Once again, let me introduce this week’s guest, Jessica J.E. Smith of The Quilt and Needle. If you missed the Tuesday post, be sure to go back and read it. “Jess” is back today to answer a question she hears often in her business as a quilt pattern designer. Welcome back, Jess!. – Pati
Labels can mean everything to a designer. Modern, traditional, art, whimsical – what is your design style?
My style? Uh . . .well . . . um . . . so the thing is . . . . Hey look, a butterfly!
I have nothing against labels, but I really have a hard time fitting myself into one category. I have been fortunate enough to dabble in designing quilts that fall into each of these categories. And if you ask me to choose, I’ll split myself apart trying to decide. I love all my . . . wait for it . . . babies.
The design process varies for every artist, but one step for any responsible quilt designer is to test your design. Over the years I have developed a great relationship with a large handful of testers, and I have learned which of these “labels” each of my testers fancies for themselves.
My mom, for example, is a traditional pattern piecer. She is also quite keen to speak her mind when she is not impressed with a design. I can trust that designs that appeal to Mom will also appeal to other traditionalists out there; and those that don’t, won’t.
Mom loves Chrysalis! © Jessica J.E. Smith
Those that don’t appeal to Mom, however, are held in high esteem by my quirky editor, Lizzie Haskel of Frolicking Threads. Her modern-minded family also likes to chime in on my designs. I always have a good guess on which patterns my modern followers will go gaga over.
Urban Runner and High Line Table Runner © Jessica J.E. Smith
I’ve noticed an interesting trend with my testers, however. Some of my patterns are favored by all. These patterns have been standouts for me when I attend Market, garnering attention from both sides of the traditional vs. modern debate. Internally, we (at The Quilt and Needle) have started to label these appealing designs Crossover patterns. Ugh. I know. Another label. But since this new label actually combines two existing labels into one, I think it’s a win win.
Lizzie Haskel’s Outside the Box; Pattern © Jessica J.E. Smith
Flingo © Jessica J.E. Smith
So what makes a pattern a Crossover pattern?
Sometimes I take a traditional (read old) block and mix it up, twist it up, cut it up, pull it apart . . . you get the idea. I mess with a traditional block to liven it up a bit, and come up with a pattern that traditionalists enjoy because they love the block. And modernists love them too because they like the freshness of the design.
True Evening © Jessica J.E. Smith
Sometimes a great Crossover pattern is appealing because of its simplicity. This allows the quilt-maker to choose their favorite style of fabrics, which will ultimately dictate the label their quilt top will fall under.
Let’s be real. Many of the same characteristics that are used to define modern quilts are prevalent in traditional designs. When I have asked modern quilters over the years what makes their quilts modern, they have said:
Lots of negative space Solid fabrics Improvisational piecing Geometric shapes
It occurred to me though, that these elements have always existed in quilting. Yes, there is absolutely a modern quilting style and a list of characteristics that define it. Modern quilting has birthed amazing quilts and given inspiration to such a large number of young quilt enthusiasts that quilting is no longer known only as a grandmotherly craft. Much like new knitting trends and yarn bombing have morphed from an old craft, modern quilting has absolutely enhanced our fabulous trade. But some of my conversations early on made me wonder – Were some of the folks in the modern movement unknowingly, closet-traditional-quilters? Or if perhaps, they were somewhere in the middle!
Here are two examples of quilts that use traditional characteristics with a modern influence.
There is room for all styles in quilting, modern, traditional, or whatever floats your boat. As for me, well, the view from the middle of the road’s not bad. Not bad at all. – Jessica J. E. Smith
Thanks Jess! What a great way to get the best of all the quilt styles! I especially loved Windsong! I’ll see you at International Quilt Market Houston next week, when you talk about Crossover Quilts in the Schoolhouse series!