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!!


Susan said...

You are so right- there are not many new blocks just new settings and fabrics. I love version of State Fair! The colours are fabulous! And aren't you clever to eliminate the appliqu├ęd circle that way!

Sherri said...

I have loved reading all of the posts on inspiration and creativity...and I've ordered the book Elizabeth mentioned last week...seems like it will be a fascinating read.

Ruth said...

That Drunkards path looks fantastic and something I'd love to make someday! I like your colour update on the State Fair blocks. I came up with 2 blocks and looked for the original as I am convinced someone has thought of them before. Couldn't find them online or in 4000 blocks. Might have to expand my knowledge to 5000 blocks next!

Anne / Springleaf Studios said...

Just found your blog through the comment you left on Elizabeth's blog. I have found the same to be true when I look back through old old quilt magazines. I also design quilt patterns and projects for magazines sometimes. There is simply so much out there these days and all so very easily accessible that it's hard to be new and it's also hard to remember where the influence of an idea might have stemmed from. Creative overload in a way. But I will keep designing because that is my passion. I enjoy your blog.

Kim said...

I have the Patricia Cox book. It is a favourite of many pretty quilts and enlightened information. Your State Fair quilt is going to be a beauty. I love that we all have our own interpretations of 'old' quilting patterns.

Fran said...

Great post, Maria, those look like good books. I'll take a better look when I get home. Bought four very cute fat quarters in the Pied Piper yesterday :-)

Glinda ♥ said...

I love this post, Maria. Old books are fascinating - I often put them next to a new magazine ... lots of similarities. My next quilt is going to be based on a photo of a patchwork rug my friend has sent me - inspiration comes from many places :)

Mack and Mabel said...

A lovely post Maria. I too have the book Steal Like an Artist and it has made me realise that although there is no such thing as a new idea we all use those ideas in different ways. It might be in the piecing method, the choice of fabrics, the type or lack of borders. A class of 20 people all following the same pattern will all produce different results.
I think most designers are aware that they just have a different slant on a traditional pattern. It is the magazine staff that adverse them as "new" in an attempt to sell more magazines.

Dominique said...

Thanks for this post, Maria. I have a few old books, including one with a lot of Judy Hopkins quilts - I think most of her quilts would look stunning made with fresher colours. Can't wait to see what yours will look like.

OPQuilt said...

I love how this is going--and especially love the challenge to make a more modern version of an older quilt. I agree that many of the quilts I see are simply re-runs, made modern by the use of fabrics. So you've given me something to think about!

Great post!

Indianna said...

I've loved reading this and I've just been to the American Museum in Bath and seen some of the quilts from 1840 which wouldn't look out of place today.