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May 12, 2013

New Wave Quilting — Not just for granny anymore


Below, excerpts from Meg Cox's May 9 Wall Street Journal story.


Above and below, exemplars of the bleeding edge of an old craft suddenly jolted into the 21st century.



There's a youthquake on the quilt scene, and the fabrics (and insults) are flying.


"Modern quilting" is the label that has stuck to this aesthetic, which often recalls the work of such modern-art pioneers as Piet Mondrian and Josef Albers. Geometric shapes abound, mostly in solid colors, often against a white background. Sometimes, the new moderns get edgy and put social commentary in the quilts.


Many new-generation quilters consider themselves rebels, rejecting over-embellished styles in favor of radical simplicity. Their teachers tend to be blogs and YouTube videos, and they're sharing every quilt on Pinterest and Instagram.

All this led to QuiltCon, the Modern Quilt Guild's first national show, held in Austin, Texas, in late February. The show sold 700 tickets in the first 15 minutes and turned away more than 50 companies that wanted booths. Some traditional quilters were put off by a stark quilt showing a gun dribbling blood, but the biggest controversy was over a quilt that featured the "F" word in 53 colorful blocks.

"I actually saw a man dragging his wife by the arm to leave the convention center, while saying, 'This is disgusting,' " says Maddie Kertay, a Chattanooga, Tenn., quilter who posted the quilt on her "Bad Ass Quilters Society" Facebook page.

Chawne Kimber, a math professor, assembled the F-word blocks from many quilters. She said she was challenging the notion that some words must be censored from quilts.

The modern-quilt movement started about five years ago. To its members, the quilts winning prizes seemed fussy and old. "I didn't like the quilts at shows, but I did like the quilts I saw on blogs," said Alissa Haight Carlton, the casting director for the fashion TV show "Project Runway." Now 36, Ms. Carlton started her blog, Handmade by Alissa, in 2008, shortly after she started quilting. The Modern Quilt Guild, which she co-founded in 2009, has more than 180 branches, including 44 overseas.

The youthful movement is growing just as surveys show that the number of U.S. quilters has fallen by millions since 2006, while the average age rose to 62.

Instead of being clogged with electric mobility scooters, as in many quilting conferences, the aisles of QuiltCon — with its echo of the famous San Diego pop-culture fan conference Comic-Con International — were full of strollers. The age range of the 6,416 attendees was surprisingly wide, with 42% under 45. This was a tech-savvy crowd: The show's organizers counted 2,000 tweets and 4,500 Instagram posts.

"Right now, modern quilting is a small niche in a bigger, complex quilt market," says Luana Rubin, co-owner of eQuilter.com, which functions like the Amazon of quilting. "But it has the potential to bring in a whole bunch of new people to this craft."

May 12, 2013 at 08:01 AM | Permalink


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