Thursday, January 3, 2013

It's a New Year!!!

I love the start of a new year -- it gives me a chance to stop for a moment and think about what I want to do during the coming year, and to set goals.  I already have some ideas about some quilts I want to make... some quilts I want to finish... and some quilts I want to give away.  In one of the groups I belong to, each person is choosing a "word" that represents their focus for the year.  Some of the words are admirable:  generous, thoughtful, loving.  But one that struck me was "purge."  I think I'm going to adopt that word as mine for the year, too.  I want to get rid of some excess that I've collected through the years -- tools and books and fabric that I know I'll never use.  What would you purge?  And one of the things I want to take on is working on something that isn't in my comfort zone.  One option is for me to design a quilt that follows the tenets of the "modern quilt guild." 
If you haven't heard about the Modern Quilt Guild, it's a group of over 100 quilt guilds across the U.S. (and even beyond the U.S.).  Modern quilting gives a voice to quilters who look at quilts as functional versus decorative.  Modern quilting designs are not often based on traditional blocks.  They are often asymmetrical, have interacting motifs, and embrace minimalism and simplicity.   They are often inspired by architecture and modern art, and incorporate negative space.  They often use solid fabrics, and improvisational piecing -- and are finished on domestic sewing machines more often than not.  They have no hard and fast rules, embrace bold colors, do redefine what is possible and allowable in quiltmaking.  The Modern Quilter often finds friendship and community on the internet.  So... let's take a look at some of the modern quilts that were exhibited at the International Quilting Association show in Houston last Fall.  
First, here is Pixelated Color Wheel by Kati Spencer of Taylorsville, Utah.  Kati used approximately 150 different solid-colored fabrics to create an interesting overall view of the color wheel.  She began with the central white squares and then began arranging other colors radiating from the center, moving from light to dark.  Kati says, "The use of color, quilting and solid fabrics create a simple yet interesting piece that has become a well-received quilt in the modern quilting community."

Cutting Edge Conglomerate, below, by Earamichia Brown and the NYC Metro Mod Quilters of New York, New York (quilted by Jackie Kunkel), resulted from a Michael Miller Fabrics challenge to make a "modern" quilt out of their new Cotton Couture line of solid fabrics.  Each person in the guild made a block according to the Modern Quilt Guild ( description of "modern quilting."  The design and layout were decided and completed by the members.  The quilt's name is the group's own thesaurus version of "Modern Group." 

Jennifer Carlton-Bailly of Portland, Oregon, made 5-HTP Squared, after being inspired by a mid-century modern print by an unknown artist with these shapes and colors.  The quilt was quilted with a minimalist grid pattern to give it texture.  Mixing the colors together, according to Jennifer, produced a fresh clean pallet that created movement and interest.  The one red square in the bottom right hand corner is Jennifer's signature in her quilts.

J Rock Star by Victoria Findlay Wolfe (quilted by Jackie Kunkel) of New York, New York,  adopts a classic LeMoyne Star block but updates it and uses Jay MacCarrol Habitat fabrics.  Victoria challenged herself to use the entire color palette in the star, and make it work together -- giving us a "zingy updated electric star!"

Violet Craft of Portland, Oregon, made Mainframe Derez.  It was inspired by the 1982 American science fiction film Tron  -- and the 1980s in general, along with, specifically both the Atari logo and Tron Light Cycle Arena matches.

Off the B.O.W. by Krista Fleckenstein of Anchorage Alaska, created her quilt using improvisational piecing.  The block motif that Krista used is a modified version of "Kathy's Block" from Gwen Marston's Liberated Quiltmaking II.  Krista created this quilt as part of the "Bee Liberated" online quilting bee.  She and her husband had just finished painting a 14-foot wall in their home a deep orange, and she wanted something to calm the color down.  Her favorite part of this quilt was the use of some solid teal fabric shared by one of the bee members -- Krista says, "that one pop of color brought energy to an otherwise calm quilt.  It is a testament to collaborative quilting."  As you can see from the quilts shown here so far, the modern quilt guild  principles are consistently applied to the modern quilts:  asymmetry, minimalism, bold colors, and online communities!

Katie Pedersen of Seattle Washington made Opposing Triangles using improvisational piecing.  She outlined each triangle in white, creating a continuous line linking all the triangles together.  Dense quilting (done by Krista Withers) in the negative space emphasized their presence and blended the color scheme, making the quilt, according to Katie, "modern and edge, yet calming at the same time."

You will have to forgive some of my photographs. In the picture above, the shadow of a display stand could not be edited out of the picture.  Similarly, on other photos, you will see a post or some protective tape between posts, across the picture.  I'm so sorry!

Refracted Sunset by Heather Scrimsher of Round Rock, Texas,  was inspired by a photo of a sunset reflected in the glass segments of a multi-story office building.  Fiery orange prints contrasted with a deep navy background, allowing the oranges to dominate and display the drama of the sunset.  Heather notes that the negative space on the right side of the quilt balances out the sunset on the left and center portions of the quilt.  It's hard not to imagine the vision that inspired this quilt -- I'm sure we've all seen sunsets burn their way across the mirror-like surface of today's modern office buildings.

In Ripple, Daniel Rouse of Oakland, California took some challenge fabric and, using the classic Drunkard's Path block (he loves pieced curves), auditioned color combinations.  He settled on the idea of water droplets hitting a pond, creating rings that soon disappeared.  The droplets were each arranged around a central circle, with additional background filling as necessary.  This lovely quilt has a quiet pleasantness about it that is very soothing, and the quilted circles emphasize that notion.

Jacquie Gering and Angela Walters from Chicago, Illinois, collaborated in making Shattered, an improvisationally pieced work inspired by shattered glass following a home break-in.  The dark colors reflect the anger felt following the act... certainly something that we would all feel.  I find it fascinating how an almost physical emotion can be combined with an artistic design, and then be reflected with such depth in this quilt. 

Sky High by Kate Stiassni of New York, New York (quilted by Jackie Kunkel) is based on classic Chinese Coin and Amish Bars quilt designs.  Kate says that living in New York, which is a very vertical place, led her to create a vocabulary of color, line, and shape in her quilts.  Mindful of how some of the earliest American quilters made quilts by adding small pieces of fabric or strips to an ever-growing quilt top, she called both tradition and urban architecture together to compose and render this quilt.  Isn't it great that these designs have such a descriptive basis in our lives?  It helps us both see and understand how quilt structures are developed.

Stephanie Ruyle from Denver, Colorado, pieced this quilt based on a color challenge.  She wanted to make a non-linear, unequal and off-balance quilt, "much like life itself."  Different sizes and colors of blocks, topped with an off-white trhead and free-motion quilting that resembled wind currents added dimension, texture, and movement to her quilt.    The center of the quilt has a small free-motion quilted compass rose in it, from which the quilting pattern originates.  This small compass rose, without directional markers, represents Stephanie's staring point.

Tilework by Elizabeth Harvatine (Toluca Lake, California), was inspired by her fabric choice.  She wanted to design a quilt htat was clean and precise to balance the fabrics' calm and soothing look.  The unusual color scheme is both modern and pleasing to the eye.

Trajectory by Megan Dye of Portland, Oregon, was one of the few modern quilts that I saw that claimed to use paper piecing.  This quilt was inspired by a boomerang motif, and like modern quilting, offers a fresh interpretation of a classic design.  The twist in making this choice for a motif is that a boomerange suggests coming full circle and returning to the original source - which is how Megan views modern quilting.  She chose colors that also reflect both a vintage and modern aesthetic - and the dense straight-line quilting keeps the design simple and clean.  I especially like the excitement that the colors and design bring forth together in this quilt.

Emily Cier (Los Angeles, California) created Typographic Circle.  The letters are pieced and machine appliqued and bring forth Emily's love of rainbows, scraps, and letters.  The background is made from an assortment of white, beige, and neutral scraps, providing "a stark spot for the rainbow to take foot."  This quilt was especially eye-catching because of its colors, uniqueness, and design framework; it was one that drew quilt walkers closer for a quick look.

And here is what they saw, in detail.

The design of What's for Breakfast by Karen Anderson-Abraham (Santa Barbara, California) was influenced by modernist painters of the early 20th century, including the Bauhaus movement.  The Bauhaus sought to reconcile the aesthetics of design and mass production, integrating rational forms and functionality.  In making her quilt, Karen started with the idea of making a monochromatic quilt, but chose to add in some complementary colors.  The colors ultimately created interest among the neutral tones.  The quilt was quilted with multiple spirals, which complemented the linear piecing.

Hot and Cold by Kirsta Fleckenstein of Anchorage, Alaska, is an improvisationally pieced quilt that adopted a classic log cabin block as its primary design.  Kirsta used shot cottons, whose depth of color sings when paired with neutrals.  For those who are not familiar with shot cottons (which are not inexpensive!), they are irridescent cottons made by using different thread colors in the warp and weft.  The interplay of light on the surface of shot cotton creates a dazzling, shimmering effect.  Alternating warm and cool shades of blocks created a good balance in this quilt.
The design and colors for Lynn Harris's (Chelsea, Michigan) quilt, Zinnia, were inspired by a photo of zinnias in her garden.  She notes, "With its simple asymmetrical design on a solid gray ground, this quilt fits with the modern quilt theme." 

That's a snapshot (or several, as the case may be!) of what The Modern Quilt Guild is all about.  The quilts are different, spartan, and functional.  I will have to adopt a different mindset to make a modern quilt.  It reminds me of when I tried to paint an abstract picture many years ago; abstract art was MUCH more difficult than traditional painting, for me!

During the month of December, seasonal activities kept me away from my sewing for a good part of the month, but I did manage to finish quilting my border quilt -- here it is:

And here is a close-up of the center. 

I also quilted a dear friend's quilt.  Georgann Wrinkle had done a huge favor for me a couple of years ago and I promised that I would quilt a quilt for her... so when she gave me this quilt, I was ready to tackle it!  She will be using it to teach a variety of ways to put baskets and bouquets together; she's a terrific teacher with unending patience and enormous skill.  After I finished quilting Georgann's quilt, I noticed that I had missed stitching some of the border lines.  Can you see where they are (two spots!)?  Oops!  Luckily, I had not trimmed off the seam allowances, so I just loaded the quilt back on my machine and stitched the lines.  Phew!

And I also finished quilting and binding my Happy Daze quilt.  Yay!  I have a better picture, but Blogger was not cooperating when I tried to load it in place of this picture.  C'est la vie!  This quilt pattern (and optional kitting) will be available March 1 from Quakertown Quilts; check your local quilt shop, too, for options.

And here's a detailed view of some of the border quilting.  No big deal here... except to press again on my desire for quilters to stitch in the ditch around all piecing and applique!  It's just a bugaboo with me...

I've been working on some other projects, but not enough to take pictures that make any sense at all.  Next month you should see some of those things... or maybe not!  I'm setting goals sometime this week, and I have no idea what I'm going to focus on this month... or year...  YET!
To all of you, I wish you a great new year full of health, happiness, and fun quilting time!
(c) 2013 Susan H. Garman


  1. Happy New Year. Your quilts are lovely. I do not know what to say about the "modern quilt thing". I guess good luck. I hope you enjoy it.

    If I made a modern quilt it would be a de Kooning inspired/type. I would start painting the background and using raw edge applique. I have seen the quilt in my head for years.

  2. Love your Happy Daze quilt. One of my goals for this year is to buy less and finish more. I already have several of your patterns I need to start-finish. So Happy Daze will have to wait.

    Just want to thank you for all you do to promote quilting and for all of your sharing.

    Hope all is well with you and your family. May you have a productive and blessed New Year.

  3. I am definitely a traditional quilter but I am also influenced by what I see and would never say never to making something more abstract. It is good to venture out of the comfort zone occasionally and we can all learn something from it. Happy New Year to you, I shall enjoy seeing what you purge from your sewing room. My word is TRY - in every way I can.

  4. In general the modern quilt movement is unappealing, but some of these quilts bridge traditional and modern nicely, making them attractive future projects. While ambivalent to the movement itself, I do wholeheartedly like the re-emphasis on solid-colored fabrics. My word for the 2013? Complete.

  5. In general I don't like the modern quilt movement; however, a couple quilts shown in your blog spark some interest in my hidebound traditional soul. One thing I very much like is the re-emphasis on solid-colored fabrics. Would I ever make a quilt in the modern style? Probably not, but I never close off any avenue to inspiration.

    My word for 2013? Complete.

  6. Your medallion quilt is stunning!! Loved all the pictures.

  7. I was not too interested in the Modern Quilt movement, at first, but now I am thinking I might like to try one...

  8. I'm more of a traditional quilter but I admire those who make modern quilts. There is room enough in the quilting world for all of us. After all, we all love fabric, thread, sewing, creating. Your quilts are what inspire me.

  9. Thanks for explaining what the modern quilt thing is all about. i had figured out some of the things you said but is nice to hear it all summed up. I think it's a thing of this day and age : speed. there are some good ideas though I think.

  10. Your border quilt is soooo beautiful! I'm in love with it. The overview of modern quilts is very interesting and the other quilts you quilted are also very impressive. Thanks for this post! It is so inspiring!

  11. Susan, this post isn't about Modern Quilts, but I haven't found another way to communicate with you. My daughter Ali, 27, a tall ships sailor, wooden schooner live-aboard, historic ships preservationist, rigger for the SF National Historical Maritime Park, asked me to start a new quilt for her as a Christmas gift. I had pulled some blended quilt fabrics (her favorite), and some patterns for her to choose from, when I saw a small ad for your "Ladies of the Sea" in a quilt magazine and knew instantly this was the quilt beyond her wildest dreams. I bought the pattern and it was in my 'to wrap' pile when Ali, along with her husband of a year, was struck by a speeding car as they were crossing in an Oakland crosswalk on Dec 17. Ali was gravely injured. During the six days she remained on life support, her trauma nurses assured us she could hear us, despite being in deep coma. I told her about this quilt and promised her I would make it for her, sitting in her childhood room which she'd recently cleaned out, refashioning it from childhood room/storage unit into a lovely retrospective of her growing up and telling me it was not only for them when they came to visit and for guests, but for me to sit and hand quilt in. Ali died Dec 23.
    I have begun to assemble the patterns for the first two blocks and was stunned to find that they are the pirate ship (she and her husband called themselves the Naughty Pirates in their early teens when they met and fell in love and, all things pirate were their personal theme), and the Blue Nose, of which she made the only ships model she ever made, at age 15. She never completed it and when she cleaned out her room she took it out of storage and set it up so she could work on it in the new year when she came to visit us.
    I am also looking at lines of solid and hand dyed marbled fabric. Can you tell me what you used?
    Thank you more than I can say for this beautiful pattern; making this quilt will be a central piece of my own healing and eventually the quilt will go to Ali's husband.
    I am contemplating what fabric line to use for this quilt and wondering how and what you chose for the ships and border garlands.

  12. Hi Sue,

    I love your blog! It is unbelievable how much you can accomplish in one month. I hope to be able to do that some day.
    I am an avid follower of your blog but please, can you post more often? I find the month is so long while I await your next post. Thanks for all the inspiration.


  13. Hi Sue,
    I am soooo excited to find your blog! Your work has always inspired me.

    Since letting go of Real Women Quilt, I've started a blog, too.

    Many blessings,
    pam stahl