Friday, June 8, 2018

what's not to love?

An outstanding 1970s Dresden Plate. What's not to love?
In 2010, I bought my first vintage, 1970s quilt. By 2011, I was actively collecting 1970s quilts. I was head-over-heels in love with the quilts, and really...what's not to love?

In 2013, American Quilter Magazine published my first article about the quilts of the 1970s. The same year, Tracy Mooney of Generation Q Magazine called Victoria Findlay Wolfe and I "The Double Knit Twins" for collecting the quilts nobody else wanted. After that point, it was safe to say people wanted 1970s quilts, but there were still some skeptics and even a few critics.

2015: QuiltCon in Austin, Texas
2015: Exhibition at the Benton County Museum in Oregon
In 2015, I exhibited 1970s quilts at QuiltCon in Austin, Texas and had an exhibition of quilts from the 1970s at the Benton County Museum in Oregon. The same year, Quilters Newsletter published an article I wrote about the quilts of the 1970s. The critics were starting to take notice and acknowledge the quilts as part of quilt history, even if they didn't like polyester fabrics.

Last year (2017), I had an exhibit of 1970s polyester quilts at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.

After all these important milestones, it seemed like everyone was on board. The world was finally showing an appreciation for the quilts of the 1970s. These quilts were the products of the great American quiltmaking revival of the 1970s, which revolved around the 1976 American Bicentennial. They occupied a very important space in quilt history and American history.

There are so many 1970s quilts in my collection now, I produced a self-published catalogue to keep track of them. It was a simple thing to show to anyone who might be interested in the quilts, particularly publishers and curators. Most of them are interested, but recently I met with the directors of the big quilt festival in Houston, and they told me I didn't need to take the book out of my bag. They didn't want to look at it. They also said I could show the quilts in other venues, but not theirs.

"no matter how far you go in life, never forget your roots."

Of course, I laughed. It was funny, even though it was terribly ironic. When it comes to the global quilt industry, a multi-billion-dollar industry involving tens of millions of Americans, all roads lead back to the 1970s. Had there not been a great American quiltmaking revival in the 1970s, there would be no big quilt festivals.

The moral of the story is: no matter how far you go in life, never forget your roots. The quilts of the 1970s are important cultural objects, speaking to an unprecedented surge in quiltmaking activity that led to a thriving, female-dominated industry. As we approach the 2026 Sestercentennial, we will have a unique opportunity to revisit this history. In my opinion, glancing back at the 1976 Bicentennial and celebrating the quilts of the 1970s will be the ultimate way of celebrating the rich heritage of American quiltmaking. 

1 comment:

  1. You make a very valid point. I probably would not be quilting today had my mother not been inspired by the Bicentennial quilt revival!