Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Old quilts, old people...new quilts, old people or new people?!?

I am stuck in a quandary about appliqued center medallion blocks...if you make them more modern, does that make them weird?  Does human applique on a quilt have to look antique to be considered serious?

I have many favorites inspired by old quilts...like "Phoebe"...and there are so many delightful versions of this medallion out there.

These pictures are from Melinda in NSW, Australia.

Or this one from Kel in Australia.

That quilt has such a lovely, pastoral center, but the setting is what I call old-fashioned or dated.  If the figures were wearing more modern clothing, would it ruin things?  Would it make things seem more cartoon-ish?  

I find versions where the fabrics are brighter and updated, but the style of clothing still remains a little dated.

As I experiment with drawing medallion centers, I have to admit that dressing women in long dresses or skirts allows me to overlook and avoid certain details of anatomy and style that are difficult...like legs, nice shoes, etc.  

And big, floppy coats on the depicted men make things easier, as well.

This example is from Mayleen Vinson of the "Q is for Quilt" blog.  It was machine quilted by Jan Hutchinson.

This all made me start to think...does it diminish or undervalue the work to make the clothing more modern?

I have a hard time drawing life-like people...I get annoyed by the simplicity and cartoon-ish quality in my own work, yet I find it completely charming and lovely in the work of everyone else (we are all so self-critical, aren't we??).

This is the "center" of a center medallion quilt that I started for my parents' 40th anniversary quilt a few years ago (minus the embroidery details, that I still need to do).  It is a part of a larger center medallion that I started the fall before the accident and I showed it to them Christmas 2013, right after their big anniversary, since I obviously had not finished their quilt, LOL...

I drew them in the kind of clothing they often wore, and even gave them both stethoscopes, as they were both doctors.  They are surrounded by motifs that depict their interests, accomplishments, and beautiful home that they built together.

Drawing them in antique clothing just seemed wrong...they either wore hospital scrubs, jeans, or outside work clothes.  I put the piece away for two years and recently got it out to consider how to finish it.  Now it will be a much smaller project...a wall hanging, I think. It was going to be a queen-sized bed quilt.

Here is the whole center medallion, minus the embroidery details, which I still need to do...this square will be 34 inches finished.  I will think of some kind of border to put around it.

Every motif has meaning...the oak tree (property is covered with them), the pink dogwood (Mom's favorite tree), the peacock (we had one as a "pet" when I was in junior/high school), the chicken (they had them), the bird in hand (Mom fed every bird in the northwest corner of Alabama), the hammer (they worked on or built every house they ever lived in), the daffodil (favorite flower), the pine tree (it's Alabama...), the fish (had a catfish lake), the garden items and the animals.

The blue bird of happiness at the top of the piece is pulling a banner that will read, "The Good Earth," which is the name of the project.

Boy, I really need to go in and do all the embroidery details...that is a lot of "blind" animals and unfinished-looking artwork, LOL!

I've drawn and appliqued other people in modern garb...when I made Steve's "Boxer Rebellion" quilt a few years ago, from his old boxer shorts, I depicted him...from the waste up...without garb...

My 'totally-supportive-of-my-quilting-obsession' husband used to joke "that quilts should only be made from old clothes and scraps, like the pioneer women used to do."  Well...his boxer shorts were looking pretty ratty and thin, so I bought him new undies and made him this wall hanging (to hang in his office cubicle) from his old undies.  Ha-ha-ha...

I even quilted him "six-pack abs!

...take that, you cheeky bastard, LOL!  I won ribbons on that quilt, but I think the best thing was all the people that walked by it at the quilt shows and read the story about it on the tag.  My husband's undies were hanging in quilt shows...and in his office at work! Priceless...

But I digress...

The blocks currently hanging out in my blog header depict me and Steve through the years, and I drew us in mostly modern-looking clothes. This project is called "Contentment."

I am also wishy-washy on whether to embroider facial details or not...since I have done it on one, I will probably go back and do it on the others...

No faces on the next two blocks so I don't have to make a decision about whether to embroider faces or not, LOL!

I have designed a 16-inch center medallion for those seven blocks, along with five other 10-inch blocks to join the previous seven around it.

And when I did my version of the Civil War Bride quilt, called "Life of Riley," I drew a family portrait block of us at the time...kind of coming out of a wall portrait.  Again, I was unsure about embroidering faces, so I just stitched Steve's glasses and hid Riley's face behind a book (which is usually where her face was in those days...).

So I don't know how I feel about the modern versus antique idea of people depicted in quilts.  As people enjoy making new versions of quilts from our past, the dated clothing continues to be the norm. Maybe that is because people are using a lot of reproduction fabrics to make these quilts, maybe the older style of clothing is easier to applique, or maybe I am just nuts to be worrying about this at all!

Do you have an opinion on this??

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)


  1. I think the colonial dressed people were fine in a reproduction type quilt but your quilts are more of a story quilt and therefore benefit from modern dress.

  2. I agree with Wanda - your people look great. I like the Phoebe quilt but I do not like the center block - I always thought if I made it (I have the pattern) that I would have a different center.

  3. Hi Theresa. I love your quilts and think the modern people capture the time beautifully, in 100 years the future quilters will be loving them too especially if they are reflecting our time. Keep up the fabulous work

  4. I love the medallion center you have created. It is well balanced & has so many details. I think modern clothes should be for representing modern people in our time. I always want to go applique, after seeing your blog!!

  5. Oh yes I do--new quilt jeans, jeans, jeans for sure--if that's what people wear...shorts, tee shirts....animals, flowers, etc stay pretty much the same, but we humans evolve...and as do our clothes...It would look weird to dress your parents in old-timey clothing I think...hugs, Julierose

  6. Your work is extraordinary! Such precise detail! Works of art! You are creating quilts in your style no one else's. Be true to today's colors and clothing. In 100 years your antique quilt will be a true representation of how we live.

  7. Whatever works for you is what I say use. That's what will make you happy. As far as faces, really not that important because the whole block tells the story. Love your beautiful applique. As always, thank you for sharing.

  8. I am partial to the old-fashioned looking outfits with repro fabrics and modern looking clothes for the newer look fabrics. Since you were representing people of modern times, the more whimsical and realistic look fits well.

  9. I love what you've done so far with your clothing and the people wearing them. I think the clothing should reflect the period of time when that individual wore those clothes. Why would you put yourself in old fashion garb if you didn't wear it in real life? I really loved your husbands underwear quilt. That was the best.

  10. You are amazing! I love your designs, so intricate, thoughtful and often funny! (the one for your hubby is hilarious!)

  11. Your designs are fresh and current. And the lack of faces doesn't bother me.

  12. The quilt you cited by Jan Hutchison was actually made by Mayleen. Jan did the magnificent quilting.

  13. I think modern people should wear modern garb. I love the one with your parents............just perfect!!!!!

  14. Todays story should be done in todays garb. And you do it very well

  15. I like that center medallion for your parents! If something bothers you about the modernness of the figures, maybe it's not the figures, but what they are surrounded by? OTOH, I don't really know how you'd modernize the surrounding details, other than replace the hand plough with a huge modern one pulled by a big tractor. But then, that would be getting away from being meaningful for your parents, wouldn't it?

  16. Your work amazes me! "The Good Earth" is perfect. Modern people, modern garb, seems right to me.

  17. Some interesting thoughts with some fabulous pictures of gorgeous stitching!! Sew what makes you happy! Your appliqué is always wonderful whatever era the clothes!

  18. I think every one of your designs are amazing and I don't know why we are so hard on ourselves!!

  19. Thanks, Rosie, for pointing out that the Phebe quilt was machine quilted by Jan Hutchison but appliqued and pieced by me. When I decided to make Phebe, I wasn't attracted to the people in the pattern so I decided to make my own version of them and add the cat and dog. I don't feel it diminishes or undervalues the work. No quilt judge or appraiser has mentioned that.

    Its your quilt so make it in whatever style makes you happy. Teresa, I like your modern people!

  20. I just saw a quilt on FB that is so beautiful it made me catch my breath. Then, at the bottom was broderie perse of 2 people with Regency style clothing, and it hit me. You are so right thinking about using modern style clothing. Who knows what people will think in 100 or more years from now? Go ahead and do whatever makes your heart sing!

  21. HA! Love the underwear quilt!
    I think you should make whatever clothes the characters tell you they want to wear,
    especially if it is a quilt for someone specifically.
    All your blocks are wonderful however you dress the people!

  22. A wall hanging is perfect. It will be a quilted memory. Good thing you showed it to them. Agree totally with clothes fabric matching era of people.

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  24. I love your characters, very Amy Bradleyish, but still you. I like the modern clothes, I think it dates the quilt to today and gives it an unexpected look. Love your work!

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