26 July 2014

Writing about Modern Quilts (part 1 of 2)

This weekend is the Greater Ann Arbor Quilt Guild's biennial show.  This is an enormous show put on by the big guild in town--a guild that has all kinds of quilters--traditional, art, modern, et cetera.  There's some overlap with the membership of GAAQG and our modern guild (in fact, their President, Ginia,  is a member of A2MQG) and so communication has always been pretty free flowing.  Last year, they approached our guild and asked if we'd put together a "special exhibit" for their show.  They called it "Modern Quilts."

Modern Quilt Show Poster 2014 We talked about it as a guild, did a rough count of the number of quilts we thought we might be able to have on hand, and then agreed to put together a show.  A committee was formed from volunteers and we slogged through a TON of organizational stuff.  We had to get quilt submissions, figure out a smart and fair way to jury them, organize drop offs and pick ups and working shifts, etc.  The chair of the committee, Pam (Instagram: pamyjam), did a huge amount of work. THANK YOU PAM!!

I helped where I could.  My main contribution was in making posters to promote the show (see left) and in working on signage within the show.

Since I worked PRETTY HARD on my short essay to introduce the exhibit, I wanted to share it here.  Also, importantly, this essay benefits from the input of many blog commenters over the years, and particularly from the conversation that and I had with  Sarah @ No Hats  in the comments of my post on my ocean waves quilt (and my feeling that my quilt isn't modern.)  I learn so much from my community here on this blog (and on flickr and instagram, at events and so one!) It seems like the essay belongs here as it is the continuation of a conversation so many of us have been having.

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What is a modern quilt?

There is no simple, singular, agreed-upon answer to this question.

For me, a modern quilt is one that matches a particular aesthetic. There is probably some expanded negative space, heavy use of solids, something simple/minimal/stark about it. And these quilts can be from any time. I have seen many vintage quilts that have the modern aesthetic. Utility quilts from decades past look just like the improv quilts so many modern quilters produce today.
For others, modern quilting is less about the actual quilts and more about the people making them--people who came together online before they came together in person, people who are all about making things for themselves, to suit themselves, without worrying overmuch about rules and labels and aesthetic categories. For these folks, modern quilting is a movement, it's a community, it's a trend within the general renaissance of the handmade, it's something that seems new and yet traditional. Blossoming and rooted.

This exhibit is of quilts made by members of the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild. We're a group that started meeting in 2011 with a few women sitting around a table at the library. Slowly, we've grown, with new people arriving all the time (you are welcome to join us). We meet to share our projects and our skills and our enthusiasm. And we were asked to exhibit some of our members' work at this show. We tried to select quilts that illustrate some of the aesthetic trends in modern quilts, but you will also see quilts that represent the movement more than a particular aesthetic--we've got a couple of collaborative quilts here. And some that show how traditional patterns have been interpreted with a twist or that simply show a particular method or look that has been popular.

I hope you leave our exhibit with some understanding of what people mean when they talk about modern quilting. If you'd like to know more about the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild please talk to one of our members (at least one will be hanging around the exhibit) or check out our blog a2mqg.blogspot.com or email us a2modernquiltguild@gmail.com

Rossie Hutchinson
VP of Membership, A2MQG

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Tune in next time for pictures of the quilts in the show and the text I wrote to accompany them!

22 July 2014

What I Stash

While keeping my stash organized is important for my creative flow (see my post about stash management here), another consideration is making sure that my stash actually contains the fabrics I am going to use.  Or should I say the fabrics I need?  Fabric sometimes feels like oxygen!

While, of course, making do with what is on hand can lead to discoveries and explorations and growth, I try to keep the fabrics I'm going to want nearby so that my improvisations are guided by my design decisions most of the time.  I also make a lot of quilts and go through a lot of fabric, so a continual restock is essential.

At this moment, my studio is located next to Pink Castle Fabrics, and I can pop over to grab a fat quarter of this or a half-yard of that, but due to an increase in rent, I'm relocating my studio.  It looks like I'm going to end up about 30 minutes away from my favorite fabric store (more details on that once the move happens!)  I will survive, but it means I have been reflecting on when and how I buy fabric.

The first time I thought seriously about this was in 2011, when Jeni Baker did a brilliant blog series called "the art of choosing" on her blog.  The final post in that series was called Building a Well-Rounded Stash.  What I remember thinking at the time, which occurred to me again as I re-read it, is that I personally don't need a "well-rounded" stash.  My fabric needs are decidedly lop-sided and so my stash should be as well.  Jeni prescribes a lot of basics for stash-building, and I agree, but when I look at her pictures of her basics, they really don't look much like mine.  She's way more into brights than I am!  I have very few bright fabrics in my stash.  In fact, I think the only bright I consistently use is bright green.

In the last few years I have learned to spend the bulk of my fabric budget on replacing what I'm actually using.  In doing so, I have discovered my own personal basics.


The above picture is a selection of fabrics from my stash that I think represent the stash as a whole.

My basics are...
blues and greens that are fairly pastel, sort of pure + a touch of dustiness
dusty or dark yellows, oranges, and pinks
light dusty gray or medium gray + white  prints
darker reds that are rich but not preppy
low volume prints that aren't too cute or fussy

Other stash observations...
I almost never use two-way prints, geometric prints, stripes, polka dots, zig zags, chevrons, or tossed prints, so I don't stash them.
I'm extremely picky about brown, blue, and black prints, so I have LARGE cuts of the few that I like
I haven't been stashing solids because for the most part they are always available and can be bought on a project-by-project basis. 
I have a serious fondness for using prints that combine any shade of white + one or two other colors.
I don't have very many tone-on-tone prints.  
I really like to use text fabrics, but not all text fabrics...size and color matter.
I go through a lot of low volume prints and tend to add some of these to almost any fabric order I place to try to keep up with my use and need for variety.
The more multi-colored and novelty-esque a print, the harder I find it to use, so I have to truly love it to stash it. Of course, these are lovely when you do find the right way to use them!

My point here is that my stash suits me and my needs...and yours should suit you!

Some of my stashing is simply a response to what is regularly available and what is scarce.
I have learned over time which of my favorite colors are used by designers less often, which means I buy a bigger cut of a rare color when I see it in a new fabric that I love.  Of course, fabric trends change, so while gray and mustard used to be harder to find, now its fairly easy!  Right now, a cerise or magenta print that I like is a bit harder to find, so I buy bigger cuts of those.

What about fabric lines?
Instagram and the blogosphere is full of excited talk about new and upcoming fabric lines.  I do get excited about new fabric myself sometimes, as with this picture of me with Rashida Coleman-Hale's Koi line when it arrived at Pink Castle Fabrics.  I love that line so much! However, I don't often buy entire fabric lines.  And I almost never use an entire fabric line all together; I prefer to use pieces of it across different quilts.  This largely comes down to personal preference: I tend to find quilts that use all one fabric line plus white or a few solids just look too polished and promotional to me.  However, when I really love a fabric line, I can find it hard to resist buying the whole thing, or using the whole thing together.  Therefore, sometimes I challenge myself to buy JUST ONE PRINT of a big fabric line.  I find that this helps me to use the fabric in a more individual way and it helps with staying on target with my fabric budget!

Thinking about my stash has helped me to discover my voice and I think careful stashing can help any quilter to cultivate their own aesthetic while saving money and making awesome projects.

14 July 2014

Stash Management

Stash Management in quilt studioSometimes I really like Mondays.  The fresh start of it all.  I like being able to put everything in its place, think through what I need to be accomplished that week, and then begin.  Since I'm quilting full time this summer, I get to have my Mondays in the studio and I begin by cleaning up.  

This morning's tidying mostly consisted of putting away fabric--both new purchases and the fabric I had strewn about the room while working last week.

As I went around putting each bit of fabric where it goes, I thought about how enjoyable it is to have a space where everything has a place and there's a system for maintaining order.  And then I thought maybe I'd share the specifics of my stash management with you, because perhaps some of my ideas will be helpful and if nothing else, everybody enjoys photos of fabric, right?

The picture to the left is of the inside of my green Billy Bookcase from Ikea. This is where all of my cut of a half-yard or larger end up, and some of my smaller cuts as well.

Stash Management in quilt studioThe fabric on these shelves is wrapped around comic book boards. This is a method that I've seen a lot of bloggers and instagrammers using and talking about--check out this tutorial if you want to know more.  When I blogged about my fabric back in 2010, I was not using boards yet, I was folding the fabric to the same width and then stacking it on open bookshelves.  Eventually, this system stopped working because smaller cuts were getting lost and going through my stash looking for something often resulted in the need to refold a lot of fabric.  By putting the fabric on the boards, I am able to  keep everything visible and tidy even when it gets shuffled and reshuffled!

While most of the shelves are arranged by color, the top shelf (pictured below) is a little bit different.  The fabric up there is in different little segments, divided by extra comic book boards.  These are little color stories or pairings of fabrics that I think will be together in a quilt some day.   These fabrics tend to be my favorites, so I've been known to get a bit Smeagolly with them...

My precious.

Stash Management in quilt studio

Stash Management in quilt studioThe bottom shelves are less crammed with fabric, and its mostly piles.  Each of these piles is different.  One stack is large cuts that I bought with garment sewing or bag sewing in mind.  Another stack is fat quarters of solids.  There are a few groups of fabrics that have different substrates--double gauze or linen blend.  Most of it is fabric that I'm just not sure I'll ever use and don't want to have to look at all the time; I keep it to use for test blocks or muslins or a hidden lining, but I don't want it mixed in with the more attractive parts of my stash.

As much as I love this shelf and the comic book boards, I find that handling this part of my stash is the easy part.  What has been harder is handling fat quarters and fat eighths and large scraps, so I think what I've worked out for them is really what has made the difference in keeping my stash tidy and my studio in order.

Scrap and small cut storage happens along the top of this shelf at the back of my room (right by the green shelves.)
Stash Management in quilt studio

At the far end, there's a CD organizer and I've got fat quarters and other small cuts stacked up in there.  Some are arranged in a little grouping that I might make a quilt from, but most are just in there in no particular order, ready to be used at a moment's notice.  These are all about the same height when folded so that they are all visible.
Stash Management in quilt studio

In the next organizer, which I believe was originally intended to organize a sock or underwear drawer, I have my smallest scraps as well as some fat eighths and leftover bits of jelly rolls wound around toilet paper rolls.  The fat eighths end up in here if they are so small they're likely to disappear in the other organizer.  You'll notice that I don't have too many scraps here.
Stash Management in quilt studio
That's because I don't keep tiny scraps of very many fabrics around.  For fabrics that I truly love, I will keep tiny bits, but for the most part, I know that I'm not a true scrap quilter, so I give away my scraps to friends that will actually use them (and not just feel burdened by them like I would.)

I collect scraps while cutting and sewing into two small baskets (one next to my machine and the other under the cutting table).  When these fill up, I sort the contents into two piles--scraps I love and want to keep and scraps I think I should give away.  I put the scraps to give away in a medium sized box that's up on the green shelves, and once or twice a year I go through it again and give away and contents I know I'm done with; the waiting period is nice because sometimes I change my mind and want a fabric back that I had previously thought I was done with.  Or I might do the unexpected and make a scrap quilt and need more scraps!

Stash Management in quilt studio

So that's the scoop!  Let me know if you have any questions!
Oh, and one last photo...orphan blocks on the walls...

Stash Management in quilt studio

Related posts:
shows more options for fabric storage.