Plastic Fabric. It’s Baack!

In the quilty world, the Moderns look like they are having fun.

The Modern Quilt Guild has risen fast in popularity and is responsible for the now annual QuiltCon, the international show and conference of all things modern and quilty. Quoting from their website, “The MQG developed out of the thriving online community of modern quilters and their desire to start meeting in person. The founding guild was formed in Los Angeles in October of 2009. Through blogs and the Internet, word spread quickly of the fun they were having and soon guilds started popping up everywhere.” If you are curious as to what the heck Modern Quilting is, pop over to their website and check it out.

I was saying they look like they’re having fun, and I’m a little jealous! I don’t count myself as a modern quilter as I’m not fond of labels and the limits they can be perceived to render, and I’m not even sure the Moderns would call me one of their own. That said, I am an improvisational patchworker, and I like to have fun and use good colours. I like Instagram, and that is where much of my information comes from about the modern quilters. They love to share photos and swap both ideas and things – they make each other little quilts and wallets and tote bags and keychains, and include a bunch of cool little gifts in the packets they send to each other all around the world. And they post photos of the contents of those packets on Instagram! Its a little community within a huge community. I don’t know where they find the time, they must be super-sewists.

I digress…. I was saying that I was a little jealous. There was a flurry of photo activity showing the beautiful quilts at QuiltCon. There were photos of quilters having fun in classes, in hallways, in lineups, in restaurants and bars. There were photos of ribbon winners, some of whom I knew, Congratulations Krista!, and there were photos of a collection of quilts from the 1970’s made with polyester double-knit! They really were stunning in their technicolor glory.

I was green because I wasn’t there. I was green because I didn’t get to meet the people who were there. I didn’t get to spy the fabric design stars eating their lunch, or tour the quilt collection with Bill Volkening or ride the big sewing machine or see the quilts that kids made or hang out with my friend Maria.


Rainbow Magic by Mollie McMahon


But then about a week ago I received an email from a lovely friend and fellow gulf islander who asked me if I wanted to take her place in a class that she was unable to attend. The class is in Washington, just a ferry boat ride (plus a couple hours of driving & a border crossing) away, and the teacher is none other than Sherri Lynn Wood, author of the new book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously (buy it here) which contains a photograph of a quilt I made for her as a test quilter. (yip!)

from a score by SherriLynn Wood

Detail; Stacks in Red And Yellow. 2014

YES! I said. Sunday I will be in class, my fabric is packed, the car is gassed up, I’m ready to go. My green tinge is shifting to a warm pink. 🙂


Crate of scraps

It looks like said busy teacher is on a tour of the Pacific Northwest, teaching improv quilting here and there – and recently some photos were posted on FB, of her improv students cutting up polyester double-knit for a quilt. (you heard it here first people!) Now, I am no fan of the polyester, having lived through the 70’s in polyester pantsuits (I actually got sent home from elementary school because my ma dressed me in a fashionable pantsuit – and girls were to wear dresses only. I was used as a political pawn! It was slightly humiliating  and confusing then, but I am proud [and was then] of my mother for standing up to a ridiculous rule, even though she used her shy youngest daughter to make a point. The bell bottom pantsuit, by the way,  was purple and stretchy and had eyelets and some lace-up stuff like pirates sometimes wear), but if someone wants to make a beautiful quilt out of the stuff, I am on side.



(my distaste for polyester stems from my own memories of wearing Phentex crocheted granny square vests  and from my days working in a costume rental shop in Toronto, back in the late 1980’s. The clothing was arranged by era, and we had an amazing collection of clothing and costuming ranging from the 1800’s to the present, but let me tell you , the ’70’s section was one to avoid. The distinctive odour of the B.O. of wild haired dancers, of panicked dope smoking hippies running from the cops, of poor university students who could afford only one oft-worn  square-collared shirt, of young moms protesting for women’s liberation, all of this bodily memory was nestled permanently in the fibres of those garments.)

Plastics last forever (like b.o. in polyester) in our environment and I’d rather see it in the form of a funky quilt that will  keep a body warm than a tiny pellet in your facial scrub. I only hope that this phase in quilt making does not bring about the production of a line of stylish vintage reproduction polyester double-knits for the quilting fabric buyer. I shall continue to cut and piece my collection of cotton yard goods into quilts that will not last forever. I like the feel of cotton, I like to think about a little fluffy cotton boll growing a good long staple fibre in the field to be processed and spun into a thread that will be woven into cloth. I own a lot of fabric that I am using up but when I need new fabric I try to only buy organic cotton, even though it is more expensive and does not come in all the delicious colours that conventionally grown cotton comes in. I use linen too which grows much better without pesticides, and thrifted fabric which does not promote the buying of new fabric. I do it for the environment and to make my own little political statement. I have packed a bin of cotton for the class and I will cut it and stitch it and share the quilt with you when its done. Cheers, Barb


One thought on “Plastic Fabric. It’s Baack!

  1. Heather

    Wow, your description of 70’s fashions and fabrics was hilarious! Sounds like we are about the same vintage, I remember it being a big deal that girls were allowed to wear trousers (not jeans) in Grade 8. I did see a quilt at our island thrift store last week that was made from polyester double knits – I almost bought it because that kind of stuff seems collectable now. But NO! I just couldn’t do it – polyester makes my skin crawl.
    And I am so thrilled that you’re feeling pinker now!


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