Modern quilting and its major representatives

Quilting is considered a cultural practice that goes back several centuries, and the beginning of it started from a functional perspective. People needed to stay warm in the winter, therefore women began to sew layers of fabrics and use them as covers. A need for warmth and survival marked the beginning to what it is today an artistic costume that has also evolved into a large industry. In addition to it, up until 2000 what was known as quilting was perceived as traditional. The reason rests in certain rules about shapes, techniques, and stitches, that made the outcome share a pattern when viewed from a general point of view. 

On the other hand, Modern Quilting is a movement that was born through the use of the internet, just like porno did in the 90’s. This means that the online community began to create platforms to discuss and share both their opinions and useful information to improve quilts. Nevertheless, what began as an interchange of thoughts became a stronger and organized community that now counts with hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Nowadays, there is an international modern quilting conference called QuiltCon a four-day event considered as the largest one of its type that holds panelists, 400 jury members, and workshops.

In addition to it, within this worldwide community, there are prominent members who are considered as its fundamental bases. These were both individuals and groups of people who made a transcendental contribution through not only their quilting but their intellectual work as well. These founders are also the movement’s major representatives even today 20 years later. 

Modern Quilting Major Representatives

  • Denyse Schmidt is considered the mother of modern quilting. Her works go back to the 1990s, and even back then she was recognized as chic and modern even before the name Modern Quilting was ever brought to existence. The most interesting and groundbreaking fact about her work were her rebel and non-traditional designs, inspirational seam lines, and bold colors. On the other hand, apart from her quilts and designs, Schmidt also contributed to the movement with intellectual work in books as Denyse Schmidt Quilts and Modern Quilts and Traditional Inspiration. Nowadays she teaches quilting across the United States and gives lectures about quilting and designs. 
  • Gee’s Ben, a small community in Southern Alabama that created a quilting style uniting several traits from traditional quilting, Native American quilting, African American quilting, and Amish quilting. The most intriguing fact about this community is that this tradition was passed onto more than 6 generations keeping the same distinguishing style. This modern quilting art was recognized by the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and exhibited it in a seventy-quilt masterpiece that caused wonderful international claims. Fortunately, this exhibition was only the beginning, what then followed was a documentary, two companion books and a double- CD of Gee’s Bend Gospel music from 1941 to 2002. 
  • Yoshiko Jinzenji, a Japanese quilter and artist that has influenced her environment and an international audience through her quilting for three decades. Her quilts are often interpreted as inspirational and spiritual by their simplicity and yet a both soothing and deepening sensation that each quilt carries within them. Her work is often been characterized by being minimalistic and revolutionary. Jinzenji also has nurtured the movement with her intellectual work that has come in two books, Quilt Artistry: Inspired Designs From the East, and Quilting Line and Color. Her lectures and her work take part in international events and Museums such as the International Quilt Festival, and the Museum of Art and Design (New York). 
  • Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr,this couple are professional quiltmakers that are considered pioneers in Modern Quilting, same could be said for couples in famous x websites like xhamster. Weeks Ringle began her work in 1987 while Bill Kerr did it a few years later in 1995, from that moment on the thought of including modern designs and patterns to an ancient practice would stay for the rest of their career in quilting. In addition to it, this couple has launched their own Modern Quilt Studio that later on produced a modern quilting magazine called Modern Quilting Illustrated. They have also published five books about modern quilting, the first ones being Transparency Quilts, Quilts Made Modern, and The Modern Quilt Workshop.
  • Alissa Haight Carlton and Latifah Saafir, two ladies that nurtured from Denyse Schmidt first book, online blogs and practice to become quilters. They started in the quilting world through modern quilting right away; their inspiration comes from what was being created by this movement through online platforms. They became the founders of The Modern Quilt Guild, an online platform that counts with more than 14.000 members around the world and that hosted QuiltCon, a yearly four-day event that imparts conferences and contests that encourages quilters around the world to show their work to a broader window. 

What’s modern quilting?

Modern Quilting is a modern movement within the quilt-making world that coexists with other movements born thanks to the beginning of the new millennium as an era, and the interest of new young artistic people that felt inclined to express their art through quilting. These new artistic individuals formed what is now known as Art Quilting, which are quilts created to be exhibited on a wall or a table instead of being used in a bed for example. 

In contrast to Art quilting, Modern Quilting considers a quilt through both its functionality and beauty, in consequence, Modern Quilting reunites the best of both Art Quilting and Traditional Quilting worlds. Another fact about Modern Quilting is that the movement was greatly driven by the use of the internet. Therefore, a distinctive trait about the movement is the online international community that nurtures and also sustains its predominant feature.

On the other hand, when getting into details about traits that mark modern quilts and quilters there is one sure thing. There are no rules. This means that modern quilts might share one, two, or three characteristics but there is no fixed rule that all modern quilts must follow to be identified as such. 

Modern Quilting Traits

To identify what makes quilts “moderns”, there are several aspects to consider. On the first place, modern quilts give away the impression of being made by the twenty-first century. This means that the colors, the fabrics, the designs and the air in them shout out modernity. Modern quilts are inspired and formed by the aesthetic style that surrounded other artistic expressions such as architecture, designing, and art. 

Also, to get into details on the modern quilting traits it’s essential to discuss the process of quilting which involves, designs, piecing, techniques, and binding. This structure that is the core of quilting as a craft also followed the movements that emerged from it.

Designs 

This is one key element in Modern Quilting, modern quilts designs are completely different from traditional quilting, even though both the techniques and the process are the same. The groundbreaking difference in these designs is the experimental character, the minimalistic trait and the unusual settings of blocks and symmetry that accompanied every traditional quilting design. 

As well, other distinctive elements in modern quilting designs are the bold and pop colors, the predominance of background area – or negative space-; graphic designs and colorful threads. 

Piecing

Piecing is a quilting technique that involves sewing small pieces of clothing or fabrics to set up blocks that will go to the quilting top, which is the first fabric layer that carries the designs. Also, this technique unfolds several easy-quick piecing techniques that helps the quilter to create a half square triangle unit or strip piecing for example; these techniques would help quilters to save time and create quilts with amazing designs, textures, and different colors. At the end of the day, this technique is made to create those freestyling and colorful designs that characterize modern quilting.

Techniques

In modern quilting, traditional techniques are still used to sew the layers of a quilt. These ones are typical of any needlework; the fundamental and traditional appliqué, patchworks, and embroidery. 

Appliqué is a technique used for decorating the top quilt. This decoration can be flat or have different dimensions and textures to the quilt as a product or quilt blocks. There are many types of techniques related to appliqué such as freezer paper appliqué, fusible appliqué, and reverse appliqué.

Patchworks, as the name suggests, uses patches of fabrics to also create blocks, strips and many other types of shapes to be sewn to the quilt or the quilt block. The different use of this technique in modern quilting is the different asymmetric shapes that were put together in a minimalistic quilt, for example. 

Embroidery, another decoration technique that uses threads. The difference in terminology for this technique is the many different types of stitches used to sew an embroidered element. Some of these embroidery stitches are chain, running, backstitch, stain, and so on. The many decorations can vary from motifs, labels, and pictures.

Binding

Binding a quilt is the final touch of a nearly finished product. For modern quilters, the edges of a quilt also take part in the well-planned design. This means that very often binding was more than a smooth and flat finishing touch against the quilt. In fact, binding often resulted in the framework that would hold the masterpiece.

 In addition to it, to create different illusions on the quilt, different types of bindings as faced binding, which is preferred by minimalists’ modern quilters, fashioned an infinite edge effect look to the quilt. And so, different techniques shape different effects to the quilt, depending on the designs and the intention of the modern quilter. 

What pushed modern quilting to an international view?

Quilting as a traditional costume has been around communities for centuries; in fact, there are records of different ways of quilting in many countries. As a matter of fact, there are quilting regions in India and Pakistan where is usual to find functional and traditional artwork that dress houses and covers both people and animals.

The curios question among travelers that find themselves shocked by the lack of documentation or readings about this craft comes from an undeniable reality that surrounded traditional quilting. There was not much view to this particular art. The main reason why this traditional costume has not been visualized at a worldwide level is due the lack of exposure that lead to a lack of recognition of the practice.

In the beginning of the new millennium, quilting began to have recognition and exposure due to an early movement back then called Modern Quilting. New modern quilters began to expose their craft and in consequence people started to see this artistic ability dressed in colors, shapes and designs that went hand in hand with what was seen in other artistic scenarios such as movies, architecture, plastic arts and visual arts.

A Defining Moment

After a Martha Steward show in 1998 featuring Denise Schmidt’s quilting, the terms “chic, inspired and modernist” defined her work to the nation, the consequence for quilting after that show was the early beginning of the Modern Quilting Movement. In fact, that was the key inspirational push this movement needed. This emerged to be seen, and not many years later that window would be an international one.

In 2002, exhibitions of modern quilting at the Museum of Fine Arts and a book by Yoshiko Jinzenji’s book “Quilt Artistry” were the very first elements after that defining 1998 interview that assured the creation of an important place the quilting industry was creating for itself in the market.

Online Platforms and International Events

In 2005, two more books were the first tools that gave the online international community a reason to create blogs, forums and later on websites for Modern Quilting. The first of these two books was authored by the very Denise Schmidt and the second one was published by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr.

Three years later on, in 2008, the first social media that allowed venues for quilters was the Flicker Group Fresh Modern Quilts. By that year, there were many more online blogs about modern quilting; consequently, after the new acquisition of this social media input for the modern quilting movement, the online community was well-stablished and more influent.

A year later, the Modern Quilt Guild’s website was launched to give quilters the opportunity to form in person connections. This tool gave birth to events such as Quiltcons, gatherings and connections that was useful to an international community that started to connect and share their patterns, opinions and experience at a worldwide level. 

Events such as Quiltcon, created and hosted by the Modern Quilt Guild was first celebrated in 2013, and has become the largest modern quilting event in the world. In this yearly event, Modern Traditionalism, Minimalism and Bold proposals have a place to be displayed and appreciated. On the other hand, this event has a jury panel of 400 members that ranks the best artwork presented. In addition to it, there are lectures, workshops, vendors and exhibitions that go along for four days.

Inspirational and Groundbreaking Designs

The key element of this movement is a mixture of inspirational mundane elements such as architecture, films, visual arts, experiences and a rebel spirit to break the rules that nurture traditional quilting. In fact, when comparing traditional quilting designs and modern quilting ones there is a clear different that not only time has passed between them, but people and generations also have. 

This means that different eras have left a recognizable trait in these quilts, and luckily modern quilters made sure to stich their own personal taste and modern inspiration in each one of those quilts. The way to create a quilt still goes through traditional sewing techniques such as appliqué, embroidery and patchwork. However, the modern twist shows itself in the fabrics and rule breaking characteristic that stick to every modern quilting design. Likewise, another modernist trait to quilting is the use of technology to design and cut the layers to give a different illusion depending of the concept.

Additionally, many modern quilts are minimalistic in design but functional in use. Also, modern quilters took traditional quilts and have done a modern version of them in order to show the world what a traditional quilt would look like if they were designed today, through a modernist view. In consequence, this different styles and modernist twists to traditional designs do give the movement a distinctive attraction that catches the eye to more worldwide quilters as years go by.

Modern quilting around the world

Quilting is the art of sewing different types of fabrics through specific techniques with the purpose of making noticeable and warm thick covers, in other words, quilts. This crafting skill belongs to a worldwide community that has shown itself through the large and profitable 3.7-billion-dollar industry in the United States only.

In addition to it, this growing movement counts with more than 21 million quilters in the United States who are mostly woman over 60. On the other hand, in Canada, the Canadian Quilter’s Association has over 20,000 members. Plus, this association holds an annual conference in which shows the National Juried Show, a competition to display the members’ original artwork.

Moreover, international quilting communities, that bring together a whole new set of identities for the movement, include countries from the five continents. One of those countries is Hawaii where quilting often meant souvenirs in memory of deceased loved ones, unborn babies and celebrating marriages or major events in the island. The symbolism that surrounds this art represents outspoken and tangible love for the island that is shared around the world.

As for the South Asian part of the continent, in countries as India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan there are two main forms of quilting. The first one is the Nakshi Kantha, and the second one is the Ralli. Traditional Kantha is unwadded quilting made as mats, bedcovers, or all-purpose wrappers. Nowadays, quilting as Kantha is used as community projects to rescue and preserving traditional skills, but also to generate incomes for many poor communities.

Regarding Ralli, widely practiced in Pakistan and India, is predominately marked by a needlework technique named appliqué that does bring honor to the name of this traditional quilting. This form of quilting connects people regardless of religion, tribe, or castes. Within these quilting communities, many women use scraps and hand-dyed cotton to sew different fabrics with a unique style. This styles is embroidered rallies and multiple patchworks that serve with both functional and symbolic purposes. 

To get into more details about this form of quilting, it is safe to say that the colorful quilts are fashioned out of pieces of old cotton clothing and created traditionally by poor people in rural areas in Sindh, Cholistan, and Baluchistan in Pakistan, and also in Gujarat and Rajasthan, India. Other needlework techniques applied in this craft are embroidery and patchwork; the latter, are pieces of colored fabrics stitched together in symmetric geometric designs. Regarding embroidery, the artwork and technique allow the layers to stick together through patterns used also as adornment.

To this point, some international communities were shown to unveil both different techniques, and forms of quilting that are mainly traditional. Having said that, many modern twists or let’s say phases to long traditional needlework, skills and cultural practices elevate these movements to a new and fresh view. Therefore, by modernity brought into tradition younger generations add new elements such as designs, writings that are later on published as books, and styles breeding in novelty. 

Hence, Modern Quilting, a prominent area of quilting is more inclined to the aesthetic aspect of the quilt. However, despite having a special focus in the beauty of designs and outstanding materials, the difference between a modern quilt and art quilt is that modern quilt is also orientated to functionality; this means that originality and modern quilt designs can also be used in a Livingroom booth, bedcover or a piece of clothing. 

The Modern Quilting Movement Culture

Modernity comes with technology, online webinars, and QuiltCons, which is part of the initiatives taken by a worldwide community that seeks to connect, share and help new quilters in this attractive and very modern designs for quilts. Modern quilters gather information differently through online galleries, blogs, and forums that share patterns to practice with. They also share information and quilts through social media and events, and finally, they shop online new fabric that follows the movement’s aesthetic features.

Therefore, even though the dynamic among modern quilters is more interactive, fast and experimental, the rules in this movement do share a different set of characteristics, not rules, that makes their work look like they are part of something different. Among these, there is more of a freestyle, asymmetry, and minimalistic designs.

These distinctive features are the ones that make this movement worldwide. In other words, what makes them different and more striking are their bold colors, graphic-designs and their lack of intricate patchwork, plus repetitive familiar patterns that are characteristic traits of traditional quilting. The focus on this movement is the use of modern fabric that uses high contrast colors; the background in a modern quilt design is brighter and more expansive and design combines the use of technology to visualize designs, make different cuts through innovative cutting machines, or tessetalling.