Posts Tagged ‘sampler quilts’

QuiltCon 2015 or Modern Traditionalism

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Modern traditionalism – what a great term!  Tradition and Innovation coexist strongly in all kinds of human endeavour, and quilt making is no exception.  It’s very human to want to continue doing things the way they have always been done – but equally human to want to vary it a bit – or a lot.

It is very interesting that in less than 10 years, the Modern Quilt Guild has rapidly taken off as a large subset of the Quilting Industry. It began as a movement of  mostly younger makers juggling jobs, families and creative time deficits which led the founders to communicate online; but as other people joined them guilds began to appear to cater to a desire of people to meet locally in real time – exactly the same function of such groups in the ‘other’ older and more traditional part of the Quilting Industry.  The focus of Modern quilt makers has always been to produce decorative practical home items (more bed quilts than wall quilts)  which are made with the now standard rotary cut fabrics, machine pieced and machine quilted. Improvisational piecing finds a natural home with many Modern Quilters, though not to the degree I’d have thought would prevail by now, as Modern quilts still predominantly feature straight edge pattern shapes.  I have been working freehand, template-free, that is, improvisationally, for over two decades now; and since I learned how to do that have always freehand cut the inner shapes of any repeat unit ( ‘block’ )  and very often the outer edge too.  I love grids and how straight lines contrast with more organic lines.  Modern Quilters still happily talk of ‘blocks’, and it is interesting to me that the movement has not found its own distinctive terminology to set itself apart a bit more from things traditional. While the Modern Quilt movement has brought quilt making into the lives of people many of whom have never quilted before,even though their mothers and grandmothers might have, there’s also quite a percentage who have defected from their more traditional quilt guilds and groups including some who have gone so far as to ditch their non-modern fabrics, and there are some with a foot in each camp.

In setting their identity apart from traditional quilt making, Modern Quilters maintain certain particular goals, some of which are spelled out on the movement’s website,  and the following generalisations can be made: these quilters tend to be younger in age than more traditional quiltmakers, are strongly literate in digital communication and social media, produce primarily functional quilts,  are (allegedly) inspired by modern design, and they favour use of bold clear colors and prints, lots of white/grey/neutrals with high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work.  whatever this last term means….  I also found this whole sentence, lifted exactly as it appears on the MQG  website –  “Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.”  

I’ve been browsing at the pics of the winning quilts at the QuiltCon 2015 exposition in Austin, TX  By all accounts, if measured by enthusiastic crowds alone, the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual event is probably well on the way to reaching equivalence to the more traditional International Quilt Festival Houston every october. There are classes to take, vendor booths with fabrics books and notions, speakers, discussion panels, block competitions and more, with a huge variety of categories of entered quilts vying for enticing prizes with attendant prestige.

The term ‘modern traditionalism’ is one of the exhibition categories for QuiltCon 2015, and below is the winner – for a closer look go to   It bothers me as much as most sampler quilts I’ve ever seen – only rarely are they well designed, as distinct from ‘well made’, which this one certainly seems to be.  Traditionally sampler quilts are a first project in which a quilter learns how to piece or applique quilt blocks while coming to understand the basics of colour, value, balance and contrast, the quilter then learns how to set them into a pleasing layout, with or without sashings and borders. When you add the sandwiching, quilting and binding, that’s a lot of learning in that one project. For this quilt, the addition of generous grey, white or grey/white print sashings ,and perhaps the odd empty block to surround the splashes of lovely clear bright colour would have achieved more expansive negative spaces and introduced some element of minimalism.  Some blocks could have been withheld from the front and pieced into the back where they would still available as a reminder of the learning they covered.


1st Place
Long Island Modern Sampler by Kim Soper
Centerport, New York
Individual MQG Member
Pieced & Quilted by: Kim Soper

There are some very interesting individual blocks in this overwhelming collection, and I hope Kim Soper selects one or two to work with for something more out of the box for next year. For example, she/he could take the bright mint green improvisational cross at lower left – it’s a popular motif for repeat units, modern or traditional. I used it  in a repeat unit design in organza in 2005:

transparent quilt 2 copy tiny_edited-1


The following link shows all the winners and runners-up in the exhibition and many are from countries outside USA, pointing to the growing popularity of MQG around the world – there’s even a couple of Aussie winners !yay! – check these out –

Bias Tape Quilting Challenge

Sponsored by Panasonic


1st Place
CPU by Katherine Jones
Chigwell, Tasmania, Australia
Tasmania, Australia MQG
Pieced & Quilted by: Katherine Jones


2nd Place  Stock on Hand by Katherine Jones

Chigwell, Tasmania, Australia
Tasmania, Australia MQG
Pieced & Quilted by: Katherine Jones

 I was born and raised in Tasmania – there must be something in the water besides the flouride 🙂




1st Place      plus a Judge’s Choice award !
Rainbow Magic by Mollie McMahon
Sutton, NSW, Australia
Canberra MQG
Pieced by: Mollie McMahon
Quilted by: Mollie McMahon
& Jules McMahon


And it is especially pleasing to see Best of Show awarded to this wonderful quilt by fellow art quilter Kathy York  whose work has been known to me for a long time –


i Quilt by Kathy York
Austin, Texas
Austin MQG
Pieced & Quilted by: Kathy York

You can see all the winners of QuiltCon2015 here

Go to the Modern Quilt Guild website and there visit some of the galleries, clicking on slices/thumbnails for a complete view of each quilt.



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