Maybe quilting is a hobby people tend to take up in their middle years, as they settle into homes that have room for all the stuff, and as they age out of caring about fashion and clothes-sewing. Plus, a lot of young people exhibit their quilts on blogs and message boards (looking at you, r/quilting!) and Facebook, rather than in shows.
I wonder by what rubric we could actually evaluate whether an art is "dying"?
The answers to an old AskReddit question "What's a 'dying art' these days?" followed an amusing pattern:
PERSON A: __________________ is a dying art! No-one does it anymore!
Read through the thread to see what I mean. Dry stone walls are a dying art -- NOT IN NORTHUMBRIA! Stone-carving is dying art -- LOOK AT THIS YOUTUBE VIDEO! And of course, my favorite: Quilting is a dying art -- no it's not; lots of hipsters quilt -- HIPSTERS DON'T COUNT BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT GRANDMA!
Just once, I'd like to see Person A come back and say "My God, you're right! How marvelous! Thank you for showing me this art is still alive and kicking." But no-one is more certain than a pessimist.
One woman, memorably, told me "they" don't make slips anymore, so she had to make her own. Then she pulled her slip out from under her skirt, and laid it, crumpled and warm, on the counter to ask me to measure it so she could buy the right amount of fabric. Meanwhile, I was wearing (and keeping it under my skirt, thank you very much!) a slip from Target.
It is always hard to recognize an era when you're in it. Only with the passing of time can we look back and say "Oh, that was Eighties hair!" or "It's mid-Century Modern design." Same goes for quilting. All the quilts we make now that so offend traditionalists ("Alas! The death of true quilting!") will someday be seen for a movement or style that characterizes our age. Just as I can look at a Dresden plate made from small pastel floral motifs and quilted with Baptist fans and say "1930's, and here's why", future quilt historians will look at today's quilts and say "Oh, see how these are made with co-ordinating fabrics all of the same quality? This tells you the fabric was purchased from one of the specialty quilting cotton makers, like Moda, possibly as a pre-cut 'jelly roll' or 'layer cake'. Notice the machine stitching? Many 21st Century makers had home sewing machines. These colors were popular in such-and-such years. Neutral or non-gender-coded colors were popular for baby quilts because of the social movements of the time..." And so on.
Just because quilting has a venerable history doesn't mean it's fading into in the past. We are part of its history.
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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