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Modern Quilting and the Modern Quilt Guild

Modern Quilting and the Modern Quilt Guild

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

QuiltConWestLogo-DatesLocation1QuiltCon is on the horizon! The formerly Austin-based show/conference is moving this year to Pasadena, where it’s morphed into QuiltCon West. From February 18 to 21, lucky attendees will have the opportunity to take classes, hear speakers on topics from Color Theory for Modern Quilters to Getting and Staying Creative, see an array of award-winning quilts, and even do a little shopping.

IMG_8073 Shoppers at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin-based Stitch Lab's booth.
IMG_8150 A design wall filled with examples of student's work from Vanessa Christensen's class at QuiltCon 2015.

QuiltCon is the brainchild of the Modern Quilt Guild, an organization that’s grown from just a few members to thousands. Those first few were inspired by the quilts of Gee’s Bend, and by quilters like Denyse Schmidt, Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle, Nancy Crow, and Molly Upton. Early modern quilters were often solitary sewists, stitching at their kitchen tables and in their basements and thinking that everyone else was making traditional quilts. In 2008, the Fresh Modern Quilts Flickr group gave modern quilters an online place to share their work. Blogs also inspired the modern movement, and one of the first to move modern quilters to action was Jacquie Gering’s Tallgrass Prairie Studios. In 2009, Jacquie (who is the current president of the Modern Quilt Guild), put out a call for quilters to stitch an improvisational “log-cabinish” block and expected maybe ten people to join her. Instead, 225 sewed along and contributed 500 blocks that were stitched into 25 charity quilts. The results were posted on Flickr and soon more online modern quilting bees and challenges were inspiring quilters.

IMG_8086 i Quilt by Kathy York. Best in Show at QuiltCon 2015.

But quilters weren’t satisfied with just seeing quilts on their computer screens: they wanted to touch them and learn first-hand from others who made them. In October, 2009, Los Angeles residents Latifah Saafir and Alissa Haight Carleton held the first in-person meeting of modern quilters. From that initial gathering of 20 people, the Modern Quilt Guild has grown to more than 100 guilds around the world. The first QuiltCon was held in Austin in 2013 and the second in 2015, bringing quilters from around the globe together to take classes, meet fellow modern quilters, and revel in the display of dozens of carefully juried modern quilts.

East Bay MQG member Kristen Takakuwa shares her Mod Mood Quitl photo by Stacey Sharman East Bay Modern Quilt Guild member Kristen Takakuwa shares her Mod Mood Quilt. Photo by Stacey Sharman

Exactly what sets modern quilting apart from traditional quilting is difficult to pinpoint. The Modern Quilt Guild web site notes that modern quilts “are primarily functional and inspired by modern design” and that characteristics of modern quilting include, but are not limited to “use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work.” Updating classic quilt designs or “modern traditionalism” is a common theme.

P1000729 The Rabbit Hole by Nadia Kehnle won 1st place in the Improvisation category at QuiltCon 2015.
P1000767 Churn Dash 2: Complementary by Martha Peterson from QuiltCon 2015 was shown in the Group or Bee Quilts category.
P1000832 The Dishes Can Wait by Rachel Kerley won second place in the appliqué category at QuiltCon 2015.

To see some of the most up-to-the-minute modern quilts, check out the quilts on display at QuiltCon West. If you’re not able to visit in person, look for #quiltconwest and #quiltcon hash tags on Instagram. And I’m guessing that Carrie will be sharing plenty of QuiltCon on Moda’s Instagram account (if you don’t already, follow modafabrics).


While most QuiltCon West classes are full, some lectures are available to attend and the exhibitions and vendor floor are open to the public. For more information on tickets, show times and location, and more visit the QuiltCon West site at http://quiltconwest.com. Online registration has closed, but you can still register onsite. And if you can’t make it to Pasadena, start making plans for QuiltCon East, to be held in Savannah, Georgia, February 23-26, 2017.


If you're interested in finding a Modern Quilt Guild near you, check the Modern Quilt Guild's web site. Even if there isn't, individual guild members can partake of monthly webinars and free patterns, among other benefits. Check it out!

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