A Crafter's Life

The Case for Modern Quilt Design (from the 1970s)

Contemporary quilt design, innovative quilt design, improvisational quilting, modern quilting, and intuitive quilt design are not recent ideas. You probably already know this but sometimes when reading quilting publications over the past couple of years it appears like these ideas are portrayed as new ideas in quilting.

My friend and quilting mentor, Betty Anne, studies the history of quilting. She loaned me a book from her quilting history book collection, Quilts & Coverlets: A Contemporary Approach by Jean Ray Laury.


This book was originally published in 1971. Here is an except from the book that makes a case for intuitive, innovative, contemporary, modern design (in 1971):

…for many years, quilt making was unaffected by contemporary art. In early America, the sources for quilt designs came from nature and from all articles of everyday use – the patterns on dishes, the designs from cast-iron stoves, political symbols such as the eagle and the star, wild flowers and other natural forms. In the twentieth century, however, none of the new influences of the time seem to have permeated quilt design. Even the strong influence of Art Nouveau, which was apparent in other crafts, had almost no effect on quilt making.

Perhaps women lost confidence in their ability to design. We saw watered-down versions of old designs, used over and over, with few of the revitalizing changes essential in any “lively” art. Only recently is the influence of contemporary art once again seen in our quilts. Modern designers of quilts are not concerned with reiterating statements made years ago. They have their own comments to make, comments which are relevant to our own times.

…Quilt makers today are recapturing the spirt and essence of early American quilts, At last we can look forward to exciting designs. Gone, thank goodness, are the rows upon rows of obese, sunbonnet girls in pale green and lavender. Traditional designs no longer meet our needs. Creativity and inventiveness make it possible to modifier and rejuvenate the old approaches and techniques…If we can retain the structural integrity of the traditional quilt, and add to it a contemporary approach in color and design, we achieve a quilt which merges past and present.

New ideas, are rarely new ideas. They seem like “new ideas” when they get popular!

I was fascinated by this book and all the “modern” quilting ideas discussed in a book published in 1971.

What are you thoughts?

Studio, What's on the Design Wall

What’s on the Design Wall: Rediscovering My “Charms”

If you would like to see what is on my design wall in regards to new pieces for The Wardrobe Meets the Wall Collection, check out the post In Progress on The Wardrobe Meets the Wall blog.  To stay up to date on Sassy the highly opinionated miniature schnauzer’s check out her page Schnauzer Snips


If you are quilter you know exactly what I am talking about – those addicting little charm packs. If you are not a quilter – charm packs are collections of precut 5 x 5 in. squares in coordinating fabrics. They are a great way to sample a new fabric collection – they usually come in packs of 40 squares and have at least one of each fabric in a collection. They can also come in solid fabric collections.

I fortunately or unfortunately have acquired quite a stash of charm packs over the years.

You go into a quilt shop and see a new fabric collection and daydream of a yard of each of the new 20 fabrics. Then you remember you need to eat and keep a roof over your head so you don’t give into the temptation of such a glorious shopping spree. Walking away from the collection you were coveting, you spy over in the corner the charm packs sets for the new fabric collection! You now think – “Yes! I can have a taste of the new collection (and still be able to pay my mortgage)!”

You bring them home, with no particular plans in mind for them and put them with the rest of your impulse buy charm packs…

Examples of 5 inch charm packs
Examples of 5 inch charm packs

A year ago I decided to stop hoarding charm packs and to actually use them. There are many wonderful books with charm pack specific patterns – patterns designed to start with 5 in. squares and go from there.  I made a couple quilts from these pattern books, but quickly burned out of this structured traditional quilt making. So I put the rest of the charm packs back in their display (gather dust) area and forgot them.

I was reorganizing my fabric a week ago and came across my stash of charm packs again and thought: Why do I have to use a pattern? Why can’t I just do something initiative and “modern quilting” style? So I took two charm packs of collections of various solid color batik fabrics and randomly sliced each 5 x 5 in. square into three sections. Then I reassembled this huge pile of charm pack sections into random columns. I experimented and sliced up one of the columns to make thinner columns and alternated the columns.

I am still experimenting and plan to create table runners out of these columns. Below are photos of “playtime” on my my design wall.

I think they are on their way to becoming quite CHARMING. I am glad I rediscovered my CHARMS!