Monday, March 15, 2010

Quilters' Survey

According to a recent survey I read in a quilting magazine, quite a few Baby Boomer quilters today do NOT want to hand piece and do NOT like traditional patterns or EASY patterns. Boy, am I out of the loop if that's the case.

The article said that quilters today are interested in complex designs, longarm quilting, and things like more quilting-related travel. Oh, and buying fabric of course. Although I do hear many say that they are trying to use more fabric from their collection these days.

Overall, quilting has now really become more of an art form than it ever was before. Quilters no longer just make quilts that belong only on the bed or to keep families warm--they're being used for decorating more and also more as a creative outlet for women, which is great. And quilting is also leading women to experiment in other artsy arenas--mixed media, paper arts and fashion. Younger quilters are pushing the trend to modern, urban design. And that's the exciting part that I love--that all of this has opened doors for women to find creative outlets and given them permission to play again.

What about some of the antique Amish quilts with their bold colors? What category do they fall into? Aren't some of them the "artsiest" quilts ever?

This one was made early in the 20th century.

Quilters are also very interested in tools to make quilting easier and everywhere you look there's something new out there to help you get your quilts done faster. Working on my Dear Jane quilt has made me slow down and appreciate the time that quilters used to spend on their quilts long ago. How did they find the time in their busy lives? We quilters complain that we have no time--what must it have been like to quilt 150 years ago? Also, can you imagine quilting without all of the basic tools we have today?

And so my question is: where do I fit in? Have we lost any of the joy in quilting if we're just trying to get them done faster and faster and then move on to the next one? What about the process? Maybe I need to time travel back to the 1800s and just stay there . . . . I can think of a few people who'd be overjoyed at the thought of that. I actually LIKE to hand piece and hand quilt and take my time on a project, not rush to get it done, although when you're making many many projects for a book, some rushing to complete them is inevitable.

But I think we probably all agree that quilting means different things to different people and that's exactly why we love it, isn't it? The idea that quilting in some way helps us express our individuality. The line between art and craft becomes blurred. Is this a quilt? Maybe not, but it's fun to look at and see how much creativity went into its design.

The survey did say that quilters are leaning toward making more small quilts, which is a relief. Maybe those of us who like little quilts are on to something after all?

It's kind of fun, watching where quilting is going and being touched by it all. But for now, I'm not ready to jump on the trend train. This is as modern and trendy as I ever get:

I'll think I'll just stick with my own comfort level and sew what makes me happy--traditional little quilts that tug at my heart and bring a smile to my face.

What about you?


Jocelyn said...

I always think it is interesting to see what polls say. I myself, do not like the modern artsy quilts, and all the ladies that I quilt with are traditional quilters. I do not hand piece, but will on occasion hand quilt. I love the traditional patterns, fabrics, and quilts. One thing I've heard over the years is that polls can be deceiving in that it calculates from a certain group of people, which may or may not reflect a true reading. Thanks for your input, and thanks for keeping in step with what you love. Traditional little quilts :-)

Annemieke said...

Hi, Really enjoied reading your blog. I think what you make is beautiful and the choise of colours you use are great. I like to read about history too. I also like small quilts but always felt a bit quilty for not be able to make a big one. It is not that I don't have the time but I get a bit bored by doing the same thing all over again, although the result of a big quilt can be beautiful. I'm happy to see that making little quilts and not always having to use a difficult pattern is not a strange choise. I can talk for hours but won't make this much longer. Hope you will continue blogging!

ann hermes said...

I generally make traditional patterns and not "art" quilts. However, I once made a small quilt based on a 19th century PA patchwork pillowcase. I called it "Is it modern art?" because it looked more like a piece of modern art than it did a traditional quilt, and yet it was composed of traditonal quilt elements--log cabin strips, rows of 1/2 square triangles, and 25 patch units.

Dora, the Quilter said...

I wonder what percentage of North American families eats a majority of their meals from fast food outlets or buy partially advanced-prepared foods? The fact that a survey (do we know who paid for it?) says a group of baby boomers do not like traditional quilts or hand-piecing or hand-quilting does not mean that if we were able to take a truly unbiased survey, the findings would be identical.
I'm one of the many baby-boomers who loves traditional patterns (although I love to include some "surprises), but who decided to do my best to perfect my skills at machine piecing (which I do on a 90 year old treadle and 60 year old electric machine) and my machine quilting (which up to this point I've done on 40 and 50 year old e-machines)--decisions that were prompted by recognition of my own mortality and the number of quilts I still long to make. Because so much of "tradition" is still feeding my soul, I'll occasionally take some more "modern" steps--but I have not worn out my fascination with what many think of as "tradition".
Truly, what matters is that quilters work in a variety of styles and that they (we) have the opportunity to make the quilts that help feed our souls, enrich our lives, and the lives of those who receive and view our quilts.

Mamifleur said...

Katleen, bonjour

I'am french and I love the quilts "handmade" with reproductions old fabrics. And in my club we are sewing with "hands" to pieced and quilted . My club is a fairyland with needles!
And you are a fairy and I love your mini quilts. Friendship Mamifleur
But I don't speak very good the english!!!!

Pat said...

Kathleen, very interesting post. I have made several large quilts, and have kits to make some more. However, I love the small quilts and decorate with them. One of the reasons I love them is that I can hand quilt them, and they don't take up a lot of storage space. I rarely ever stray from the traditional fabrics. Please keep on publishing your books.

Jan said...

I'm with you with regard to the style and method of quiltmaking. It was surprising to see that boomer aged quilters don't want easy patterns - that seems to be the majority of the market, to me. But what I really think about the survey is this - who wants to be part of the majority, anyway? Hooray for the self assured! Whether it be quilting, decorating, or the clothes we wear. Guess I've never been one to follow the crowd too closely. If everyone liked what I like, I probably wouldn't like it anymore!

jennifer said...

very interesting post... i think it touches on our core reasons for quilting. do we quilt to 'produce' or 'impress'... or do we quilt for the 'process' and the 'personal satisfaction'?

it makes sense to me that in a speed-obsessed culture, quilting itself is reflecting trends towards mechanisation, ever more tools, and productivity.

so often i see on blogs 'A Finish!' crowed with great joy, and huge lists of 'WIP's' to be completed each month. yet what i don't FEEL is the heart behind the works, the quiet joy and steady hand that patiently pulled the stitches... maybe its not so much the style of quilt, or the number of tools used, as the conscious attitude that impregnates the quilt with that feeling of love & care?

i try to very consciously remind myself to NOT make my quilting about performance... but about a soul engaged in pleasure.

Unknown said...

Well call me old fashion but I love the look of traditional quilts. I think the "art" quilts are fun to look at but I never plan on making one. I have turned to small quilts (just ordered your newest book)because how many large ones can I use? The doll quilts are easier to display and make a wonderful backround for old pitches, redware and crocks.
Thanks for all of your wonderful patterns and blogs.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Wow, I think I touched a nerve. All very good comments. I guess it makes sense that the quilters who follow my blog are more like me than not. I was a little unnerved by the survey too, which is why I had been thinking about it for awhile.

Yes, I really think it comes down to doing what you love but also being open to what others are doing too and even if we're different, being inspired by each other. There's room for everybody and that's how we grow.

Angie said...

Like most of the others, I'm a traditional quilter, and prefer to see traditional quilts. I do hand piece and hand quilt as well as machine piece, but my machine quilting leaves a LOT to be desired. I love little quilts, and have made a few, but not enough yet :) In fact, just started a scrappy patchwork mini quilt yesterday with 1.5 inch pieces - cream alternating with scrappy darker fabrics - and I'm going to border it in a maroon fabric and then a dark blue with maroon flowers fabric :)

Thanks for your blog Kathleen! I just found it about a week ago, and love it....

Janet said...

I just read that survey yesterday. I was disappointed to see that handwork wasn't very popular - I love it! I love traditional patterns and I really like your books so keep on doing what you're doing! I enjoyed the pictures in your post very much.

Diana said...

I do a lot of hand piecing and in talking to my quilting friends I've found that many feel intimidated when it comes to sewing by hand. Hand sewing is rapidly becoming a lost craft, just because so many don't know how to do it. Rest assured, there are many of us who love traditional piecing and patterns.

Robin said...

I have often said the very same words to my Mom...why can't we just slow down and enjoy what we do not race to the finish everytime. Robin in Kelso, WA

Una said...

Hear, hear to everything in your post!! Yay for art quilts, yay for doing what we love in quilting, and yay for your work, which truly tugs at my heart. Perhaps I once was a baby boomer quilter when I started out sewing 15 years ago in my early twenties. I learned hand piecing first, and it is my love. Machine piecing is enjoyable, and I get a kick out of machine quilting, but nothing beats the state of mind hand work is. Your blog is such a joy. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and lovely quilts. In (sloow) stitches, Una in Norway

Jeanette said...

I was very surprised when i read your story about the survey. I'm at the tail end of baby boomers & i can asure you that i love hand piecing & hand quilting. Maybe the quilting book should have interviewed more people. I love the old traditional blocks & prefer to make them than modern ones. Oh yes i love "easy" patterns for sure. I do machine piece & machine quilt but that is because i am developing osteo athritis in my hands but that doessn't stop me doing hand work.

Kathleen Tracy said...

The lesson here may be don't believe everything you read . . .

Anonymous said...

Hi, I must be out of the loop as well because I am 40 something and I am a fan of Jinny Beyer, all hand pieced and all hand quilted, as well as traditional patterns. I like to make quilts that were made by our great grandmothers and yes I like to buy fabric. I do tend to like the idea that you made a quilt with the fabric you have available and the process is what I like so it takes time and am not into rush rush it out with machine.

Alice said...

I hand piece everything because I do it in scraps of time. I can sit and sew next to my children while they are playing (and participate), I can even sew and read aloud - if I know the book well enough:)

I sneak in a few pieced blocks while the water is boiling for dinner, and I have a little basket of hexagons to baste, next to the computer while waiting for it to warm up.

My three year old will sit with me and help me hand quilt, waiting for me to position the needle so she can push it in, and then waiting for it to come out again so she can pull it out.

It is not fast, but it is my speed. I am not in a hurry - I do this to relax.