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There is a lot out there on the history of quilting, but what about the future of quilting? Who are the future’s quilters?
We asked three quilters, Sherri Lynn Wood, Keyana Richardson and Mathew Boudreaux, to share where they think quilting is headed next to learn more about what might be on the horizon. Each quilter also shared photos of their own work, along with the names of a few quilters who they think embody where quilting is going.
While quilting’s past is rich, varied and important, so is its future. And, we as makers, get to help determine that trajectory. Read to learn more about what that could look like!
Sherri has been improvising quilts as a creative life practice for 30 years. She is the author of The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, and the founder of the BravePatch.School, an online, conscious community for improv quilters.
…With the advent of online teaching, quilting students and teachers are coming together from across the globe with unprecedented opportunities to learn together.
My slice of the quilting world, improv and flexible patterning, seems to be growing, and, in my opinion, is the dynamic edge of a movement towards liberation, diversity, more sustainability and a palpable desire for quilting as an intentional means of truth telling and healing. The pandemic has shifted our life patterns dramatically, and quilt makers are turning towards their craft as a joyful vehicle for learning how to navigate fluid relationships in more flexible ways. People are awake to the deeper connections between how they create and how they live their lives as agents of change in their communities.
We will be seeing more diverse colors, patterns and techniques–old/new, abstract/representational, minimal/maximal, fixed/flexible, raw/finished, acrylics/silks, English floral/fairytale princess–mashed up in a single quilt (#sewglitch) to tell personal and cultural stories that reflect the sometimes messy, awkward and uncomfortable conversations of life. For many, the satisfaction of making a quilt comes from speaking truth from the inside out and collaborating with what is, and less from executing an external fixed ideal of harmony with perfection and efficiency from pristine storebought quilters cotton and someone else’s templates. The systems of white privilege consumerism embedded in so-called “Traditional” quilting with a capital “T” (actually, it’s a white euro-centric tradition, one tradition with a lowercase “t” among many) are becoming less tenable, and less fulfilling for many quilters, although not for all.
This new diversity and liberation in quilting has been building since the late 80s when black abstract piecers such as Rosie Lee Tompkins, Arbie Williams and company were introduced to white audiences, this liberation was furthered by the discovery of the Gee’s Bend community of quilters in the 2000s and sparked the Modern Quilt Guild. (Over time, it seems that the MQG has become more fixed and focused on Modern Traditional quilting, and hopefully will be wise enough to cultivate more diversity among their ranks and quilts.) Today as the Gee’s Bend quilters are gaining more direct access to audiences through social media, and other black makers’ voices are being heard, we are all benefiting from their bold expressions of freedom expressed in through their quilts.
Also, with the advent of online teaching, quilting students and teachers are coming together from across the globe with unprecedented opportunities to learn together. We are seeing a rise of handwork traditions from India, such as Siddi, Kwandi and Kantha. As well as other indigenous quilting and stitching traditions such as Boro from Japan, Pagoji from Korea.
AND we are seeing an unprecedented number of artists who are not quilters first, innovating within the quilting medium. Take a look at the artists in The New Bend, the current exhibition at Hauser & Wirth gallery in NYC. Even construction norms are being liberated. Maybe a quilt does not have to lie or hang flat. Maybe wrinkled and folded fabrics of all kinds will be incorporated into the surface of our quilts. Maybe quilters’ cotton will no longer fly solo in our quilted creations.
Precision quilting may no longer be the undisputed queen of the quilting world. Many quilters are waking up to the reality that perfection is a cruel taskmaster and are ready to make patterns in all of their human and delightfully unique, flawed ways. Many are already finding restoration and healing as they “defund” the internal voice of “the quilt police.” To quote Mary Margaret Pettway of Gee’s Bend, “You don’t have to go with mother’s patterns or somebody else’s patterns. You doin’ you at that point and nobody can do you better than you can do!”
Coulter’s quilt “Home”, 2021, 102″ x 120″ (259.1 cm x 304.8). This hand-stitched quilt is a conceptual piece about transient living wherein the suitcase contains a quilt bearing elements of a room… a bedside lamp, a window with a view, velvet drapes, a static-y television screen, a chenille bedspread, a patterned bathroom wallpaper… all of which can be packed up in the suitcase and unfolded again at the next place you may have to go.
Krista’s quilt, “Power-UP: Discerning Between Walls and Boundaries (BOUNDARY), 2022. Hand dyed and vintage cotton and polyester, screen print on fabric, hand dyed wool, acrylic yarn.
The future of quilting is YOU! It relies on you to continue to share your craft with others. The future of quilting is US!
What’s the future of quilting? I am going to speak on this subject in terms of modern quilting as seen through my lens.
Today’s quilters often come into quilting in unexpected ways. Historically, quilting methods and traditional patterns were usually passed down through familial generations; however, many modern quilters are learning their craft from friends, guilds, books, and are self-taught using social media outlets such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, to name a few.
Modern quilters are using traditional patterns such as Log Cabin and Irish Chain and giving them a fresh and new emphasis on rich, deep colors that are more saturated than older quilt styles. This is the future of quilting. It combines different fabric substrates and materials in ways that weren’t possible a few decades ago.
The future of quilting is ME! It’s diverse, inclusive and supportive. It’s looking at big companies in the quilting industry and seeing a multitude of quilters and styles represented. It’s joy and connection through textile art. It’s accessible. It provides makers with the opportunity to master self-efficacy, all while creating something with their own hands. It’s going outside of the box. It’s exploring new ways to use color and shapes/lines. The future of quilting is YOU! It relies on you to continue to share your craft with others. The future of quilting is US!
Michelle and her two daughters wrapped up in the Collaboration Quilt from Color of Connection Quilt. They are the future of quilting, and we are learning about the importance of diversity for our present and our futures.
Mathew Boudreaux, AKA Mister Domestic, is on a mission to build an inclusive community that spreads love and joy through crafting. Starting in 2013, Mathew has leveraged his Portland State MBA and the power of social media to create an inclusive brand. Today Mathew is a fabric and pattern designer, sewing instructor and owner of the online sewing school SEW U. Mathew is also an inspirational speaker, consultant and global influencer with his TikTok, YouTube and Instagram accounts nearing 600,000 followers combined. (Mathew is also a 2022 Spoonflower Ambassador!)
A$AP Rocky's Met Gala Quilt brought quilting into so many homes that the sky is really the limit. And there's no telling where it's going to go because we are living it now.
In my fantasy, the future of quilting is an inclusive utopia of diversity and acceptance. The largest barrier for most non-quilters, considering the medium, is the perception that it’s just for older conservative white women. And the Mister Domestic community is full of humans who’ve had bad experiences of feeling excluded or unwelcome while trying to join existing meetings or going into fabric stores. But the beautiful part of the internet is that it’s connected so many of us together that we’re now all realizing how many of us there are, which is amazing because so many of us are starting to create truly inclusive spaces for quilters who share the values of inclusion and acceptance.
Now that these quilting spaces and brands are becoming more popular and present, different types of humans are going to be drawn to the medium. And with new humans, comes new forms and styles of expression and new applications of quilting into other niches like apparel. A$AP Rocky’s Met Gala Quilt [a quilt originally made by Mary Ann Beshers and repurposed by Zak Foster] brought quilting into so many homes that the sky is really the limit. And there’s no telling where it’s going to go because we are living it now. I get messages all the time from folks that are now quilters who never thought it was for them until they met me.
Imagine the number of humans who thought that when they saw A$AP Rocky. Right now, we see quilt clothes, quilt tops stretched on frames like canvas, mini quilts, art quilts, quilted toys, the list goes on. And with each application of the medium, a new group of humans become quilters. And from a business perspective, I see the more traditional quilter route being overtaken by these new iterations of quilt things. There will always be the traditional quilter, but everyone else needs to and will be more represented.
Brimfield Meadows Quilt, an English Paper Pieced quilt designed by Brimfield Awakening. This quilt was pieced by Nisha Bouri and Kim Martucci and quilted by Carrie Hanson. Photographer: Melanie Zacek.
Kitty Wilkin’s My 2020 Miles Quilt (#My2020MilesQuilt). This quilt documents running and hiking miles in 2020. Exploring the world of tying quilt-making together with intentional living has been a passion of Kitty’s, and this quilt drove home the power of the Quilt Your Life concept during an especially tumultuous year. By setting up positive feedback loops between quilting and living, you can do more of what you love, quilt without guilt, and document precious memories in the process. Photo by Garrett Wilkin.
Betsy is a writer and stitcher who joined the Brand Marketing team in July 2021. In her spare time, she talks to people about their choice to make things by hand and related lessons learned for her project Dear Textiles. She also aims to befriend all the dogs she meets and is forever looking for the perfect dress pattern with pockets.