself a beginner anymore, either. what comes just after beginner? that's me. I also agree that I'd like to do more, get better. I hope you find your way through it and get to do more of that handwork! (which appeals to me a lot, also.) thanks for saying so much of what I have been thinking. =)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Love this! I'm with you 100%. I've been saying "postmodern" lately because my style is kind of the opposite of minimalist. I agree with that quote though. "Engage with each quilt on it's own terms." It's a fun debate, but really the labels don't matter much as long as we're still all making quilts.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I've never really embraced the need to have a "modern quilt" title on anything I've ever seen. No quilt being made today is new . . . you need only look at quilts from the past to see the exact same thing done before. I'm a quilter. Period. :)

    ReplyDelete