Sunday, 17 August 2014

Modernising tradition.

Recently I've been thinking about how we decide which quilts we make. For those quilters who read blogs and use Instagram and/or Flickr the choice is often swayed by what patterns/blocks are being promoted by pattern writers, magazines and book authors. It seems to me that many, and of course not all, of these designs which are hailed as being new and the "designer's" original work, are actually based on traditional designs which have been around for years.

Elizabeth from Occassionalpiece-Quilt has written a very interesting post about where quilters find their inspiration, she discusses the book "Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon who states that "Nothing is original".

I was given this book a few years ago, it features quilts made between 1825 and the 1940's and includes quilts made from log cabin, stars, triangles including  flying geese, English paper piecing and more, all of which are techniques that are being used in today's patterns.

This Double Flying Geese quilt from the book was made circa 1875 but looks like it could have been made yesterday. It reminds me of a Roman tile floor.

This Drunkards Path quilt was made between 1910-1920, to me it also has a very modern aesthetic.

 I bought this book, Down the Rotary Road by Judy Hopkins,when I first started quilting in the 1990's.

Some of the quilts in this book also look they could have been made today, some 20yrs after the book was published.

I  went back to the book thinking I would find patterns different to those around today, however I found that most of the quilts are based on traditional blocks, just as many of the designs around today.
 As Kleon says "nothing is new"! 
  Elizabeth states that Kleon encourages us to note where our influences come from but to me this rarely happens and as I mentioned earlier so many patterns in books, magazines and online which are proclaimed as being new are not.  It is however a positive that the craft is being kept alive and that the old traditional blocks are still being used.

I decided to go back to  Down the Rotary Road  for my next quilt and thought it would be fun to pick a design which doesn't immediately appeal to me, probably due to the fabrics not being to my 2014 taste. Many of the quilts in the book, perhaps unlike the two above, are made from fabrics which would not appeal to most quilters today. I thought it would be interesting to see how different the quilt would look in completely different "modern" fabrics.
The quilt I chose was this one called "State Fair"

It consists of State Fair blocks alternated with chain  blocks.
Here's how my 2014 version is going so far. In the book the centre of the flower is an applied circle but I decided to make life easier and use a pieced snow ball block instead.

I find it fascinating how a quilt design can look so different when made from different fabrics.

Edit: After a comment on this post saying how clever I was to eliminate the appliqued circle I should point out it wasn't my idea, I found the idea here when researching State Fair blocks. After accusing other people of proclaiming old traditional patterns as their own designs perhaps I should practice what I preach!!