Saturday, December 12, 2015

What Modern Means to Me

I couldn't end this week of blogging without sharing some of my personal experiences, thoughts, feelings, beliefs and goals as a modern quilter. 

First--a disclosure.  I co-founded a modern quilt guild in Sarasota FL over 3 years ago and our Guild joined The Modern Quilt Guild.  Last year, I was elected to the Board of MQG.  However, the views expressed in this post are totally just all about ME!!!

I wasn't sure I was a modern quilter when I discovered modern quilting

Confession time--although some of my older quilts were inspired by mid-century modern art, I wasn't sure I was a modern quilter.  I was still very rooted in the artquilt world most of the time--these quilts were for the wall, not the bed. 

My quilts for every day use were improvisationally designed and pieced, but I wasn't consciously following a particular set of principles. My older modern quilts looked like this--black was my negative space color. :
Wall Hanging mad about 10 years ago

Lap quilt made about 15 years ago

 So, at our first Guild meetings in 2013, I didn't have anything new to show! And, guess what, it didn't matter because like my Guild friends, I was falling in love with what I was seeing on Instagram, Pinterest, Blogs and the MQG website.   I was LEARNING what modern quilting was about and I liked it.  I felt energized, challenged and I just wanted to start designing my own modern quilts.

Here's a quilt I made in 2014--a disappearing 9 Patch with a LOT of negative space--and a few improvisationally pieced blocks.   I had to almost force myself to use white--it was the best way to break free from my old (comfortable) color palette:

Here's another modern quilt from 2014--it's a wall hanging. I started playing with gray and fracturing negative space.   And, I simplified a 4 patch into a 3 patch. 

 I Still Love, Honor, Respect and Use those Core/Basic Quilt Construction Skills

Modern quilts need to be well-made--modern does NOT mean sloppy, or falling apart when it's washed.  So that meant I had to sharpen my rotary cutting, piecing and quilting skills a bit.  Especially when I wanted to make larger lap quilts.  I'd been so used to working in a smaller format that a quilt that measured 50 by 70 inches or more seemed ENORMOUS. 

And, well-made doesn't mean PERFECT!  But, if I want my 9 patch points to match in that modern quilt, then, I really need to use the tools and skills to make that happen.  The white disappearing 9 patch quilt above is one that I don't pull out often because it's not as well constructed as I would like.  I learned a lot when I made it--it was just a rite of passage.

In 2014, I made this disappearing 4 patch--much better constructed--my skills were firming up again and the finished product brought my vision to life:

It's a Really, Really Big Diverse World--and I LOVE that!

The modern quilt world is full of people who want to try new things.  They are curious about people who bring their cultural traditions to the modern world to enrich our dialogue with each other.

The Modern Quilt Universe is Changing Faster Than We Realize...

Yes, there are some design principles that modern quilters have embraced.  We love asymmetry, open space, playing with scale, modern color palettes, etc.....  We are inspired by mid-20th century modern art and architecture.  Like this quilt I made last year--it's a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright.

And we modern quilters are inspired by quilt traditions like blocks that we love--here's a modern patriotic quilt idea I'm playing with.  That star block is traditional and using 'USA' themed colors is also traditional.  However, I'm sure I can bring those traditions into the modern quilt world. 

By the way, there are LOTS of MYTHS about what modern quilts are like. I've blogged about that in the past.

Where I'm Headed Now....

I think modern quilters can start with one question: 

What aspects of modern quilting do I want to explore, reinvent, play with and learn about?  

As for me, I'm playing with how I can use saturated color as negative space--is that even possible??

In progress--experimenting with color and layout. The final quilt will be exhibited at the Texas Quilt Museum --Modern Quilt Guild Juried Show.
I'm curious about all these new modern batiks I'm seeing that have interesting graphics.  How will they play with modern solids, prints or grunge or.....???  See the batiks in the in-progress quilt above?

I'm using the mini-quilts I make for swaps to practice my machine paper piecing skills to make precision pieced blocks.

I'm playing with scale and curves and precision pieced points--sometimes in the same quilt!!

I'm (finally) writing a book with techniques and modern quilt designs that I'd love to see other modern quilters try out.

And, above all, I'm having a lot of fun.  

As a modern quilter, I feel free to follow my personal vision.  I love the awesome modern quilt community for its openness.  I appreciate the fabric manufacturing companies for seeking out and supporting new fabric designers who have a fresh take on graphic design.  And, thanks to these companies for all these luscious new solids, ombres and grunge fabrics.

I truly do not worry or pay attention to any nay-sayers or modern quilt police. You know, those critical quilters who only have negative things to say about work by others.  Yes, we have quilt police in the modern world--they're so busy enforcing the so-called rules that they can't see what's happening right in front of them.    Sadly for them, they are missing all the vibrant new ideas that are happily showing up in every corner of the modern quilt universe.

My personal mission is to encourage and support ALL QUILTERS who want to join in this modern movement.  That's why I'm writing my book, making new quilts, going to QuiltCon, supporting my Guild, blogging and teaching workshops. Lucky, lucky me that I get to live this creative life.

Well, this is my last post on 52 Quilters!  

Thanks so much for reading these postings.  I appreciate all of you who have started following me on Instagram (@carole_lylesshaw).  I hope you'll follow my future posts on my blog  In 2016, I'll have give-aways and other exciting announcements and I would love to see you there! 

Happy Quilting!! 


  1. So happy to see your evolution as a quilt maker! :) Glad you are still in there sewing.

    :) Linda

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