Finding Inspiration in Modern Quilting
Could you identify quilting styles as quickly as you identify interior design styles? Like any art form, quilting has undergone many artistic movements during the evolution of the craft—the history of quilting spans numerous continents and cultures. As a result, quilting is a universal expression of tradition and storytelling. Today, we’ll explore the foundations and fun facts of a new movement: modern quilting.
American Traditional Quilting
American Traditional quilting is an art form with a precise, tidy visual appeal. This quilting style commonly features repeated quilt blocks in grid format to produce a symmetrical, organized pattern. Traditional quilts often use sashing and borders to maintain the order and visual direction of the pattern. Some famously traditional American quilt blocks and patterns are the nine-patch, flock of geese, log cabin, variegated hexagons, wedding ring, and sawtooth star.
Sawtooth Star Quilt Block
Hexagon Quilt Pattern
In contrast to the orderly neatness of traditional quilting, the modern style is heavily influenced by two major art movements. Modern quilting draws inspiration from the abstract expressionism art movement with its spontaneous and surreal methods of conveying emotions, movement, and stories. In this quilting style, the pattern is less important than the overall experience and feel of the quilt. Principles of the Color Field art movement are also easy to spot in modern quilts. Color field art uses swathes of color to inspire a state of reflection about the abstracted story or feeling told by the artist’s chosen colors.
This contemporary approach to quilting as an art form allows quilters to infuse a more dynamic personal style in their quilt projects. Some common elements found in this quilting style include the use of negative space, minimalist designs, attention to color theory, improvised patterns, asymmetry, sharp contrast, bright colors, bold patterns, abstraction, representational art patterns, two-tone simplicity, unexpected textures, intuitive based creativity, modern takes on traditional patchwork patterns, and encoded messages.
“Love is Love” encoded message quilt by Sarah J.
To reinforce the coded message, each bit of colorful fabric used in the morse code design of Sarah’s “Love is Love” quilt for her sister features the word “love.” The morse code technique uses a grid to convert numbers to letters to a mathematical formula to help you graph your desired message. Sarah loves using the morse code technique to make commemorative quilts that include dates or a personal message.
“Shazam” by Sarah J
The Shazam quilt is a traditional pattern with the patches rearranged to create an entirely new pattern. The eye is directed across the evenly spaced pattern by the color progression, and the wavy, irregular texture stitch running perpendicular to the color blocks is intended to direct the eye back to the pattern.
“Reverb” by Sarah J
This memory quilt for her father is a reimagining of the Jack’s Chain Block pattern to include more negative space. The block pattern trails off near the bottom of the quilt to indicate his passing, and the quilt title suggests that despite his absence, his presence still reverberates through her life. She chose the blue tones to honor her father’s love of denim and to reflect their time together living on Lake of the Ozarks.
“Starburst” by Kourtney
The overlapping elements of modern and traditional quilting in the quilts below make for spectacular quilts. “Starburst” by Kourtney utilizes the tidy blocks of the traditional quilting style and the vibrant color palette of the modern quilting style. Kourtney used four “Flying Geese” quilt blocks to create a larger “Sawtooth Star” pattern. With the help of her Quilt Perfect Ruler Kit, specifically the Rolling Foot, she completed her ruler work with less friction and more ease.
“Modern Log Cabin” by Meg
This improv quilt is a modern take on the traditional log cabin quilt style by @megandthequilts. Improv quilting is a modern quilting style in which the quilter creates by piecing fabric together as they go instead of quilting with a structured pattern. Improv quilts evolve and shift with the creativity of the creator, and we think that’s a pretty neat concept. This wonky take on Bridgit Gail’s log cabin quilt is Meg’s only fully hand-quilted piece. She began this exceptional quilt on Trans Day of Visibility for her sibling last year.
“Fried Egg” quilt by Meg (@megandthequilts on IG & TikTok).
When asked about the inspiration behind her egg, Meg said: “I made the egg because I had been rejected from my local art show and felt very uninspired. So I chose to lean into some silly joyfulness and make an absurd quilt (that I thought only I would find funny). Those eggs have done just that and brought a lot of joy into my life. So being rejected from my local art show was exactly what needed to happen. I'm thinking about making some toast next.”
We like to think of modern quilting not as a departure from traditional quilting but as an additional mode of expression within the craft of quilting. Two common themes throughout quilting as a craft are an effort toward sustainable practices and the tradition of storytelling. Over the years, quilters' capabilities have expanded with the help of free-motion longarm quilting machines and greater access to fabric. The Grace Company is proud to be part of a community that seeks innovation and creativity. We hope always to be a resource for quilters exploring their craft.
The Grace Family
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