Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Modern Quilting Lecture Recap

Last night I gave a lecture on Modern Quilting for the Cabin Branch Quilt Guild at Lake Ridge Baptist Church in Woodbridge, VA. It was nerve-wracking, and intimidating, and also so much fun (I can say that now that it's over!).

I didn't do a head count, but it seemed like there must have been a hundred or more people there. I've been a member of the guild for a few years so I know many of them, but there were some new faces too. This was my first time speaking in front of such a large group since my college days and it was a bit intimidating, but seeing friendly faces helped!

Unfortunately I experienced some technical difficulties with displaying my PowerPoint presentation through the guild projector (I think because my pathetic laptop is a dinosaur), but thankfully the church also had a large flat screen monitor (more like the size of a tv) that I could connect to. The presentation went pretty well and I got a lot of positive feedback as well as interest in doing a workshop to learn Improv Piecing.

I won't go into details of the entire presentation but I will touch on some of the informative highlights for those of you who also want to know about Modern Quilting.

As some of you may know from reading my blog, my name is Natalie and I've been quilting since 2008. I used to have an etsy shop where I sold cover button jewelry and handmade items. In 2010 I founded the Northern Virginia Modern Quilt Guild which has grown to about 3000 members. I blog here at Threaded Mess about my quilting adventures and sometimes a little bit about my life. One of my mini quilt tutorials was published by TheFatQuarterly.com (with an accompanying Quilt-A-Long here on my blog) and I've shared several other tutorials and projects right here on Threaded Mess (paperback book cover is a favorite). I am currently the Host of the do. Good Stitches Charity Bee Hope group. I'm a wife, a mom of twins, and I work full time in IT Consulting. I may not be a Super Star in the Modern Quilting community like some of my acquaintances, but I certainly have my hand on the pulse that is driving this movement so I think I can do a good job of explaining what Modern Quilting is all about.

do. Good Stitches Hope Group October Quilt

Modern Quilting is a combination of traditional quilting and art quilting, but also something more than just the two combined. Technology and Pop-Culture heavily influence both the means of which Modern Quilters share and communicate as well as the aesthetic itself. While construction methods are more similar to Traditional quilting, there's also an element of inventiveness and rule-bending to Modern Quilting that we often see in Art quilting. You won't find many modern quilters referring to 'The Quilt Police'. Modern quilts are often deliberately asymmetrical and deliberately imperfect. That's not to say that we don't aim for perfection when points ARE supposed to meet. We do! 

My Orange Improv Quilt

There are certain characteristics of Modern Quilting that are true for most who identify with this movement:
  • The quilts are functional. For the most part, they are meant to be used and loved, not just displayed. 
  • There’s often deliberate asymmetry in the quilt design. 
  • They improvise, reinvent, or create their own designs.
  • They play with scale, hue, saturation, and composition. 
  • They rely less on the repetition and interaction of quilt block motifs. 
  • They are inspired by modern art, fashion, and architecture trends. 
  • They often use solid fabrics, graphic prints, and use novelty fabrics for color value. 
  • They often create edge to edge designs without borders or sashing 
  • They often quilt in straight lines though free motion quilting and hand quilting with perle cotton is also popular

The following Modern Quilting terms are important to know:

  • Wonky – intentional deviation from straight line cuts 
  • Negative Space – heavy use of a neutral or solid background offsetting pieced elements of the quilt 
  • Improv/Improvise – random arrangement of blocks on negative space –or- random placement of a fabric 
  • Scrappy – the use of many prints with few repeats 
  • Asymmetry – deliberate imbalance of a design; off center 
  • Functional – to be used, not displayed

Modern Quilters use a range of technology including but not limited to: flickr, pinterest, instagram, bloglovin', craftsy, and facebook.

Modern Quilters look for inspiration from bloggers, the Fashion runway (designers like Jay McCarroll who also have quilting fabric lines), Architecture magazines (like dwell.com), and Home Decor magazines (like elle decor). Even store displays can inspire! One of my favorite sites to go to is Spincushion where Leigh Ann blogs her "If a Quilt Lived Here" series. I like this series because it shows a fashionable room paired with modern quilting fabrics, and sometimes she even suggests a pattern!

my Marshmallow Brochette

There are a lot of great printed books and magazines available (check out my Amazon carousels on the left side of my page), but there are also a lot of great online resources for patterns and tutorials. Bloggers often share their own creations or host Quilt-A-Longs for popular patterns.  Then of course there's Quilty magazine's website, The Fat Quarterly, and Generation Q.

Not all modern quilters are a part of the national Modern Quilt Guild, but many are. This guild started in 2009 when a group of ladies got together in Los Angeles after having met and talked through online discussions. This small gathering ignited a wildfire of quilters across the nation who started their own Modern guilds. Today almost 200 guilds have formed across the world and new guilds continue to form. This year, the Modern Quilt Guild became an official non-profit entity with a small paid staff. Modern guilds now pay membership dues to the national Modern Quilt Guild and receive benefits like discounts, better insurance rates, a website, and the International Modern Quilt Conference, otherwise known as Quiltcon. The Modern Quilt Guild has also organized several retreats around the US that they call “Sew Downs”. The retreat includes several workshops and lectures from celebrity Modern Quilters. 

quilt modeled zombie style by my MIL Ann

I've observed three distinct groups of women and men who consider themselves Modern Quilters and I am calling them Modern Revivalists, Modern Minimalists, and Modern Mixers. 

Modern Revivalists take a traditional block and modify or reinterpret it to make it more accessible to the modern quilter. They might do so by using solids and graphic prints instead of calicos and florals. They might play with scale by enlarging the block or making the block the whole quilt. The modern revivalist might only change the color composition of the block and use an on trend color combination. The modern revivalist usually constructs a quilt using individual blocks, but I have seen modern quilts that have the essence of a traditional quilt without using a traditional block structure as well. 

Spiderweb Quilt mock-up in Chartreuse and Raspberry

Modern Minimalists tend to incorporate a lot of negative space, usually in white or grey. They frequently piece their quilts in an improvisational style while embracing simplicity and minimalism. They utilize alternative blocks structures or sometimes no blocks at all.

I personally consider myself a part of the Modern Mixer group. I combine elements of both Modern Revivalists and Modern Minimalists as I please. I have followed patterns but I have also made my own. I often mix multiple prints into my quilts in a scrappy/patchwork style, but I also use a lot of solids.

2011 Quilty Finishes/Starts

There are a lot of misconceptions about Modern Quilting that I touched on during the lecture. To sum some of them up:
  • We do have a strong foundation and sense of appreciation for the art and tradition of quilting 
  • We do care about precision when the design calls for it
  • We don't all make 3 fabric, beginner level quilts though the designs may seem simplified
  • We do try "fussy old lady patterns". For example, a few years ago it was popular to make a Farmer's Wife quilt. Sometimes we make them the way they were originally intended and sometimes we make them our own way.
  • Yes, sometimes our quilts are made with bright rainbow prints, but we also have a sense of subtlety and minimalism.
  • Yes sometimes even Modern Quilters just need to get something done quickly, but we do take time to enjoy the process and sometimes spend hours just working on an abstract layout.
  • We do have rules but we bend them as needed
  • We are not all young. There are men and women of all ages in the Northern Virginia Modern Quilt Guild and I am sure that's the case in other guilds. 
You can get involved in Modern Quilting by doing any or all of the following:
As you participate in bees or swaps, be a student! Look at what other people are doing, the fabrics they are selecting, check out their flickr photostream and their blogs, and ask questions.

If you want to learn more about what is going on in the world of Modern Quilting, I highly suggest checking out the web-lectures available on Craftsy.com from QuiltCon and of course search the web and see what people are talking about from the Fall 2013 Quilt Market. If you are a quilt shop vendor I highly suggest watching these videos of Lizzy House from Spring Market 2010 (part 1 and part 2).

Thanks for stopping by today and checking out my blog, and thanks once again to those who attended the lecture in person. I hope you learned learned something new and that you've been inspired to give Modern Quilting a try if you haven't already.

Happy Quilting! 

PS - If you are stopping by my blog because you attended the lecture, thank you! Please know that some of the links in previous posts might not work because my domain name changed. In the URL Field, just add .blogspot before the .com (so threadedmess.com becomes threadedmess.blogspot.com), don't change or remove any other text, and click enter or go. The link should then work.