What does “modern quilting” mean to Alissa Haight Carlton?

This is Alissa Haight Carlton’s answer to the question, “What does modern quilting mean to me?” Read more about our modern quilting blog meme here.

So it’s my turn to answer the question “what does modern quilting mean to me?” Such a hard thing to answer, isn’t it?

For me a lot of it has to do with how I became a quilter. I came to quilting through the indie crafting scene & blogs. About six years ago I fell in love with knitting and wanted to craft more. I got a sewing machine, started to read blogs, spent hours on Flickr, bought Denyse Schmidt’s book (oh thank you Denyse for that book!), started making quilts, and voila – I was a quilter! I had never set foot in a traditional quilt shop and didn’t even know that world existed. I’m self (well, blog) taught and not worried about following rules. No one told me how to press my seams – I just thought to the side was easier, so that’s what I do. I care deeply about craftsmanship, but not about any specific rules or restrictions.

Ok, onto some of the aesthetic things that to me are modern.

Improvisational wonkiness and working with no pattern:

Rectangles & Gray Lap Quilt

Mixing fabric lines and lots of white:

Land & Sea Quilt

Contemporary color choices:

Red & Aqua Quilt

No borders & geometric prints:

Big Hexes Quilt

Lots of solids:

Solid Squares

To me modern quilting is all of these things (and so much more), but I also think it is having a certain attitude toward the craft. An openness that makes you enjoy the process and not be as concerned with a “perfect” outcome. I don’t care about perfection in my quilting at all. What IS perfection anyhow? The perfectly sewn 1/4″ seam? The perfectly square square? Not to me. To me there’s more interest in the little “off” parts of design. If it looks attractive to me (and the craftsmanship is good) it works! That’s much of why I love improv piecing. I find it creatively fulfilling to just sew and design as I go – not completely knowing where the block, much less the quilt, is going.

And hey, I’m so freakin’ modern that I also think that if you disagree with anything or everything I’ve said here, then great! I don’t mind at all if you want to press your seams open, only work with patterns, never use white, always add borders, use big floral fabrics and prewash (I don’t). Go for it!  Modern quilting = tolerant quilting.

Go Modern Quilt Guild!

12 thoughts on “What does “modern quilting” mean to Alissa Haight Carlton?

  1. I will probably never get away from attempting the perfect 1/4″ seam. I’ve worked too hard at achieving it and it is just part of my sewing style. But I no longer strive for the perfectly square square. I love the whole improvisational style that I see in the pictures of your quilts. That is what has drawn me into the idea of modern quilting and what is helping me get to a new level of creativity. Thanks, Alissa!

  2. (gasp) You don’t pre-wash?? Egads! 🙂
    And just so you know, my venture into modern quilting is all because I was inspired by one of your wonky quilts. Now, if I could only get my life to cooperate so I can take a class with you!! 🙂

  3. between you and DS, how could anyone not want to quilt?! thank you again for your continuous inspiration and for the amazing coin quilt class. you are awesome!

  4. “An openness that makes you enjoy the process and not be as concerned with a “perfect” outcome. ” This is EXACTLY my mantra. Quilting (and any art or handcraft endeavor) should be enjoyed, relished, creative…not obsessive, rule driven and miserable. Which is why I learned the basics in a class, and never went back – no more watching someone rip out seams that aren’t just “so”. Not a sacrifice in quality or craftsmanship, but an open mind to the artistic merit.

  5. Great description. I am new to modern quilting, but I teach beginning quilting. I tell every new class that I will teach them the “rules”, when they get home they must learn to break them in their own way. I believe every new pattern or form of quilting is a new and creative way of breaking the “rules”. I am curious to learn more.

  6. Love your statement! I’ve been trying to figure out what people mean by “modern quilting,” and I think it’s just a return to the way my great-grandmother did it, and the way I started doing it in the 70s — no particular rules, no “right” way to do it. There’s no set color palette, there’s no reason to follow a pattern … it’s really one of the few areas in life when you can do exactly what you want to do.

    I LOVE your quilts, by the way — they’re really lovely!

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