Go Back  Quiltingboard Forums > Main
Quilting history in the last 40 years >

Quilting history in the last 40 years

Quilting history in the last 40 years

Old 02-06-2020, 09:02 AM
Junior Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 213
Default Quilting history in the last 40 years

I am gathering information for a presentation for my quilt guild. I thought it would be interesting to look at how quilting has changed in recent years. I chose to focus on the last 40 years as the Rotary Cutter was invented in 1979 and I think that invention really changed the way that we quilt. Can you imagine having to trace shapes onto fabric and cut with scissors.
I looked for recent history on the internet and to my surprise was not able to find much information. Here is what I have gathered so far.
I thought you might be interested and perhaps could add dates or items that you think have changed quilting over the last 40 years.

1979- rotary cutter
1980s fabric....Laura Ashley florals, dusty rose and dusty blue. Pre-printed panels, cheater quilts
1980- long arm quilting machines
1980s- Quilting TV shows- Eleanor Burns, Georgia Bonisteel, Kaye Woods, Sewing with Nancy
1985- machine quilting
1985-singer computerized machines
1991- internet starts
1994-Amazon starts
1994- First digital camera
Mid 90's smart phones ( used for taking pictures, calculating yardage , pricing etc)
90s fabrics- civil war, Kim Diehl, JoMorton, Robert Kaufman
Early 2000s- modern quilting
2002- disappearing nine patch
2005-Youtube starts
2008- Missouri Star/Jenny Doan
2009- Pinterest starts
2012-505 spray baste
2019- Bluprint

judy5cents is offline  
Old 02-06-2020, 09:18 AM
Super Member
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: Near Seattle, WA
Posts: 5,365

I actually did start before the rotary revolution, self taught with nothing much more than black and white block diagrams from the days when our town library was a Carnegie Library! I was a senior in high school in 1978 and decided I wanted to make myself a quilt to take to college.

Strip piecing and cutting techniques came along with the rotary cutter. I personally learned a lot from Trudie Hughes books in the early days. Checked in on her website writing up this post, you go Trudie, and thanks for all the lessons.

In my own quilting, I've said it before that the book Scrap Quilts by Judy Martin in 1985 forever changed my quilting career.
The way we put things together has evolved since then, but it was the first time I had ever seen "scrap" quilts that I liked. I had only seen what I considered ugly use quilts and my brain lit up on the idea of using 6-10-100 blue fabrics instead of just one!

I think the rise of That Patchwork Place as a book publisher is also important. They showed that there was quite the market and with their books the standards for books was raised. Maybe I'm biased being here in the Seattle area and was able to tour the offices and raid the book sale room more than once.

Speaking of print, Quilter's Newsletter Magazine also raised the standard by becoming the standard.

Edit: Safety pin basting, that was huge too.

Edit 2: Historically, machine quilting was being done as soon as there were sewing machines. It is entirely possible to have a civil war era quilt made and quilted entirely by machine. But machine quilting as an art form... yes, that I would agree more in your time line. The advent of the both the professional and the home long arm is definitely a change.

Last edited by Iceblossom; 02-06-2020 at 09:22 AM.
Iceblossom is offline  
Old 02-06-2020, 09:18 AM
Super Member
juliasb's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Waterford Michigan
Posts: 6,937

Acrylic rulers changed the way we cut fabrics also.You may want to add the rulers in too. They appeared just about but a litte later than the rotary cutter. The common use of FMQ may be another technique that became very popular; Pre-cut 10" squares also came out near the time of jelly rolls. Another thing is disappearing ink pens for marking a quilt. That is relatively new. Another thing is basting with Elmer's Washable School Glue.
Your list is very nice and the history is developing great!
juliasb is offline  
Old 02-06-2020, 09:40 AM
Super Member
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: Near Seattle, WA
Posts: 5,365

The popularity of feedsacks and 30s reproductions should be in there somewhere. I think the first re-interest in feedsacks happened in the 70s. Which was also a time period when named designers were cutting up quilts and making garments from them. But the rise of 30s fabric was a huge thing, early 90s??. I never caught the bug myself. Other notable designers, Thimbleberries, I think that was following/roughly the same time as Civil War prints and made a huge change in the color wall. Mary Englebreict brought back color again around 2000? Laurel Burch, another distinctive style that affected color palettes.

Juliasb is correct, rulers came after. My first triangle actually had no markings but was meant for drafting and I got it at a drafting shop (was nice to work with engineers and find things that I could use for my own devices!).

When I put in safety pins, I debated about mentioning "and other quilting related notions". There didn't used to be a separate quilting notions area at all. I worked in a fabric store, btw, in about 1982. I think I have finally used up/given away all the fabric I collected in that time but it took quite awhile!

And just like sewing machines were being used for quilting, so was the internet. I started to do a lot of fabric swapping for about 4 years, roughly 1998-2002. I still am using fabric from back then. I believe one of the groups I was in set a standard for 10" squares for swapping, we arrived at that size because of a bug jar swap and different people were doing different sized jars and of course, the fabrics had different scales. We figured it was an efficient way to cut yardage and that everyone should be able to get a usable jar out of that size. Hadn't seen 10" as a swap size until then but it spread quickly.

Probably coming back too late to edit -- but I think the tv shows didn't come until the 90s. At least I've always watched public TV and don't remember them prior to my son who was born in 1988.

Last edited by Iceblossom; 02-06-2020 at 09:50 AM.
Iceblossom is offline  
Old 02-06-2020, 10:57 AM
Junior Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 213

Thank you for the additions to my list Iceblossom and Julia. I will be sure to update the history list. I am finding it challenging to find accurate starting dates.
Thimbleberries for sure , I forgot about feedsacks and 30's fabrics. When I searched for 80's and 90's fabrics, I got results for Vintage fabrics!. Maybe 80's is vintage but the 90's were not that long ago...lol
Thinking safety pin basting became popular in the 90's, glue basting early 2000's?
My presentation is on Monday, I appreciate your feedback
judy5cents is offline  
Old 02-06-2020, 11:08 AM
Power Poster
SusieQOH's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Central Ohio
Posts: 13,538

What an interesting thread!
I think Jinny Beyer should be mentioned. She is one of the brightest stars in the quilt world to this day. She does everything by hand. To me, that is something that makes her really stand out. Plus her quilts and designs are amazing.
Also not sure of this but would Accuquilt have a place?
Your talk is going to be so cool!!!
SusieQOH is offline  
Old 02-06-2020, 11:17 AM
Super Member
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: Near Seattle, WA
Posts: 5,365

I've been spray basting for about the last 20 years I think... first I went with safety pins after I stopped tying, So 1990s sounds about right. June Tailor was my preferred brand I think. I was able to use a friend's long arm for the last 5 or so years but am going back to being at home with my domestic. I haven't tried glue yet, was going to "next time" but a friend gave me a couple of cans of spray she found in the back of her cabinet I'll use first.

But a couple other big trends I thought about since my last cup of coffee -- watercolor quilts, that was early/mid-80s and I think led into the more current "low volume" concept.

The use of "reads like solids" instead of solids was a major change in the quilting world. I think it really took off with the early 90s and is still going strong. Used to be the solids rack was pretty large and impressive, now it's not worth the floor space for many LQS.

One Block Wonders and Stack and Whack were huge concepts, came out of our strip piecing mostly although one of my very first quilting ideas (and never made) was going to be a star carefully pieced from a woven plaid so that the pattern would make an overall design. My quilt concept was back in the 70s, but I think the OBW craze was more around mid-90s? I think my son was 10-12 when I made mine and that was towards the end of the boom.

Those darn flannel bulleyes were all over the place for a long time. Never appreciated them myself and glad that they seem to have largely gone away from guild shows

Last edited by Iceblossom; 02-06-2020 at 11:29 AM.
Iceblossom is offline  
Old 02-06-2020, 12:09 PM
Super Member
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: Near Seattle, WA
Posts: 5,365

Oh my goodness, we've missed art quilts. Michael James was the first I remember knowing about...

I'm forgetting the organization but I used to go to a Seattle area modern quilt exhibition each year. Back in my Y2K days, my tag line ran something more like "it may be made with three layers and stitched together, but if you can't wrap a sick baby in it, it's not a quilt". Which was a comment on both art quilts and people making heirloom projects that you couldn't touch with bare hands and had to protect from basically everything and only aired out and looked at from time to time. I admire textile artists greatly, but for me quilting is ultimately a craft -- that is it results in a useful object and not simply an artistic one.

But the nice thing about the quilting world is that we can accommodate many different types and styles and points of view. I am just jaw dropping floored by what some of you can do with collage or thread painting or all the many different techniques and substances. Some of you are indeed making art and I am inspired by your crafts. For the most part for me, although I am using various artistic decisions ultimately I'm just trying to make a pretty blanket.

Edit/PS: The last brand new sewing machine I bought was the last Sears model with pattern cams before computerized machines. It was also one of the first things I bought when I moved out of the college dorms, so must have been 1981-1982, I know I moved it with me in 1983.

Last edited by Iceblossom; 02-06-2020 at 12:11 PM.
Iceblossom is offline  
Old 02-06-2020, 12:28 PM
Super Member
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: Near Seattle, WA
Posts: 5,365

Ok, I swear this is the last post from me. I was really lucky to be born at the right time to have the handcraft revivals of the 1970s and the bicentennial and such after a crafty childhood of Camp Fire Girls and such things. I had the right hobby and the right skill set and I think very importantly, to have been in a hot bed of quilting at the right time in my life.

When I was in college, I wrote almost all of my papers on some aspect of quilting, or at least cotton. I have a pretty good detailed list of reasons on why it was uncomfortable people in drab clothing wanted the miracle fiber of cotton and thus the industrial age was born and the colonization era was firmly established -- cotton for comfort, spices for daily life improvement, and sugar for alcohol. Other people study oil exports or grain imports, I'm fascinated by fiber.

But anyway, I checked in Wikipedia, says Eleanor Burns first aired Quilt in a Day in 1990.

Sewing with Nancy started earlier, 1982. I don't remember a lot of quilting in the first years but I was still doing garment construction and costuming back then.
Iceblossom is offline  
Old 02-06-2020, 12:43 PM
Senior Member
Cheshirepat's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 771

Wow, this is a great subject, and one that can go in so many directions! I'm sure it'll stir up some good conversation. Might it be interesting to add the surge in 'modern' quilt designs in the 2000's? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quilting#Modern_quilting
Cheshirepat is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

FREE Quilting Newsletter