Quilting Vintage...Oh My!

Quilting vintage has become the short hand phrase for taking a vintage linen or textile and quilting it with a domestic machine or long arm. The “Oh my!” that comes along with a viewing of the new textile work usually has two completely divergent meanings. “Oh my, how dare that quilter ruin an antique or vintage quilt top or blocks with machine quilting! That piece should have been hand quilted in the style of the period!” Or the other side, “Oh my isn’t that a beautiful work of art! The fiber artist has brought new life to a textile that would have been destroyed or languished in a junk bin. ”

The International Quilt Festival – Houston had two special exhibitions that showcased this genre of textiles: For the Love of Linens, and Twisted. Cindy Needham curated the linen exhibit, which given her history of quilting on antique or vintage handiwork since the 1990s, she was the ideal choice. The selection of quilted linens included tablecloths, christening gowns and more each exquisitely quilted to a new level.

Mary Kerr was the curator on the exhibit Twisted, which brought unfinished vintage textiles into the “Modern Quilt” aesthetic. Vintage blocks and top fragments were re-imagined to create new quilts. Mary Kerr has explored this genre since about 2005 by inviting other quilters to join her by providing vintage tops or blocks and allowing them to create something totally new and different than the original.

Being connected to one of the largest antique quilt collections, tends to make people think my sister and I would be purist and fall into the first “oh my” category. I didn’t think it really mattered what we thought about this genre until two incidents. I read about a talented quilter wounded by people asking why he would start quilting on a treadle machine, when he should only hand quilt. Another collector at the show started a spiel against machine quilting on hand made pieces.

These are artists selecting a tool from the toolbox to create their art, in some cases a derivative artwork, but still it is their art. Why can’t we let them create as they feel led to create? If you love their art, support and encourage their art. If it isn’t your taste, simply move onto the style that is your taste. Please don’t hurt or stop the creative process with painful words. Because, “Oh my, our world is all the more enriched by the found art that has been re-imagined.”

 

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