Julie is a slightly unhinged fabric junkie! She is also stitching and crafting obsessed. As well as being addicted to tea. And cake. She is mumma to three beautiful little girls and cares deeply about the world they will inherit. Julie blogs sporadically at Relish.
The “Modern Quilting” movement is happening around us and yet, what is modern quilting? What does that term mean? And how many people are actually aware of the movement? With the release of a number of books with the title “modern” recently, I have been thinking about what the term, in relation to quilting, really means.
When looking at art, there is a (reasonably) definitive period into which modern art fits. There is a generally accepted timeframe (from about the 1860’s to the 1970’s) and within the overall modern art movement, there are many styles (including impressionism, cubism, expressionism and fauvism). There are also many interpretations of the styles by many different artists but collectively, they form a movement that was an important turning point in the way we see art – these artists shifted art from being commissioned pieces for the wealthy, to being accessible to the greater population. Artists began to create for the sake of art rather than for a specific purpose (i.e. portraits of the privileged), they formed communities and practiced together, developing technique, discovering mediums and refining skills.
For me, there appears to be a great difficulty in defining modern quilting. However, when I began to think about modern art, I quite quickly drew parallels to the modern quilting movement. As modern quilters, we too are stepping aside of tradition, using colour in new ways, changing the rules if you like. We too have many styles within the movement and we too have developed communities, both online and in the real world. We are inspiring one another to push boundaries and experiment with our craft. Modern quilting, for me, is a movement that does not discard tradition but rather uses it as a basis to embrace change, to explore and to bend (and break) the rules.
While thinking about what modern quilting is, I have also been wondering about how popular or well known it is. A recent conversation with a quilter friend posed some interesting questions for me. My friend is very much a “traditional” quilter. The quilts she produces are stunning, technically precise and more than worthy of quilt show prizes. She is prolific in her crafting and belongs to both the local guild and a social quilting group. Yet, she knew very little of the online quilting community, did not understand what I meant when I mentioned modern quilting and was completely unaware of the style I was referring to. In addition, my local quilt shop stocks virtually no solids and certainly none of the fabric ranges that immediately come to mind when I think modern – certainly no Anna Maria Horner, Joel Dewberry, Anita Hoey – I do most of my fabric shopping online for this reason. When I have taken some books into the store looking for fabric that may be suitable for a project, the owner has not heard of the authors and is not aware of the blogging crafty community that I feel so connected to.
I want to know if this modern movement is known amongst quilters outside of it, are others aware of it? Can they appreciate modern the way I appreciate traditional without having to work that way? Or do they just not know that there are other options, because like me, their LQS does not stock the fabrics and books that allow them to branch out and they don’t follow the online quilting community? I wonder if modern quilting will one day be studied as we now study traditional quilting? Will it be recognised as a time of change, of inspiring a new generation to become sewists? Modern quilting raises so many possibilities but what I’d most like to know is what you think? How do you define modern? Are you a modern quilter? And if not, how do you define your style? I’m really interested to hear your thoughts…
Two modern quilting books
I have so many books on the shelves that I just like to look at. I buy them and love them and am inspired by them. I also use them to get a creative fix when children and life get in the way of me actually stitching. Today I want to tell you about recently published ‘Modern’ quilting books which inspired the modern quilting thoughts above:
Book 1: Modern Mix by Jessica Levitt, (Stash Books 2011), features 16 sewing projects including quilts, pillows, bags and other projects (apron, camera case, table cloth, wall hanging) made using vibrant saturated prints and a range of Kona solids. The ‘modern’ aspect of this book centres on how the designer uses fabric and colour and the author offers advice on fabric selection and design and colour, which can be useful for building confidence in making a selection.
Book 2: Modern Minimal by Alissa Haight Carlton, (Stash Books 2011), features 20 minimalist quilts in a variety of sizes. I have serious quilt envy after coming across this book! While the design of each quilt is simple, the effect of the bold colour and contrast is stunning. The author provides two quilting options for each quilt and those who are more experienced can challenge themselves with the quilting detail as the designs lend themselves to showcasing stitches.
Comparison: This is the hard part. Both books are beautiful and I am inspired by a number of the projects in each. I really like the layouts, Stash Books have achieved a clean and clutter free design (a modern essential) with lots of white space that makes these books easy to read. Both books contain projects that are straightforward and many would suit beginners.
In terms of ‘modern quilting’ I am more drawn to Modern Minimal for the contemporary designs, use of colour and contrast and the move away from traditional blocks. It provides an inspiring platform of ideas from which to launch further creativity. It guides while encouraging exploration. In Modern Minimal I felt I was seeing something new, I enjoyed the improvisational piecing section and also the clever use of colour. This book is a beautiful example of ‘modern’ as it moves away from the traditional block assembly. The quilts are all achievable in terms of difficulty level and time – (which appeals to this time poor Mumma). In addition, as these quilts are made with solids, they are relatively budget friendly. While Modern Mix provides a variety of projects suitable for all levels of sewist, and the use of fabric and colour is bold and eye catching. By simply changing the fabrics and colours the traditional quilter would feel right at home with many of these designs — perhaps this will help to expose the modern movement to a broader audience.
Do you, like me, enjoy books just for the eye candy? Or do you purchase them because you will absolutely make a pattern you’ve seen? I like the tactile nature of a book so often I will purchase one that I see online because I just have to touch it, I just have to touch and flip those shiny new pages… Are you satisfied with reading online or do you like to touch too?