We sat, we stitched, we chatted, we hopped up and discussed the quilts hanging on the walls, explaining to museum-goers the differences between appliqué and patchwork and wholecloth quilt making. Most of our demonstrations were met with reactions along the lines of “Oh, my grandmother used to do quilting, but my mother didn’t picked it up so I never learned how.”
The interest in our work was steady throughout the day, some people stopping on their way in and surprised to see us there, some stopping on their way out and discussing the exhibit and comparing it to our work, and a few stopped by both on their way in and out. Those folks were the most fun to talk with.
The ones who came by twice were very interested in comparing what we were doing to the work in the exhibit, which is humbling, to be honest. Knowing most of the quilts that hung were made entirely by hand by women who worked with minimal light and crude supplies and comparing our work to theirs just didn’t seem right, you know?
But in a strange twist, our work is very much the same. We’re the DC Modern Quilt Guild and we work, with very few exceptions, with supplies readily available today. While we don’t sit in church groups gathered around a frame working on a common quilt for gifting, we do exchange ideas and feedback regularly via social media. While we don’t often use worn out clothing or repurposed cloth, we do frequently pass along unused fabrics and scraps to those who can use them.
The quilts shown in the Workt by Hand exhibit were contemporary, even modern for the time they were made (and of course look old fashioned to us now). There were none in the exhibit that called upon older, resurrected techniques, or what would have been called vintage back at that time (did they even have that word back then?). Their work showed the common visual culture of their times.
As does the work of our quilt guild today. We make a mix of geometric, abstract and edgy quilts as well as modern twists on vintage designs (and one of our founding members, Katie Blakesley, even co-authored a book on that topic, Vintage Quilt Revival). Everything old is new again, as the saying goes. This is the cultural norm of today’s modern quilting community.
Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same, right?