Lectures (QuiltCon post #5)

On Saturday, I think, we attended lectures almost all day. I am not sure why I signed up for such a marathon, but with one exception they were all very good.

Mary Fons

Mary Fons
Mary Fons

First off, we were 5 minutes late for Mary Fons. The lecture started at 9am and I could have used a lie in that morning. They started, apparently, right on time, thus we were late. I thought she did a good job talking about quilt history. It wasn’t a perfect lecture, but she did a good job discussing most of the history of the modern quilt revival such as the Whitney exhibit and the effect of the Bicentennial. Included was mention of a variety of cultural issues/discussion that are relevant to quiltmaking such as gender in quiltmaking (do men get more attention in a female dominated environment), how feminism relates to quiltmaking (it’s ok to put a casserole in the freezer and go to a retreat) while giving a brief overview of the resurgence of quiltmaking. The late 1980s and the 1990s, a huge time for art quiltmaking, rise of shows, guilds and tools was not discussed as much.  There was a discussion of the increase in TV shows, especially on PBS such as the groundbreaking Georgia Bonesteel show, Sewing with Nancy and, of course Fons & Porter.

She threw out some statistics,w hich I have heard before, but continue to floor me:

  • 78% of US quiltmakers have at least a college education
  • 21 million quiltmakers in the US
  • $4 billion industry. FOUR BILLION!!!
  • The major companies in the industry are dominated by men

In general, throughout the lectures, there was a repeated suggestion for modern quiltmakers to look to the traditional quiltmakers (who are finding their way to modern guilds) and to learn from them. There was a constant reminder that the fabric used doesn’t impact the skill set. I heard it at this lecture first, but then throughout the conference as well. I thought that was very nice and speaks to some of my concerns about the exclusionary nature of the modern quilt movement.

Libs Elliot

Libs Elliott was not on my radar until I heard about her from Kathleen and found out that LE is teaching at the Make It Modern Event in Reno in June. I didn’t know what to make of her. I am really excited about her now.

Libs Elliot is an excellent speaker. She started off her talk with some comments about her family, telling us she is Canadian and grew up outside of Toronto. I got the impression she still lives near there. Her parents are antique dealers which provided a nice segue into her thoughts about objects, including quilts, having secret lives, they all have stories. She also said that when we make something, we are leaving our own marks and should feel a sense of pride.

As an aside, thinking about the ‘lives’ of objects is an interesting concept to me. I like thinking about what the objects have seen and whether they absorb the history of where they have been. Kind of like Ashakic Records, but for objects.

For her the past is calm and the future is exciting. Ms. Elliott likes clear simple lines. She enjoys using new tools and thinking about ways to use technology. She is particularly interested in the intersection of technology and traditional craft.

Creating designs using a computer code generator is an interesting concept to me. Some might think it takes all the work of the artist out of it, but there are still a lot of decisions to make: color, design modifications, size, fabrics.

Elliott explained the process very well, incorporating that into the trajectory of her quilt career. Her lecture clearly showed how she was moving forward within the space of creating quilt designs with code.

The message I got was “never be afraid to ask”.

Scrap Management Panel

The good thing about this lecture was that it was a panel and we got to hear about the different ways people deal with their scraps. I wasn’t able to appreciate the people who have one bookshelf full of fabric. I may have too much fabric, but they don’t have enough. JMO, of course. The members of the panel were Mary Fons, Christa Watson and Judy Gauthier. It was moderated by Rossie Hutchinson.

You can see a picture of the panel on Christa’s site.

Another good thing about this lecture was that I found Bungalow Quilting and Yarn. The owner, Judy Gauthier,  was a fireball, a great marketer and an inveterate scrap quilt maker. She has a new book, Quilts for Scrap Lovers out by C&T. She has written a number of quilt books and guides. I was only able to take a quick peek at the new book. Go and buy it anyway. She was awesome.

As you can imagine, methods of dealing with scraps run the gamut. Mary does not usually use whole lines. She stores in scraps by color in an old, but refurbished dry goods cabinet and a large rattan basket. She also advises not to buy what you think you should buy, She encouraged the audience to love what you buy.

Mary also talked about the ‘precious fabric problem’. If you have fabrics that you love and pet and don’t want to cut into, put them on the back of a quilt for you. You will be able to enjoy them more. She encouraged the audience to enjoy your fabrics by using them.

Christa is a minimalist. Her philosophy is Know It, Use It, Love It. I can appreciate that sentiment since I buy fabric to use. She cleared out her fabric sometime in the recent past and has one large cabinet for fabric storage. Christa buys and uses a lot of tone-on-tones. She also buys pre-cuts because she can use them up quickly and get a scrappy look easily.

Judy’s philosophy is buy as much as you can and keep as much as you can. She stores her scraps by color. She does believe that the fabric should move you.

Rossie put her two cents in as well and says she destashes scraps. She encouraged people to let go of fabric with which you are finished. She said to buy what you use and don’t be influenced by trends and formulas. Her theme was ‘admire don’t acquire’.

There was a discussion of pre-washing with a mini poll during the lecture. Pre-washers like me are definitely in the minority. Mary led this short segment and said she now pre-washes everything. She reminded us that there are good reasons for pre-washing and also for not pre-washing. We were also reminded that pre-washing=pre-shrinking and if you wash some fabrics for a quilt you should wash them all so they don’t shrink differently.

Christa pre-washes, though she doesn’t pre-wash her pre-cuts. She loves to iron yardage and enjoys touching her fabric.

The panel also discussed caring for your fabric:

  • keep fabric out of the sun. Sun is the enemy
  • wood ‘leaks’ oils and will discolor/damage your fabric
  • use acid free paper to protect fabric from sun and wood

There was also a discussing of building a stash. Judy reminded people to buy colors that make you feel good and makes you happy. Be selfish and buy fabric that speaks to you physically. Also, buy the best fabric you can afford. One great tip was to figure out what YOUR basics are and keep those in stock. As part of this discussion there was a thread about using fabric.

  • Take a photo in black and white to check contrast
  • Offset prints with solids (or tone-on-tones)
  • Contrast is relative: white makes buttercream yellow look dark.
  • Contrast can be a problem even when colors and patterns are great.

The panel left us with the admonition to USE OUR FABRIC!!

See part 2 of my report on the lectures.

Author: Jaye

Quiltmaker who enjoys writing and frozen chocolate covered bananas.

5 thoughts on “Lectures (QuiltCon post #5)”

  1. This was great! I was very interested in these lectures and appreciate getting a sense of what was presented. Libs Elliott is definitely getting my attention with her beautiful quilts on IG. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. I’m completely jealous and very happy to feel a part of your opportunity! Thank you for sharing an overview of the lectures you attended. I find it interesting to have so many differing opinions in one lecture on the whats, whys and hows for fabric acquisition and handling.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for leaving a comment. I am glad I was able to add to your experience. Keep checking back for more posts. I have a couple more to post.

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