Recently I attended the Pacific International Quilt Festival (PIQF) in Santa Clara, California, featuring more than 1,000 quilts. Approximately half of the quilts were in a juried competition: the others were displayed in special exhibitions. The artistry of the quilt makers impressed me as did their sewing skills. Unfortunately there were few quilts in the competition that were hand-quilted.
The new trend is to cover the quilt surface with machine stitches and thread play. Instead of having soft quilted patterns with hills and valleys, the quilts in the show were flattened by line after line of machine stitching, which cost them their suppleness as well. I surmised that most quilts with heavy thread decoration were quilted on long arm sewing machines. If jurors in quilt shows continue to reward quilts made using expensive high tech tools will quilts sewn on domestic sewing machines cease to be competitive? I quilt because I value the comfort, warmth, and beauty of quilts in the past and the love that is sewn into their seams. I wonder whether these values will become passe.
Or, maybe the surge of art quilts comes from quilters having a stash of fabric. The making of an art quilt is a new avenue of cost-free creativity luring traditional quilters from patchwork patterns and templates. The experimentation is fun, the commitment to a small art quilt is short-term, and our first art quilt project energizes us. I know that I have returned home from the PIQF show with many new ideas swirling in my head for future art quilts of my own.
The increased numbers of art quilts of all sizes at quilt shows is creating new problems for show organizers. Should art quilts be entered in the same categories as traditional quilts or should art quilts be judged against one another in categories of their own? The quilting world is quite diverse today. It includes hobby quilters, quilters who place their work on sale, and professional artists who work with fabric and thread. Should these three groups compete for the same prizes and monetary awards?
The use of long arm sewing machines and growing presence of art quilts at shows are hot topics among quilters. What is your opinion on these subjects? I hope you will write your views in the comment section at the end of this blog post.
California quilter, Donna Hussain, has exhibited in major quilt shows around the country, authored books, and is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus. Click on her name to see all of her past articles.
The photo shows Donna with her husband, Pascha.