A word about modern quilting

First, I would like to thank Geri Grasvik, The Pine Needle and the merry band of quilters who invited me to talk at their guild meeting in January. I talked about the concepts and motifs that are showing up on modern quilts; they were so gracious and made me feel so welcome. I hope I didn’t talk too long–it is hard to get me to stop once I start talking about quilting. Anyway, they were all terrific, enthusiastic and definitely will need a larger room very very soon.
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Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “modern quilting”–and didn’t give it another thought. But if that phrase made you think “whaaa??” you’re not alone.

Modern quilting is a relatively new genre, and while the boundaries are still a bit fuzzy, the basic aesthetic is fairly well-defined. The Modern Quilt Guild has a laundry-list of the components on their website, but as more people are attracted to it, it will change.  

Part of the history of modern quilting is the role that technology played in it’s birth and early story. Quilters posted their efforts to blogs, other quilters found those pictures, shared their own, and eventually modern quilting was born.

Sigh. A quilter’s dream come true!
One of the components of modern quilting is the use of “negative space”. Big blocks and even major portions of the quilt are given over to an expanse of solid color fabric–no pattern, no patchwork. Just. waiting. for the quilting.

We can look to the past for inspiration when quilting these modern tops. Think simple geometric lines and shapes rather than specific motifs used in traditional quilting. Straight lines, not so straight lines. Curves. Circles. Spirals. Leaves–or just the suggestion of leaves. Clamshells and Baptist fan are timeless and look great on lots of modern quilts. On these tops the quilting is a unifying element.

Some modern quilts have very little negative space with a lot of pattern either from the fabrics or the patchwork. For those tops I look to the fabrics as a guide for the quilting. If there’s a lot of different patterns in the fabrics, like what’s often found in scrappy quilts, then I think the top is  entitled to a lot of different patterns in the quilting. I use a light or neutral color thread so that the quilting is a textural element. The quilting patterns help to move your eyes around the quilt and allow you to focus on the top’s pattern.

Quilting the modern top is a lot of fun, but it uses different concepts than the quilts we’ve been making the last few decades. It’s still quilting, though, so have fun with it!

If you’re interested in learning more, stay tuned. I’ve been asked to teach a class in modern quilting at the NW Quilt Expo in Portland this September. We’ll talk about motifs and concepts, tips and tricks, fun and games. I’ll keep you posted.

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