Tag Archives: modern quilts

Many Thanks

I was surprised and pleased to get so many responses to my plea for advice on “Deep Purple.” Your comments and opinions helped me clarify a way forward. I’m so appreciative of your input.

First, given the poor quality of my photos, you did heroic work figuring out what was going on. Second, I came away with new directions for the piece.

Here’s my post-post rearrangement. Note that I’ve spread around the dark purple to balance the composition. I cut off some of the dark purple bands and used the cut off material to swing the purple around the outside. You can see how it would look flipped in the next photo.

And here’s my rethinking of that. Melanie had suggested more diagonal lines in the interior. I spent some time playing with that idea, and decided on diagonal lines that connect the left and right sides across the purple. While I mocked up the arrangement with bias tape, I have thin chartreuse-y ribbon I could couch on after the piece is quilted. I’ve learned it’s a pain to quilt around such embellishments.

I still lean towards the first arrangement without the additional lines as I wonder if the additional design element is a bridge too far.

I suspect that now the backing material I cut is too small, so it’s back to the fabric closet for an alternative. I’m eager to get this one off the design wall so I can pin up the next victim, er, design.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process

“Walk: Master Machine Quilting With Your Walking Foot” Review

I have always been a fan of the clunky looking walking foot attachment for my sewing machines. I began to use it for sewing long seams to prevent the top fabric from being pushed ahead of the bottom one. Then, I found it helpful for lines of machine quilting. Jacquie Gering has elevated this humble accessory to front row status for fairly complex machine quilting in her Craftsy classes and now her book, “Walk: Master Machine Quilting With Your Walking Foot.”

Many of the quilting designs Gering lays out are simple to accomplish. Her chapters on lines, gentle curves, and decorative stitches show what you can do with no or minimal marking. You do need to pay attention to the distances between your lines and the distances on your walking foot. She helps you figure out the latter in her Walking Foot 101 chapter.

Then, if you want to get fancy, Gering walks you through (ha, ha) marked curves, using the reverse button, and turning designs.  Some of these designs require stitch counting and careful marking.  She tackles designs like orange peel, clamshell, braided curves, and nested diamonds. For such designs I think you’ll need to keep your wits about you, so you can’t do what I often do – zone out and sew. This link to a post written by Kathie Kerler, one of Gering’s workshop students, shows some class samples.

Gering covers much of the same material in her Craftsy class, Next Steps With Your Walking Foot. I’ve taken that class and find the book a useful companion to it. The book includes more designs, especially straight line point to point ones. It has lots of photos of stitched samples (easy to see white stitches on black cloth) and stitching diagrams. However, the class shows how Gering deals with marking, sewing the designs, and handling quilt bulk. It includes some curved designs not found in the book.

Gering’s complex quilting design below involves lots of marking and patience. As Gering says frequently, it’s a walking foot, not a running one. I don’t know if I’d tackle a big quilt like this one; maybe a pillow.

Helpful takeaways from the book:

-After you layer but before you pin your quilt sandwich press it on both sides to make sure there are no wrinkles. Pressing also encourages the layers to stick to each other. Gering presses her cotton batting before use to get rid of wrinkles. I spray my batting with water and run it through my dryer on low heat to relax it.

-Play with the setting on your pressure foot to eliminate puckering where quilting lines intersect. Lighter pressure may eliminate those tucks.

-As you stitch, look at where you’re heading, not at your needle.

-Use textured painters or masking tape whenever possible to mark your stitching lines.

-Even utility stitches on your sewing machine can make interesting quilting lines. Gering uses the blind hem stitch on some of her quilts. Try out those stitches on your machine at different widths and lengths, and keep notes of the results.

Whether this book will resonate with you will depend in part on the style of quilts you make. Gering’s quilting designs have a modern sensibility and work well for the large spaces and angles of such designs. I don’t know how well these designs would work on a traditional quilt pattern. I’ve used Gering’s approach on several quilts such as “Winter.”

Other quilters have also addressed walking foot quilting designs. Leah Day has videos on walking foot quilting. Melissa Marginet has a book on walking foot quilting that promises dozens of designs. Of course you can find several free videos online as well. If you’ve tried these or other walking foot quilting resources I’d love to get your feedback. I go to great lengths to avoid free motion quilting.


Filed under Books

Fun While It Lasted

With QuiltCon West underway in California it seems a good time to declare that I am over modern quilting, as defined by current modern quilt practitioners. Back in 2012 I had high hopes for a bolder, less pretty, more personally defined approach to quilting. I read and was inspired by many of the blogs that sprouted daily, and joined a local modern quilt guild. I made several quilts in the spirit of modern quilting.

Now, four years later, I say goodbye to all that. My local modern guild limped along on life support for two years, and finally vanished without even a whimper. Many of the blogs I enjoyed have ceased publication or have devolved into advertisements for fabric collections, patterns, and other items for sale. I gather it’s called branding, which I always associate with cattle ranching. Certainly there are outstanding exceptions, but many modern quilting books either lack substance or recycle “traditional” quilt book topics like half square triangles with new fabrics. Modern quilters jump from one “must have” fabric line/pattern to another. The owls, the deer, sheesh! What happened to the originality? I see a lot of “me too.” And the workshop lineup at QuiltCon West features a lot of traditional topics – hand applique anyone?

It may be that I’m holding modern quilters to higher standards than I do traditional quilters. Yeah, probably. I just had such hopes for self-determination – design your own quilts, make them with less expensive solid fabrics/vintage sheets/whatever, learn to sew and FMQ in a month. Then, the marketing juggernaut struck. And who wouldn’t be tempted by the chance to make money from your hobby? BTW, I’d be interested to learn of quilters who support themselves on modern quilting.

I do treasure what I’ve gained from the moderns. The bold, off kilter designs were a shot in the arm. The exuberance of new quilters who had no idea something might be hard was a spur. The sheer thrill newbie quilters got from their first efforts reminded me how fun quilting can be. You can see from the winning quilts at QuiltCon West that plenty of great quilts are being made; not all has been drowned out by marketing. I still think, though, the definition of modern quilting remains as slippery as ever.

Here’s some of my modern quilts that were most directly inspired by the modern quilting movement. One, Breezeblocks, is even very close to the original in Quilting Modern. I still treasure that book.

Curves Ahead 2Curves Ahead (based on Pinterest pin)

Spring@60MPHSpring @ 60 MPH (layout by Timna Tarr)

Where did all the hexies goWhere Did All The Hexies Go? (from my head)

107 pyramids107 Pyramids (based on a drawing by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr)

boxed-trianglesBoxed Triangles (from scraps)

Color SlideColor Slide (my own invention)

Impact 2Impact (concept from Terry Aske)

tipsy_lampshadesTipsy Lampshades (concept from Quilting Modern)

WPMWPM (layout based on Esch House Quilts design)

Breezeblocks_quiltedBreezeblocks (based on Quilting Modern)


Filed under Commentary, Modern Quilting, Snark

Settling In For The Long Haul

Somehow I always forget it’s not a good idea to quilt a large top when the weather’s hot. All that fabric and batting draped over one’s person doesn’t promote cooling. But, it’s pinned and I’ve begun. The working title is Bumblebee. I mentioned this project a while ago as one I actually followed a pattern on.

Bumblebee pinnedI’m fortunate to have a friend with a very large table and the generosity to share it for pin basting large projects. This top measures 60 inches by 80 inches, which is huge by my standards. I used to work on the floor, but my knees have let me know that’s no longer an option.

I began sewing my stabilizing quilting on a hot Saturday, and plan to peck at it a few lines at a time. My sketchy quilting plan is horizontal and vertical lines that will form a kind of plaid on top of the piecing. Here’s the thread colors I’ve chosen so far. Right now I’m quilting with a winter white thread, and may try a few black/very dark gray lines as well.

Bumblebee threadsThe batting I chose is Quilters Dream poly request loft (the thinnest.) For a lap quilt I like the lightness and suppleness of this batting and it’s very easy to sew on. I realize that I won’t get as much texture with the poly after washing, but the weight trumps appearance for me.

The backing consists of three large hunks of clearance fabric, sewn with the feather panels on the outside. I know the feathers fabric was designed by Lonni Rossi, but can’t recall who did the one with the bitty squares. While they don’t go with the black/white/yellow theme of the top, they do go with each other if you squint.

I have no deadline for this, so it will be my mindless sewing project when it’s cool enough to drape over my shoulder.


Filed under In Process, Modern Quilting

QuiltCon Aftermath

The second annual QuiltCon wrapped up at the end of February, and I’ve been looking at photos of the modern quilts exhibited there. Hmmm, I can see certain tropes being codified as “modern.” Plus and multiplication sign quilts, anyone?

Look over some of these links to photos of quilts exhibited, and make up your own mind. Here are photos of the winning quilts.

i Quilt by Kathy York won Best in Show. I think it’s a cute idea, but nothing technically challenging. At first I thought the i’s were birthday cake candles.


The Plaid Portico blog is performing a great service by showing lots of the quilts, especially the details. Here’s a post of some of the charity quilts exhibited. And here’s the second post on the charity quilts. Yet another post features quilts in the modern traditionalism category. The latest posts feature the quilts in the improvisation category(part 1) and (part 2.) I believe there’s more photos to come.

In the quilts assigned by the judges to the modern traditionalism category I saw great reworkings of blocks such as kaleidoscope, LeMoyne Star, flying geese, and pineapple. However, I’m mystified by the judge’s ribbon choices, especially the first place quilt. I find it a jumble with no focal point and no fabulous quilting.

I’ve spent some time with the improvisation quilt photos.  I like Sunburst Quilt by Tara Faughnan, Fade Into Gray by Stephanie Ruyle, and Lite Brite by Maria Shell, but I confess I’m a bit tired of the usual modern palette. Marianne Haak’s Shifting Impressions uses ombre fabrics so it’s a welcome exception. I’m taken with the quilting on Neva Asinari’s Intersection, and I give Face #1 by Melissa Averinos full props for being something completely different. Again, I find the choices of ribbon winners mystifying, though I admire the use of thread color and stitch types in the first place winner, The Rabbit Hole by Serena Brooks.


Let me take a minute to talk about the workmanship of some of the quilts exhibited. A friend who attended came back appalled at the waviness of many of the quilts. She said they buckled and billowed. Another blogger talked about the quilting birds nests on the back of the best in show quilt.

Why am I being so picky? Because this was a national juried show. Many quilters had their work rejected. (I didn’t enter so this isn’t sour grapes.) I realize you can’t judge workmanship well from photos, but closeups should reveal glaring issues. Of course, I haven’t seen the judges’ criteria, but surely they can’t be too different from those used for traditional quilts.

I recall seeing some of these problems in a modern quilt exhibit at the 2013 International Quilt Festival. My thought at the time was that experience would smooth out such issues. I guess not. Or maybe the early modern quilters have learned, but relative newcomers are still learning.

In the photos of the different guild charity quilts I noticed that many had complex free motion quilting designs. Some just didn’t suit the quilt or were somewhat clunky. I applaud the willingness of modern quilters to jump into free motion quilting, a no go area for many traditional quilters, but I think it wise to keep it simple and looking good. Of course, the underlying thought may have been “it’s for charity so why not experiment.”

If you attended QuiltCon or have spent time looking at photos of the quilts let me know your thoughts. Am I off base here?



Filed under Commentary, Modern Quilting, Quilt Shows

Ohio Amish in California

It came as a surprise to learn that Akron, Ohio, has a major collector of antique Ohio Amish quilts – Darwin Bearley. Of course, you’ll have to go to San Jose, California, to see them. Mr. Bearley keeps them in storage in Akron.

The San Jose Quilt Museum of Quilts and Textiles is hosting exhibits of Amish and Amish inspired quilts. On display until March 1 are Bearley’s historic collection and the second part of the Amish inspired modern quilt exhibit.

You can see photos of the Amish inspired modern quilts exhibit over at the Plaid Portico blog. The Quilt Show has put together a slide show of the antique Amish quilts exhibit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show the individual quilts. Luckily, the Plaid Portico blog comes to the rescue with many photos of the individual quilts.

four patch about 1890-1910A simple four patch made striking by its border.

log cabin about 1880 Holme CountyThe joined log cabin blocks fool the eye into thinking they’re circles. As for the diagonal pieced strip border, eat your hearts out, modern quilters.

Railroad crossing 1928An unusual ocean waves block setting. Maybe the quilter was trying to stretch a limited number of blocks.

I was especially taken with the bold zigzag borders on some. It’s interesting how the Ohio Amish color palette differs from that used in Pennsylvania Amish quilts. And while some of the exhibit’s quilts feature a few large pieces, many have far more piecing than the Pennsylvania Amish quilts I’ve seen.


Filed under Quilt Shows

More Thoughts On What Is A Modern Quilt

It’s been fascinating to watch the evolution of the modern quilting movement. First it was all about solids and negative space. Then prints were added to the mix.  Lately, traditional quilting blocks have made an appearance.

flying-triangles-HollieLobosky(Flying Triangles by Hollie Lobosky)

Part of the change may be practical. The sewing skills of modern quilters are improving. Some modern quilters now get picky about precision. Quite a change from all those wonky quilts. Part may be market driven.  Fabric companies are always eager to increase their markets, and the infusion of the modern aesthetic into fabric has been invigorating.  And part may be the design/art background of many of the modern quilting practitioners who have emerged as bellwethers. Like Bob Dylan, they may be moving on to their next reinvention as they explore the fabric medium further.

The most recent discussion I’ve read on this topic is by rOssie on her blog, Fresh Modern Quilts. Her post was occasioned by a MQG challenge quilt she made using very nontraditional fabric (Zombie Apocalypse!) and the very traditional ocean waves pattern.  She concludes that fabric choice doesn’t necessarily make a quilt modern.

“You see, at last year’s QuiltCon there was a section of quilts called ‘Modern Traditionalism’ and when I walked through that section of quilts I was a bit overtaken by confusion.  Because the quilts don’t fit my definition of ‘modern quilts.’ And while I could go on a bit about that, I think that what it boils down to for me is this: fabric choice is not enough.”

She goes on to consider calling her quilt “modern traditional” but decides to reject that label.

There are lots of comments in response to this post, so I suggest you read them rather than have me try to put words into other people’s mouths.

Ahem, so how do I define modern quilting?  Does it even matter to me?  I started thinking about this after I read Thomas Knauer’s Quilt Matters columns in Quilters Newsletter. I confess I still don’t know how he defines a modern quilt, though he does say this:

“Modern quilting does not step outside of the quilting tradition; rather it is by and large a response to what the term traditional has come to mean.”

And what does he think that term has come to mean? As he understands it, “traditional” became used in the 1980s to differentiate quilts meant for use from art quilts meant to hang on a wall.  From there, certain approaches became traditional while others didn’t. He talks about this leading to more complicated and difficult work being given a higher priority.

I guess in some ways modern quilting’s stress on the functional nature of a quilt is a reaction to those highly complicated quilts (like the ones on the cover of Quilters Newsletter) that would never find their ways onto children’s beds or into washing machines.

According to the Modern Quilt Guild, “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. “Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.” I think that last sentence may be a recent addition. Overall, the above statement seems to boil down to you’ll know it when you see it.

Barbara Brackman’s blog, Historically Modern, has been a bright spot for me in all the murk surrounding what is/is not modern design. She addresses modernism in a much broader art context than just quilting.  Her recent post on Sophie Taeuber-Arp helped reinforce my ideas about “modern” – asymmetry, negative space, broad swaths of solid colors, and a keen sense of balance in the design. Taeuber-Arp painted Moving Circles, the piece below, in 1933.

sophie t arp 1933 moving circlesA side note: I just love Barbara’s post about one principle of modernism – no sentimentalism.  Quilts with anthropomorphized animals (puppies, kitties, bunnies and the like), pumpkins, Xmas cuteness, etc., set off my gag reflex.  Yes, it’s my personal taste and it’s why I’m the Snarky Quilter.

Actually, I’ve decided that it’s not productive to try to parse what is a modern quilt. I view quilting as a very big tent. Lift the tent flap and come on in.  There’s something inside to appeal to everyone. Just don’t think that your approach to quilting is the only true way.


Filed under Commentary