Tuesday, January 05, 2010


What is the culture of quilts in today's society?

quilt guilds
quilt shows
quilt competitions
quilt shops
quilt magazines
quilt fabrics, more and more fabrics
quilt notions, special rulers
women for the most part

Walk into any quilt show, only one or two quilts shine out as true.
There is disdain for quilts among other textile artists. Why is this?
Is it really because the bulk of quilts in quilt shows are made
too fast
with lots of tricks and short cuts
like stack and whack?
Remember those Amish quilts from the 1920's? Made from naturally dyed wool and cotton they used large shapes, squares mostly and no embellishment or fancy tricks with fussy cut prints. The way that the colours were made and then how they were arranged makes us feel that the woman who laid those fabrics beside each other on the floor really thought about how they could best express the emotions she felt in her soul.What WAS quiltmaking?

an integral part of a woman's work day along with cleaning, laundry, mending, child caring, wood chopping, gardening
a welcome relief from those domestic chores
a creative option for a woman in her confined domestic sphere
a visual language where she could express joy, ambition, sorrow, even politics
What IS quiltmaking? (or should I say, what can quiltmaking be?)

a place to design with colour and shape in an original way
a tactile painting
a metaphor for warmth and comfot
an intimate connection with the body (we SLEEP with them)
a pattern (like music)
a way to recycle materials that might be thrown away
a way to keep things that need to be treasured
a way to gather things up and try to make them make sense
an object that takes a long time to make and gives contemplative space to the maker
a place to express concerns
about the body, about feelings, about relationships, about frustrations, about values
in a tender way
in a resourceful way
in an enduring way


  1. My jaw fell open reading this entry. wow. well done. beautiful images and great insight.

  2. Terrific post. So much to think about and nod in agreement with. I am sending some friends to read this. Thank you!

  3. Beautifully put, and beautifully illustrated.
    Encapsulates much of my own thoughts.
    Thank you.
    I will bookmark this post for the future.

  4. Wonderful thought provoking post Judy. And gorgeous images too.

  5. these are why i continue to make quilting---the feeling i get from seeing yours--and mine and x's and y's----indescribable feeling, strong feeling

  6. Fiber art is disdained or ignored. In trying to explain my fiber art to others, many end up thinking that I make cute little potholders.

    So few people care about the history of quilting and fiber arts.

    Sewing, as an art, isn't really thought of as an art by those who do not sew. However, those that don't write books read them. Those that don't perform still attend plays and ballet. Those that do not paint purchase paintings. Those that don't quilt or create other fiber art just don't get it. They don't seek it out. They don't see it at all.

    It's up to those that create such things to keep creating and educating others.

    Wonderful post!

  7. So perfectly said. Beautifully illustrated. Yes. I have nodded my head in strong agreement as I read each sentence.

  8. Love this. Thank you for writing it.

  9. My mom had (has) a few books about Amish quilts - I used to pour over those pages, years ago. I had forgotten that until reading your post.

    This post has me awestruck - so much to chew on before I could add to your thoughts, I think. So good.

  10. stack and wack? doesn't that just seem violent somehow?
    thanks for reminding me.

  11. "tactile paint". Love it. I tell people I'm an artist and say textiles are my medium if they ask. I'm definitely going to add "tactile painting" to that description.
    Thank you!

  12. Lovely post--both the writing and your beautiful array of quilts!

  13. Hmmmmm...so many have gotten here before me and have expressed much of what I think and agree with. Recently, the thought had crossed my mind to not submit entries to our guild's show. I most likely will, but previously that thought had never entered my head. The frustration of trying to determine why a judge merits some quilts, but not others, has begun to be tiring and trying.

    Thank you for your wise words and inspiring photos.

  14. I've been thinking these things for a good long while. They were boiling away inside, and it was a release to publish them.

    Thank you to all who have commented. I appreciate your support and interest more than I can say. Good quilt making to us all in 2010.

  15. what an amazing post...words and pictures wonderful xxxx

  16. Thanks for the great post Judy. For me, every effort that women make in the textile arts whether traditional or art quilt counts. All I ask is that the maker created something to the very best of her ability. Whether I like it or not doesn't matter so long as the work was made with thought and care. With that said, I have seen some masterpieces here at PIQF in CA-the skill level was something I could never hope to attain. How could that not be art? I have also seen some so called "art quilts" that I would have been hesitant to display because of the quality. I guess I see the whole of quilting and sewing as a collective effort: go forward and make a statement for "womens' work" everywhere:)

    Thanks Again,

  17. The Quilting Industry has packaged and promoted everything to cater for the modern quilter accustomed to instant gratification. While quiltmaking can't do it instantly, some new tools and techniques have been able to make faster results possible (think 'quilt in a day' for heaven's sakes) There is nothing inherently wrong in the unfortunately named stack and whack technique, but it is touted as 'easy' implying 'needs little care', and so usually results in large pieces minimally quilted, often in safe/boring 'packaged' fabric combinations, lacking any original zest.

  18. A thought provoking post with beautiful images

  19. When I read your post I was reaffirmed about my insistent instincts to ignore the onslaught of new quilt techniques, tools, supplies, etc., despite all the pressure to do so. I haven't 'bought' quilt fabric in a long time. Something inside me just needs to handle fiber, understand fiber, shape and compose it into meaningful pieces of work, remember myself through this process.I need few tool to do this, just plenty of time with myself. Thanks for your article. It confirmed what I do!

  20. I couldn't pick out one part that I loved the most. Thank you- not only for the words, but the pictures.

  21. there is much here to contemplate. many issues raised. much to think about.

  22. it strikes me, after thinking about this post for the past 24 hours :) in regards to what quilt making was - often worked among a community of women

    it seems, perhaps the individual 'conquest' of a quilt is part of what has contributed to the short cut, ready - made, 'stack an whack' sort of thing.

    That said, it is in many ways good to see women take a genuine interest, and for some people the following a formula way of making is quite fulfilling.

  23. Anonymous6:31 pm

    I love this. You've given voice to what is felt in the hearts of those who love this art.

  24. Yup! You said it and so succintly... thank you for putting thosr thoughts to work.

  25. OMG this is so true. i don"t do a lot of quilting put i am a fiber artist and stitcher and when i find an old quilt i can't cut it and stitch on it, that is someone's history!!! THANK YOU for writing about how i feel about handmades. marilyn=0)

  26. yes i can hear you. the loss of soul.
    it's become a business.

  27. Anonymous2:11 pm

    i laughed when i saw the mention of stack and whack. how many times have i heard that or similar techniques being marketed at a quilt show? yes it has become a business. that is not going to go away. but at the same time i think there is a door opening for the likes of people here (and at slow cloth) to plant some seeds reminding quilters that their work does not need to be directed by the companies and their products. the aim of fabric companies is to sell as much fabric as possible and many women have succombed to this to the point of displaying bumper stickers proclaiming the size of their "stash". i think that more education about the quality of cloth is in order at the markets as well as education about it's manufacture. something the fabric companies are loath to do. it's a long road, but we have time. companies who sell with integrity and a true respect for their customer get my vote every time.
    as for the rest of this excellent post- so many good thoughts-thanks judy!

  28. Simply and beautifully put!
    The love and pleasure from creating things is timeless, yet needs the investment of time, slowly building something, with commitment and love for others to enjoy.

  29. I don't know what stack and whack is but I do know what a quilt is to me. Something layered and foldable and comforting. I find it strange when people call my wall pieces quilts.

  30. lola ruiz2:05 pm

    Hi from Spain Judy. Thank you for sharing your work. I see lots of tendernes in them and makes me feel it too. Thank you.
    I my quilts I try as much as I can to be honest and not pretentious (?).It´s hard work for me but keep trying.


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx