Quilting is the art of sewing different types of fabrics through specific techniques with the purpose of making noticeable and warm thick covers, in other words, quilts. This crafting skill belongs to a worldwide community that has shown itself through the large and profitable 3.7-billion-dollar industry in the United States only.
In addition to it, this growing movement counts with more than 21 million quilters in the United States who are mostly woman over 60. On the other hand, in Canada, the Canadian Quilter’s Association has over 20,000 members. Plus, this association holds an annual conference in which shows the National Juried Show, a competition to display the members’ original artwork.
Moreover, international quilting communities, that bring together a whole new set of identities for the movement, include countries from the five continents. One of those countries is Hawaii where quilting often meant souvenirs in memory of deceased loved ones, unborn babies and celebrating marriages or major events in the island. The symbolism that surrounds this art represents outspoken and tangible love for the island that is shared around the world.
As for the South Asian part of the continent, in countries as India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan there are two main forms of quilting. The first one is the Nakshi Kantha, and the second one is the Ralli. Traditional Kantha is unwadded quilting made as mats, bedcovers, or all-purpose wrappers. Nowadays, quilting as Kantha is used as community projects to rescue and preserving traditional skills, but also to generate incomes for many poor communities.
Regarding Ralli, widely practiced in Pakistan and India, is predominately marked by a needlework technique named appliqué that does bring honor to the name of this traditional quilting. This form of quilting connects people regardless of religion, tribe, or castes. Within these quilting communities, many women use scraps and hand-dyed cotton to sew different fabrics with a unique style. This styles is embroidered rallies and multiple patchworks that serve with both functional and symbolic purposes.
To get into more details about this form of quilting, it is safe to say that the colorful quilts are fashioned out of pieces of old cotton clothing and created traditionally by poor people in rural areas in Sindh, Cholistan, and Baluchistan in Pakistan, and also in Gujarat and Rajasthan, India. Other needlework techniques applied in this craft are embroidery and patchwork; the latter, are pieces of colored fabrics stitched together in symmetric geometric designs. Regarding embroidery, the artwork and technique allow the layers to stick together through patterns used also as adornment.
To this point, some international communities were shown to unveil both different techniques, and forms of quilting that are mainly traditional. Having said that, many modern twists or let’s say phases to long traditional needlework, skills and cultural practices elevate these movements to a new and fresh view. Therefore, by modernity brought into tradition younger generations add new elements such as designs, writings that are later on published as books, and styles breeding in novelty.
Hence, Modern Quilting, a prominent area of quilting is more inclined to the aesthetic aspect of the quilt. However, despite having a special focus in the beauty of designs and outstanding materials, the difference between a modern quilt and art quilt is that modern quilt is also orientated to functionality; this means that originality and modern quilt designs can also be used in a Livingroom booth, bedcover or a piece of clothing.
The Modern Quilting Movement Culture
Modernity comes with technology, online webinars, and QuiltCons, which is part of the initiatives taken by a worldwide community that seeks to connect, share and help new quilters in this attractive and very modern designs for quilts. Modern quilters gather information differently through online galleries, blogs, and forums that share patterns to practice with. They also share information and quilts through social media and events, and finally, they shop online new fabric that follows the movement’s aesthetic features.
Therefore, even though the dynamic among modern quilters is more interactive, fast and experimental, the rules in this movement do share a different set of characteristics, not rules, that makes their work look like they are part of something different. Among these, there is more of a freestyle, asymmetry, and minimalistic designs.
These distinctive features are the ones that make this movement worldwide. In other words, what makes them different and more striking are their bold colors, graphic-designs and their lack of intricate patchwork, plus repetitive familiar patterns that are characteristic traits of traditional quilting. The focus on this movement is the use of modern fabric that uses high contrast colors; the background in a modern quilt design is brighter and more expansive and design combines the use of technology to visualize designs, make different cuts through innovative cutting machines, or tessetalling.
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