Today’s quilters often come into the quilting fold in unexpected ways. While the quilting methods and traditional patterns of days gone by were usually passed down from mothers to daughters through the generations, many modern quilters are learning their craft from friends, guilds, or even books.
The Rise and (Rumored) Fall of Traditional Quilting
Quilting was originally a practical pursuit. Women saved their fabric scraps and made warm quilts for the families that used every bit of material available, particularly during the colonial era and the westward movement in the United States. Because families couldn’t rely on having access to store bought goods, quilting was a practical solution that also gave quilters a means of expression. The colorful calicos and prints added much needed color to homes year round.
As the industrial revolution took hold, many people stopped quilting and turned to factory manufactured blankets and coverlets. While this was a slow period for quilting, it never died down as an art form. In fact, crazy quilts made with luxurious materials such as velvets, brocades and satins were often displayed in Victorian homes. During World War II and beyond, women were increasingly in the work force. They purchased more ready-made clothing and once again, there was a lull in interest in quilting, but it didn’t last long.
The 1960’s To Today
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, women were trying to find their identities and express themselves like never before. There was a new interest in natural, organic living and hand crafted artwork. Naturally, quilting once again gained a popular foothold. Because tastes were changing, the colors, patterns and styles changed as well. Interest in bolder, more vivid colors and unusual patterns that were more organic and free flowing grew quickly and led to popular new patterns that were eye-popping and extremely personal.
Today, many women learn how to quilt from friends and family again, often creating modern quilts as gifts for special occasions such as weddings, retirements and the birth of children. There are dozens of modern quilting books that help today’s quilters learn new techniques and improve on older ones.
Because these modern quilters can purchase the fabric they need rather than relying on the scraps left over from other projects, they can customize like never before. In fact, shopping at quilting shops and fabric stores while designing their quilt motif is often the highlight of modern quilters’ projects.
Modern Quilting Continues to Grow
What makes modern quilting so exciting is the unique combination of personal style and traditional respect for the beauty of line and color. The Internet has revolutionized the quilting scene by giving quilters access to supplies, threads, fabrics and patterns from around the world. You may find an adventurous quilter combining hand-painted batik material from Bali with soft neutrals from the corner fabric store.
Bold, eye popping, organic patterns and whimsical themes for children’s quilts are becoming more popular as well. One of the most exciting aspects of modern quilting is that many quilters are taking their works of art out of the bedroom and using them in new ways. Particularly beautiful quilts are often hung like a medieval tapestry on a large wall in lieu of a painting. Quilted purses, diaper bags, clothing and placemats bring the beauty of quilting into homes in exciting ways that wouldn’t have occurred to our ancestors.
A new retro trend is bringing back some of the traditional patterns such as Log Cabin, Irish Chain, Double Wedding Ring and Jacob’s Ladder, but they’re fresh and new with emphasis on rich, deep colors that are more saturated than older quilt styles. The popularity of vintage style has quilt lovers combing antique shops in search of older quilts to display alongside newer, modern quilt styles.
The Future of Modern Quilting
As quilting continues to evolve, we’re noticing that quilting is taking on new forms and using new materials. Unusual textures and materials are being combined in unexpected ways and in all shapes and sizes to suit individual tastes while capturing the unique personality of the quilter. I’m excited about the new paths that quilters are taking and the many ways they are sharing them with each other.
Groups like Modern Quilt Guilds– are bringing together quilters from around the globe, allowing them to share techniques, patterns, and styles between each other in ways that weren’t possible just a few decades ago. There’s an enormous new audience that is appreciating the beauty of modern quilts as well. The popularity of handmade quilts is growing by leaps and bounds on sites such Fresh Lemons Quilts and Etsy, where a new generation of modern quilters is introducing the world to an ages old tradition.
Are your own quilting projects a reflection of your love for traditional or more contemporary patterns? How is your own personality reflected in the modern quilts you’re making today? Whatever styles or colors you use, it seems certain that today’s modern quilts will become the cherished heirlooms of tomorrow.
About the Author
Kara Taylor is a freelance writer and crafty mom. She’s often looking for quilts for sale, and to also sell her own quilts online.