What Makes a Quilt Modern?

by - 6:00 AM

With the rise of modern quilting and the Modern Quilt Guild, many of us are asking “What actually defines a Modern Quilt?”. It isn’t just using bright color fabrics and being okay with a few wonky blocks. In traditional guilds, bland colors are more dominate and technique and skill is highly valued. Modern quilters are more concerned about art and design aesthetics and the process and joy of quilting. A Modern Quilt takes the Principles of Design to their extremity. Typically picking one or two Principles to focus on.

Modern Quilts can be in different styles under the “modern umbrella" based on their structure.

Modern Traditionalism
Modern traditionalism is rooted in traditional quilting techniques. The quilt is made up of pieced blocks and is based on a block-setting. What makes modern traditionalism different from traditional quilting is that the blocks maybe set in an nontraditional manner. They might be in rows with a single block set on-point. The blocks themselves might be wonky, meaning, uneven or off-set.

Improv quilting in its simplest form might look like a strange scrap quilt. But instead, a truly modern Improve quilt will use movement and composition to create spectacular arrangement. Within Improve quilting, are styles of blocks such as strip-piecing, made-fabric and slice-and-dice. It takes a bit of skill and an eye for design to make a successful modern Improve quilt.

Text-based quilts literally say something. Text-based quilts are visually interesting and have something worthwhile to say. This isn’t a facebook rant. This is a well curated sentence to say exactly what needs to be said, nothing more and nothing less. I like to call the best of these, Statement Quilts, because they are visually and textually. 

Art-based quilts create an image using the whole quilt as a canvas. These are some of the most recognized quilts as modern and are even commonly seen in traditional quilt shows.

Design-based quilts look to the entire quilt being a canvas, but instead of creating something literal like an art-based quilt. The design-based quilts will focus on a principle of design or element of art.

And of course, these styles can blend together and overlap.

Color and Modern Quilting
Another key characteristic of a modern quilt is color usage. Modern quilts are typically described as bright prints or solid colors. But that isn’t a rule. Modern quilts pay attention to color and try to use it in an interesting way. One of the longest lasting trends for modern quilts is the rainbow quilt. Modern quilts are mistakenly defined by being rainbow quilts, but rainbow quilts are not automatically modern quilts. When learning about color, a quilter should make a rainbow quilt while exploring color theory. But after that, it’s time to move on. Just because we now have the big box of crayons, we don't need to use every color in every quilt. Colors should always add value to the quilt in the form of interest or meaning.

If you've never made a modern quilt, give it a try by trying out one of these three starting points below as a guide.

Three Starting Points to Consider to Make a Quilt Modern:
-          1. Pick one principle of design to push to the extreme.
-          2. Explore unique color combinations you would not normally use
3. Try a particular style of modern quilting

Happy Quilting!

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