Friday, April 29, 2011

there are things I shouldn't say

Besides things vulgar and flagrantly rude, what things shouldn't I say?  That question was on my mind Friday last and it's still on my mind today.  Today I want to share the comment from Friday's post that stood out to me the most, kind of the biggest "aha" moment for me.  Here goes (slightly paraphrased):

Rachel, it definitely comes down to a subjective/objective thing. I'm a lecturer on Ethics or responses to social issues. One thing we teach is that in society there are responses that should be subjective and some which should be objective depending on what we're responding to...
Confusion and anger occur when amongst other factors we mix this up. Art/Craft is a subjective form; objective responses bring out frustration.
Thank-you, Lucy Fleur, for sharing this little gem.   I'll be sending you the book.  For me, wrapping my head around this difference explains so much:  what I feel I can say, the origin of so many hurt feelings, and our frustration with issues like defining quilt styles as traditional or modern.  I believe that getting to the bottom of this can help our online community to maintain unity, a positive atmosphere and the ability to learn from one another.  But I think before we go on to discuss, I'll take a moment to explain what the heck I'm reading into this comment.

As I understand it (confessing now to a deep, abiding love for philosophy - blame it on Dad), subjective statements are those we make about ourselves - how I feel, what I like, what I believe, even what I think about you.   Objective statements are intended to be descriptions of truth - the way things really are, accuracy, facts.  Some examples from the sewing world...

*I love using white for sashing. OR White is the best color for sashing, hands down!
*To me, quilts patterns with intricate piecing are most fulfilling to make.  I love that I can make something so beautiful from little pieces of fabric - even unwanted scraps!  OR Quilting is really supposed to be a way to make something useful from scraps.
*I prefer to sew with designer fabrics, though I know they can be expensive.  In fact, designer fabrics are what inspired me to learn to sew.  OR Why would I put so much effort into a project made with lower quality materials?  Designer fabrics are the reasonable choice for any serious sewist.

See the difference?  In a normal context, the first set of statements just wouldn't offend anyone.  But the second set of statements... If you disagree, you are being told you are wrong.  Not just that they have a different opinion, but that your different choice is wrong.  But, can art be wrong?  Can it?  I hope you'll say "no".  I've seen art that is vulgar, art that makes no sense to me, but I won't say it's "wrong" - not artistically.

As one commenter noted, "quilts are an extension of the women who make them."  My sewing is an expression of what I find beautiful.  Feelings and emotions - not facts.  Therefore, art can't be wrong (objectively), but it can be something you dislike (subjectively).  And while no one would much like you if you ran around telling everyone politely, "I don't care for your art" at every opportunity, I hope one would still have friends if she occasionally said, "this time, your art is not for me."  Stating your dislikes politely is not wrong - it's just an opinion.  I want to talk another time about why I expect that sharing such opinions is in fact valuable.  I'll try not to get distracted by that thought now!

Moving on, what is the big deal about describing quilting styles as modern or traditional?  What is the hoopla with the "dumbing down quilting" debate?  I wonder if whatever careful language is used to discuss these things, the hurt and negativity might begin in the terminology itself.  Doesn't the word "modern" bring to mind "fresh, exciting, better"?  Or the word "traditional", doesn't it bring to mind "old, has-been, stuck" or something like that?  In another culture, the traditional might be given a position of honor and respect. But, here in the States at least, we lean towards assuming the new is also improved.  And I'm not saying we're right, but the underlying assumption may be there regardless.  Are we trying to be civil while using somewhat "objective" terms that do us in before we get started?  As my friend Miranda pointed out, what would it change things in our minds if "traditional" styles were called "classic" instead?

It's pretty easy to see the parallel with the term "dumbing down quilting."  The very word "dumb" is a strong statement that doesn't sound like an opinion as much as a judgement of failure and contempt.  Even if the points being made were respectful and fair, the label has an objective leaning I'd say.  And so the hurt starts right then and there.

One commenter said, "It's natural to try and put labels on things - it helps us describe them."  I so agree.  Someone new to quilting sees a style of quilts that excite her.  She wants to try them, and she wants to describe them!  Or, someone wants to describe herself or what she'd like to do in our community.  Perhaps we need new names for these styles; perhaps we don't.  But whatever we do, we need to speak about art subjectively, making statements about ourselves.  And, we need ears to hear these subjective statements without making the leap of applying them to everyone and to walk confidently along our way, without taking offense.  

One of my favorite comments was, "It's fun to talk over things with others that enjoy the same hobby, even if you don't agree. It's an afternoon coffee club with your friends - only long distance. And I can be happy with that I'm doing, and enjoy that others are having fun with what they do. And it can be the same or completely different! That's what friends do, right?"

Yes, that is!  And if our community is really a sort of friendship, I think that with some care and grace we can do this too.  So let's talk shop as friends, even when we don't all agree. And on that note here are a few questions. Take what you like!

Would it be helpful to replace the term "traditional" with "classic"?  Could "modern" benefit from a more neutral name as well?

Although we are each more than any label, how do you describe your sewing or quilting style?  Please don't argue with anyone else here. This question is about you.


  1. i'm not sure if changing "traditional" to classic would get the same point across... im new to quilting and have found that 'modern' and 'traditional' seem to get the point across as to the style of the quilt. i think to ease all tensions would have to mean removing any label that leads to a defintion of a time period/dating.. and just referring to them as the style they are (log cabin, half-square triangles etc.)

    my sewing style is all over the place. i love a little bit of everything and have combined it into what little sewing i have done. i always grew up with an appreciation of the handiworks my grandmothers did and maybe thats why i'm not so set on "modern" is better.
    i think any style of quilt can be modern, but it comes down to how you use the blocks and which fabrics you choose. not meaning designer is better.. but florals, burgundy, forest greens are typically more "dated" than some of the bolder colours and patterns available now.

    theres room for everybody in this big crafty world! we should be learning from each other and appreciating the time and effort that went in. even if it isnt your cup of tea... its someobodys!

  2. I like the term Classic, but i honestly don't see anything wrong with Traditional. I don't think it has negative connotations, not like something else, like "Old" would. to me, tradition is tied to history and there's nothing wrong with wanting to do something in the same vein as that which has been done for hundreds of years.

    i actually don't like Modern much as a term. to me, Modernism as it relates to art is an older movement from the 50s. we've had postmodernism and arguably have moved on to post-postmodernism (or whatever) since then. so Modern is kind of outdated. Contemporary might be better.

    having said all that i don't really place a great deal of emphasis on terms. i do what i like to do and don't worry much about it being old or new as long as i like it.

    i like bright graphic designs and tend to use more contemporary fabrics, and i also like wonky gees-bend inspired styles, but i like more traditional blocks too. again, i think people can get too caught up in defining what they're doing rather than just enjoying it.

  3. Rachel, thank you for this very well stated and thoughtful follow up post. I admit, I couldn't even comment on the post that started this whole debate because, while I thought your words and questions were inspiring and thought-provoking, I found many of the comments not only to be in the negative, or "subjective" camp, if you will, but downright nasty and insensitive. I hope this post will make us all think things through before we go ahead & blurt it all out no matter who is paying the price.
    I can't define myself as either modern or traditional. I love modern fabrics to pieces, but I'm just as excited about paper piecing, precise points and "traditional" quilts and I am about improv and "wonky" styles. All I know is that I'm inspired every day by the beauty I see in other's creations, modern or traditional is not a factor for me.

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  5. Okay, a couple points:

    - I don't think there's anything wrong with traditional, it is used in interior design w/out people looking down on it.

    - However, there are some quilts we think of as "modern" that are traditional in design but modern in color, for example.

    - Modern is probably inaccurate for the quilts we think of as so. It's really the palette that is modern, I think. (Maybe "Contemporary"?)

    - In my mind, those who identify themselves as modern quilters actually use a different approach to quilting, namely the emphasis on color and method over technique and complexity.

    - What we call modern is also very trendy right now (see Pottery Barn & Anthropologie for examples).

    - I still don't like the idea of negative comments (even when expressed as subjective opinions) on sewing blogs. Designers and quilter google themselves and read these comments. I feel a blog post full of comments that say, "I don't like it, it's just not my thing" can be hurtful. I really cringe at comments that could hurt someone's feelings. Maybe I/they should grow a thick skin, but I guess I just prefer happy....

  6. Thanks for sharing the "subjective/objective" distinction. This will help me as I read the comments of other people, and it may even [!] help me clean up my own language choices when I make a commentary.

    I FEEL that improvisational quilts are more valuable to ME and MY learning, than quilts made from carefully following a given pattern. But neither one of THOSE categories is necessarily "modern' or "traditional". Both modern and traditional quilts can be made improvisationally OR by carefully following a specific pattern. When I look at them I THINK I can tell which method was used, but I may be wrong. You have helped me see this. Thanks again!

  7. I quilt with modern fabrics but use traditional design. I dont find the term traditional to mean stuck at all, to me, it is a noble nodd to the past. I guess teh word "Traditional" is subjective in itself.

  8. Traditional/Classic would describe my style. The modren label was a little confusing to me...I didn't really understand what they ment by it till today.

  9. Yes, I think "classic" is probably a better term.

    For me, as a beginning quilter, I am drawn to the more modern fabrics and designs...but not all of them. I don't like to follow the crowd and often I feel like everyone is using the exact same designer fabric.

    One thing I'd like to see more of is people experimenting by using a very CLASSIC pattern but with MODERN fabrics. Bridge the gap. :)

  10. Although I'm not sure just changing the terminology will solve the debate, I do see some justification in using the terms classic and contemporary. Classic makes me think of that little black dress that will never go out of style. Contemporary, meaning "of the current time" seems appropriate for quilts that are currently being designed, no matter how simple or intricate the pattern.

    As I read your post and the comments, i thought of figure skating (go figure!) - specifically how there are basics that each skater has to know, no matter how routine they may be to watch, and then there is the self-expression of figure skating. Both are necessary for the sport to continue. Not every skater can do every jump - but that shouldn't affect their enjoyment of the expression of their skill. The same should be true for any artistic endeavor!

    And thanks for your objective/subjective discussion. It will certainly make me think more carefully about how I express myself when I disagree with someone or something!!

    And my sewing or quilting style? Eclectic. Because of the many charity quilts I make, I use quilts designs I might not make on my own for myself, using fabric I might not choose left to my own devices! For instance, a wonky log cabin is probably not going to appeal to an older woman, but might be just the right quilt for a college student done in the right fabrics. And I've found that even if a design isn't my cup of tea when I start, by the end I've usually learned something and I almost always love the finished quilt!

    Thanks for a thoughtful conversation....

  11. My style changes from piece to piece, and what I like also changes from day to day, month to month, just as perhaps some of the clothes I wore last year don't seem as attractive now. For me, this is what is exciting about quilting, and also what is exciting about being in an online community where influences come and go, and 'what is hot' changes. Thanks for this post. It has made me think - and that's always a good thing. :-)

  12. Wow! What a very well worded post. I think that we need to be more "subjective" in everything that we do, stating our opinions as just that, opinions.

  13. I personally like the term "traditional" - it conjures up certain images, probably of very matronly women of grandmothering age sewing certain patterns with fabrics that probably have flowers on them... but it also means, to me anyway, doing it by hand. And more power to them for doing that!

    I think "modern" should be used inclusively rather than exclusively. If you're using those floral patterns, but doing something new with your piecing, or with the pattern of your quilting - that seems "modern" to me. If you're using things like those controversal Sherbert Pips, but making log cabin squares out of them - that seems "modern," too. If your quilt's backing is made of several different fabrics, or your corners aren't squares, or your quilting itself is something freestyle - hey, I'd probably say it's modern, too! Even the projects where people from all over the world contribute a few squares for a quilt seem modern to me - how often did "traditional" quilters get to quilt quilts with contributors all over the world!?

    Although I have yet to actually finish a quilt (yup, total beginner here!) I'd describe my style as utilitarian. You won't see me describing my work as "art." I can't wrap my head around the patience required to do the microscoping paper-pieced squares that other folks can do. I want quilts that keep people warm, that keep out chills (whether from low temperatures or loneliness!), and that can be handed down from me to the kids I haven't had yet to their grandkids... (So maybe someday my "style" will be traditional!? Hah!).

    Reading back through the comments, I agree with others about the terms classic and contemporary instead of traditional vs. modern!

  14. I think my "style" is based on my current skill level especially when it comes to quilting. I only started a little over a year ago so I started with basic blocks and move on from there. I find myself drawn to a wide variety of quilts but know that I may never achieve the skill level to actually make some of them.

  15. Honestly, is it really "modern" or is it just "current"? And how long does a style continue to be considered "modern" before something else comes along? Is that first thing still modern then? If it is, what does that make the new style?

    I just think that labeling at all is more detrimental than informative. It's a quilt. And we all love quilts, but each one could stand having more descriptive terminology than just one word versus another -- or even synonyms for either of those.

  16. Love this post! I think it's awesome that you are continuing the discussions.
    Personally I do think the word traditional does get a bad rap. Classic would be more appreciated I think. I do not have the same negative connentaions with the word classic. It doesn't bring to my mind the same things. The phrases "classic quilt" and "traditional quilt" are very different. Excellent point!
    My personal style is would lean more towards classic ;) but with modern fabrics. The more basic shapes squares, rectangles, triangles, put together in very usual ways. I am not innovative at all in my quilting. Although I think this might be the same way someone else would define "modern quilting".
    I am loving this discussion! I wish I had someone to discuss this with IRL.

  17. I would describe my quilting as: old fabrics, old methods, new style. Although I do sometimes use new fabrics (and goodness gracious haven't there been a lot of nice new lines over the last ten years?) I also find a lot of satisfaction in reusing old clothes etc. for quilting. And of course we all owe our work to the tradition of quilting (objective! oh no!) :) whether we refer to our work as traditional or not. (And I would not :) .)

  18. I'm just a quilter. No label. I don't think that 'modern' quilting would even exist if it weren't for the 'traditional' quilts. It's all a part of the same story and everyone has a story worth telling. I think we should all quilt because it speaks to us. Because it brings us, and the loved ones we quilt for, joy. Wouldn't it be sad if we all told the same story? I don't love every quilt I see, or make for that matter, but someone does and that's what matters most.

  19. I think you've hit the nail on the head, Rachel, with your "subjective vs objective" discussion.

    Truly, I don't know why people get bogged down in labels. Why label quilts? We try not to "label" people. As with people, I wish we could all just embrace the differences and admire them all and their makers for what they bring to the world be it ingenuity, beauty, challenge, resourcefulness, or just warmth and comfort.

    I'm just a girl ... sitting in front of a machine ... sewing some fabric together ... wanting to bring some happiness to myself and to others. (Apologies to Notting Hill).

  20. I twist tradition as a sewing style. There are elements of modern, but I'm not overwhelmingly modern. I appreciate all kinds of quilts, but that's the way I sew. As an artist, my style I self-describe as "vintage modern." My fabrics have an element of nostalgia to them while being new, fresh and my own idea. It's hard to describe, I know. I was told by one fabric company that I was "too traditional" as if it was a dirty word. By another that I was "so modern" as if IT was a dirty word. And truly, I'm neither.

  21. I have been wondering what people on the blogs meant by "modern quilting." Now I see it means different things to different people. I have been defining it in my own head as "quilting before rotary cutters."

    I wonder what our foremothers might have produced, had they had rotary cutters, the discretionary income, fabric availability, and TIME that we "modern" women and men have.

  22. I am a freestyle or free range quilter. I dare anyone to understand what that means because I don't. I am just trying to learn to be a better quilter and have enough of labels at my job without dealing with them at play.

  23. First of all, I love the figure skating comparison! It would also work well as a ballet comparison.

    I do not personally care for the term classic when thinking about "traditional" blocks. I, like others, use the word classic to describe things that will never go out of style. They are beyond trends.

    I'm fine with the use of traditional although I think you have some valid points about the negative connotation that it invokes for some.

    Good distinction about subjective and objective. Now if only people would understand that their opinions are not THE opinion! lol

  24. Terri, It's true that so much has changed, and I suppose it's only natural that change can be hard to process for any community.

    Thanks to everyone for contributing to the discussion! I'm really enjoying your thoughts.

  25. I don't really put myself into any specific category for quilting - I just quilt! I like using the term 'classical' instead of 'traditional' as it encompasses a lot of the foundations of quilting. Here in the States, it does give a different connotation in our minds - classical can be seen as elegant, timeless.
    Instead of 'modern,' I've heard people using 'innovative' which again encompasses a wide range of quilts that are pushing the envelope and being created with all the technologies and resources available.

  26. I don't think that I have a style right now. I would describe myself as "learning". I have been quilting for 10 years now and there is still so much I do not know. Something things I do are more "modern" but there is something to be said for learning the more "classic/traditional" style of quilting. This is the reason I am planning on signing up for a BOM club. I know that I don't know how to do everything, nobody does, and I think that there is a lot I can learn from both sides of this debate.

  27. I don't think changing the terms we use will change the feelings that people invest in those terms. I think that we are often inclined to make ourselves feel better about choices that we make in our own lives by belittling those who have made different choices.
    In answer to your second question, I would label my quilting style as "burgeoning." I scratch my head sometimes when I read about this debate. I have told myself that I must learn the traditional methods of quilting before I can graduate to modern quilting. Now I'm hearing that modern is synonymous with "dumb"? Oh well!

  28. I like the terms the way they are. Traditional is the foundation of quilting. Modern is the "breaking of the rules" of traditional. Just like a Renaissance painting is a "traditional" piece of art and then the Dada movement was modern. Modern will always change with time as well. What is modern now will be considered "meh" in about ten years!

    I consider myself both modern and traditional quilter. I love the beauty of traditional blocks but enjoy the fresh modern fabric pieces to pair up with them. For the new business, I am experimenting designing "modern" block pieces. I find a lot of inspiration through graphic design and photography. Anyone who is or were a graphic design major know that as students we are being pushed to find "new solutions" (that's what my professor likes to call them!) to our designs. It's been drilled into my head and I hope to always find new solutions to my designs in the future but also to pay great respects to the traditional methods that all got us here in the first place!

    At the end of the day, a quilt, no matter what it looks like, should be appreciated because of the hardwork and love that was put into it.

  29. Well, here’s an interesting thing:

    A little over a year ago, I started a chapter of The Modern Quilt Guild. At the time, I had only about 30 quilts under my belt, so I wasn’t setting myself up as any kind of expert; I was merely looking for a group of quilters who wanted to do something different than take traditional patterns and make quilts. I couldn’t find it, so when I heard about this “modern quilt guild” thing; I thought, that’s it! So I contacted Alisha HC, talked to her and ended up starting a MQG.

    Imagine my pleased surprise when I had nearly 200 (online) members in less than six weeks and 25 or so showing up for regular meetings!

    Here’s the funny thing though.

    These modern quilters were doing exactly the same thing that traditional quilters were doing – using classic block patterns (log cabins, pinwheels, Chinese coins, railway blocks, etc.) or sometimes re-working traditional patterns in fresh ways);but they were doing it with fabric “lines” (something I’d never heard of ‘till then), adding a lot of white or beige or gray and calling it "modern". And every single one of them was doing it! To my mind, they were exactly like the classic/traditional quilters - they were just young and hip while doing it. Most meetings were filled with chatter about so and so’s blog/pattern/wonky –something-or-other and fabric lines. Bits of a precious commodity called “Flea Market Fancy” were passed around and oohed and ahhed over.

    When I brought my own things, they would smile and say “cool” and then go back to talking about Heather Bailey’s fabric. (Whom I’m sure is a lovely woman, but I’m not much interested in her fabric.) I felt completely isolated in the group I was president of.

    You see, when I read “modern” quilters I thought of people who wanted to (having a firm base in the traditional) then break it away from it! To try their own patterns, go wild in fabric stores (not necessarily quilt shops); perhaps go pattern-less altogether, push the boundaries of craft and/or quilting - explore the intersection of craft and art, or just go for it and make art.

    So, what I discovered was that I was looking for contemporary quilters, not modern quilters, and that mostly likely; I wouldn’t find them in “guilds” at all, but rather in “groups”; and in learning that, I have found (and am much happier in), a small group of like minded people. I resigned the presidency, and gave it to a lovely young woman who adores all the fabric designers and loves wonky things and knows all of the patterns and all the bloggers and yes - she develops patterns of her own – and it’s clear the group is sooooooo much happier with her; so I’m glad for us all.

    But if I’d known from the beginning that it was “contemporary” quilters I was looking for, not “modern” ones; we all would have been happier much sooner! :)

  30. This is an honest question and I'm not asking it in a sarcastic manner whatsoever, but why do people care if they make a traditional quilt or a modern one?? Why don't people just make what they love and support what others love too?? When I first started quilting I loved the traditional (classic, what have you) and now I like some of the modern styles, which I find is really only a matter of the fabric line used since the blocks are usually traditional. My styles and tastes have changed over the years. And since I only know two other quilters (I have 4 kids, one of which is disabled, so I don't go out much) I'm just thrilled that I have someone to talk to about quilting, even though I may not (and usually don't) like their tastes in fabric or designs. Really, why is there an issue with traditional or modern??

  31. I like your examples of subjective vs objective comments. So much depends on wording - I'm not sure everyone is aware of how phrasing their opinions can make them seem judgemental when perhaps that's not the intention.
    Modern vs traditional is all in the eye of the beholder. I am very drawn to 'modern' quilt styles right now, but it amuses me that they are very similar to some of my first quilt designs in the 80s.

  32. I wrote out a nice comment then lost it. Oh well. I consider myself eclectic and I quilt what I like and am not concerned what other people think is trendy. It is a hobby that you have fun doing, right.

  33. Haphazard, bright and colourful! I'm just not drawn to more muted colors used in more traditional quilts.

  34. I can not really define my quilting style.. as for fabrics, I like 30's repros,Alexander Henry pinup girls,3 Sisters by Moda,and to some new prints that I can not remember all of the desingers names.. it depends on my mood,the project and the recipient as to the fabrics. My sewing.. hmmm.. sometimes wonky,on purpose and accident.sometimes my seams linup,on accident.. I have quite a few pincushions to store my pins in.Sometimes with all the hubba of styles and all.. I just say I love buying fabrics,cutting,and sewing back together.sometimes I buy to look at it because it is pretty. Happy Stitching,Amy

  35. Thanks Rachel!
    I appreciate your further explaination of subjective and objective in the art/craft world.

    My style- 'colourful and crooked (unintentionally)!'

  36. wow what a can of worms this all is!
    But I like the discussion. And I like the philosophical-ness of this post. It reminds me of college when we'd thologize in the hallway (sitting in our dorm hallways debating and discussing openly). Back then, we'd all still go off to bed the same religions as we started, but we gained knowledge of eachother's hearts. I may not agree with my friend's beliefs but I respect them because as my friend I love her.

    On this venue it's a lot harder for us to get to that point. There are certainly people that I wouldn't be likely to have this touchy of a conversation with in my real life, but it's much harder to make that call online.

    That all being said, I like the modern/traditional categories because it is more likely to convey what I like and do to people who don't know about my kind of quilting. People in my every day life assume that I quilt like my great grandmother did. And yes, I can enjoy flying geese and log cabins, but no what they're thinking of is not me. I'm bright colors and pretty fabrics. I'm testing the limits of my skills at every turn and not afraid to make mistakes (that may lead me to make a small quilt out of whatever's salvageable). It's hard for the outsider to see that difference (or even realize that there is a "modern" side to quilting)without terminology. That all being said I think the terms are best left out of the actual quilting world since lets face it, I can tell you that I like designer fabric, solid fabric, bright colors, and a challenge. You'll understand. But the people outside of the quilting world haven't a clue! :)

  37. I buy fabric. I sew. I take photos. I write. I blog.

    Whether I'm Modern, Contemporary or Traditional Twist, well, that's up to the labellers ...

    No-one forces anyone to read blogs ... chill out and move on if you don't like what you see :)

    Rememeber what happened when Coca Cola rebranded as Coca Cola Classic? Yeah, it sank without a trace and they went back to tried and trusted ...

    Go with what works for you :)

  38. oh, and try to type 'Remember' with just the right amount of es ...!

  39. I agree with Anna Joy. Traditional is what started it all, it is the foundation. Modern is breaking the rules and the trend of today. Ten years from now, modern will be different, another ten years from then it will look different.
    I like using fabrics that make me happy (usually bright and modern) and creating...whether it is a traditional block or a new idea, it is about being creative. And I love seeing the many different creations on the web and becoming inspired. There is so much talent, why do we judge and criticize.

  40. I thiNk I must have missed the beginnig of this philosophicAl discussion - personally I think if you dont like someones work and you are seeing it on their blog - DONT COMMENT AT ALL. Mumble about it to yourself or a friend but otherwise keep quiet. I dont see 'traditional" as old/boring/out of date - just soemthing that has been around for a long time - like log cabin blocks or star blocks - they still have real value in patchwork - but maybe not as much in Art Quils. Each to their own - do what you like and enjoy it.

  41. My style is eclectic. Traditional, modern, art or naive....I love them all! I make what I like, using fabric which I matter what style or company it comes from. Quilting makes me happy, I'm happy when I quilt...simple as that.

  42. I'm a complete and total amalgamation... really.

  43. I aim to please no one but myself -- a bit of human nature there. I have no quilting style. If I see a quilt or pattern I want to try for myself, I do it to the best of my abilty. If I'm happy with it, that's enough.

  44. I agree with knottygnome, Modern in terms of art doesn't really categorize what people today are calling modern quilting. Contemporary seems like a more appropriate term. The way the term modern is often used today, it kind of comes across as a snub to every other style. And it shouldn't. I don't think there should be any snubbing between quilting styles. All are valid in their own environments. And people should be allowed to develop their own tastes.

  45. Another well written, thought provoking post. I like the term "contemporary" too, although I also don't think that "traditional" necessarily means old fashioned. I think a lot of what defines a quilt is down to the fabrics and colours used rather than the technique - I've seen plenty of "modern" log cabins, for example. And as for "dumbing down"? I think that smacks of pure snobbery, to be honest. To compare a more simple quilt to a very technically difficult quilt is like comparing apples and oranges. They can both be beautiful, who's to say if one is "better" than another? Each to his own, I say. Wouldn't life be boring if we all liked and made the same kinds of quilts? As for me? I probably do fall into the "modern" camp and I make fairly simple quilts because that is what I enjoy - it makes me happy, simple as that.

  46. Aim to please thyself and remember that if you put your work out to share, someone is bound to disagree with your pleasure. You'll have to decide: Keep it to yourself? Wave it proudly and bravely? It's a personal choice that's not always an easy one. Unless of course you love what you do ...
    I am a traditional quilter who favors traditional fabrics and colors. But I love looking at other peoples' work. Fresh inspiration is a necessary ingredient in all creative endeavors. Savor it all. Make what you love.

  47. I just enjoy quilting! I don't want be in a certain category because on a daily basis I'm changing my mind on what I like and what do I want to make next. I love reading other quilters blogs and get lots of inspiration from them!

  48. just stumbled on your blog and this very interesting 'conversation'.


    I'm going to spend some time thinking about this.

    Thank you.

  49. I've read all the posts and it seems like the conversation/comments has about covered the modern/trad thread.

    But about the other--the "dumbing down" stream. I've read all *those* original posts and realize that it had its genesis in trying to describe levels of skill. I think this is sort of one place where there is no subjectivity, and that's kind of what set off the whole alarm bells and craziness. Either you have the skills to make successful HST (Half Square Triangles) or you don't. It's meeting an objective standard. For some, HST are intimidating. For others, they do them in their sleep. I do think it can be successfully argued that there are certain skills that come with practice and after having achieved them, a quilter can objectively say s/he's got those down. I consider myself a master quilter, having done just about every technique in the book (some while I was majoring in CloTex in college, some afterwards as I took quilt classes to become more proficient). The point is I was still learning, still trying. And as I want to improve myself, I'm now trying to master more applique techniques. So even while I may have objectively met some unnamed standards of skill level, there is always more that can be learned, can be perfected upon.

    My .02 on the "modern" quilting business. A while back ( a year ago?) I read a blog post putting forth the idea that it was one leg of a three-legged stool, the other two legs being *traditional* and the *art quilt*. I was happy with that idea--that we were all finding ways to be creative. I love the injection of fresh! new! that the modern gals have brought to the industry. I started quilting in the 1970's when I was 21, and I thought we were getting a bit old and musty. I wasn't ready to go the art quilt route because I still love a good cuddle under a hand-made quilt. So I was happy to see some fresh ideas, another way to contribute to our big wide world of quilting. It's not an either/or. It's all of us together, doing what we love. I write about these issues occasionally on my blog: I think I'm going to copy/paste this response with a link back to your blog. You've given all of us

  50. (Cont'd from above)
    You've given us all something to think about. Thanks!

  51. I think your "subjective vs. objective" explanation hit the nail right on the head. Expressing opinions is fine, but when they extend to then judging OTHERS' opinions, that's where the hurt comes in. Ex: I don't like Sherbet Pips, or I am tired of seeing Sherbet Pips everywhere. Vs. I don't know how anyone in their right mind could like Sherbet Pips. :-)

    I read through a lot of your comments on your original post, and although I realize a lot of them were just "venting", a lot of them could also have potential to hurt/offend others. They ranged from "I hate how people make whole quilts out of a single line of fabric" all the way to "if you aren't actually QUILTING your own quilts, don't call yourself a quilter." That goes beyond the simple opinion to judgment of others.

    I think it all boils down to opinion and likes/dislikes. Personally, I am NOT a perfectionist. If my quilt comes out passable, I'm happy. My joy comes from the sewing, not the seams all lining up perfectly. For that reason, I also really enjoy sewing clothes (a lot more room for error, generally!) I get overwhelmed by SO many choices at the fabric shops, so if I find a good deal on a pre-cut or a whole line of fabric is marked way down, I'll get a bunch of it, because I like how it coordinates without having to put that much thought into it. Although I know that is where others really get their joy - picking out fabrics and finding ones that wouldn't normally be put together, etc.
    I LIKE stippling. I don't have an option for sending my quilts out because of where I'm currently living, so I HAVE to quilt my own. And I really like the look of stippling. Others may not, but that is their preference.

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment. Just wanted to say thanks for your posts. It is amazing how many different opinions are out there, and you know what? In this huge world that is the sewing community online, I am sure that everyone can find their own little niche. If you don't like the blogs that write about certain things, just don't read them!

  52. I am very, very new to quilting and haven't wanted to write a post on the modern/ traditional debate due to my inexperience. But I think my "outsider's view" could add something to the discussion; to me the terms 'modern' and 'traditional' describe the block pattern or fabrics used in a quilt. As an architecture student I have been a part of the classical/ modernist debate for quite some time and I am well aware that nothing is new anymore. However in quilting, I believe that "modern" does not describe something done in an explicitly modernist style, but rather a reworking or a simplification (for want of a better word; I am not advocating "dumbing down" as modern art is just as complex and maybe even more thought provoking as classical art, but as a style it is a streamlined, simplified aesthetic) of an original concept.

    For me, to further the art form it is important to understand and be aware of its history, and thus have an awareness of traditional quilting styles but I for one am not intending on pushing any boundaries and for now I am content to make things that my eye finds pleasing and my beginner's hands can cope with.

    I'm not sure if I answered either question, but I think that you hit the nail on the head with the subjective/ objective argument and I believe that whether something is labelled as traditional or modern, it should not matter, but calling another style "a dumbed down version" as if that was a fact, can only be done with extensive research and evidence as dumbing down refers to the intellectual concept behind the art, and not the ease of the piecing. As modern art was all about bringing highly performing, well designed objects to the masses through industrial production techniques; it makes sense that modern quilting should be accessible and not alienating either.

    Sorry for the essay!

  53. Although I am not enamoured of "traditional" style quilts, I don't think of them in a negative way, they just don't call to me. As for "modern", I prefer the term "contemporary" as being more positive. I like a lot of contemporary quilts but not as many modern quilts. See, it's just a personal perspective on words to me.
    Hmmmm, I would describe my preferred style as "eclectic", which seems more positive sounding to me than "scattered" or "aimless".... because I simply like many, many different styles!

  54. I don't me trying to change traditional to classic is just another version of political correct silliness. I think we'd all benefit from being a little less sensitive, or at least expecting everyone around us to pander to our particular sensitivities.

    I don't know really how I would describe my sewing or quilting style. I do like designer fabrics and rarely use big-fabric store materials. I like lots of color and things that feel fresh to me. But I hesitate to pigeonhole myself with a label. It just feels too restrictive to me.

  55. Personally, I think the term traditional is fine to describe that style. However, I think "contemporary" would be a better term to describe current trends in pattern/fabric than "modern".

    For myself, I like to use bright colors in my quilts, and try out any block or quilt pattern I like the look of (no matter whether it's traditional or contemporary).

  56. I just define myself as a quilter. It's easier not to be put in a box--then you have more freedom to do whatever!

    It makes me sad that some people feel like warring over the different camps.

    It's like if DaVinci poo pooed Monet's watercolors. It's ALL freaking amazing, people! We're ALL awesome--whether you buy bolts of Amy Butler or chop up your husband's old work shirts. Go. Us. Quilters of the world unite.


  57. I make what pleases me. Making quilts is an expression of who I am, what I am learning and a relaxing outlet for my creative side.

    Never having been a conformist, I don't care to follow the in crowd - unless I am in love with a fabric or pattern that happens to be popular at the moment.

    Isn't that what we all should do? Make what we love, not what everyone else is doing?

  58. What we say reveals more about us than about the person or work we comment on. If I say "I don't know how anyone in their right mind could..." I'm revealing my own lack of comprehension. I've found that when I am able to hear through such a perspective (what's this person revealing about their self?), I am able to feel much less judged and therefore much less hurt.
    It is choosing which facet of the diamond to look at. While this can seem like a game, I have found that it frees me from the merry-go-round of action-reaction that can escalate. When I remember and can detach sufficiently, I find it a useful strategy.

  59. My quilt preferences are rooted in tradition, but I'm not afraid to go down my own path. Color is extremely important to me, above any other quality in a quilt. I also adore scrappy and controlled scrappy quilts. Quilting is a way for me to express myself. I also really enjoy being a small part of such a big and wonderful community.

  60. I forgot to add that I think modern is a really lame way to call a style. Especially when I associate it with the mid-century aesthetic.

    How about "Lucid" quilt style? Lucid sounds perfect to me. "Modern" quilts are frequently bright, colorful and clear, with simple, uncluttered construction. Synonyms of the word are plain and radiant. That would describe almost all modern-labeled quilts I've seen. I don't know, just a thought.

  61. Great Post...totally agree with the subjective/objective thought.

    I don't really worry about the modern versus traditional thing.

    I do like your question about what kind of sewer or quilter I am.

    Fearless is what I'm aiming for...yur got me thinking so that resulted in today's post for me ...linked back here of course.

    You really do know how to get a discussion going.

  62. I'm nothing if not eclectic. Honestly, I don't care about the labels. I like what I like. I make what I make. I've noticed a lot lately that people feel the need to label things...not just quilting styles. Who knows why, I guess it's just 'the thing to do.' I pay no attention. You can call your style whatever you like Rachel, and now matter what word you choose, it won't change the fact that I like it. :)

  63. I think Words like 'traditional', 'contemporary' and 'modern' help us categorize and attempt to define quilting styles. None of these has an inherent negative connotation to me; rather, they are descriptive and helpful if in a general way. I don't think the term 'traditional' is offensive at all but describes a style that is more in line with historical quilting patterns.

    I roughly describe my quilting as modern and also take the liberty to call it eclectic :)

  64. When I start reading blogs I realise there was a whole new quilt world evolving and I found it refreshing! The modern fabrics would be described as "busy" fabrics when I started quilting 30 years ago. I mostly tried to avoid them. I am not sure that one can make classical/traditional blocks with the modern fabrics. Traditional blocks was a "picture" of a star, a basket or other distinguished design. The modern fabrics have so much activity in themselves and blend into fabrics adjacent to them that you do not get that clear line and form. Therefore modern quilters I think, make quilts with simpler forms. The emphasis with modern quilts is on the fabric and not on the design that is created by carefully choosing light mediums and darks.

    And I might be wrong- this is just my subjective opinion?

  65. As someone thinking about starting a quilting blog I have found the comments to your recent posts enlightening. It has left me wondering do I really want to put myself out there and have Tom, Dick and Harry letting me know what they think about my sewing, fabric choice, quilt design etc. Would this add to my development as a quilter or suppress my creativity and lessen my enjoyment of sewing. I can't decide but being a sensitive soul am tending towards the latter. I think that there is a thin line between constructive and destructive criticism. I think that where this line is drawn is probably different for differnt people and that perhaps we can only gauge what is appropriate for a particular person if we know them well and know what is going on in their lives at that time. Even saying that you don't like someone's work may be, I feel, enough in particular circumstances to affect their creative choices in the future. Is my opinion so informed or important that I should jump in there and inflict it on someone else. I do think that often comments are made in a fly away moment and may end up having more of a impact than the commenter realises. It takes a very hard skin not to be affected by 5, 10 or more people, one after the other, telling you that they don't like your work.

    I don't think an online forum makes it very easy to really get to know a person well enough unless there is the opportunity to build up a regular, prolonged and frequent "conversation". In the absence of this I feel that it is best to err on the side of caution and keep to the positive or don't comment at all.

  66. I wish I could get all of these people together in one place on a regular basis.....What fun we could have! I feel connected to so many who have left comments. Why can't I find people like this in the "real" world? Actually, my best friend is totally into fabric like me, although we have completely different styles. I would say that as a whole, the sewing/quilting community is very generous and helpful to each other. I do sometimes, feel jealous of the seemingly perfect and creative lives my fav bloggers post (why don't I have that life?!) but then I feel guilty when I don't like the a line my favs put out. IDC about the labels put on quilts/quilters...there is room for everyone. I do like to read other's musings, likes and dislikes..why are people so sensitive about that? Lovely blog..just found it. Thanks!

  67. I'm not sure that I have much to add to the traditional/modern/contemporary/art quilt debate. Words/Labels/Categories are helpful. They make it easy to find things that are similar. That's why we have them. The problem is in ranking one as more important/better/more right than another. Labels aren't bad necessarily, they are very helpful in organizing things into like categories. It's the ranking on a list from best to worst that is the problem. Everyone's list is different, you'll always find someone whose list is the same as yours, and someone else who has the exact reverse. It's not the label that is the problem, it's the clash of preferences, and the assumption that one list is better than the other. They are just different. Which is good. How boring would it be if everyone only liked one thing/used one style/purchased one color of fabric?

    As for my personal preference I am a total mishmash. This year on my to make list are two quilts of Russian flag blocks for my friends daughters who lived there for 10 years, three quilts made from my deceased father in laws suits and shirts, one log cabin quilt in browns and blues and tans for my mom to go in her living room, one tokyo subway map quilt for my twin sister who doesn't much care for any quilt because they are busy, but loves linear/graphic design and sent me the link with hearts all over it, one designer fabric line quilt for my daughters room, one half hexagon pink quilt for myself, with various Joann's fabrics, reproduction 30s fabrics and designer fabrics- but all pink, a very time intensive tree quilt appliqued with embroidered names on the leaves to be a family tree quilt for my dad, the impossible person to buy for, a hand quilted alphabet quilt for my preschool daughter (which has been in the works for a year),and a vintage sheet quilt from my ever growing pile of thrifted sheets for a picnic blanket. And probably a few more projects will pop up. The range of colors/styles/patterns/techniques/purposes of these quilts is as varied as the people who will receive them. I probably won't do any of the actual quilting myself, because I've found I don't enjoy that part. I have a long arming friend who I trade with, I make clothes for her daughter, or send her fabrics she likes, or do piecework for her and she does my quilting. It's good for both of us. But just because I don't enjoy the actual stitching together of the three layers doesn't make me less of a quilter, right? If I make 12 tops this year, but don't actually "quilt" them myself, then does that make me a seamstress instead? I mean, I do that too, I make plenty of clothes, but does it put me in a different category? Yes. But that's not necessarily bad. I'd love to enjoy the actual quilting. But I don't. So what. I'm not offended by someone telling me I'm not a "real quilter". I don't actually care.

    If someone makes dinner with purchased dessert, or frozen vegetables, or bakery rolls, or a honeybaked ham that only requires warming up before it is served, does that mean that they aren't cooking? Nope, they still made dinner and we can enjoy it for what it is. Which is making me hungry and it's now time for a midnight snack. Sorry for the overly verboseness. This has been a fascinating series to follow on your blog.

  68. Thank-you very much for your thoughts! It is nice to come back to this after a time and ready something so reasonable. I am glad for you that you are comfortable being who you are to the extent that the labels don't matter much. That's a great place to be!

  69. Monica MondragonJuly 1, 2011 at 3:31 AM

    Hi Rachel. I worked as a graphic designer for many years. After a while I came to the conclusion that my job was to take artwork/graphics and make them visually better. Some artwork had a better start than others, but as a designer I was trained to think--how can I improve this art.

    So sometimes I have problems with the 'art is subjective' point of view. Yes, I agree in theory, but sometimes the reality (at least to me) is that it can also be objective. In art school your artwork is critiqued by your peers and teachers. Suggestions are given for improvement based on principles of design. Some things (quilts) are visually better than others, although personal preference will always have a place.

    I now look at quilts this way too. I look at my quilts (as well as others) and think about what might have improved the visual impact of a quilt--more contrast between fabrics, colors changes, fabric choices. Even though I can find improvements in my quilts, I still love them. That's the factor that can't be measured, or changed-sentimental feelings towards a quilt.

    I was able to see Denyse Schmidt when she gave a presentation in LA a few weeks ago. One of the things she said in her talk was "I was labeled as a 'modern' quilter almost immediately" or something to that effect. I don't really believe that she herself considers herself to be a modern quilter. It is true when looking at some traditional quilts, they actually look quite modern. So really then, what exactly makes a modern quilt anyway?

    Now for my confessions since I didn't play along before (just found your posts):
    * I don't get the Mona Lisa--overrated in my opinion but I've never seen it in person.
    * I never used to understand the obsession with Liberty of London prints. That is until I saw them in person. They are exquistite in real life. I could spend a fortune on them if I had the cash.
    * Lately, I'm feeling burnt out on fabric--too many choices, too many new designers & too many new lines. I feel like I've eaten too much, except with fabric.

    Thanks for the interesting discussions on your blog!

    P.S. I love Single Girl! But not as a pillow--go figure.

  70. I'm just catching up with these postings about blog and. First, I didn't think there was anything rude or negative about your original post. I thought it was refreshing. Like any community, there are fads and overhype associated with new and interesting things. I found myself getting tired of sherbet pips too, even though I like the fabrics. Same with the the castle peeps line. And I like both.
    My dare to share is that I am not at all interested in reading about blogger's children and garden, or seeing pictures of them. I have kids, but would never describe myself to others as a 'mom'. Obviously, I'm in the minority, and quilt blog reading gives me a world of pleasure, provided by people who are generous and talented, so I would never write a comment like that in someone's blog.
    But we don't all have to like the same things, so there is room for honesty. It isn't the same as negativity, even though they can overlap.
    Really loved the comments on all these posts. Thanks!

  71. The term I use when I am not really impressed with a piece of work/art is "it's not my cup of tea"....that means I don't really like it. Why shouldn't we be able to "not really like" something? There is nothing negative about that. We should also be able to say it without others taking offense. We are all different with different likes and dislikes. People should grow up and realise that. I have found nothing you have written to be nasty or mean and that is what I do take offense to....I have really enjoyed these posts, comments and discussions...thanks for sharing. Hugs Khris

  72. I would like to beg people to understand that stifling honest dialogue on a public subject matter by employing "hurt feelings" is manipulative. It's controlling. Oftentimes this trick works very well in a community of women. If the topic were about handmade quilts by individuals, OF COURSE we don't say it's ugly. But if it's got something to do with money and commerce and advertising and gimmicks, than we get to voice opinion.

    Please, no more apologizing for potential "hurt feelings", we're intelligent women, not nimrods that can be confused and railroaded into buying ugly stuff, let us have our say without having to tip toe around. It's the internet, if you don't like opinions, you're in the wrong place.


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