Modern quiltingModernquilts

In general, when we hear about patchwork, we think about blocks, colors and quilts that are traditional. This is the reason why I would like to introduce “Modern Quilting”. In Latin America, this movement I feel a part of, is not well known. This is why I would love for many quilters to know more about how it originated and what are its characteristics.

Photo by Carolina Oneto 2016,exhibit at the MET, New York, “American Quilts and Folk Art“ en el MET

Modern quilting is many things, it is art, it is stories, it is self-expression, it is utilitarian. In these quilts we can see improvisation, minimalism, use of negative space, the concept of rule breaking or flexibility of rules, always honoring traditionalism and the history.

Stephanie Zacharer, Cindy Grisdela, Laura Loewen

To begin, it is important to understand where it comes from and what are its influences. It is worth mentioning at this point, the  Amish quilts, which through the use of solid fabrics, bright and daring colors, and a clean and graphic design have been a very important influence in modern quilts.

Also, it is important to mention the “Gee’s Bend Quilts” created by a small community of African American quilters in Alabama. These quilts have become a great inspiration because of the improvisational quality they were created with and also, their use of solid colors.

Source: New Orleans Museum of Arts

Among the great quilters that have influenced modern quilting, we have  Nancy Crow y Gwen Marston.They made a strong use of improvisational methods, solid colors, incredible compositions, freeing and breaking some of the rules of traditional quilt making. Finally, it is very interesting to know the work on Yoshiko Jinzenji, Japanese quilter, with a minimalistic esthetic and great use of negative space, who was also a huge influence in the modern quilting movement.

Source: Moda Fabrics , A sewing Journal, Hand Eye magazine

The birth of “Modern Quilting”

The birth of modern quilting was driven by a series of events and circumstances. Next, are a few of those:

1. The introduction of the quilts of Denyse Schmidt in “Martha Stewart Living” in 1998, defining them as “modern”.

2. Technological changes and the growth of the internet

3. The Gee’s Bend Quilts are exhibited all over the USA during 2002

4. The publishing of several books like “Quilt Artistry” by Yoshiko Jinjenzii , “Modern Quilt Workshop” by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr And “Denyse Schmidt Quilts” Those were the first books to introduce and explain how to make modern quilts.

5. The great availability of digital cameras.

6. The growth of the fabric industry, creating availability of modern fabrics in the USA

7. The “Fresh Modern Quilts” group in Flickr established by  Rossie Hutchinson, This creates the first virtual movement, where people start to share and interact.

8. The virtual quilting bees allow quilters from all over the world to connect, organize and create collaborative quilts in spite of the distance.

9. The birth of the “Modern Quilt Guild” funded by Alissa Haight Carlton y Latifah Saafir in 2009.

Elements of Design

What are some of the design elements we can find in those quilts? In a modern quilt, we can find 2, 3 or 4 of these elements. Not all of them need to be used!

1. Alternate Grid

2. Asymmetry 

3. Graphic colors and solids fabrics

4. Improvisation

5. Cropping 

6. Minimalism

7. Modern traditionalism

8. Use of vast negative space

9. No borders

10. Scale

11. Dense Quilting

In a future post we will talk specifically about each of these elements, characteristics and examples.



Sources: The Modern Quilt Guild, Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century, Quilting with a Modern Slant: People, Patterns, and Techniques Inspiring the Modern Quilt Community


  1. Your article has finally connected ALL the dots for me as a way to explain what modern quiltng is and how it has developed over the past several decades. Thank you for your thorough research and for posting it. I look forward to sharing the information as I quilt in Colombia.

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