What is Modern Quilting?

Courtesy of the Modern Quilt Guild.

Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. “Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.

Modern quilting has existed in many forms for much of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the 2000s that quilts with a modern aesthetic began to appear in greater numbers and quilters began to describe themselves as modern.

A defining event occurred in 1998 when Martha Stewart Living featured Denyse Schmidt, calling her quilts a “chic, modernist aesthetic.” For many quilters in the early days of the movement, this was a key inspirational moment.

Modern Quilting

Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design

The growth of the movement was facilitated by four factors: the cultural shift of quality design being recognized by the general public, affordable digital cameras, the changing fabric industry and the rise of social media.

In 2002, the Quilts of Gee’s Bend exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the publication of Yoshiko Jinzenji’s book Quilt Artistry, further provided inspiration to a small but devoted group of modernist minded quilters.

Two influential books were published in 2005, Denyse Schmidt Quilts and the Modern Quilt Workshop by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. The first online quilt alongs were established on blogs around these two books and awareness continued to increase in the online world.

The Flickr group Fresh Modern Quilts, established in 2008, provided the first online centralized social media venue for quilters in the movement. With that flickr group and many active blogs, the online world of modern quilting took off like wildfire.

In 2009, Alissa Haight Carlton and Latifah Saafir founded the Modern Quilt Guild giving the online community a chance to form in person connections with other modern quilters.

The Modern Quilt Guild’s role in this amazing and evolving movement is thrilling and we can’t wait to see what comes next!

Below is an extract from a blog post which Shevvy wrote after the Festival of Quilts a few years ago. It is her personal take on what Modern Quilting is.

What is modern quilt and is there any different really to traditional or contempory quilting?

The answer to that is I don’t really know. I found it very hard to define it and I believe the display we had showed such a variety of quilts that they couldn’t all be simply lumped into a set of rules and definitions. While there is an aesthetic element to it, I also believe there is a state of mind around it.

Yes, it’s about solids and modern prints and negative space and functionality and putting a twist on traditional blocks or not having a block structure at all. However, I’m sure what was being done in the 70’s was considered modern to the generation before and likewise going back in time. I remember some of the Victoria quilts at the V&A show had prints that would be snapped up today as designer fabrics they were so bright and funky.

Modern Quilting

I learned to quilt on the internet and then became part of a quilt community

So as a title I’ve never felt very comfortable with it and that came home to me this weekend why. In another 20 or 30 years what we do will be old hat and the next generation will be wondering why we call what we did “modern”.

I learned to quilt on the internet and then became part of a quilt community on the internet. Eventfully I want to meet people in the real world as well who shared my passion. Who didn’t think it was weird if I stroked a cushion in a shop and who could get as excited as I did over new prints and designs.

I don’t need to attend a guild to be taught things. Apart from some classes at the fat quarterly retreat and some workshops at FOQ I have never been to a class for any craft. I have always taught myself but the rise of the internet has made it much easier to find new ideas and different techniques.

I have the mindset that there is no right or wrong way to do anything, just the way that works best for me. I love quilting and it is a total passion, but I do it for fun and it would not be fun if I felt there were rules I have to follow.

The LMQG has given me the opportunity to meet people who feel the same way as I do. We use social media to share ideas around the world and also get to stroke fabric together in real life. It’s about being part of a community that I feel I fit into.


3 responses to “What is Modern Quilting?”

  1. Patricia avatar

    I would love to join you but unfortunately I can’t make it tomorrow, sorry.

  2. Judith Mercer avatar
    Judith Mercer

    love all your observations of what makes a modern quilt. Agree with all of them, well done.

  3. Sue Hart avatar
    Sue Hart

    The question on whether Art quilts are Modern has always perplexed me. Some Art quilts are not sandwiches. Does a quilt have to be a sandwich? Does it have to be made from fabric?

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