Thursday, May 22, 2014

What Modern Quilting is to me

I want to start this post off by saying that I have enjoyed debates I have seen through social media on what modern quilting means to different people. It always makes me think about what modern quilting is to me. This is my two cents on the subject.

In a Nutshell

Like it or not, the term modern quilting has come to represent a particular type of aesthetic. In the most broad way, I define a modern quilt as any quilt that feels "of the moment" and is made using current aesthetic preferences. I hesitate to use the word trendy because that implies some sort of transience or faddishness and not timelessness. Many modern quilts are timeless. At least some aspect of a modern quilt makes a departure from the quilt aesthetics of the past although many modern quilts still pay homage to previous quilt styles. For a quilt to be modern, there should be some quantifiable way in which it feels new and contemporary vs. old or reproduced.

Old is New is Old Again

This may mean that some quilts made decades ago are still modern in style, because they feel like they belong to the hear and now. This is not a new aesthetic that just developed, but it is being embraced by more quilters (myself included, although I'll never stop loving and making traditional quilts). It's awesome to see it growing and all the new ideas people come up with.

Specifically Speaking

Here's where things get tricky for me: defining a set of visual characteristics that define exactly what that modern quilt aesthetic looks like. This does have value because I don't see another way to more explicitly define the ideas above, but I worry that listing too many specific points becomes limiting and will eventually make what we call modern quilts today into a style we find very dated in a decade or so. There has to be room for evolution and innovation.

Ultimately, for a quilt to be what would broadly be considered a modern aesthetic quilt, these characteristics must be met:

  • novel and/or fresh feeling design
  • bold, fresh, contemporary color usage

Right now, those characteristics often manifest themselves with*:

  • graphic elements (such as geometric shapes or simplified organic forms)
  • visually striking blocks or design elements
  • asymmetric balance
  • minimalist design
  • increased use of negative space
  • less reliance on repetitive block based designs
  • less reliance on a square grid for block layout
  • engaged edges (blocks or elements that are cropped at the edges)
  • free-form improvisational elements
  • increased use of solid fabrics (they increase design clarity)
  • use modern fabric prints (fabrics that meet the requirements of bold, fresh contemporary colors and design motif)

*I see this list as evolving over time as the aesthetic develops.

A quilt will (probably!) not feel modern if it has these characteristics. I'm only pointing out elements will likely make a quilt not characterized as a modern aesthetic—please do not feel like this is some commentary that quilts with these elements are not to be admired or are not valued as a high art form!

  • uses fabric and color schemes typical of or inspired by a past historic period not associated with modern art (baroque, renaissance, civil war reproductions, feed sacks), especially when used in a traditional quilt design
  • lots of batik fabric in a quilt (Batiks tend to not have the minimalist design or clarity that is preferred in modern quilting. The colors mottle one into the other and the design motifs are not sharp and clear. They are gorgeous, just not part of the modern aesthetic.)
  • elaborate and ornate design elements
  • figurative or photo realistic quilt compositions
  • a strongly patterned border fabric surrounding a grid of repeated blocks
  • could strongly or singularly be defined as a cottage style, country style and/or traditional

There are always blurred lines where one aesthetic blends into another. The exact line where traditional quilting meets modern quilting and again where modern quilting meets art quilting is impossible to sharply define. In particular, I see examples of what people had been calling an art quilt that I would also classify as a modern quilt aesthetic. I think of art quilts as non-functional objects, like a wall hanging, that encompass more than just a modern aesthetic. Not all modern quilts are meant to be used in a functional capacity but I'd still call them modern. Maybe there needs to be a sub-genre of modern art quilts.

Final Perspective

Well, these are my current thoughts on the matter of defining what a modern quilt is. There's still lots of room for interpretation. I hope new ideas will get me thinking about another aspect of "what is modern."

Here is something that I know my opinion will not evolve on:

If you love what you make, who cares what style it is!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Other Slopeside news!

P.S. In case anyone is interested in making your own version of the Slopeside quilt, check back because I will be releasing this as my first ever pattern. Feel free to email me or comment if you want to be notified when it is ready. It is being pattern tested right now because I want to make sure I get it right. It won't be long before it is available!

I just didn't want to post that up on the Festival post so that it would just seem like some big advertisement. :-)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Slopeside

Welcome to my contribution to the Spring 2014 Blogger's Quilt Festival! Thanks, Amy, for putting this all together again!

Here is the quilt I've named Slopeside. This quilt is special to me. I immediately loved the graphic simplicity as soon as I sketched it. I've never seen anything like it. It is totally doable without any templates or special rulers, despite the fact that it uses an odd angle.

It is also my submission for the Colorful Colorado Modern Quilt Challenge, organized by my friend Melissa through the Front Range Modern Quilt Guild. All of the quilts submitted will be shown at a show in Berthoud, CO this June. The only requirements for the challenge were that we had to use a recognizable piece of 4 solids we were given, the smallest side could be no smaller than 40'' and the theme was Colorful Colorado. To me, it honors our lively and eclectic state and all Coloradoans' connection to our beautiful mountains. I can't wait to see how all my fellow Colorado modern quilters interpret that theme, too.

So many gems hidden in this fabric, including some miners and the Sleeper House!

The back also uses some crazy, kitschy Colorado toile fabric from a 2010 shop hop. I picked it up at the time knowing that some day I would use it on a quilt back and this was the perfect place to use it. I love the way all the neutrals and print fabrics on the back contrasts the front. I used an oops block from the front to be my label.

The quilting is new to me but I definitely see myself doing more of it. I wanted something that had curves to soften up all the angled edges in the piecing, but something that still had structure and regularity. My first idea was baptist fans and I think that would have looked awesome, but I've never done them and they felt too daunting for the limited time I had left to complete this. I snooped around on Pinterest until I saw some clamshells and realized that would be perfect too. I ended up elongating them and that works really well for two reasons: 1. it complements the elongated block and 2. it makes it go more quickly. Win, win!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Quilter's Cheat Sheet Freebie

Like all quilters, I always find myself calculating some of the same measurements over and over, which is hardest while actually at a quilt shop. I finally created a little cheat sheet for myself. I'll be giving them to my quilt guild tomorrow. I wanted to share it with you too!

  • There are yardage calculations for straight grain, double fold binding (which is how I do binding 95% of the time) for a few different binding widths. It even says how many strips you need to cut.
  • There is a quilt size and backing chart which shows the minimum sizes and backing yardage needed. 
  • It's got a yards to inches conversion because no matter how many times I think about those numbers, I always seem to draw a blank when I get to a cut counter.
  • Finally, on the back, there are some calculation guides for creating squares, half square triangle blocks and quarter square triangle blocks.
  • All of that, and it folds up to the size of a business card.
I hope you find this useful! Click on the image below to get the pdf, open that file and print (no scaling), cut out on the black lines, then fold long sides together and then fold short sides together, and voila—you've got yourself a handy, dandy little cheat sheet wherever you go.

PS: I hope to show you more about that Quilts for the Making logo soon!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lone Starburst Mini

I made this Lone Starburst block into a mini for my Connecting Threads stand. (The paper piecing pattern for it is free over on Craftsy!) It is made of some scraps and a color-slubbed chambray. I got the chambray at Snappy Quilts but I can't remember who made it. I love it and should have written it down!

I quilted the heck out of it and really like the effect. I had originally tried some itty, bitty feathers in the center but that had to be ripped out. They were bad. Really bad. This is much better.

I just whip stitched it onto the holder. Works for me!

On a side note...
How do you manage your solids and wovens (or any fabric with no selvedge)? I haven't done much to keep track of mine. I have a solids card of Michael Miller solids to help identify those in my stash, but I've got lots of other brands too. I think I'm going to start just making my own selvedge marks. Nothing wrong with writing down what it is and what color in that area. Too bad I'm too late with that idea for my current stash!