Sunday, June 22, 2014

My Experiment with Modern Quilting

What makes a quilt "Modern"?
There are definitions, explanations and examples galore. Here are a few key points (in my opinion)
  • Lack of obvious symmetry
  • Negative spaces
  • Use of solids
  • Departure from "blocks repeated to make a quilt" (thinking of the quilt as whole and not as a result of repetitive blocks)
Over the last few weekends, I discovered "the process" of making a modern quilt. I was working on a simple rail fence baby quilt for a shower. When I finished making the blocks for this traditional rail fence quilt, I had some slivers left over. Scraps that were too large to throw away and too small for anything else.

What can you do to salvage little scraps?

1. Make them larger so they are a little more usable. I added some grey fabric to turn each of these slivers into a four square strip.
2. Then I stitched four of those strips to form a 16-patch. Looking good. I had a total of 13 blocks.

Once again, too small for a quilt. Yes, I could make 13 mug rugs!!! Jokes apart.
3. What can I do with 13 blocks that would turn them into a quilt? Add negative space.
And "adding negative space" took several iterations. See my attempts below:

A - Floating Blocks - The white squares separating the blocks and then white sashing and border. A simple and quick layout. Great!!! This would only need 12 blocks so I had one extra. May be I will make a Mug Rug, but that is another post.
Going back to the layout, I noticed that there wasn't enough contrast between the white in the blocks and the white of the background negative space fabric. And it definitely lacked the wow factor!!!

It remained on my computer. I did not take it to the design wall.

 B - Double Steps Layout - Good Layout. This was definitely an improvement upon "Floating Blocks" because I liked the contrast between the background charcoal fabric and the blocks. Although it was visually appealing, it seemed that it could be more than just that. Somehow, this layout was not fully utilizing the potential of the blocks and the negative space.

Paul suggested that I add a block each in the top right and the bottom left corners. I disagreed. It would only make it more symmetrical and that symmetry (which can be sometimes due to lack of imagination) was what I was trying so hard to avoid.

Most important - I HAD ONLY 12 BLOCKS!!! I did make that mug rug.

C - V-Layout. I think I like it even less than the Double Steps. It can be interpreted as a zipper, or a meeting of the minds (good one). Looking at it from another perspective, it might as well be "going separate ways" or a "flight of birds". In any case, I did not want this quilt to be a "Hail to the Vee".

I was mentally exhausted by now. So, I gave myself the following not-so-peppy talk
It is a creative process and you will evolve as you keep designing and making more quilts. Just go ahead and finish this one and when you have another great idea, make another quilt. But for now - FINISH IT!!!

I obeyed my inner voice and cut white fabric to fill in the negative space for the V-Layout. I stitched the charcoal fabric on the outside and the white fabric on the inside of the blocks. The idea was to construct the quilt in columns and then stitch the columns together. Once all but one column was completed, it looked BORING, dull and uninspired. And this made me unhappy. I wanted to cry :-(

What if you mix up these columns?  And that brings me to Layout D

D-1. Looks better - mixed up and has more visual interest

D-2. For some reason, and I am not sure what, this looks better to me than D-1.

Oh, I see. In this case the way the 16-patch blocks interact with each other is different.  In D-1, all 16-patch blocks are touching corner to corner. In D-2 they touch corner to corner, but also are separate and even overlap in one place. May be this is the visual interest that my eyes were seeking.

I feel I am almost there. Just one more thing. In the third column where the two 16 patches are touching, I needed to insert a band of white to maintain the continuous flow of white from left to right. Why? I don't know - it just would LOOK right.

Here is the finished top. (What a difference - I should take all my pictures outdoors)

So, the process of making a modern quilt is complete. Right?

Look at all that negative space. How am I suppose to quilt all that??? Is this going to be a UFO? No, help!!! I do not FMQ. I do not have a foot that can FMQ. I only have a Walking Foot. I look forward to your suggestions.

Update July 18, 2014
I finished it. Yes, I quilted it and the finished quilt is here.


  1. Great description of the process. And the final result is stunning!
    I'd suggest dense straight line quilting in the negative spaces, vertical in the black spaces and horizontal in the white ones. That why your colour blocks will pop out even more!
    Make sure you let us see the final result as well!

  2. I love how you think and how well you describe the process. Straight quilting lines appeal to me too; I think it's called channel quilting, and your walking foot should be perfect for doing that.

    How do you plan to bind and back this?

  3. I like your thought process, too, adding the band of white across the middle kept the right hand white Soave from looking like an H. I kept seeing a Sideways T and an H. The mix of black and whote really gives it the dimension that all white wouldn't have. Good job. I have yet to attempt a modern quilt. Btw you can always make doll quilts with leftovers.

  4. This is so much more interesting than what you started with! I like straight horizontal lines for this; maybe vary the width on the white and the black?

  5. I'm glad you obeyed your inner voice. I love the way you got to the end result. I too like Zoanna can see letters. My first thought was HI, reading from the right of quilt.
    I don't know how to quilt it. I also don't fm, I use a walking foot and manipulate that in ways it should never be manipulated. Broke quite a few in my time. Good luck in whatever you decide to do. I know it will be extraordinary.

  6. Preeti, this is wonderful! I loved reading about your process! Way to go on your first modern quilt :) As for quilting, you could easily do this with a walking foot and it would look great! Oh, you must get a darning foot and dip your toes into the FMQing pond of loveliness!! With time and practice and your creative genius, you would be doing amazing things in little time!!

  7. There are many things you can do with your little modern quilt top and straight line quilting is definitely one. Why not go to the Modern Quilt Guild gallery ( and check out some of their straight line quilting photos. There are lots of others, also, try Flickr and Instagram.

  8. Check out Tallgrass Prarie Studios for AWESOME straight line quilting! But I'm with Judy from Quilt Paridigm! Learn to's sooooooo much fun!
    I like your finished top, but I really liked the sideways V looking one best!