In the United States, the concept of progress is usually associated with technological advances and doing things better, faster, and more efficiently. Kits and patterns certainly made the process easier and faster for makers in the early 20th century; but now makers are bringing advanced tools into their homes and benefitting from new methods during the entire quiltmaking process. The Creative Crafts Group 2010 survey found that “Dedicated Quilters” spend an average of $2,442 on quilting a year.
New methods for quiltmaking are regular subjects for magazines, pamphlets, and books. How-to and instructional books often include methods for speedier construction. Books on machine quilting, accurate machine piecing, strip-piecing, and paper-piecing methods have become essentials for the quiltmaker who wants to make more quilts faster.
In the past, quiltmakers carefully cut shapes out of cardboard cereal boxes and the like. Today, there is no longer any need to draft your own pattern to make templates. Quiltmakers can now purchase pre-cut templates for making patterns such as Grandmother’s Flower Garden and Apple Core. Paper-piecing patterns for making half-square triangles or bias cut squares are purchased in bulk and advertised as time-saving and fabric-saving methods.
The rotary cutter, originally used in Japan’s kimono industry, was introduced to quilters in 1979 and revolutionized the quiltmaking process. Along with the invention of cutting mats and an infinite variety of acrylic rulers, the rotary cutter allowed quiltmakers to cut fabrics for simple shapes like squares, rectangles, and triangles without templates.
The definition of hand-made is also changing as quiltmakers become more computer and technology savvy. Many sewing machines allow users to select from programmable embroidery techniques and other stitches. Bernina put out a computerized sewing machine in 2002 powered by MS Windows. Many quilters now machine quilt in addition to machine piece their quilts, and professional quilters use large sewing machines attached to quilt frames. Quiltmakers and studio artists can use digital technology to add photos, design and print their own fabrics, and design quilts using software.