Thursday, June 14, 2018

My Favorite Things: 1970s Quilts

"I don't give a damn what anyone says...
I love 1970s quilts, and I'm going to collect them!"

It was a beautiful day when I said to myself, "I don't give a damn what anyone says...I love 1970s quilts, and I'm going to collect them!" The idea didn't come without some pushback from all the folks who thought they knew better. But really, they didn't know diddly.

1970s polyester crazy block quilt, made with raw edge appliquĂ© 
The quilts of the 1970s were rarely the technical masterworks we see being made today. A lot of them were put together by inexperienced quiltmakers, and made out of material people joke about today. The road to gaining acceptance and respect would be long, it seemed.

how could anyone look at these colors and not learn anything?
The presence of polyester double knit fabrics is precisely why the quilts are so great. Fade-resistent fabrics made it possible to preserve the vision of the artists. Their use of color was masterful.

Hexagon Diamonds, Oregon - a masterwork in polyester double knit
Quiltmakers in the 1970s did not necessarily think of themselves as artists, but they were. I was convinced when I saw what they did with what little they had. They used homemade, cardboard templates with sandpaper pasted to the back. There were no rotary cutters or long-arm quilting machines. Even quilting cottons were scarce.
how could anyone not fall in love with this quilt?
The quilts are full of joy. They represent a blissful starting point, or more precisely a starting over point. Other periods such as the Civil War era, Victorian period, Colonial Revival and Great Depression had a lot of quiltmaking activity, too. The surge in American quiltmaking in the 1970s was the latest in a series of revivals.

"Interacting Pyramids" Barbara McKie, 1974
There were no rules back in the day, at least not like there are today. Books, magazines and teachers were hard to find. By the 1970s, 40 years had passed since the last, big boom in American quiltmaking, but having no rules meant new quiltmakers had no idea how they could be bending and breaking the rules.
improvisational 1970s quilt made with strips of polyester
Art paying tribute to art: "Klee" by Marsha McCloskey, 1973
An appreciation for quilts as works of art grew in the 1970s. Major museum exhibitions explored antiquities in a new context-- decorative domestic objects gaining recognition as important works of art. At the same time, artists began making quilts intended to be works of art, for the wall rather than the bed.
how could anyone look at this quilt and not think it was important?
I have blogged about each of these quilts in the past. The information is out there for anyone who is interested. There are details about physical attributes, how and when quilts were acquired, places of origin and any available history. It is great to see a group of favorites together, and to think about why they are favorites.


Today, the information age generates a lot of knowledge, but we must continue searching for wisdom. It would be wise, for example, to consider all aspects of quilt history when assessing the cultural value of the quilts of an era, rather than simply picking and choosing favorite periods and styles and marginalizing others.


Things haven't slowed down much since the 1970s. Despite many changes in the industry over the years, it is still going strong. Many of our most noteworthy, experienced quiltmakers and fiber artists got started in the 1970s. That is why I say, "When it comes to the quilt industry today, all roads lead back to the 1970s."

1 comment:

  1. My SIL has quilts made out of polyester knit fabrics and I did a post about them here: https://appliqueandpatches.blogspot.com/2012/04/old-fashioned-look.html
    I'm so glad that you started your collection because they are unique and unless the industry gets back into making that fabric again .... those quilts are one-of-a-kind.

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