Modern Quilts: Bold and Unconventional Patchwork

I'm endlessly inspired by modern quilt designers and their simultaneous deviation from, and reference to, traditional quilt patterns. I'm making a baby quilt for this soon-to-be baby boy of mine. I'm using a mix of new and upcycled fabrics, mostly though not exclusively Lotta Jansdotter fabric designs, and I'm keeping the palette very simple: Blue, white, and gray.

All the fabrics use a two-tone design of either bright blue and white or dark gray and white. Simple. But I'm looking to several sources for my design inspiration. Choosing the fabrics is always the fun part: The moment when the design starts to come to fruition but the possibilities are still endless. And texture, color, and composition abound!

Then I let the fabrics dictate the quilt design this time. I reviewed my quilt boards on Pinterest, I took a longer look at the quilt I made for my first son just three years ago, I swooned over the Quilts of Gee's Bend once more, and then I came across this gorgeous book, Unconventional and Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar 1950- 2000.

I can't say enough good things about this book. It's SO good. It's filled with inspiring, unconventional quilt designs and wonderful interviews with leading textile artists and designers like Natalie Chanin. I keep going back to it again and again for added inspiration.

I've also been swooning over the latest interior design book by Mark & Sally Bailey, Imperfect Home. It speaks so clearly to my ongoing slow fashion project, Make Thrift Mend, and gives a boost of confidence to apply this slow design thinking to my home.

I have several of the Baileys' books, I love their sustainable and inspired approach to interior design, but this latest book is my absolute favorite. It embraces a wabi-sabi, handmade, imperfect approach to interior design and the results are bold and stunning. Their work is a constant inspiration for me in my studio.

So after spending some time with these two books I decided I wanted my quilt top to be bold, modern, and unconventional. I wanted it to somehow be in conversation with the quilt I made for my first son as they might someday share a room. But given my time constraints with my due date just two weeks away, I wanted it to be simple enough to finish soon. I also looked to Namoo Quilts and Carolyn Friedlander's quilts for modern inspiration.

Then I set some parameters: Same size as my first son's quilt (roughly 54" x 34"), complimentary colors to my son's, and like the first quilt I'd rely on a mostly horizontal composition of quilt strips. Then I let intuition take over and patched the fabrics together. I've sewn the quilt top together, selected the batting and backing, basted with pins, and now I'm deciding between machine quilting and hand stitching.The binding is always my favorite part: The final details before the quilt comes together and moves from my studio table to its rightful place in our home.

These moments of crafting and artmaking move my work forward. It doesn't matter if the work is for exhibition, publication, or for personal use in my home. It's the same. It's the moments when I'm able to look at the lineage of my craftsmanship; look for the deviations in concept or design; find a few modern mentors that inspire me to take new risks; but mostly I have to stay true to my original vision and while making the work get closer to what I had in mind.

I also ask a series of questions as I'm working: Does this feel right? Is this what I had in mind when I started? Can I make it simpler? Does it need all the parts? Am I gaining clarity? Does it look like me?

Of course, now I want to make a bigger quilt for our bed. I want to finish a vintage quilt top I found years ago and have stashed in my blanket chest. And someday, I'd like to dye my own fabric and make a Flying Geese quilt too. It's my favorite traditional quilt design. But for now, I'm just hoping to finish sewing this baby quilt before our tiny human arrives. Time is the main concern these days. Did I mention, I'm due in less than two weeks?!?



  1. Were you aware that the "Unconventional & Unexpected" quilts are on exhibit in Sonoma until mid-May? http://www.svma.org/

    1. Thank you so much for reminding me! I had this on my radar and then forgot to check the details. I definitely want to see it--thank you!


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