Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday Words {history}

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In a continuation of last week's Wednesday Words, I thought I would write a bit more about the history part of quilting.  Several of the comments on that post really caused me to pause and think about how we, as today's quilters, present ourselves and our work.

Barbara Brackman is a well known quilt historian, designer, etc and has a blog that I have read off and on since I began quilting almost 5 years ago.  The other day she posted about quilt bindings and how that was one way to determine what era the quilt was made in.  I had no idea!


I love rounded quilt corners but it turns out that there's nothing modern about them.  Rounded corners date back to the late 1800's. 


The quilt-as-you-go method that was really popular in the past few years or so... it also dates back to the late 1800's.

Now I'm certainly not saying that quilters from our generation are intentionally ripping off old ideas because I don't believe that at all.  I just find it interesting that what we sometimes see as new is actually nothing new at all.

In the past, I know that I've thought that I've designed a thoroughly modern and original block and/or quilt only to see it pop up in a historical quilt book or website.  I still love the quilts I have made but I am beginning to wish that I had done a little more research to see how my quilt fits in with history.  It's certainly not too late to do that and I plan on adding the historical element to my posts whenever I can.


Is it always possible to know that a design is actually and old one?  Not always.  But sometimes I think that we get so caught up in the must-have creativity of quilting that we forget that we probably weren't the first to come up with an idea.  I think it would be interesting, instead of sweeping history under the rug in the name of originality, to do some research and share a little more about a quilt's historical design roots.

I also think it would be refreshing to read after all the copyright madness that has been swirling around as of late... it's kind of hard to bicker about the copyright of a design that is a hundred years old. ;)

There was a big push towards sharing the quilting process a few years ago and I think this history piece could also fit in well.  I know it's awfully big picture but I think it would be sad to lose some of the history of our craft in the name of trying to be innovative and "first".  Serious painters, musicians, authors, and even athletes are generally pretty well versed in their field's history so I don't see why quilting should be much different.

propeller block
It still takes skill to refine a technique and then fit modern colors and fabrics into the traditional mold to make something aesthetically pleasing for today's modern eye.  So why not be proud of that adaptation while helping to pass the history on? 

It makes sense to me and it is something I'm going to focus on more as I continue making quilts and blogging about them.

Just something to ponder... :)



10 comments:

tiptoetango.com said...

I have so much respect for you thinking about the historical significance of quilting. In addition to the multitude of unique patterns developed over the years, I love the social aspect of quilting. Today, it has become viral, while still connecting many people in unique ways. I find that less people are quilting right in my neighborhood {as years past} and I'm grateful for places like HERE that allow me to connect, find inspiration, and learn. Thank you for sharing your talent and reminding us of our past. It's certainly a gift. I have a hardback book called: The Quilt I.D. Book: 4000 Illustrated and Indexed Patterns. I don't use it and I would love to send it your way if you could find some use for it in your historical hunting. Just let me know if you're interested. Xxo

Hands Sew Full said...

This is a wonderful post! I have been quilting for 35 years and I see "new" blocks posted that really remind me of some old ones I knew of but with different fabrics and I wonder.... why can't we just call it the same name and list it as using specific fabrics or colour ways done with slightly different sized pieces etc. I don't think it is shameful to replicate blocks from the past, history is wonderful and quilting is as old as the hills it is hard to come up with new ideas! I love your history lesson idea.

Belinda said...

Have enjoyed these two posts very much. You echo my thoughts exactly. I really think what's new to today's quilt making designs/processes are the many choices we have in terms of materials & tools. Our grandmothers would be so amazed &, I believe, would fully embrace the "modern" quilting movement. I doubt we would find much quilting "snobbery" among our grandmothers :)
The past, as always, has much to teach us as we pursue & refine our creative talents. We shouldn't forget that!

Live a Colorful Life said...

This is a wonderful post. I think embracing the historical part of quilting is a very important aspect of what we do today. It adds authenticity, yet still doesn't diminish the creativity.

The Tulip Patch said...

Love this post and could not agree more. I checked out a block encyclopedia from my library and it is actually really easy because they are usually divided up by construction style: 1 patch, 4 patch, star blocks, hexagonal patch, etc. You said something really interesting...people skilled in their field are generally versed in its history. If a person wanted to be a serious artist and didn't know who picasso was, they'd be left out of the art community. If we want people to respect quilting as an art form, why not treat those who came before us with the same respect the art community extends to those in the past??? I totally agree that it is a skill to add a fresh spin on something that's 100 years old and we should be proud that we are preserving the history of quilting and not trying to pretend we invented it.

The Tulip Patch said...

Love this post and could not agree more. I checked out a block encyclopedia from my library and it is actually really easy because they are usually divided up by construction style: 1 patch, 4 patch, star blocks, hexagonal patch, etc. You said something really interesting...people skilled in their field are generally versed in its history. If a person wanted to be a serious artist and didn't know who picasso was, they'd be left out of the art community. If we want people to respect quilting as an art form, why not treat those who came before us with the same respect the art community extends to those in the past??? I totally agree that it is a skill to add a fresh spin on something that's 100 years old and we should be proud that we are preserving the history of quilting and not trying to pretend we invented it.

The Tulip Patch said...

I meant "laughed out" not left out! Well, both work!

Colleen said...

You need to find a copy of Carrie Hall's Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America pub 1935. It is my favorite reference book. Carrie Hall is THE original quilt block historian and made more than 800 differnt blocks in sampler quilts. Read about here here http://www.quiltershalloffame.net/index_files/Page888.html

Lesly said...

Am in 100% agreement. I have never understood (and have been offended by) the "not your grandmother's quilt" sentiment that is sometimes seen in the modern quilting circle. Because it often IS! And also because it is an honour to be able to continue on in the footsteps of all the generations of women who have come before. I have Jinny Beyer's big book of traditional quilt blocks and have come across many of our "new" blocks that are actually older than any of us! (And they were often published free in the newspaper, so much for copyright concerns back in the day). I was thrilled to be able to credit Nancy Cabot from 1937 in my most recent Chinese Gong quilt http://pickledish.blogspot.ca/2012/03/gong-show.html - I love that connection to women's history.

Lynne said...

I so agree!

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