Christa’s Soap Box – Is Modern Quilting Just a Fad?

Is Modern Quilting a Passing Fad?

(No time for pics – words only today!)

I certainly hope not! Two recent instances have inspired me to explore this topic a little more, and to shout out an emphatic, “NO!”

(1) Recently I attended a local fabric trade show. I noticed one of the big distributors (a larger wholesale company that sells and distributes many different fabric brands to retailers such as myself) wasn’t carrying a certain newly created company’s fabrics with a modern flair (think horses and strong geometrics).

When I asked why not, they told me they had seen many fabric fads come and go and they weren’t hopping on that bandwagon any time soon. I was in shock. I was wondering where these people had been. Did they not see the huge spring market debut of this particular company? Did they not get online and hear the buzz and excitement surrounding this new company’s fresh ideas?

(2) I was recently emailing a friend and lamenting the fact that one of the larger quilt show venues I participated in this year is not including modern categories as much in their shows next year. At first I thought it was due to poor participation in that category this year. Upon further examination though, I found out the powers that be thought that modern quilts are just a passing fad. What the what?!

Tell that to the thousands of people that will be attending QuiltCon next year, and the thousands more who have created a vibrant online community that is not going away any time soon. Like I and thousands more are going to suddenly wake up one day and think, “Nah – I’m bored of these bold, geometric quilts. I think I’ll quit quilting.”

Seriously, what are these people drinking??

I totally get that the word “Modern” may be a little overused these days, and I acknowledge that the debate is still raging as to what may or not be considered a modern quilt. In fact, when I was doing some research on writing a book, I learned that some publishers feel that putting the word “Modern” in the title may alienate or split their target audience before they even open up the book to take a look. (Let’s save that discussion for another day.) So some of the hesitation to embrace modern quilting may stem from the fact that these large companies are looking to their bottom lines and are worried about the numbers.

However, I think the very same growing pains that the modern community is going through right now is exactly what happened in the art quilting community some 20+ years ago (um, yeah, I was there!) Although I’m not an art quilter, I certainly can appreciate the vibrancy of the art quilt community, the empassioned quiltmakers that are a part of that community, and the hugely profitable segment of the quilting market it has become.

Don’t these people learn from (quilt) history?

42 thoughts on “Christa’s Soap Box – Is Modern Quilting Just a Fad?

  1. shecanquilt says:

    I’m catching up on my blog reading so very late to this party. I totally agree with you! I find the comments interesting too. Although I love making all quilts, I am totally a modern quilter.

  2. Alyce {Blossom Heart Quilts} says:

    Well, for starters, I’m not really into all this horse fabric craze either to begin with šŸ˜‰ But a distributor is clearly narrowing their market far too much – this “modern movement” is definitely here to stay with the explosion of colours and patterns now available compared to 10-15 years ago. The age of the internet and social media has definitely cemented that.

  3. Heather says:

    Hi Christa, I have to chime in on a couple of points you mentioned. The quilt shows today focus on precision and attention to detail. All of the quilts that get juried in are perfection, with extremely intricate piecing, applique, or quilting. Modern quilts are often intentionally “folksy” – maybe not the right term, but the lines will intentionally be a bit wonky. When you have that clashing up against quilts that take 10,000 hours to make…they are just two different beasts. I can understand that quilt shows are struggling to reconcile these two worlds.

    I also can relate to the potential to alienate the people by using the term modern. I think there is way too much emphasis these days on what is “modern” and what isn’t. It has led to a clique-like feel, as in “this quilt is IN the club but that quilt is OUT.” As one example, my quilting friend was telling me about a modern quilting facebook group she was in where posted quilts were being taken down if they were “contemporary traditionalism” instead of “modern,” as in, not modern enough. I would prefer it if we all just made quilts in ways that we each enjoy and appreciate, instead of being forced into these categories of “modern” or “traditional.”

    I don’t think modern quilting is a fad at all, but I do think it is in a growing pain stage where we need to figure out how to celebrate modern quilts while still celebrating all quilters.

  4. Barbara says:

    I think the term “Modern Quilting” may be a catchall phrase for the type of quilting that refuses to be stuck in a certain time period….I know I find myself more likely to look at something with the name “Modern” in the title because I associate “traditional” with some sort of country combinations of teal and cranberry florals. However, if you look at someone like Denyse Schmidt, she’s actually quite traditional. She may update colors and pattern sizes for a more modern aesthetic, but I recently was having her new Sweet Ruby line cut at my local Joanne’s, and all the more “mature” “traditional” quilters there, who never stopped to see DS Quilts, all took at second look when they saw what I was holding.

    I also find there are trends within modern quilting, and those trends may come and go. Perhaps in future, we won’t all want Kona Ash backgrounds or to paper piece everything, but we will have moved on to exploring another technique or a new color combo will trend that we will want to try.

    Frankly, I think “Modern Quilting” just means that we don’t want to be stuck with Civil War Prints or those Country Florals for all eternity. To me, “Traditional Quilting” is the label that is a more static, defined type.

  5. Sue says:

    I love the look of modern quilts but having been hanging on the edges of quilting and observing the changes over the last 15 years (that’s not that long) I have seen different trends come and go, although I think the use of negative space in quilts is the biggest change I have seen. Nonetheless, the driver behind these changes has always been home dec trends which is as it should be for quilting to stay popular and relevant. Modern quilts are so NOW in home dec terms, the patterns are everywhere at the moment. Embrace the new and evolve along with it would be my advice.

  6. Sharon - IN says:

    Don’t you just love that in the quilting community as a whole there is such a huge variety of style, methods and applications? ‘Modern’ is adding so much to the industry in fabric design & patterns! And also, with podcasts like Modern Sewiology (I just stumbled upon it a few weeks ago!) the love is being spread around! I heard your interview and hope you will be back on soon! When I started quilting, Calico was everywhere. I’m so glad ‘modern’ quilting took care of that problem 20 some years ago! And funny … a local quilt shop has a line of calico back as ‘vintage’.

  7. Debbie says:

    What an interesting discussion…I don’t think the modern quilt movement is going anywhere. RE: the modern categories in the quilt show – that really surprised me, and made me kind of sad after showing a quilt in their first modern exhibit. The fabric is an interesting piece. Seriously there is just SO much out there, and more coming faster than we can keep track up – definitely faster than we can sew!

  8. Tessa says:

    I enjoyed your post as well as the responses! I learned years ago, when interior decorating was my thing, that the term “modern” is often misused. In decorating, it refers to a specific design style, and what many refer to as modern is really contemporary. I think the same is true in quilting. There is a specific style that is modern (bright, geometric, improv, negative space, solids, etc.) and the rest is contemporary. It is the quilting of today as opposed to what our grandmothers were doing. It has evolved and is by no means just a fad. It may of course continue to evolve and change and there are certainly trendy aspects to it, especially as far as what is popular in fabrics. I also see a wide gap between the online quilters and those who are not. Blogging and social media have really fueled the popularity of certain designers and manufacturers, but I have met people who are not online and have no clue who they are! Whatever our style, we are really all just quilters, are we not?

  9. Dorrie says:

    This is such a sore subject for me. I, too am a quilter from way back. The stereotypes associated with quilting came to pass because of the fabrics available 20 years ago. People were tired of sewing with the same color palette project after project. Thus, the market dropped off. Enter the computer age. . .blogs, Facebook, InstaGram, online tutorials, classes and ebooks. Today’s quilters reached out to one another with ideas; thus, new designers with fresh ideas were born. Manufacturers listened. . .you know this by simply visiting a quilt shop. Lots of fresh fabrics which follow color and design trends. And not just with cottons. . .voile, silk, yarn dyes. . .choices are endless. I know this, I love to sew. Whether it be garments, quilts, bags. . .it doesn’t matter, I love it all! I also know this, I don’t want to sew with tired fabrics. I pay homage to quilters who’ve come before me who’ve provided us with a vast history to draw from. What I find distasteful are those who refer to themselves as traditional quilters, pushing modern quilter’s work aside as being without merit. The local guild, here, has that mindset, and I travel 3 hours (one way) each month to attend a MQG meeting. The attitude has to go. . .we need to be respectful of one another.

  10. Jolly and Delilah says:

    In my experience, the “modern quilt” term divides it’s own practitioners. I see a lot of people who are making patterns that don’t fit the traditional quilt mold, but lack a lot of the qualities the guilds use to define the modern style. Where do these people fit? I don’t imagine that this is a fad though. People are drawn to certain styles and will continue to make the quilts they love, regardless of what label gets put on it.

    I’m confused about the fabric though. Fabric tastes seem to change faster than quilting styles. Why not offer a smaller selection of certain designers or prints?

  11. Linda H. says:

    I enjoyed this post, and reading the above remarks. As a quilter since the late 1970s, I’ve seen it all. However, modern fabrics and designs have completely captured my spirit. In 2012 I rid myself of nearly all my dark and dull fabrics – gold, rust, burgundy, sage green, brown colors – and have had a blast replacing them with modern fabrics. I’m discerning about the prints, and am not inclined to jump on the popularity band wagon. But I believe, and hope, modern is here to stay. It will be my style for a long time to come. (Now what should I do with my dozens of traditional quilts, and UFOs?!)

  12. Colleen says:

    I think the “modern” term has been seriously over used. But people often need to label and define things. I see a lot of traditional patterns being modified and made more current which is great. Everyone should be able to put their own interpretation on quilts and feel good about their effort. I have stopped following the modern quilting movement because it seems very commercialized to me. Another comment referred to it as a marketing plan which is so true. An example is fabric manufacturers giving fabric to the modern guilds so the members will make projects and post photos of them thus getting the fabric a lot of exposure. I think we have all seen the increase in marketing on blogs. Most social media can be turned into a marketing tool. It’s a way to turn a passion into a money making venture so of course people are going to do it. I just want to see people’s amazing projects so I’ve had to step away from some of these things.

  13. Michele says:

    I love all types of quilts. I go from bold prints to calico to flowers to whatever. I let the fabric “speak” to me. I have tried a miniature J-Bird design, (will send picture once quilted). I have bought & downloaded a couple of your patterns to try. Keep up your fabulous works.

  14. Karen says:

    More than 30 years ago I took a quilting class, and I was totally turned off to quilting because all we learned about and worked on were calico prints and (not sure of the name) Sweet Bonnet Sue. I’m back now and really excited because I accidentally spotted a modern quilt online. I agree with you–this isn’t a fad and isn’t going anywhere! Whatever it’s called, there will always be room for strong colors, geometrics and twists on more traditional blocks.

  15. springleafstudios says:

    I always find these “modern” discussions interesting. I definitely don’t think it’s going away but it will evolve and have it’s own internal trends. By that I mean chevrons, wonky logs cabin blocks etc may come and go from being strong design elements. I think modern in general has opened up a whole new way of thinking about quilts and I for one am thrilled. Many modern quilts could be considered art quilts that are made to be used. Although I don’t really like the notion that to be modern a quilt has to be utilitarian. One thing that I also find frustrating is the blind rush by some quilters to jump on every new fabric line by certain designers. It feels a bit like a popularity contest from high school days. I do wish the overall modern movement would open their views more to all fabric types and how they can be used in modern ways. I believe Weeks Ringle speaks to this. As for me, I love modern even though not all my quilts fall into that category. I’ve never felt my style fit in the traditional world per se and yet my work may not meet someone else’s view of modern either. In the end, I’m going to use what I feel inspired by to design and make what I feel inspired to make. Regardless of labels, we ALL love fabric and should learn to at least appreciate ALL types of quilts.

  16. Andres Rosales says:

    Yeah, the aesthetic is here to stay. I don’t see anything wrong with a company not wanting to carry a specific fabric, the have to carry what they think will sell. A quilt show that doesn’t cater to modern quilting (I’m only asking for them to try) won’t get my money. Evolve or die, I say.

  17. kris says:

    I believe the terms used to describe the current trends may or may not confuse many people in the quilting community, including myself. I believe Modern quilting has been around for so so long. I did a recent book sale of old quilting books and magazines where you can find bold fabrics and use of solids in bold designs with negative spaces. Our techniques might change but the ‘idea’ has been there for ages. I believe it will be around for a very long time. I do however think we are sometimes too quick to jump on the current fabrics out there and the colors those fabrics bring to our seasons. I will often drool over a new fabric seen online but then, when I get the opportunity to see it in a real store I am disappointed that the shades are so different. I tend to quilt new with old fabrics and it takes work to do this. Introducing obscure shades can be fun but down right impossible unless you stick to the fabric line and even then I question the look of them together. I think that is all part of being a quilter, finding what you like and where you want to go. Variety is good but I don’t really care to be pushed into it a trend. There is a lot of individuality out there and I don’t think everyone has to jump on horses or woodland creatures to fit into the modern of today. (but you can if you want) šŸ™‚

  18. Becky P. says:

    I don’t think that was very smart of that fabric designer. Since I don’t really know details, I can’ give my opinion about what I think about the fabric they aren’t carrying. I can do without chevron stripes in every color imaginable, but I do enjoy a lot of the modern quilt designs.I am fascinated by how you think them up and even more when the quilting is fantastic.

    I have some older quilt magazines that were given to me (20 years old now), and am fascinated as back then, what was ‘modern’ isn’t realy considered that now. As one poster mentioned, “modern” will continue to change as new/younger quilters come on the scene and make more “the really modern modern quilts” At that point, the ‘modern quilts of 2014 may look dated. Who knows?

    The only thing I really don’t like about following what is “in” is that in a couple of years it is “so yesterday”. I’d like to think that I’m making something that can be enjoyed for years and years and not something that someone will look at and say, “Oh, that is so….yesterday”.

  19. Kristy Daum says:

    One of the nice things about “modern” quilting is that it’s forever-ness is in it’s name. Modern is what is going on now at this exact moment, so modern two-years ago isn’t the same as modern two-years from now. I also have heard the comments from people about it being a fad, and I wonder if it is simply because they are not tech-savvy and don’t see what we see. I agree with what one of your other commenters also said about it…those that jump on because they think it is trendy will likely jump off when they become bored. The same goes for companies, those that are in it for a quick buck will move on eventually. Yet, those that have made a commitment, and that is thousands and millions of us, are here to stay.

  20. Hollie says:

    I think sometimes putting what Modern Quilting actually is, is a hard task. I do what I like, but I only have to please me and family and friends. I think it’s here to stay, is my two cents worth šŸ˜‰

  21. Pam says:

    Well said. I’m old enough to remember the ebb and flow of quilting trends since the early 70’s when I started quilting. Life and career have prevented me from actively quilting on a regular basis for the last 40 some years, but I’ve always been interested in what’s going on in the quilting world. I’ve recently retired and have to opportunity to get back into quilting, and the modern patterns and fabrics are my favorite!!! I have eight grandchildren that I’m making quilts for and not surprisingly they want MODERN designs. This grandma is having a ball giving them what they want!

  22. Lee Ann L. says:

    I think modern is here to stay. However, I think too many people who do NOT have modern tastes have jumped onto the bandwagon and they will soon get bored and go back to what they originally loved doing. In fact, a few have already abandoned their modern projects because they were not happy. As for me, I appreciate modern quilting and the work going into it; but, for the most part, I am not into modern quilting unless you consider mostly traditional quilting with a modern twist to be modern! LOL. šŸ™‚

  23. Sylvia Anderson says:

    I think that there should be ‘Something for Everyone’ in fabrics, just as there is in color, food, clothing, furniture,…well, you get the idea. We should not be ‘pigeon holed’, just because some people feel that it is a passing fad. Speaking for myself, at age 78, I will say that I love all types of fabric, probably leaning more toward the traditional, but loving the newer Modern Fabrics, since they provide a niche for the younger, artsy population, of which there are a few in our family, mainly our grandchildren who like the cleaner, simpler lines the modern patterns lend themselves to. Hopefully, this will not be a short term fad, and will continue to fill a void that has been absent for way too long.

  24. Pat Sell says:

    Some people just don’t learn from history, period! Quilting, like life, has gone through many stages and will go through many more. It is not a static art – as if “art” could be static – but a living, growing thing. Large companies are often unable to make changes quickly or gracefully, but will come along eventually – artists just have to be patient. šŸ™‚

  25. Anne says:

    The modern quilting fad is here to stay. It is a now a thread or a patch in the big picture of quilting. It is very popular because it has fuelled the imagination, the talent and the joy of quilters. There is room for all the strands. Applique, art, traditional, hand and machine quilting. (Let the list go on). All quilting can be challenging or not so challenging depending on choice. The modern movement has brought another challenge to the quilting world that many have embraced. The internet community certainly has, as have manufactures and quilt stores. I love the fabrics, solids, batiks, the arty ones and many of the traditional. So choose what you like, make it and enjoy. To keep the quilting community vibrant this modern movement has been phenomenal. I am learning something new and I love it.

  26. Hedy Hahn says:

    I think the Modern quilt movement is here to stay and that’s fine with me even though I would not consider myself a modern quilter. I absolutely love my vintage quilts and that’s not ever going to change. I have made several quilts that people have told me are modern and I have copied many free patterns that are modern too that I love. Being as old as I am (69) I remember being told that Elvis and The Beatles were just a passing fancy too. People need to open up their minds and allow others the freedom to do as they like. I can like or dislike whatever I want, I have the wonderful freedom to do this in this absolutely beautiful country that I live in. the USA ! In time, the big companies will recognize the Modern quilt movement and bring out the fabrics, be patient.

  27. Kate says:

    I’m really surprised to hear a big distributor say that about those fabrics. They seem to forget that it isn’t just quilters that want to use those fabrics. So many modern fabrics are perfect for garment sewing, for adults and children.

  28. Sue says:

    I came to quilting many years ago, then didn’t quilt for a long time because of work & family commitments. When I came back to it I noticed lots of changes….. patterns, equipment, fabric styles etc. I embraced some of those changes & rejected others. There were ‘fads’ then as now but how many of those so called fads are now what is the ‘norm’? Just because I don’t use as many solid colours in my work as others might doesn’t mean I don’t like ‘modern ‘ quilts. its just another storm for The Movement to weather. Keep up these thought provoking soapboxes!! Love your posts šŸ˜€

  29. Lizzie says:

    Interesting soapbox, as usual. Modern-schmodern! My take on modern is that in may in part Be a marketing plan! Are you modern if you don’t sew with the latest releases, or if you mix in a reproduction fabric here and there, With the clear bright colors and negative space? I suspect what is modern is as capricious as fashion– if you have to say it Is so, than the trend has already changed. I came to quilting as a child of a family business quilter in the 80’s. Back then, customers sniffed that machine quilting and applique were not “real” quilting, but that didn’t really affect business! Good Lord, imagine if we slapped labels like this on family cooking! A true cook Never changes the recipe, vs A true cook Always changes the recipe! I think your assessment is a wise one, Chrsta, Learn from History! And I add, don’t be bound by it….

  30. Michele says:

    I too don’t feel that modern quilting is a fad but I think what defines modern quilting is slowly changing, not being ruled by a bunch of “requirements” but instead have a certain overall vibe. I’ve seen my own tastes evolve quickly over the years and I know what attracts my attention more, some of it modern and some not. And I’m also not one who cares for the newest big fabric designer group lines but I can certainly appreciate what others make with them.

  31. Alexa Little says:

    Hi Christa,
    Although I prefer more traditional quilt designs, I certainly don’t think modern quilt designs are a fad. I tend to be somewhat slow at making up my mind about what I really like and I am sure I am not the only person who does this. It may take a few more years but, eventually even the fabric merchants will be forced to provide what the quilters are wanting. The issue is whether the Modern Quilting movement can persist with their requests for modern designs and patterns. Hopefully they will be and even I will probably turn my hand to some modern quilts.
    Keep up the good work and I am sure you will gain more followers.

  32. Julie says:

    I can only think the big distributor you refer to has their head well and truly buried in the sand. I am a member of the Brisbane Modern Quilt Guild here in Australia and a passionate “modern” quilter and I have to say our little guild has a huge percentage of young “modern” quilters who are very passionate, enthusiastic and pro-active about the modern movement and their numbers grow every week…..they are the future of the the modern quilt movement and I am proud to be one of them (young at heart if not in years). I have made quilts for a lot of years and have never been more excited than I am now about the modern quilt movement and have never enjoyed making quilts more – and I know I am not alone. Take note yee nay sayers to modern quilting……I feel you may come to regret not taking more notice, we ain’t going away! Keep up the good work Christa, love reading your blog.

  33. Gloria Tattersall says:

    Perhaps the word ‘Contemporary’ would suit these folks better! I am a traditionalist at heart and make and love traditional applique quilts. However my eye and heart is open to all forms of the art and skill of patchwork and quilting. There are those Modern Quilt makers who frown a little at the ‘quick’ quilt group, and will walk past the traditional! Maybe the confusion is that some Modernists are combining the designs with ‘less than modern’ fabrics. There is room for all.
    Wake up fabric designers and quilt show organisers there is room for all of us!

  34. Lauren says:

    I don’t think that modern quilt movement is a fad. I like looking at and making modern quilts. I also like traditional quilts and fabric associated with both. However, there is one group of fabric designers that were introduced this year and their particular fabric lines have just not turned my crank. I like a couple of their prints and a number of their basics. They just are not turning my crank. Just because this one modern line doesn’t turn my crank there are many others that are, as well as the lovely lines of beautiful colours and textures in the solids from a number of companies.

    The modern quilt movement is not a fad – it is a progression incorporating the fabrics that are being offered. Once a quilter has been through traditional methods, colours and pattern the progression moves to modern and then to dying and making their own fabrics to incorporate into art quilts.

    This has been my path and I have enjoyed the entire journey.

  35. farmquilter says:

    I think that many “traditional” quilters have dismissed “modern” quilts as not requiring as much skill to piece as “traditional” blocks…I beg to differ! It is really hard to create a pattern in the more minimalistic style of “modern” quilts! Many “modern” quilts don’t allow you to strip piece…you need to make each block individually and none of them are the same size! I’m not a pattern designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I have tested a few patterns for designers and one was really “modern” and I loved making it but it was really a challenge for me to wrap my head around how to approach it (secret was to cut and sew each block one at a time!). As a longarm quilter, I really love all the negative space I get to play in with the “modern” quilts!!!

  36. Lenora says:

    I love all types of quilts.. but I especially love yours – does that mean I’m a ‘modernista’ at heart? I even used your charming chevrons to make a baby quilt for my youngest niece… thanks, BTW šŸ˜€

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