Friday, 28 November 2014

Labels, Schmabels...

Ninety percent of quilting stuff I see on the internet/social media is pretty pictures of quilts, blocks and fabric that make me smile. Occasionally, there will be a new-to-me technique or a new quilt design that I really want to investigate further. There is the odd picture of a cat on a quilt. And then, every once in a while, a blog post pops up that makes me think and think, pondering over folding laundry and cooking dinner and taking out the trash until the words start composing themselves in my head and won't let me rest until they're out.

This is one of those posts. Pop over and have a look, Angie has lots of good thoughts that are worth reading. In short, it's a pretty honest post about how she does not want to be labelled a modern quilter and instead wants to be called 'a quilter' instead. Fair call. She also talks about how she doesn't care or judge if other people identify themselves as modern quilters, but she doesn't like it when those (or any) labels are used in a negative way, to put others down or exclude others. Again, fair call.

I'll be honest, my first reaction - as the Editor of a magazine with the name 'Modern' in the title - was to freak out a little bit. What if the magazine I am working so hard on, that we are trying to market just right, is turning people off because of the title? What if some people love to wear the 'modern' badge, but others shy away from us because we wear it?

Our intention is to create a magazine that includes lots of fresh, modern projects that will appeal to all kinds of quilters, not to only be for 'modern quilters'. If you choose to read our magazine and a more traditional title and an art quilting title and an embroidery magazine, then it's all good! We specifically try to have a broad mix of projects so we do appeal to lots of quilters.

There is so much grey area in the topic of what is, or isn't, modern quilting that it's darn near impossible to work it all out. And then there's the dreaded quilt police who may or may not exist, and if you step out of line could knock on your front door and revoke your license to keep fabric at any moment. It's scary shit!

Then I moved on from freaking out about how to define our magazine and modern quilting to wondering if the whole 'Modern Quilting' title was being thrown about completely the wrong way. Humour me for a minute, and let's think about this. To say you are a 'modern quilter' (a label I am quite fine with applying to myself, by the way), or to say you like 'modern quilts'.... that is totally okay. But it doesn't have to be a completely exclusive concept. 

Just because you like modern quilts doesn't mean you can't like any other types of quilts. Just because you feel like the modern aesthetic matches your aesthetic, doesn't mean you can't make other types of quilts. The term 'modern' doesn't have to be exclusive.

There is nothing to stop you from also liking traditional or art or pictorial quilts too. There is nothing to say that if you machine piece traditionally, you cannot also enjoy applique, paper piecing or hand piecing. 

Maybe we need to stop looking at 'modern' as a definitive, and instead look at it as a genre that is part of quilting, then we'll all be better off. Maybe if we all make the quilts we want to make right now, without worrying about whether they're our style or what our IG followers will think of them, or if they're modern enough, we'll be happier.

Consider the rest of our lives - we are quite happy to choose favourites or diversity without being exclusive. For example, my favourite TV shows in no particular order are the Big Bang Theory, Bones and Nashville. Three totally different shows, that all appeal for different reasons (laughs, hot cops and music). And that's completely okay. It is also completely okay to say I like dark chocolate the best, but milk chocolate is also good and white chocolate is only for emergencies. And that I prefer cats to dogs (even though I own both).

And you are more than entitled to disagree with me on any of these points, if you so wish. It doesn't make my opinion any less right, nor does it make your conflicting opinion right or wrong.

At the end of the day, we are all just quilters. Or, to broaden it further, just sewists (personally, I prefer this term over sewers, which is where Ninja Turtles live). Even broader: crafters (and the whole crafter vs artist is a whole other discussion point!).

One thing all quilters/sewists/crafters have in common is that we are passionate and excited about our creative pursuits. We live in an era where you don't *have* to learn how to sew, because sewing your own clothes or bedding is not a required skill. We choose to do this because we want to, because it makes us happy and fulfilled.

This is why I believe it's important we don't let labels divide us. Most people, all those non-quilters, don't understand us. And they're no more interested in talking about fabric than I am about talking about cars. They don't understand that we're not simply 'making blankets', we're actually feeding our creative spirits and soothing our souls.

If you meet another quilter, whether it's online or in person, then you've met someone you have an automatic connection with. Someone who gets that whole 'cutting up fabric and sewing it back together thing'. Someone who will happily discuss quilt blocks and fabric with you. Someone who is nodding while you babble on about your latest quilt because they're actually interested, not because they want the crazy lady to shut up.

Embrace that! For God's sake, don't jump in there and ruin what could be a beautiful friendship by being all judgy on their opinions of modern vs traditional or pre-cuts vs yardage or dogs vs cats.

So, at the end of it all - label yourself if you want to, and wear that label with pride if that's what you want to do. But don't use it to divide the quilting world. There is room for all of us, no matter what kind of quilt we're making right at this very moment.

As for me, that's enough deep thinking for a Friday night. I'm off to baste English paper pieces and watch a hot cop on TV.



  1. Just read GnomeAngels post and now yours. Agree with you all!!!! Fabulous post and fabulous magazine!!!! I sew to save my sanity - just the simple pleasures really

  2. Thanks for the post and the tip about GnomeAngel.
    I am a sewer! Yes, I can understand the difference between tear and tear from the context, so I am pretty confident I can distinguish between sewing and poop too! Aren't homographs fun!

  3. I'm having fun exploring traditional and contemporary and I've found quilters who prefer different styles all very welcoming. I can also see if someone is drawn to a particular aesthetic that they may feel one style or genre is not for them but in the main I don't think labels help much as long as you enjoy what you are making. I hadn't thought about it from a marketing and positioning point of view as you have to do for the magazine.

  4. I always thought of myself as a quilter and fabric hoarder…full stop…and didn't even realise this debate existed…interesting to think about! Also now I realise why the word sewist seems to be popping up everywhere :)

  5. I am a sewer! Yes, I can understand the difference between tear and tear from the context, so I am pretty confident I can distinguish between sewing and poop too! Aren't homographs fun!



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