Modern Quilting Defined, part 1

They say that you learn the most about a topic when you teach it. In preparation for a presentation to the Country Road Quilters (Ocala, FL) in May, I have decided to do a series of posts on modern quilting. Like most quilters my age, my roots are in traditional quilting and I had been concerned that quilting was a dying art form. Not anymore! Thanks to the internet and social media, quilting has enjoyed a resurgence and I am happy to see so many young people now loving sewing, fabric and quilting. Many traditional quilters say that modern quilters are not doing anything new, however over the last 5 years, I would say that the modern quilter is evolving and some of the work I’ve seen recently is amazing. More on the evolution of modern quilting later, today I want to share what I have learned and what I am working on.

sew for home citron gray nurserySome of the elements of the modern quilting style are: bold colors, use of solid fabrics, use of negative space, white or gray as neutrals and exaggerated scale. What do these elements mean? I think everyone can related to the use of bold colors and white as a background, it makes for a clean and fresh look. What about gray as a neutral? I must say that this one had to grow on me and I never would have paired gray with citron or tangerine, until now. Look at the baby quilt that features Michael Miller fabrics and check out the free tutorial at

What is negative space you ask? Negative space is also called white space and it is not new to design. Real Simple magazine was the first magazine that I remember that made use of white space in its pages. It made the magazine easier to read with a clean look and feel. Have you been to websites that are so cluttered you don’t know where to look first? These designers could use a lesson in the use of negative space. Negative space does not have to be white, it Over Grown by Alison Glasscan be any color. Negative space is the lack of content. In quilt making, negative space leaves lots of room for beautiful quilting, the design element that is often overlooked. Many new quilters focus on piecing the quilt top, but fail to see the importance of quilting the quilt. Yes, quilting holds the three layers of a quilt together, but it is an important design element that provides texture. QuiltCon People’s Choice winner Alison Glass’ quilt Over Grown is a perfect example of quilting in the negative space.

Ohio Supernova_frontAnd what about exaggerated scale? Exaggerated scale is just taking a traditional block and pumping up the proportion to make a very graphic look. The popular ohio supernova quilt, featuring a traditional ohio star block, by Heather Jones of Olive and Ollie is a great example of exaggerated scale.

If anyone is following my Quilt Board on Pinterest, I have had a recent obsession with the Churn Dash, aka Shoo Fly, aka Hole in the Barn Door Hole in the Barn Doorblock. I have designed a 21-inch block and am playing around with them, using Madrona Road fabric by Violet Craft for Michael Miller. I’m not sure what I’ll end up with, but I am thinking several baby quilts. This design uses a traditional block with exaggerated scale, negative space, white as the background and bold colors.

100_2307First and foremost, I am a Quilter. I am not going to categorize myself as a traditional quilter, modern quilter or modern-traditionalist. Some modern quilters say that modern quilting has no rules, but I don’t believe it. I still embrace the rules of cutting on the straight of grain, not chopping off points of triangles 100_2308and applying a beautiful binding. I do observe and recognize the elements of quality craftsmanship. What about you? Have you embraced the modern quilt movement? Look at modern art that has been around since the mid-20th century – the modern quilt movement isn’t really a new concept. It is just different and keeping quilting alive!

4 thoughts on “Modern Quilting Defined, part 1

  1. It is all to do with the fashion of the day. Modern quilting or patchwork seems to incorporate larger pieces and prints with not so intricate quilting designs. I suppose the modern designs allow the busy working Mum of today to be a quilter too. They are usually faster and more simple to make. That’s how I see it anyway 🙂 Avis x

  2. I just completed my first quilt top and am working on the second one. They are for my grandchildren and contain blocks that contain memories. I never realized how different quilting is from sewing which I have been doing for years. Love the challenge.

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