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Modern Quilts and Quilting

Modern Quilting 


According to 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.”

The modern movement started in the 20th century. Affordable digital cameras, increased use of social media, the changing fabric industry, and recognition from the public has propelled the movement since the turn of the century. Pioneers of the movement include Denyse Schmidt, Weeks Ringle, Bill Kerr, Alissa Haight Carlton, and Latifah Saafir. Denyse Schmidt appeared on Martha Stewart in 1998. Martha called Denyse’s quilts “chic, modernist aesthetic.” The Quilt’s of Gee’s Bend had an exhibit of their quilts in the early 2000s. Just after this Denyse Schmidt and the Modern Quilt Workshop (Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr) published books about modern quilting. Flickr, blogs, the first quilt alongs, the rise of social media – Facebook, Instagram, personal/business websites have all propelled and shared this modern aesthetic around the world. In 2009 Alissa Haight Carlton and Latifah Saafir founded the Modern Quilt Guild. This gave an online connection to quilters worldwide, in addition to the visual connection from Flickr.



Let’s talk about some the characteristics of modern quilting - 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. You don’t usually see these elements in traditional quilts


Thanks to the improvements in printing and colors available from the fabric industry, quilters today have an amazing array of colors, prints, and fabrics to use for quilting. Modern art, architecture, graphic design, studies in textiles offered at art schools and colleges have all contributed to the growth of modern quilts and modern quilt design. Bold colors and prints, high color contrast is a signature of modern quilts. Traditional quilts use the colors of their time, modern quilters use the colors and patterns of today.


Improvisational piecing is what it sounds like. The definition of improvisational is an adjective - relating to or characterized by spontaneous performance, especially in music or drama. "the improvisational style of jazz" With quilting, patterns may or may not be used. Rulers may or may not be used. You can make an abstract landscape or face. Put together triangles or flying geese made without a template or ruler. You may just put together left-over fabric from one color family. Check out the improvisational quilts at the Modern Quilt Guilds quilt gallery.


Minimalism is a clothing, decorating, and architecture term that is now used for quilting. It is just that, minimal. It can refer to the pattern, the number of colors, or the amount of quilting done to a quilt. There is usually a large amount of negative space. There may be different textures or not. You can see more quilts in the Modern Quilt Guild quilt gallery.


Negative space refers to the amount of background or open space there is in a quilt. The negative space and/or background can be the main feature in a modern quilt. The negative space can be heavily quilted or not. There is usually very little negative space in a traditional quilt. See more here.


Alternate grid work. Traditional quilts usually have an even grid. Blocks in rows and columns. Even traditional on-point quilts have an even grid. Modern quilts may not have a grid at all. They may have a grid that is interrupted. The grid may change in different parts of the quilt.


Now put these things all together and you have a modern quilt. Not all of these elements need to be in every quilt. But you should be able to identify at least one of them in a modern quilt. However, just changing the colors of a traditional pattern doesn’t necessarily make it a modern quilt (think about that one and the use of bold colors :0)).

Next week we will talk about the melding of modern and traditional quilting.


The Ukraine Star quilt is back from the quilters. Thank you, Michele Holt, from “My Quilting Beehive” for the beautiful quilting – sunflowers. Come by an see it and get your raffle tickets. You can also buy raffle tickets here, just scroll down. Don’t forget we also have a barn quilt for raffle too.


A new Beginning Quilting Class is starting Wednesday, Apr. 20 at 5:30pm. Sign up here or get your friends and family to sign up. You do need to know how to use your sewing machine, thread it, wind the bobbin.


Don’t forget to check our calendar for other classes. New ones are being added all the time.

Happy sewing everyone,

Phyllis and the QA staff

Quilting Adventures                                                                     Hours: 
6943 Lakeside Avenue                                                                  Tues thru Sat  10 - 5 
Richmond VA  23228                                                                     Sun - Mon  Closed
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Quilting Adventures
6943 Lakeside Ave
Richmond, VA 23228
(804) 262-0005
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