Many have wondered, “Are quilts art or craft?” Well, the answer can be yes to either. Confused yet? Let’s start with the definition of art. In the Oxford dictionary art is said to be, “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
In that sense, quilts can be considered an artform. Although quilts are created to serve a purpose, most often to keep us warm, they are also made to be nice to look at. It takes skill and imagination to create a quilt. In addition to this, many quilts are created to celebrate a special occasion, mourn a loss, mark time passing, and so on. They are literal representations of love. Emotion is stitched into every square inch.
Contrary to this definition, are some quilts made without great skill or imagination? Sure. Are some simply utilitarian, without much thought given to the design? Yes. But these early attempts are a first step in learning how to make quilts that could be considered art. The first time we create anything is a trial period. There should be no high expectations. It’s a time to build skill and learn from experience. As we grow, we become more creative in our approach to quilting, gaining confidence in our design choices, and more skilled in quilting techniques. No matter where we begin, we can always improve.
Quilts can also be considered a craft. The definition of craft is, “An activity involving skill in making things by hand.” Simple enough. Quilting is a skill that can be learned by anyone and it can be fun to do even if we don’t view it as an artform. Regardless of what our intent is when we make quilts, they can be both incredibly beautiful and useful. Let’s hear what our customers had to say about quilts being art or craft:
“They are both. When I was in school, many many years ago we could make a quilt in our home economics class as a sewing craft and make another in art class as art.” -Denise Vasel
“In my 3-dimensional design art class in college, we were given the assignment of turning linocut prints we made into quilts. I would say there isn’t much distinction in my mind between craft and art. It’s all art.” -Denise Fox Eskridge
“Both. Craft because you are making something and art because the material, pattern and colors you use makes it unique.” -Paula Herbst
“A quilt is art that you craft.” -Sharon Crouch
“Both, art and craft. You create your own concept, pattern, and color, and craft because it is handmade.” -Pat Trueblood
“They can be both. I think some people are confused because a quilt is used. It’s functional art. It’s consider myself an artist.” -Julie Tierney
“Craft, art, and love.” -Debbie Torrey
“Both but also much more. They are art in the selection of color, fabric, and design. They are craft in the construction and quality of quilting. On top of all that, they are heart, and love, and passion.” -Victoria Hubbard
“Both. Quilting is a work of art and it’s like putting a puzzle together. I never knew I could be so artsy and crafty. Love love love it!” -Alice Hayden
“I was disappointed to have an art teacher tell me that quilting was a craft not art. I believe she is wrong. I have seen so many works of art made from fabric.” -Leslie Savitsky
“Quilting is an art. When you thoughtfully and methodically pick out a pattern and figure out an eye-catching layout and fabric placement for a quilt, that’s art.” -Suzanne K. Einspahr
We completely agree! You are all wonderfully skilled, artistic quilters and we love seeing what you make. Share your beautiful creations with us at #msqcshowandtell and keep on creating your beautifully crafted works of art!
Meet Jacquie Gering, a modern textile artist based out of Prairie Village, Kansas. She began quilting in 2009 and her quilting style has evolved from first exploring traditional quilting to settling into her own way of creating that encompasses a modern, minimalist style that she works through today.
We had an opportunity to ask Jacquie a few questions ahead of her special appearance on BLOCK Party on Thursday, March 18. Keep reading to get to know Jacquie, from her favorite tools to her history of sewing, and join us on Thursday to see her in action!
What is your favorite part of the quilting process?
Design is my favorite part of making a quilt, but design is a key component in almost every facet of making a quilt: creating the pieced design, choosing color and fabrics, choosing a quilting design and even that final design choice of picking the right binding or deciding to use facing rather than binding.
Who are your favorite fabric designers?
I don’t really have many favorite fabric designers since I use almost exclusively solid fabrics when I make my work. The one shelf of prints I do have is filled with fabrics designed by Yoshiko Jinzenji. Her prints are unique in the fabric world. They are sparse yet graphic and they have always intrigued me. I’ve been purchasing them since I started quilting in 2009, but it’s taken me years to figure out how her prints integrate with my aesthetic and how to use them effectively in my quilts.
What notion or sewing tool are you most dependent on?
The one tool that I couldn’t do without is my sewing machines. They are the workhorses in my studio. I have a Brother Nouvelle 1500s which is a semi-industrial straight stitch machine that I use pretty much exclusively for piecing. It’s a beast. It sews fast with beautiful stitches and it never needs to go to the shop. It is simple to operate and to care for, yet it has the features that I require for good piecing: presser foot pressure adjustment, needle down, thread cutter, multiple feed dog settings and a knee lift. I love that it’s fast. My other machine is a Bernina 820 and it is always set up for quilting. I bought that machine so that I could quilt my own quilts. It has a large harp space to support quilting large quilts and it is sunk into the table so that my quilts are well supported when I quilt. It does more than it needs to for me and because of the level of complexity of the electronics it’s fussier than my Brother, but I take pristine care of it and have learned it inside and out and what it takes to make it work for what I need it to do. Both my machines are covered when not in use and they are cleaned and oiled regularly to keep them in tiptop shape.
How were you introduced to sewing and quilting?
The women in my family introduced me to sewing. They were all accomplished seamstresses. My mother taught me to sew as a child. She was my 4-H leader and tried her best to teach me the sewing skills she thought I might need. I was pretty much a failure in her eyes. I didn’t love sewing or making my own clothes and accessories though as the obedient daughter I did. I wasn’t very good at it and since I didn’t love it I abandoned it as soon as I could buy my own wardrobe. The women in my family quilted as well, but I didn’t really see it as interesting or special so I didn’t learn to quilt from them. I discovered quilting much later in life through the art world. I stumbled onto quilting after seeing the Gee’s Bend exhibit. I found those quilts intriguing and so different than the quilts I knew growing up. I bought a sewing machine and dabbled a bit. The timing was serendipitous. Quitting my current job corresponded with my discovery of quilting and on a whim I decided that quilting was the career I wanted to pursue. I fired up Google and taught myself what I wanted (needed) to know and I’ve been learning ever since.
What was the most frustrating sewing project you ever worked on?
I’m not sure I can say. Frustrating is an odd choice of words for me. In fact, I looked it up because something felt weird about it. Frustrated is “feeling or expressing distress or annoyance, especially because of the inability to change or achieve something.” Some pieces challenge me and some are abject failures, but that’s all part of the process. I always feel like change is an option for any piece I make. If something’s not working I change it whether it be design, fabric or technique. Failure is how I learn. Some pieces get started, abandoned and may get resurrected and live in a new form in the future. Some are still in the closet. I may have learned all I can from them at this point.
What do you do to find inspiration/encourage your creativity?
I know that this is a trite thing to say, but inspiration is everywhere; you just need to look for it and recognize it. I get inspiration from design concepts like line or space and concepts like pressure or flow or from events in my own life or in society in general. I consciously teach myself to slow down and notice and to think about, study and explore those things around me. I could have enough design fodder for my entire quilting career simply from exploring the concept of line. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with too much inspiration and I have to focus and try to sustain myself in one place. I’m a starter and I jump to shiny pieces of inspiration to start new projects rather than finishing or deeply exploring where I currently am working.
What occupation would you like to try if sewing/making wasn’t an option?
If quilting weren’t an option I’d be exploring some other area of art or design. I love designing in my own home. I’m a gal with a power tool and I’m pretty good at paint, drywall, wallpapering and tiling. My husband and I have renovated every home we’ve lived in. We designed and built our own home out in the Kansas countryside. It was so much fun since I got to make every decision that went into that house from designing the placement of the electricity to the kitchen. We’ve moved six times since 2013 and every time I move into a new place I get to play interior designer.
Who is your favorite fictional character?
Cookie Monster is my favorite fictional character. Cookie Monster lives his passion. I admire that. He’s also curious and asks questions when he doesn’t understand. He’s the opposite of a know it all. He’s also a great example of what’s on the outside is not necessarily what’s on the inside.
What fabric have you been hoarding the longest?
I don’t hoard fabric. I use it. Nothing that I own is so precious that it won’t go in a quilt someday. I do have one piece of fabric from 2015 that I still have that is special. It was a piece of Yoshiko Jinzenji fabric that I bought at QuiltCon and she signed it for me. Of the few yards of that print that I purchased I have about 8″ left and that 8″ has her signature. I should probably frame it for my studio. When I first started quilting I didn’t have any idea how to buy fabric or what to buy so if I saw it and liked it, I bought it. I made loads of buying mistakes those first few years and ended up with fabric that I didn’t want to use. As I figured out who I was as a quilter, I set about reducing my stash and developing a more curated collection of fabrics. I don’t have a gigantic stash any more. Too much fabric overwhelms me.
Describe your perfect day.
My perfect day would be spent with my husband in New York City. We love the energy, diversity, and opportunities of the city. I’m sure it would be spent with time at the MOMA or Guggenheim or some other museum, music or dance venue with time to explore and walk a neighborhood or read a book in the park with a good dose of people watching and of course there would be coffee, a great bottle of wine, friends and food, delicious food.
We can’t wait to have Jacquie join us on Thursday, March 18th at 6:00 pm cst for our BLOCK Party!
As we begin to celebrate National Quilting Month, it is important to look back upon our history and appreciate how the art of quilting has evolved throughout our past. Each of us has a special responsibility as a quilter (whether you realize it or not!); we are tasked with keeping an ancient art form alive and well and with every stitch of fabric, we’re sewing the threads of the craft’s future. Whether you learned how to quilt in the traditional way of having the skill passed down from previous generations, or if you’re just finding your way today in a new world of online innovation, you’re now bound within the fabric of your creations. Take some time to celebrate National Quilting Month today and learn a little more about the History of Quilting.
Quilting has a long and storied history stretching back as far as ancient Egypt, piecing together a timeline of humanity from which we draw our crafting skills. While the quilting we know and love today is worlds different from the functional quilting of our past, it still holds a unique place in our hearts and in our history. For generations we’ve warmed ourselves and our families beneath quilts. They’ve been there to protect us, remind us of our past, and comfort us in difficult times.
While it’s not possible to capture the complete history of quilting in one attempt (and we’re by no means experts on the subject!), this guide can serve as a very broad overview of our craft—a guide to remind you that with every stitch you create, you create a stitch within the fabric of time. Many cultures in our world have used quilting as a means to document their history, survive harsh environments, and bring comfort during times of strife. For generations, careful hands have passed down their gifts until they have finally reached us and it is now in our hands to continue the quilting journey. Looking back on our past may be important, but it’s the quilters of today that will keep our craft alive.
Medieval Europe offers some of the clearest glimpses into the early history of quilting. As with many creative processes, quilting was utilized as a method of storytelling as well as a functional necessity. As cinema has given us the opportunity to visualize a story, early quilts allowed the creator to embellish and decorate with stories from both written and oral traditions. Two of the earliest known decorative quilts are from the 14th century and both capture the legend of Tristan and Isolde. Quilts throughout history have been used and created as both functional vessels of warmth and beautiful works of art.
Quilting Comes to America
Practicality was key for early American settlers. In a new environment, isolated from the known world, quilts found their purpose in the form of warmth. Most of the early American quilts were not focused on aesthetics, but rather were created from the limited resources available. They used whatever materials they had on hand, recycling outgrown and damaged clothing (and at times, even other, older quilts!) into new quilts. These quilts were purely for functionality and keeping warm.
If protection from the elements wasn’t beneficial enough, quilting developed another function in early colonial America—social interaction. As we all know, quilting is no easy task. The laborious process is well-loved by many, but before modern revolutions such as pre-cut materials and sewing machines, quilts had to be made entirely by hand.
The quilting bee, a social gathering where women came together to socialize and quilt, was a way for many early settlers in America to not only continue working on their projects, but interact with their community and have fun while sewing during the long process! For many, quilting was a relaxing activity and something to look forward to, especially when able to gather with their fellow quilters. These social gatherings, along with sewing at home, allowed the opportunity for quilting to be passed on as a generational skill. Mothers would teach daughters the basic stitches and then in turn, would pass those skills on to their children, creating a lifetime of heirloom quilts with nostalgic memories layered within the fabric. Quilting became a popular activity for major life events in which entire quilts were completed within a day due to limited time with neighbors whom early settlers might have only seen a few times a year. The Victoria and Albert museum states, “particularly in north America … there is a tradition of a quilt-making ‘bee’ for a girl about to get married, with the aim of stitching a whole quilt in one day”.
These gatherings and the first boom in quilt popularity gave birth to many of the vintage blocks that we still use and gain inspiration from today. Early American crafters, much like the earliest quilters, told stories with their projects by sewing the world around them. The pinwheel block utilizes motion, demonstrating the prairie winds of which they traveled. Star blocks captured the night sky and the importance of light in a vast, unexplored wilderness. These blocks have been passed down for centuries until they became the staples of quilting that we know and love today.
Today, quilting is more accessible than it ever has been. We live in a world of pre-cut fabrics available at the press of a button and instructional videos that can be watched online from the convenience of our homes. Quilting isn’t entirely a necessity as it once was, we can instead use it as a creative outlet and pastime.
The world of quilting continues to change as the world we live in evolves. Modern quilting utilizing bold color designs and prints, once an impossibility due to limited technology and supplies, has brightened the artform in unimaginable ways. Geometric and fractal quilting are growing in popularity as a new generation of quilters piece their first works, many of which have learned their craft online rather than through the traditional in-person learning process. As the world changes, so does quilting. Regardless of what the quilts of tomorrow look like, we can remember where they came from and keep their memory alive within our patchwork. So pick up an old pattern today and try something new— replace the background with a bold, modern color or add some abstract designs into your block but remember that with every stitch, you’re continuing the timeline of quilt history.
Have you ever given up on a quilting project? You’re not alone! Wavy blocks and unmatched seams have frustrated quilters since the invention of needle and thread!
As a result, unfinished quilts are commonly found in antique shops, and quite often, they are Morning Star quilts! This pretty star is certainly breathtaking, but all those Y-seams and tiny bias-cut diamonds have caused many a quilter to call it quits.
Lucky for us, the magnificent Tara Faughnan designed a modern Morning Star for our MODBlock Magazine, and it’s the perfect blend of quick, easy, and exciting! Click HERE to watch the tutorial!
What are fellow quilters making? Why are these designs and fabrics so popular? Are these trends new or are traditional styles making a comeback?
Don’t worry, we’ve found the answers. We’ve taken a close look into the world of quilting to find out what’s trending. Here are are the top five:
From Memorial Day to Veterans Day, a star quilt can find itself taking center stage all throughout the year and when we aren’t stocked up on red, white, and blue; quilters find stars to be quite innovative. Five points or ten, stars can be adjusted to fit any style from traditional to modern. Thus, the trendy star takes the cake.
Hexagons are as old as time – well, as old at 1770 from what we can find in written quilt history. Over the years, quilters have transformed the way we create hexagons and with English paper piecing, fussy cutting, and quilt-as-you-go projects, today’s hexagon quilts are full of unique possibilities.
We’ll put a hex on you with these amazing hexagon items, but don’t worry, this is one spell you won’t want to break:
Everyone knows quilters are resilient so what do we do when life throws us a curve ball? We make a quilt! Lately, sewists are embracing the challenges that curves bring, and becoming more confident in piecing them together.
Start conquering your own curves with these ideas:
Sometimes your quilt just needs that extra cute factor and what better than adding an appliqué animal! A perfect addition to a soft, cuddly baby quilt or to add a little fun and imagination to your next project, appliqué animals are so popular because they’re so easy to create!
Check out how these appliqué animals make these projects pop: