A lifelong sewer/knitter and former weaver/spinner, Linzee Kull McCray, a.k.a. lkmccray, started quilting five years ago and can’t stop. Linzee is a writer and editor and she feels fortunate to meet and write about people, from scientists to stitchers, who are passionate about their work. Her freelance writing appears in Quilts and More, Stitch, Fiberarts, American Patchwork and Quilting and more. For more textile musings, visit her blog.
Admitting you’re a quilter can be daunting: mention to someone at a party that you quilt and their eyes immediately scan the room, looking for someone they’re sure is a more scintillating conversationalist.
That’s why there’s not much that’s sweeter than getting together with other quilters. When you’re with those who are equally sewing-obsessed, there’s no need to explain that a bowl of multi-colored thread spools incites passion or fondling fabric induces calmness.
Photo by Latifah Saafir
Around the country, hundreds of guilds exist to bring quilters together for workshops, lectures and camaraderie. But traditionally these guilds are, well, traditional. Members often focus on the “rules” of quilting: exact quarter-inch seams, quilt blocks that line up precisely, and creating quilts from patterns.
In recent years, there’s been a growing interest in “modern quilting.” Defining modern quilting isn’t easy to do, even for those who participate. Debbie Grifka, a.k.a. EschHouseQuilts, describes modern quilting as the third leg of the stool that includes traditional quilting and art quilting. She sees the designs of modern quilters as graphic and bold and notes that many modern quilters use negative space differently than traditional or art quilters do.
Photo by EschHouseQuilts
While some modern quilters create wall hangings and take techniques from art quilters, they also respect the designs and craftsmanship of traditional quilting. The majority of modern quilters create textiles to be used, rather than hung on the wall, and incorporate contemporary fabrics and patterns, or no patterns at all. Many draw design inspiration from the quilts of Gee’s Bend quilts and traditional Amish quilts.
Thanks to blogs, emails, Flickr and other online resources, contemporary quilters have come together virtually to explore this evolving craft. They communicate to get advice on favorite tools or techniques and to share input on design decisions at any point during the production process (Does this fabric look good with this one? Have you had luck with this thread when machine quilting?).
These virtual connections certainly serve their purpose and have created long-lasting relationships. But today’s quilters, like their 19th century pioneer ancestors who took part in quilting bees, have circled around to see one another face-to-face as well. And in-person events allow quilters to do something that’s not possible online: to indulge in their love of textile’s tactile qualities.
Photo by seventeenandem
One of the fastest growing in-person gatherings among those who engage in what’s being called Modern Quilting is the Modern Quilt Guild. According to Allissa Haight Carlton (handmadebyalissa) and Latifah Saafir (idreamofquilts), cofounders of the Los Angeles branch of the Modern Quilt Guild, the first official in-person meet up took place in L.A. in October 2009, with 20 members in attendance. Today, the Modern Quilt Guild includes more than 40 guild branches in U.S. cities from Phoenix to Philadelphia, as well as groups in Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Britain and Germany.
Photo by Allissa Haight Carlton
“Finding community online is a wonderful thing, but in the end you’re still just sitting alone and looking at a computer screen,” says Allissa. “Finding community in person is much more interactive and simply more fulfilling. It’s a thrill to get to know people who want to discuss this topic as much as you do!”
Membership in Modern Quilting Guilds is open to any interested quilters (wannabe quilters are welcome, too!). Each guild has an online group that posts meeting times and places, as well as what’s happening at the next gathering. Latifah Saafir notes that L.A. Guild meetings provide more than talk: “Not only do we meet and share, but we also have meeting times once a month where we all lug our machines, fabric, and extension cords and create together. Not only can you interact with others who have the same passion and enthusiasm, but you can also see and feel their creations.”
Photo by seventeenandem
If there isn’t a Modern Quilt Guild in your area, their web site includes directions for starting your own guild.
Photo by VictoriousVixen
Says L.A. Modern Quilt Guild cofounder Alissa Haight Carlton: “It’s taken a lot of work to get the Modern Quilt Guild organized and up and running, but there’s clearly such a drive for us to meet in person that all over the country and even the world, everyone has taken on that work without hesitation. The reward of meeting like-minded people is worth it.”