Today was the day our little band of women visited the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton; a much-awaited day! I was not let down. There were so many impossibly beautiful quilts it was visual overload. If you think quilts are fuddy-duddy things of the past, you have no idea what modern technology can do for an ancient art. And these were quilts as fine art, many of which were wall-hanging sized, 3-dimensional, or exploring some interesting theme (like bridges). I was blown away by it all. But I had a few disappointments when examining the quilts up close:
1) craftsmanship, or lack thereof. Many quilts were beautifully made with insanely detailed stipple quilting, but I noticed a lot of "appliqued" pieces that were essentially spray-glued onto the quilt top without even folding the raw edges under to finish them off. Perhaps this is the "new" way of doing applique, but my mind says that there'll be a ton of strings hanging off those pieces after it's washed (or touched) a few times.
2) "me too" effect - my how Ma Ingalls would've gawked at those huge quilting machines (financing available!). Seems that everyone and their sister is quilting by machine nowadays - with rainbow thread - over multi-dyed rainbow fabric. Then sewing buttons, trims and yarn snippets on top of that. OK, we know you all can do that, let's move on to something creative now.
3) design and color theory - I found myself stopping every now and then to think "why do I really like this quilt?" The answer was almost always either a) great design and composition or b) exciting use of color. The best quilts IMHO were those that scored high in both categories. Many quilters aimed to paint a picture with their fabric and thread but neglected to consider color and composition. If you're going to go for the effect of a painting, you should play by a painter's rulebook.
Don't let these three critiques make you think the show was a bust. Here are three gems I discovered:
1) I am in love with the cotton-candy pastels of vintage quilts. Never would've guessed me to be a pastel kind of gal, but there you have it.
2) Williamsburg Spinners Guild - spoke with a woman who actually owns and spins on a great wheel like I have. Learned a bit from her while she demonstrated her charka (little spinning apparatus that Ghandi toted around India)
3) a passionate underground of hand-stitchers. Quite a few women I talked with lamented the fact that girls/women are not learning to hand stitch anymore. But with the resurgence of embroidery and other decorative stitching, I forsee a turnaround in this area. And this will lead to better attention to craftsmanship.
I was inspired to draw up a few of my own quilt designs, but resisted the urge to buy fabric or patterns. I. MUST. FINISH. MY. QUILT. FIRST. It's been 10 years since I started it, and I'm so close to finishing! It is now languishing in the living room instead of the bedroom closet. :) Perhaps an old fashioned quilting bee is the answer.