100 Quilts · Quilts

What Was Old is New Again

Venice Floor Gone Bad_large

After a trip to Venice one year, I got the bright idea to re-create the magnificent floor in the cathedral, but with subterfuge.  Some of the sections would bleed into the others, and others into others, and all of a sudden it got very complicated very fast.  Either this is a really good example of Deconstructionist quilt style, or it’s a Venice Cathedral Floor Gone Bad.



I’d also taken a class from Hollis Chatelain at Road to California, and had come under the spell of her close, narrow quilting.  Now it’s called matchstick quilting, but then, we didn’t give catchy names to rows and rows of thread, narrowly spaced. The back:


I used to hate it, but I must admit, given the hundreds of quilts that are now using Hollis’ matchstick quilting, the quilt is growing on me.  The reason why I’m revisiting this quilt’s new-again-technique, is to also look at this one, too:


Every Common Bush Afire, No. 31

A sampler quilt, made when I trekked up several weeks in a row to take classes from Carolyn (of Road to California fame) it hangs every fall in our upstairs hallway, reminding me of fall colors in cooler climates.  I love looking at it, and love the colors.

IMG_7325.JPG IMG_7327.JPG

But this is why it’s being revisited: the large maple leaf on the back.  I made this in the year 2000, but now you see fancy pieced quilt backs everywhere.  I still am of two minds about pieced backs, as getting it on straight seems to be a challenge, as well as dealing with the many seams.  Obviously pieced backs have evolved and it’s more like pieced strips-on-a-back with bits of extra blocks rolled in.  But it’s fun to realize that at the time, I’d given something new a try.



The label is underneath three overlapping leaves; the quilt shows this has been in are below on little labels from those shows, which lately I haven’t seen given out.  I should still make my own labels, if only to properly identify the quilt’s provenance. Last blast to the past:


Nihondaira, No. 53 (2003)


I’m revisiting this one for the hand-quilting coupled with the machine quilting.  This one is specific, using sashiko thread, a thicker embroidery thread from Japan.  I began this in a class taught by Roberta Horton, a true master of quilting.


She talked about not fretting if you didn’t have enough of the specialized yakuta fabric, but instead to be creative, finishing the shape with the hand-stitching.  So I did.


Another pieced back, using a gradated fabric (aren’t you seeing those again?)


Yeah, I realize I sound like a quilt geezer.  But this might explain why I don’t get all in a froth when I see these techniques *burst* out into our quilt world as the newest! greatest! most amazing! thing.  I had a conversation with Debbie of A Quilter’s Table not too long ago, and we discussed how some of these people–like Hollis, or Roberta Horton, or even Nancy Crow–seem to have faded into the background of our quilty life.  I love the new and the novel as much as anyone, but I also recognize my debt to these amazing women, who were innovating, even before social media’s sticky grasp.  Do we exist if we are not on Instagram?  Or Facebook?  Or run a blog?  Do techniques from a decade or so ago remain hidden, except when those of us who have done them, bring them out into the light of the internet?

You know the answer.

10 thoughts on “What Was Old is New Again

  1. Yes, of course they exist! These ladies and their techniques are our heritage and should be acknowledged and praised! And good for you Elizabeth, for highlighting them! And what a wonderful quilt show you have given us! “Every Common Bush Afire” is lovely in its richness and depth of colour! I agree about pieced backs being a nuisance from a hand quilting point of view! And what an inventive quilt label you have created with those overlapping autumn leaves- so very clever! You always give us plenty to think about…..

  2. I always chuckle at the newest, the greatest this or that. I guess when we live long enough we know that so much has already been done before.

    I love the sashiko stitching as you continued the designs. Beautiful! You have done such a great job, also, with the labeling.

    With this weeks heat, I am ready for some of those fall quilts to be brought out. How about you? I heard our 108* yesterday was the nation’s hottest for the day. How did WE get so warm???

  3. I’ve railed some about “modern” quilting, in particular as related to “modern” medallions. Uh huh. You’re going to take the second oldest format for quilted bedding design and call it modern? It ain’t, honey! 🙂 Thanks for the show and the reminders. You’ve had some wonderful opportunities to learn from the best. I envy you, I admit!

  4. What is old is new again……sometimes we find that in ourselves and our quilting, at least I do. I recently had a fairly new quilter tell me that her friend created the churn dash block a couple of years ago. I had to smile. It’s still great fun for me to change a traditional block, like the churn dash by making it “chunky”, use some modern fabrics, and have students be excited over learning somethng “new”. My mission is to reach those new to sewing or quilting and share the rich history of the art with them. We need to nurture a new generation of quilters so there is a balance of us ‘old geezers’ and young innovative participants at quilt shows.
    Enjoyed your quilt pictures as usual…. Thank you for sharing…

  5. I love your quilts, especially that first one. It is an interesting conversation, what is new and what is reinvented. More important, I think, is what do you like to make today, as truly geometry is pretty old.

  6. Your “old” quilts are lovely. I say “modern” quilting is 80% chutzpah. There is almost nothing new in it. That said, I much prefer it to traditional quilts.

  7. Your quilts are so beautiful. I have enjoyed seeing the fall leaves in person and the inventive way you did your label. And the sashiko quilting to extend the design is genius. Well you know my prediction–batiks are the next hot “new” thing. 🙂

  8. I always enjoy these posts and the questions you pose. Hopefully more and more of the new quilters will broaden their quilting horizons and learn a little history. I find it interesting to look back at my earlier quilts. Some I still like, others not so much. It’s more about the fabrics I used than the design. My style has definitely evolved just like everyone else’s. i often wonder what I will think of the quilts I’m making now in another 15 years or so. Keep up posting on this topic every now and then. I love to see the responses.

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