Did I Just Make A Modern Quilt?

October 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

I made this quilt for my youngest sister’s baby boy, who is expected any minute now:

IMG_6242Eleanore isn’t a quilter, but she has a very good eye for color and design; the fact that she’s decorated the nursery in mushroom gray with accents of orange testifies that the standard blue, green, and cream baby quilt wasn’t going to cut it for her. I found the big border stripe (aptly named “Big Stripe,” from Michael Miller) at Smile Spinners‘ booth at Quilt Odyssey and used it as the source for the overall color palette. The solid orange, the gray and aqua ant farm print, the border, and the back were the only new fabrics purchased for the project; the rest were all pulled from my stash, demonstrating that a) I have a fantastic stash, especially where orange, taupe-y gray, and cute little animal prints are concerned, and b) that I have wa-a-a-ay too much fabric.

IMG_6202It wasn’t till I finished the top that it occurred to me that this quilt, moreso than any other I’ve ever made, looks an awful lot like the quilts I’ve been seeing in books and magazines described as “modern” quilts. Which leads me to a bit of a sticking point for me over the past few years:  I’m not exactly sure what a “modern” quilt is.

[From this point forward in this post, I’ve decided to capitalize the word Modern when referring to this concept because part of my problem with the term up to this point is the ambiguity of it:  no matter what my quilts look like, I myself (and all my quilting contemporaries) are modern quilters, in that we are definitely 21st century women who choose to participate in a fiber art form that dates back several hundred years, but we do so not as historical reenactors, but as full participants in our culture as it exists now, using the tools and technologies that would have been science fiction to our foremothers. I realize this is a matter of semantics; after all, some “modern” art is now well over 100 years old, yet we still use the term. But I admit it rankles me to potentially exclude myself from the umbrella of modernity because I choose to make quilts, albeit on a computerized sewing machine with all the latest in gadgetry, that follow a more traditional structure. And using quotation marks makes me look snarky or sarcastic.]

In search of a definition, I went to the source. Here’s what the Modern Quilt Guild has to say on the subject:

“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.”

From this definition, I get the impression that even self-described Modern quilters tend to differ a little bit in what they call Modern.  I definitely recognize that Modern quilters may somewhat be separating themselves out as a generational or attitudinal divide, especially as Modern Quilt Guild chapters spring up around the country. I’ve heard enough horror stories about quilters who are younger or new to an area that has a very rigid, insular quilt guild being frozen out or run off by Quilt Police types; if the solution to that is to start your own chapter of quilters who share a wish to breathe some fresh air into that environment. then more power to them.

But ultimately, I guess I’m too much of a quilting generalist to want to limit myself to one label, whether it be traditional, Modern, art, etc. I guess I’m a big tent quilter:  I believe quilting is big enough that there’s room for whatever you or I like to do, even if we wouldn’t want to trade projects with each other. I’m reminded of the saying, attributed to Louis Armstrong (among others), that “there are only two kinds of music, good and bad.” So while I’m not willing to place a label on what I like, I know when I like it.

And I like this quilt, that I made for my nephew. It has some Modern elements, with the solid orange. negative space, and large graphic prints, but it uses the Tumbler shape, which is very traditional. I used my Accuquilt Go cutter with the Mini Tumbler and Baby, Baby dies, which definitely sped up both the cutting and piecing process. Those precise shapes and engineered corners meant everything went together beautifully with very little pinning. So far, the cutter continues to live up to its “better cuts make better quilts” hype and I continue to be very pleased with the purchase.

IMG_6243I got a little fancy and fussy with the Big Stripe border. I knew I wanted those gorgeous mitered corners, but with a rectangular quilt, it took some doing to make the same spot in the repeat show up in the corners. I had to very precisely measure and invisibly piece the stripe so the corners reflected properly, but it was worth the effort and I get a little thrill of pride looking at it.

IMG_6244The quilting was fun:  I knew nothing would really show up in the pieced areas, so I just used Wendy Sheppard’s Jester Hat texture. Considering this was the first time I’d stitched it, it flowed very naturally and I only got “stuck” a few times. I used Superior Threads Rainbows #812 Western Sunset, which coincidentally contained most of the colors in my palette, for that and for the little serpentine/sine waves I quilted into the colored stripes of the border. I used orange Bottom Line to quilt the solid orange section behind the duckies in waves and circles; I wanted it to look like a bubble bath.

IMG_6245And I had the quilt finished for the baby shower! It almost made me look like one of those organized quilters who thinks ahead. However, I’m not quite done with the baby quilt for my sister-in-law’s baby girl who was born last month, so I don’t have to worry about that reputation sticking.

For a happy dance, here’s a ducky video I shot at the York Fair a few years ago. It seems apropos:

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Entry filed under: New Projects. Tags: , , , , , .

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