QuiltCon Charity Quilt: Alternative Gridwork

We  hope you have already read all about the 2015 QuiltCon Charity Quilt Challenge and are planning to join in! If you missed reading about it, you can find the original post here, and the Color post here.

The QuiltCon Charity Quilt Challenge is one of the MQG’s largest-scale charity projects. For QuiltCon 2015 guilds are asked to follow a predetermined color palette and alternate grid work design.

As quilters we are often (but not always) naturally forced into grids based on our construction techniques. In this post, we’ll talk about different forms of grid work and how to consider using them in your charity quilt design.

Alternate grid work is a modern quilting design element that is used frequently by modern quilters. It is often one of the easiest design elements to experiment and explore modern quilt making with. Modern quilters often “break the grid”. Alternate grid work is a tool to help showcase modern quilting design fundamentals such as negative space, no borders, minimalism, asymmetry, modern traditionalism and exaggerated scale.

Alternate grid work in modern quilt making refers to quilts that don’t follow the traditional block format of many quilts. The majority (but not all) of traditional quilt styles follow a predictable grid structure. It’s important to note that some modern quilts DO follow traditional quilt grid work and some traditional quilts do NOT follow traditional quilt grid work.

Traditional Grid Work Examples

The Straight Set – columns and rows of repeating blocks.

On Point – columns and rows of repeating blocks on a 45 degree angle

Medallion – a central focus feature with design elements bordering outward.

Credit: Marcelle Medallion Quilt by Alexia Abegg

Alternate Grid Work Examples

Traditional grids can be adapted or altered beyond the normal repeating columns and rows.

Increasing negative space.

Shifting the on point angle to an atypical degree.

Alternate gridwork refers to the underlying grids. As quilters, our seam lines guide our grids. Here are some examples of alternate grids.

Modular Grids are the basis for a vast majority of quilt design. You can use a modular grid, but don’t follow strict columns and rows. Using scale is a great way to use a modular grid in an alternate way.

Adding negative space is another way to use the modular grid in an alternate way.

Variable Framing uses the modular grid, but floats blocks in negative space. The underlying column and row format is there, but utilizes negative space to make it modern.

Offset or Misaligned Grids shift the rows and columns to offset blocks.

Paneling does not follow a modular grid structure and disguises any underlying grid.

Are you really into grids? Here’s some great reading:

Grids for Graphic Designers:

The Designer’s Guide to Grid Theory

Grid-Based Design Theory

Five Simple Steps to Designing Grid Systems

A Brief History of Grids


Making and Breaking the Grid by Timothy Samara

Geometry of Design

The Alternate Grid Chapter by Jacquie Gering, Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making, Lucky Spool

General Design Books:

Design Basics by David Lauer and Stephen Pentak

Design Elements by Timothy Samara

Applying Mathematics to Web Design 

Understanding the Impact of Design:

A great book to understand how forms impact and are processed by the human brain is Sensation and Perception by E. Bruce Goldstein. This book was the first book that really got me to think about design in an objective rather than intuitive manner. Have fun everyone!


Heather Grant, Director of Marketing & Programming

9 thoughts on “QuiltCon Charity Quilt: Alternative Gridwork

  1. Interesting that most (all?) of the linked discussions really refer almost entirely to graphic design. The original grids must surely go much earlier, with the inlaid tile floors of Greece Rome and before! Grids and proportion appear in fashion as well… again relatively “modern” invention… Interesting reading. I’m not sure I’m ready to think so hard about my quilting designs… but it’s good to get the old brain sizzling from time to time…!

  2. Thanks so much for including this. I find that doing ‘unusual’ quilting like this helps me pray and ponder… especially when bereaved. I wasn’t expecting to find quilting on Godspace! God, and God’s hand, are seen by me in all this different use of colour, shapes and space… and the ‘abnormal’ becomes beautifully special and treasured, the broken is healed, and the shattered finds a fitting place in the total plan..

  3. Hi Karen, Grids have been around throughout history. The “Brief History of Grids” link talks about that a bit. As quilter, I get most inspired by graphic design. I feel it is one of the best areas that talks about grids (for example, more than fine art). These are my own perceptions and inspirations, as quilters, it’s always important to follow our own paths to inspiration. So feel free to be inspired where ever you choose!

  4. Pingback: Alternative Gridwork Post from The MQG | Tacoma Modern Quilt Guild

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