Category Archives: Modern Quilting

Fun While It Lasted

Here’s yet another “classic” post from 2016. You guessed it, I’m still on vacation. This post is especially pertinent as I have just dropped my Modern Quilt Guild membership. I don’t know why it took me so long. Maybe I kept hoping the direction would swing away from all the patterns.

With QuiltCon West underway in California it seems a good time to declare that I am over modern quilting, as defined by current modern quilt practitioners. Back in 2012 I had high hopes for a bolder, less pretty, more personally defined approach to quilting. I read and was inspired by many of the blogs that sprouted daily, and joined a local modern quilt guild. I made several quilts in the spirit of modern quilting.

Now, four years later, I say goodbye to all that. My local modern guild limped along on life support for two years, and finally vanished without even a whimper. Many of the blogs I enjoyed have ceased publication or have devolved into advertisements for fabric collections, patterns, and other items for sale. I gather it’s called branding, which I always associate with cattle ranching. Certainly there are outstanding exceptions, but many modern quilting books either lack substance or recycle “traditional” quilt book topics like half square triangles with new fabrics. Modern quilters jump from one “must have” fabric line/pattern to another. The owls, the deer, sheesh! What happened to the originality? I see a lot of “me too.”

It may be that I’m holding modern quilters to higher standards than I do traditional quilters. Yeah, probably. I just had such hopes for self-determination – design your own quilts, make them with less expensive solid fabrics/vintage sheets/whatever, learn to sew and FMQ in a month. Then, the marketing juggernaut struck. And who wouldn’t be tempted by the chance to make money from your hobby? BTW, I’d be interested to learn of quilters who support themselves on modern quilting.

I do treasure what I’ve gained from the moderns. The bold, off kilter designs were a shot in the arm. The exuberance of new quilters who had no idea something might be hard was a spur. The sheer thrill newbie quilters got from their first efforts reminded me how fun quilting can be. You can see from the winning quilts at QuiltCon West that plenty of great quilts are being made; not all has been drowned out by marketing. I still think, though, the definition of modern quilting remains as slippery as ever.

Here’s some of my modern quilts that were most directly inspired by the modern quilting movement. One, Breezeblocks, is even very close to the original in Quilting Modern. I still treasure that book.

Curves Ahead 2

Curves Ahead (based on Pinterest pin)


Spring @ 60 MPH (layout by Timna Tarr)

Where did all the hexies go

Where Did All The Hexies Go? (from my head)

107 pyramids

107 Pyramids (based on a drawing by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr)


Boxed Triangles (from scraps)

Color Slide

Color Slide (my own invention)

Impact 2

Impact (concept from Terry Aske)


Tipsy Lampshades (concept from Quilting Modern)


WPM (layout based on Esch House Quilts design)


Breezeblocks (based on Quilting Modern)


Filed under Commentary, Modern Quilting, Snark

I’m Now Post Modern

For many years I’ve been a member of The Modern Quilt Guild, and was part of a now defunct local modern quilt group. I’ve watched a movement that began about 2009 go national in a big way; capture the quilt book and fabric markets; and launch many teaching, fabric and pattern design careers.

For a long time I was enthusiastic about this alternative to traditional quilting groups and made many quilts that to me had a modern aesthetic. I was always a bit puzzled about the exact definition of a modern quilt, which seems to have morphed a bit over time, as the definition expanded to include neo-traditional efforts. At first modern quilts were made of solid colors almost exclusively. Then, prints were added to the mix, especially after modern fabric lines were produced. Early modern quilts were often wonky. Nowadays, engineered precision is a hallmark of some modern quilts.

A big feature of the MQG is the annual QuiltCon. I gather there were over 2,000 quilts entered into the 2022 juried show. That means many, many “sorry, but” emails went out recently. I received one of them. Here’s my reject, “Calliope.”

Previous years’ rejects include:

“Not Quite Nancy”

The quilts selected for the 2022 show had better be great, as many of the quilts shown on Instagram under the #quiltconrejects hashtag are show-worthy to my eyes. I was surprised to learn that some quilters submitted up to 10 entries. Obviously I’m an amateur with my one measly entry.

Shapeshifting almost always comes about in a new movement as it matures. However, I’m at the point of wondering what are the differences between traditional and modern quilt groups, besides the kinds of fabric prints used and age ranges of participants. Both kinds of local guilds seem to have similar structures and activities; and books, magazines, teachers, notions, patterns, etc., geared to their interests.

For this discussion I want to separate modern quilting from the organization called the Modern Quilt Guild. I have learned much from early advocates of modern quilting, and had hopes that the MQG would be different from previous quilting organizations. Alas, I find that professionalization and marketing are increasingly important elements of the MQG. The freshness, the “wow, check this out,” seem overwhelmed with the marketing of stuff.

I have not found recent offerings on The Modern Quilt Guild website useful. Lots of patterns and basic sewing videos are featured. I understand this is what many members want. The number of webinars seems to have decreased, though a recent one on zippers was interesting. While the MQG is listed as a participant in the Textile Talks series, it has offered fewer programs than other groups. Of the 78 Textile Talks listed on YouTube, none are sponsored by the MQG. I find this disheartening, given the size of the organization compared with other more active Textile Talks participants like SAQA and the Quilt Alliance.

The proverbial straw? The day after I received my “sorry” email another one arrived announcing an annual dues increase. Talk about bad timing! I had kept up my membership so I would be eligible to enter QuiltCon. Since being juried in seems an unlikely event, I see little reason to continue as a member of the MQG.

That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on modern quilting. It does mean I’m out of sync with what the MQG offers. I think that over time I’ve integrated modern quilting with art quilting, and my focus is more on the art side. Of course I’ll check out the quilts on display at QuiltCon, and admire the many wonderful works, but I am bowing out of the modern quilting organization.


Filed under Commentary, Modern Quilting

Steps To Nowhere

Maybe it’s the season and all the plastic bones scattered about my neighbors’ lawns, but I went a bit dark for my latest work. It’s loosely based on a photo by Penny. I thought it had an unsettling, scary look.

First I did a rough sketch and used string to outline my desired size on the design wall. Then, I laid out fabrics I wanted to consider and began pinning chunks of them to the wall. I used two fabrics I had printed by Spoonflower plus various commercial fabrics, including some I had despaired of ever using.

I find that even a very rough sketch helps me see what I consider the important lines.

I decided to use the photo as a starting point, rather than recreate it exactly, and ended up with this. I had to get creative with some of the seam joins.

I have to decide whether to leave the upper left triangle as is, or change it to the solid bronze color fabric. All opinions are welcome.

It finished about 27 inches wide by 42 inches high. Now all it needs is quilting and a title once I resolve the upper left corner.

I am linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Modern Quilting

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

As a matter of fact I have been sewing; in between collaging, printing, and virtual gallery viewing. Last month I improvised a piece from leftover blocks and some Grunge fabric I had forgotten I had.

“Whitewashed” detail

I overprinted my leftovers with gesso and a stencil, ergo the name.

More recently I continued work on my circles and ovals. First, I decided to separate the pieces by warm and cool colors. Then, I spent far too much time playing around with arrangements.

Here’s front and back of my pink bubbles.

Front ironed to freezer paper

I sewed each silk piece to a cotton batik backing, turned it right side out, stuffed it with a piece of very firm batting, and sealed the opening with fused fabric. As you can see, I went with whatever fabric scraps I had on hand.

I was glad my plan to get the pieces off the wall without losing the layout by ironing them to freezer paper worked. Thank you, Elena Stokes, who wrote about this method several years ago.

Then, I designed a quilting layout and quilted each piece separately with the hope the lines would match at the edges. They did, mostly.

I tried to color code the lines to keep track of them. I felt like I was designing a subway map.

Now that the first quilting is done and I’ve hand sewn the pieces together I see I need more quilting. My experiments have led me to zigzag lines that echo the straight stitch ones. Onward!

Linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under In Process, Modern Quilting, Art quilts, Techniques

Two for May

Despite the attention I’ve been lavishing on collage and Gelli printing I managed to get two small quilts completed, to my surprise. As usual, I chose to complete the low hanging fruit (i.e., the easiest to quilt) first. The two tops that remain to be quilted are much more challenging; one because of its size, the other because I haven’t the faintest notion what to do with it.

First I dealt with “Ovals All Over,” my modern table runner. Most of the quilting runs the length of the piece, with horizontal stitching where the striped bits create the effect of a weave.

As I quilted it, I listened to a Textile Talk about the modern quilt movement. It was a video, but I don’t know how anyone can sew and watch something else at the same time. Anyway, one question asked was, what’s the difference between an art quilt and a modern quilt. The answer seemed to be that you can wash modern quilts as they’re functional, though the responder acknowledged that many quilts shown at QuiltCon are made to be exhibited, not slept under. My view is there’s a group of quilts that are both, like the overlap in the Venn diagram below.

Since “Ovals All Over” is washable and functional, I suppose it’s a modern quilt.

However, the label for “Mind The Gaps” isn’t so clear cut. It meets the washable criterion and is an improv quilt, but isn’t very functional unless you want to use it as a cat door flap. Let’s call it an art quilt. It’s quilted with diagonal lines in a variegated thread, and is edged with single fold binding.

I don’t usually show the back of quilts, but I’ll make an exception here as I used a novelty ruler fabric I haven’t been able to find a place for.

Neither of these quilts is designed to be exhibited, but they gave me a chance to work with fabrics I enjoy. After all, if I didn’t enjoy it why on earth would I cut up perfectly good fabric and then sew it back together?

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Modern Quilting

New Year, New Start

It’s just past Epiphany and I have completed my first top of 2020, surely a record for me. Of course conception began quite a few months ago, and the “father,” Frank Lloyd Wright, has long since departed.

Many years ago I was captivated by stained glass windows designed by Wright, and resolved to translate them into a quilt.

Finally, in late 2019 I drew up a rough sketch to work towards my dream. I simplified Wright’s design and deleted the lines of leading.

My color inspiration came from vintage table napkins and sun prints I made from place mats. I added lots of hand dyed and other home manipulated fabrics to the mix, along with commercial solids.

“Calliope” 74 inches long

I tried out many variations on the lower right section, which I won’t bore you with, and had quite the time fitting all the pieces together. Good thing I know about partial seams.

Sad to say, “Calliope” has made a liar of me. I vowed to never make another large piece. This one is 74 inches high and has proved hard to photograph.


Filed under In Process, Modern Quilting, Project Ideas

Back To Business

Now that I have my save the planet message out of my system I’ll return to my usual programming. Lately I’ve been playing with additions to old surface design pieces and using up scraps and pre-assembled bits.

Thanks to an inspiring collage workshop with Andrea Myers I came away with renewed interest in my old surface design pieces and some ideas for adding layers on top of already made quilts.

First, I stamped over painted/printed interfacing to add a third (maybe fourth?) layer. I have many other pieces that may benefit from similar treatment.

Then, I used the outline of the squiggle from my Rex Ray embroidery to cut out a piece of red felt and cover it with fused fabric scraps. I will sew it, plus a few additions, on top of leftover pieces from my Nancy Crow project. I’m calling it “Oops.”

My idea comes from Andrea’s work with industrial strapping that she showed us at the workshop. I think “Oops” has some family resemblance to a sculpture made of railroad track I saw on NYC’s High Line.

Finally, I pieced a “real” quilt top from scraps, inspired by a blog post from Christina Camelli. I pretty much followed her directions, and enjoyed the on-the-fly creation of scrappy strips. You can see the size pieces I began with. The largest size unit I cut up was a fat quarter.

“Sunset” 48 by 65 inches

I believe I’ve followed my own advice about using what I already have, and feel virtuous. Now I need to get to work and use more of my surface design experiments.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Inspiration, Modern Quilting


That title comes from a novel about a wealthy New York money guy whose wife gives a decorator carte blanche to do up their apartment. Apparently the wife’s style is midcench, according to the pricey decorator. It’s a style often associated with the work of Rex Ray, who features prominently in my recent quilting activities. While Rex Ray was influenced by mid-century modern style, he wasn’t born until 1956. I gather he was happy to gather inspiration wherever he could find it, and he produced both fine art and commercial work .

My interest in a puzzle designed by Rex Ray merged with an art quilt group Rex Ray challenge. I had already made my interpretation of the puzzle when the challenge was issued. I could have coasted with that, but I decided to take on another Rex Ray inspired piece.

First, the original puzzle, which features mixed elongated and wide teardrop shapes.

Next, my interpretation, “Not All Black and White,” which features lots of black and white fabrics separated with bias tape applique. I learned the bias tape technique from an online class with Latifah Saafir. Because of the face in the center I decided on a horizontal orientation for now.

When I decided to make another piece for my art group challenge I wanted something different. And what could be more different than an all stitch piece. I looked at many examples of Ray’s work, and decided to pull elements from these.

I used the polyp-like forms on the left and the wood grain on the right to design my big stitch embroidered piece I call “Ready To Split.” It’s done on old curtain material, which may be all cotton or a blend. First, I fused the material to fleece so the stitches wouldn’t cause puckers. After stitching I stapled it to an already stretched 14 inch canvas.

All four of the embroidery techniques I know are on display – running stitch, seed stitch, chain stitch, and back stitch. I can also manage a fly stitch, but that’s about my limit.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Completed Projects, Modern Quilting, Techniques

Another Set of Judges’ Comments

My quilt “Arches” was juried into this year’s Pacific International Quilt Festival in the modern category. I just got it back (fast turnaround) and opened the judges’ comments. As with many large shows, most of the comments sheet is taken up with specific design and technical aspects that are given a letter grade (from E – excellent to N – Needs Improvement.)

This time my letter scores were higher for my quilt’s technical aspects than design. That was a surprise. Overall, I was scored six Very Goods (three in design and three in workmanship) and three Goods (in design.) I view the Goods as the equivalent of a low to medium B. The Goods were for artistic impression/graphic impact, use of design/pattern in quilt top, and use of color & fabric.

The brief comments were: the shapes are visually very pleasing; more contrast, more dark gray fabric would add contrast; and what would it look like hung vertically?

Here’s “Arches” hung horizontally.

Here it is hung vertically.

What do you think? Horizontal or vertical?

What intrigued me about the comments was their design focus. Either the judges really got the importance of design in original quilts or my design had issues beyond those I knew about. I think more white in the right (or top) part would have helped the contrast. It’s always good to review your work after a break from it and see where it could be improved.

So, kudos to the judges for not focusing on straight edges and the like.


Filed under Modern Quilting, Quilt Shows


I never thought I’d type that title, but it fits my latest finish. As I mentioned a while back, this summer I took Elizabeth Barton’s online course “Mod Meets Improv.” My final piece for that class was a modern inflected improv-ish work that featured red Xes on white fabric.

I began with drawings of variously sized Xes that I taped in a somewhat random arrangement. No high tech design work for me.

I then made several X blocks in different orange and red shades, refined my block placement, and filled in the space left with Kona white cotton fabric. Parts of that were a bit tricky to seam, so I ended up doing a bit of hand applique in blocks that contained large and small Xes.

I kept the quilting simple, following the lines of the largest X. I emphasized that X with red machine stitched 12 weight thread and a single line of perle cotton handstitched in each direction.

Astute readers may discern the edges are unfinished. The facings are cut, but not yet sewn on. I gave myself a pass so I could share this (mostly) finished piece.

It’s been a while since I worked with white fabric sewn to itself, so I had forgotten how the seams show up, even with a white batting. I could have lined each piece, but that wasn’t going to happen. In the right light at the right angle you don’t see the seams.

I settled on “Xed Out” for the title.


Filed under Completed Projects, Modern Quilting