Notions: What is modern quilting?
the GenQ Crew • July 22, 2011 • 8 Comments

From our start, we here at Generation Q Magazine have focused our attention on the modern and contemporary quilters and sewists of the world. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, we’ve watched the quilters who identify themselves in these ways often being left out of the mainstream quilt fray. Second, it’s where our quilty hearts reside.

To really get at the heart of what GenQ can provide for modern and contemporary stitchers to read, learn from and be entertained by, we need to define these terms. And frankly, we’ve had more than a few readers ask us for a little help understanding the differences.

We’re not the only ones who struggle with this. Here’s what Canadian quilter/blogger Cheryl Arkison wrote, after spending a week at Quilt Canada last year: “So, this whole modern quilting thing. I can say for sure that I have a new perspective on it. And I don’t think it is as revolutionary as some think it is. It really is a throwback to the traditional, traditional quilting… Just with prettier fabrics.”  (Go here to read the entire post.)

Contemporary quilters we define as—and if it’s too simplistic we’ll rely on you all to tell us—that creative stitcher-type who is eclectic in style, open to the experience of making things with fabric and thread and who doesn’t take him-or-herself too seriously. That last part is really important because, honestly, we all got into this threaded mess of an obsession because it’s fun! And that sense of fun should be at the core of what we all do with our stash, even if some of us are now earning our keep in some way from our playtime.

Contemporary quilters don’t really identify themselves as contemporary. They are just quilters, as is everyone who picks up needle, thread and batt and manages to make them stay together.

Modern quilting, wellll, that’s a bigger hill to climb. As many in the movement will attest, coming up with a definition of “modern” is difficult.  That’s partly because it’s a relatively new term, and partly because it’s one often associated with the thriving Modern Quilt Guild. Now, several of us are members of our local chapter MQ guilds, BUT we do not presume to speak now or ever on their behalf.  The wonderful MQG aside, we do believe that the greater modern quilting movement—the one outside any formal organization—is young enough that its boundaries are still evolving. In other words, modern is growing so fast that it has yet to be pinned down.

We are drawn to modern quilting for several reasons. The use of color and bold patterns. The use of negative space, solids and the dramatic, minimalist flair. But in all honesty, what really pulls us in is the company of other like-minded quilters, both in person and online. In them, we see a passion and excitement for quilts like we haven’t seen at traditional guilds in years.  (Or at least the traditional guilds of which we’ve been a part.)

It’s as if everything is a new discovery, and whether that’s true or not, it’s hard to argue with the rush of creativity and appreciation that comes with that feeling. Being journalists (that equates often to being professional peeping toms), we’ve chosen to watch this movement and this community, participate as able and allowed, and reflect what we see happening, because, well, it’s just damned exciting!

But watching and putting words to all of this still leaves us wondering about how to define modern quilting—and more importantly, how YOU define it. Its fluidity makes it tough to capture. Define it too narrowly, and you risk alienating some who might otherwise have joined in. Define it too broadly, and the definition becomes almost meaningless.

What we do know is whether you’re attracted to selected aspects of the movement or consider yourself an all-in, founding member, modern quilting is still quilting. And we all work with the same tools: fabric, thread, batting and needles. The variations are endless, but in the end, it’s all still about those fab four items.

And that’s what we want to always remember. We are still just a community of quilters, no matter what we call ourselves.


GenQ Wants You: What Is Modern Quilting? Essay Contest

Okay, now it’s your turn. We want to know what you think modern quilting is. Whether you identify yourself as a modern quilter, or you have observed others from afar; whether you love it or hate it or are indifferent to it—we want to know how you see it. It would be amazing to hear from some folks who have art/design training, too, because sometimes the scholars among us can really put their fingers on what we all feel. We want to encourage conversation, thought and, yes, even disagreement about the very thing that has brought us together here at GenQ.

Over the next six weeks, we will be collecting short essays written by you answering  this question: What is modern quilting? Give us your thoughts in an e-mail (you can attach a Word doc or paste it into the body of the e-mail) in 350 words or fewer. Please include two or three pictures of your own quilts or of quilts that inspire you. Send your entries to Megan at with “What Is Modern Quilting” in the subject line. Keep in mind that we will edit your entries for grammar and also length, if they come in at over 350 words. Deadline for entries is midnight, August 19.

Then, throughout the next six weeks, we’ll post some of the best entries. (And by “best” we mean those that are best written, not those that best reflect our own opinions.) Then you’ll all get a chance to vote on your favorite. The top vote-getter will receive a fabulous prize package and the adulation of quilters around the globe. But don’t worry—this is a subject we’ll come back to again. –The Generation Q Staff




  • Lois Grebowski • 7 years ago
    COMMENT #1

    Might have to take a stab at this…

  • Marcy • 7 years ago
    COMMENT #2

    Hmmm. Interesting thought. Love GenQ. Keep it up.

  • Cheryl Arkison • 7 years ago
    COMMENT #3

    The responses should be pretty interesting.

  • Lisa Fulmer • 7 years ago
    COMMENT #4

    this will be fun, can’t wait to read the essays! keep up the awesome convo, satire, news, and reviews!

  • Dianne • 7 years ago
    COMMENT #5

    Looking forward to reading the submissions. I’m not sure how I would categorize myself, there are many traditional quilts that draw me in, especially two colour, applique or whole cloth quilts and I am very drawn to the clean look and spare design sense of most contemporary/modern quilts. In thinking about it I’m not sure they are so very different. Perhaps everything old is new again.
    Great job on GenQ btw. I loved Quilters Home and am thoroughly enjoying your new format.

  • Alison Schmidt • 7 years ago
    COMMENT #6

    Excellent way to start the ball rolling on this!I feel that if we don’t define ourselves in some way as modern quilters, we will have to accept others’ definitions of modern quilting…..

  • Thomas • 7 years ago
    COMMENT #7

    Under 350 words?!?!?! Surely you jest…

  • Jamie Harris • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #8

    I bought your first issue at Cotton & Chocolate during the SoCal Quilt Run last weekend. One of your product testers pointed it out and even signed it for me. It came at the perfect time, as my quilting buddies and I are forming a new group. In fact, our first meeting is this week and we will to try to answer some of the questions you have posed here. I can’t wait to share your magazine and website with them. It’s exactly what we have bee talking about. 🙂 I look forward to your next issue!

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