Friday, May 22, 2009

Vintage and Contemporary Quilting

I discovered I was a Gemini at about age 12. Great! Of course I was a Gemini, I could never stick to one thing [don't say fickle, say multi-tasker]. I was always interested in opposites, and trying to do two things at once [or three or five]. So, right now I have two quilts in the making -- and two UFOs out of sight in a hamper, and I've just bought [yes, Stash Busters, I fell off the wagon] fabric for a third.

I wrote last time about the vintage quilt I've started. That will be a side project, ongoing for as long as it takes. It is the epitome "quilt" in basic layer of my vocabulary. A quilt is made of scraps, it grows a bit like Topsy, helter-skelter depending on what's available and when the top is done it will be layered and backed and quilted, by machine these days. I don't know how long it will take but I get a feeling of righteousness and thriftiness as I use up pieces from my sizable scrap bag.

The second quilt in the making is entirely batiks collected over a few years. Putting them together is a visual adventure. I'm watching soft and brilliant colors blend. The top is a simple strip pieced one-block pattern. It's growing in an organic way as I study my collection and decide what to use next. So far I have only most of the center pieced [photo in a day or two[ I'm enjoying the feeling of working almost abstractly but within traditional block format.

At the far end of the spectrum is the book pictured, Maxine Rosenthal's One-Block Wonder: One Fabric, One Shape, One-of-a-kind Quilts. I said when I listed what I want to make tis summer that I wanted to do a Bethany Reynold's type Stack=n-Whack. Maxine takes Bethany's technique another step from traditional to art quilt. I said I was not going to add to my stash and in an effort to stick to that resolution I spent yesterday afternoon contemplating all the larger pieces of fabric I have. None fit the crtiteria of fabric needed for one of Maxine's fascinating quilts made of kalidoscope hexagrams which become abstract compositionis that bear almost no resemblance to the original fabric. I saw one such quilt at a show in New Jersey and stood in front of it studying and absorbing for quite some time.

This is the antithese of vintage scrap quilt. Here one buys a carefully selected fabric, cuts it into lterally hundrds of triangles, sews them together carefully and arranges them carefully by predominant color and produces a complex composition as unlike a vintage block quilt as Jackson Pollock is unlike Van Gogh. In searching for the "right" fabric -- not easy to find -- the criteria Maxine suggests are that it must be colors you love, the repeat of the design is best if it's 12 inches or more, there should not be too many colors in the design, and the design should be flowing, not geometrically static. As I discovered, these criteria are not aasy to meet but I finally chose a fabric with a black background, flowing green leaves and fuschia flowers with only small hints of yellow and white and a repeat of about 18 inches.

As I said I love the excitement of sewing kalidoscope blocks and now that I am about to have a design wall, arranging them with Maxine's helpful intructions is going to challenge whatever color sense I've managed to acquired. It will be the major quilting challenge of the next several weeks. I'm really very excited about getting started. More soon. Pictures too.

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