What is Modern Quilting?

There’s been a lot of talk about modern quilting lately – modern quilting designs, magazine articles and guilds for moderns have all been popping up. We thought we’d get some perspectives on just what it is that makes quilting modern. Alison Taylor, Kirsten Duncan and Maryjane Morris share their ideas.

I Zigged I Zagged by Gai Taylor, Just Patchwork
Leicester Square by Gai Taylor, Just Patchwork

Alison Taylor: “Modern quilting? I blame the iPhone”

“In 2007 the way we act fundamentally changed. When Apple introduced the iPhone they told us that simple was good. And equally, that it was hard to achieve.

But the iPhone didn’t stop at being a phone. Nope, it was a camera, internet café, soapbox and a full set of Encyclopedia Brittanica too. For the first time we were always ‘on’, able to broadcast our lives in real time to anyone who chose to listen.

The iPhone was the first smartphone to make you touch the screen. You moved information with your fingers in the same way that you feed fabric through a sewing machine.

And it was all in full, glorious technicolour.

Neapolitan by Brenda Gael Smith
Twirling Umbrellas by Gai Taylor, Just Patchwork

Design: The iPhone uses negative space beautifully. What isn’t there draws your attention to what is. And that’s what modern quilts do too.

Pre-modern designs prized technical expertise and complexity. Showing your back catalogue of skills was important. Famous quilters published books and patterns, influencing you and your local quilt group. Quilts shows were the public face of quilting.

But what looks good at a quilt show doesn’t look good on a smartphone screen. Those tiny even stitches? Lost. That intricate appliqué? A pixellated blur. And just as we like to know in which sea our salmon sashimi swam, we now also want to know how the quilts we admire are designed and made.

So what, actually, has changed? Modern washing machines have freed us from the ‘no white’ rule. Hello, now we can get any stain out.
Quilts aren’t just quilts anymore. They’re pieces of design and like the iPhone, simple is sophisticated.
Quilts are blogged, instagrammed, pinned and flickrd. The modern quilter’s community is online, and inspiration comes from everywhere.
You can’t spend two years on a project – your twitter followers will be bored. They want new quilt tops. Today please.

Stacks #1by Brenda Gael Smith
Modern Quilt by Leanne Harvey

Kirsten Duncan, one of the Twelve by Twelve quilters, had this to say:
“I see it as a new generation of people starting to quilt and they have brought a new approach to it as they are younger, working, want to make quilts but not take two years to finish one, and often embrace using just one range of fabrics to make the quilt.
The quilts are mostly machine-made but frequently have hand quilting, but possibly using quick methods like Perle thread stitching.

Speed is of the essence, more solids are used, and there are large sections of negative space eg. white backgrounds and simple motifs, or one big block off centre.

There’s a generalised influence of graphic design.
Modern quilters are not so interested in quilt show entry quilts or competition quilts. They want to decorate their homes with these quilts, make them for their children. And have the relaxation that comes with creativity.

Modern Quilt Guilds are more interested in sharing what they are doing in a casual setting but aren’t so interested in competition and judging.

Lot of modern fabric designers are producing fabrics that lend themselves to use in modern quilts because the fabrics don’t need to cut it up so much, for example Amy Butler and Heather Bailey,” Kirsten explains.

Maryjane Morris from the Melbourne Modern Quilt Guild gives her view:
“Our view of modern quilting is that it is diverse in its inspiration and uses fresh, modern fabrics. Modern fabrics are applied either to traditional block designs, graphically bold modern block designs or to create improvisationally-pieced (non- block based) work. The modern quilting style may incorporate plain fabrics, mid-century retro fabrics and may feature the use of negative space to add visual punch,” Maryjane explains.
“The freshness of both design and fabrication is uplifting and buoyant. The “whatever works” attitude stimulates creativity and encourages quilters to try out a wide range of fabric combinations and quilt layouts.”

And why does she think modern quilting has become a trend? We ask.
“It is so hard to resist all the delectable new fabrics that are constantly being produced! Modern quilting tends to attract younger quilters and the young-at-heart. Modern quilting has a strong presence on the web, via blogs and pages such as Facebook. Modern quilting also works well with contemporary home décor, and the recent upswing in using funky vintage themes. Modern quilts add zing to the home as functional pieces to be used and enjoyed by all, rather than to be put away as heirloom pieces,” Maryjane elaborates.

Revolutions by Brenda Gael Smith
Unplugged by Brenda Gael Smith

About the Melbourne Modern Quilt Guild
“We currently host bi-monthly Sit and Sew sessions plus two ‘Retreats at Home’ per year: these are mega-sewing sessions for a full day (and evening) of sewing, chatting and fun. We also have a Face book page to continue the chat 24/7, and a blog page: http://melbournemodernquiltguild.com/

To date we have been informally allied with the Modern Quilt Guild in the USA, and plan to formalise that link soon. This will open up partnerships with many modern quilt guilds which exist both nationally and internationally.
We are currently in the process of incorporating. We plan to expand our online activities for members who are not able to attend our Sit and Sew events, as well as establish a charity quilting presence in our local community.

Jelly Belly by Zen Chic
London Tube by Zen Chic
OHO by Zen Chic


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2 thoughts on “What is Modern Quilting?”

    1. http://www.craftfair.com.au/wp/Hamilton/new-products-hot-shopping/#sthash.x6N6Anrj.dpbs
      Hello Adrienne, Many of our exhibitors sell patterns so a good starting point would be our website where product previews are lists.
      In this story, we mention Just Patchwork and their website is http://www.justpatchwork.com.au/patterns-and-kits/
      They have some lovely patterns.
      Meanwhile, we will put this on our wish list for projects – keep watching our email newsletters!


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