A short history of modern quilting, plotting and suggestions needed for baby loot.

{Hawaiian circle skirt!}
June 2, 2011
{army green and turquoise}
June 3, 2011
Show all

A short history of modern quilting, plotting and suggestions needed for baby loot.


Greetings you orange-skirt loving penguins! I’ll admit to having a slight bias towards the orange skirt when I hit publish on my last post, but I did NOT anticipate such overwhelming support for the pencil skirt! Lucky for all penguins and fellow avian-kind, I worked on TWO MORE of those skirts yesterday (of course, neither is finished.) And then I got distracted… Mr. Bug and I are headed north for a wedding at the end of June and I realized that I really want to make a QUILT as a gift!

Now… I’ve made a number of quilts over the years, but they aren’t my favorite thing. The stress of choosing the right fabrics and FORCING myself to pick some ugly ones so my quilts don’t look like a boring mish mash is eclipsed only be the tedium of all that cutting and sewing of straight lines. And math. And that’s before I even get to the truly horrible point of the project where I accidentally attach my unassembled quilt to the carpet with safety pins while trying to get the two layers of fabric to lie smoothly against that freakishly magnetic batting. No, quilts are not my thing! And yet, look at this lovely stack of fabric I picked out anyway… quilt time here I come!

I’m pretty stoked about these fabrics, and here’s why… starting from the bottom I’ve got… a piece of wool that Mr. Bug found for me at Goodwill…green dupioni silk from my stash… green cotton/silk Sateen from local quilt shop, Glad Creations… chocolate flannel polka dots… natural linen… lime green organic cotton with BIRDS from the shop where I work… more organic flannel dots, this time the color is ‘grass’… a few more prints from Glad and Sewtropolis (that’s where I work!)… a few more silk/cotton sateens and a couple of prints from my stash. All topped off with a bit of vintage trim. Just looking at that stack of fabric makes me feel a bit euphoric.

When I last was immersed in quilt-making it was the mid-90’s and batiks and ragtime quilts were the thing. Very country couture. I also seem to remember a stained glass look that was quite popular. Nikol, the owner of the shop where I work, is a mad-quilter and as it turns out, things have changed in the quilting world in the last fifteen years. “Modern quilting” is super popular, and I have to admit to being quite intrigued by the new styles, although I’m sure I’ll still pin my quilt to the floor and want to toss the whole project into our chiminea before it’s fully quilted.

I had heard of the term ‘modern quilting’ before starting to work at the shop, but I just thought it meant, you know, making a quilt right now. Possibly with fabrics that had cartoons on them. Obviously, I hadn’t put a lot of thought into it. The Minneapolis chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild holds their monthly meetings at Sewtropolis and so I’ve been hearing a bit more about this whole modern quilting thing. I even joined the Minneapolis guild’s site and will probably go to meetings when I can – according to Nikol they’re super fun (and free!)

So, turns out modern quilting is NOT about using theme fabric! From looking at quilt blogs and such, I picked up a few main themes that make for ‘modern’ quilts – restyling traditional quilt patterns, lots of negative space, wonky piecing, unique backings and super-fresh colors. NOT country (or cartoon) couture!!

Restyling traditional patterns

For instance, here’s a traditional log cabin quilt, complete with the red centers on the blocks…


And here’s a modern take … oops! Looks like those red centers migrated!!


Negative space

Oh, and I mentioned negative space, didn’t I? Let’s take a look at this hexagon quilt. Totally a style I recall – I mean, don’t those terrible corner seams look like a bear to stitch? Who could forget that?


Here’s a modern take on a hexagon quilt…


Wonky wonky

I don’t quite understand the mechanics of it, but let’s talk wonky quilting… First, here’s a house quilt in a style I recall. I’m SURE I made some blocks like this from a ‘learn to piece’ book I had…

And now for the wonky modern take…


Hello, you look better from the back…

One of the coolest details I’ve seen since I’ve started snooping around quilting blogs is the backings! My memories of quilt backs are all centered around complicated match, trying to get as much bang for my buck piecing together the fabric and a giant sense of letdown. My favorite part of quilting (not surprisingly) is piecing. The backs were just tedious, boring, and if making anything larger than a wall hanging, pricey. My biggest innovation was loyalty to flannel-as-backing-fabric to improve the coziness factor. Check out these quilt backs! Not only are they cool LOOKING, they use up extra scraps and aren’t mind numbingly boring to sew!! This totally reminds me of fun garment sewing details like contrast facings, cuffs and bias finishing on seams…

back1  back4back2  back3

 [images Film in the Fridge upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right]

3-2-1 Color!

While this is just as much a shift in the general style over the last 15 years, coupled with the fabulous fabric designers out there, one other detail that has caught my eye while looking at the quilt sites is the use of COLOR!! Here’s a photo of the booth of Laundry Basket Quilts that I snagged from the Bunny Hill Blog. The photo was taken last year, but the palette and style are what ALL the quilt shops looked like when I last ventured into them…


The colors and designs are lovely, but very traditional, soft and muted. Compare that to this photo I snagged from Tall Grass Prairie Studio of the the Robert Kaufman booth with Modern Quilt Guild Challenge quilts. This photo was taken at Quilt Market which just happened a few weeks ago. Quite a difference from the more traditional Laundry Basket booth, isn’t it?


My plan

Alright penguins, my brief intro to modern quilting is now over. If any of you are more well-versed, pipe up in the comments!

While I still like the traditional quilt designs, with all their points and precision and begging for hand-piecing, I want my wedding-gift quilt to be a bit more fresh and appealing to the groom, who I haven’t met. Since I also haven’t met many men who love soft calicos and flying geese, a traditional quilt style didn’t seem quite the thing. Also, I’m already swamped with projects and don’t have the time to piece anything complicated in the next few weeks, so I decided to showcase my fantastic stack of green and brown fabrics in a random-width stringy quilt. This looks easy, doesn’t it??

strip quilts

For the back I’m planning on an offset stacked strip of the prints on a white background… like so.


I have some lighter linen for the front. I might do a bit of hand stitching on the linen with darker brown and green perl cotton a la Anna Maria Horner’s upcoming stitchery genius..

running stitch

I also piled on the vintage lace, thinking that I could affix that to one of the strips as well. I only have enough for one strip, at most, but the trim is 3” wide and would add some texture.

Fun, huh?? I won’t subject you to TOO many quilting posts, but I couldn’t resist sharing my euphoria-inducing pile of fabrics!

What’s good for babies??

One question before I sign off… I just got an invite for a baby shower (in TWO WEEKS!) and would like to include something handmade – normally I knit a sweater, but I don’t have the time! We will be also giving the ever-practical Target gift card, but any suggestions for a quick sewing related baby gift I could whip up? It seems that little babies are dressed in some sort of sack-like garment, so clothes sewing doesn’t seem reasonable. Plus, they appear to grow quickly… any help is appreciated! I’m baby-ignorant!

Off I go to save the world… I may be heading out for a last minute running trip to the great state of Iowa this afternoon. Mr. Bug is heading down to do a 20k, and if my last lesson of the day wraps in time, Lucy the hound and I are going along and will return to roadtrip work on my Miette sweater. At least, I will. Lucy will undoubtedly snore her way to Iowa. The car is puppy valium for her! If we miss our ride to Iowa, we’re staying home to sew. It’s a win-win for us!


  1. firstmute says:

    For the baby shower–flannel blanket are nice, but they're something that a lot of people get and give. An alternative but in the same line might be to make a stack of flannel wipes, either single or double layer, possibly with a different fabric on the back if you want to get fancy. I made a bunch before my daughter was born and, a year later, I still use them alllll the time for mopping up small messes! The blankets I only used for a few months.

    Cloth bibs are cute, but I didn't actually use them very much. They never seemed big enough to do the job!

  2. Sarah says:

    I love your fabrics for the quilt! I think they'll look great in a strip quilt. One tip – since you're using fabrics that aren't just quilting cottons make sure and test out the way your fabrics sew together on some scraps (to see what might stretch or get wonky or need to be stabilized somehow). I've made the mistake of not doing that and then getting really frustrated during the piecing process.

    For baby gifts, I think bibs are great because they are quick to make and you can make them with snaps (so much cuter and nicer than ones with cheap velcro from Target). Also, there's a neat pattern for a puzzle ball in Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts.

  3. Corrine says:

    I am a quilter. It becomes a passion. I prefer traditional quilts but recently have developed more of an eye for what you term modern quilts. Any bright and happy color will attract mom and baby and be very appreciated. What a good friend you are. I have presented many quilts as baby gifts and here is what I know. After all the cute little onesies (which are totally great and necessary) are washed and worn to threadbare, after all the toys and trinkets have passed their use date, your quilt will likely still be around. Used by a busy little toddler as a companion and nap cover, left folded on the bed on the first day of kindergarten. So make that quilt. What ever you decide for pattern or color will be great.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Baby gift—baby carriers! Ring slings (use rings from http://www.slingrings.com ONLY), mei tais, and pouches (a fleece pouch is awesome and easy for a fall baby, though a litlte warm for summer). Don't bother with the commercial patterns for carriers; there are tons of free patterns on line. Check out http://www.sleepingbaby.net/jan/Baby/ for the ultimate in baby carriers and other items to sew. I really love a mei tai as a gift because it's most 'mainstream' and you can make it reversible–mom's fabric on one side, and dad fabric on the other side. I love the wide, pleated straps style. Babywearing changed me as a parent and I wish every mom could experience the convinience, bonding, and joy of babywearing!
    TracyKM (www.tracykm.blogspot.com)

  5. Mary says:

    I want to first say, I love reading your blog and seeing your fearless use of color! It is so inspiring!

    My go-to baby gift is "Peanut the Wee Elephant" from Last-Minute Patchwork and Quilted gifts. Handmade stuffed animals are so adorable and always get a great reaction at baby showers. Although I've found that handmade anything gets a wonderful reaction, so whatever you make will be well-received! Good Luck!

  6. angie.a says:

    My go-to baby gift in a hurry is little "burp cloths" (horrible name). Everyone needs them, but they can still be cute too! Here are some I did for my cousin last fall:

    Also, my Lu was a summer baby and while I appreciated the flannel (or minky) receiving blankets in winter, they sat unused all summer. (It's HOT in OK.) What I used instead were several baby sheets I made out of cotton plisse. So cool and comfortable, but still a light "covering". (great for throwing over the car seat when out in the hot sun too, for shade yet still breezy!) I used plisse in sweet little girl prints for Lu, but I'm sure solids would be appreciated too!

  7. Karen in VA says:

    Great color scheme!!! I follow a few quilting blogs and I really love the more modern take on quilts. I also like ones that use different embellishments and unusual materials. Of course, many of them are meant to be hung as art and not used a bed covering… I also like that some of these techniques can be used to make unusual clothing…

  8. Anonymous says:

    Use some of that gorgeous fabric to make a very cool diaper bag for mom! There are great tutes and patterns out there in blog-land. Include a changing pad or blanket for trips to the plastic public changing places. Another cute thing–baby shoes (use suede for a non-slip bottom).

    Or go with the super cute sweater and hat combo, but in 12 month size (and the baby wont be changing sizes every 3 weeks, so he or she will wear it a lot longer too).-Lisa

  9. Jane says:

    The quilt sounds great! I second the idea for bibs as baby present. It's something that as a parent I have really resented having to spend money on. When I was given some for my first newborn I was a bit ambivalent but six months down the track I was so grateful! Also, they are quick and easy to sew up 2 or 3 cute ones in great fabrics, far nicer than anything shop-bought. Snaps for closures are good. Velcro sticks to everything else in the wash.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Easy peasy lightweight baby "blanket" – I made one Wednesday night for a baby shower today, with a crayon print for one side and a star print flannel for the other side – because I was always running out of clean blankets when my boys were little.

    one yard each of two fabrics (one for the 'front' and one for the 'back'). Pre-wash, cut straight edges on all four sides (need to cut selvages off) making sure front and back are the same size. Pin right sides together and sew around the edges with a 1/4" or 3/8" seam allowance, leaving 5 or 6 inches unsewn on one side for turning. Trim corners and pull right side out, pushing corners out (gently!). Iron all sides; pin opening, and topstitch all the way around.

    You can add a thin inner layer (batting or flannel). You can do some simple quilting (or tying) if you want…or not. You can do some simple strip piecing.

    I had some leftover fabric and made a couple of burp clothes to go with my blanket.

    from Jean Marie

  11. monkeysocks says:

    I saw this the other day and immediately wished i knew someone with a baby i could make one for.

  12. Ruby Girl says:

    wow, so much great info! thankssss!! i have lots to learn on the subject and would like to give this a go sometime. <3 EverRubyGirl.blogspot.com

  13. whistlepeaknits says:

    I think I would also go with a receiving blanket or a stroller blanket (a small lap quilt for tucking around the baby in the stroller or car seat. They will probably get a ton of clothes because shower attendees are not particularly imaginative or practical at times.

  14. MJ/Sweetwater Cloth says:

    I just can't see the appeal to quilting – but maybe it's my perfectionist side saying: you can't possibly make it perfect so don't even try! :) But I can't wait to see what you come up with!!

    The baby gifts I've gotten the best compliments on are bibs! Big bibs that cover more than just a tiny spot under their chins, and if you add a long strip of velcro of multiple snaps/buttons/etc they will grow with the baby until toddlerhood!

  15. sarajane says:

    Oh. My. Goodness. I absolutely LOVE your fabrics for that quilt. I have been contemplating making myself a quilt, but have been put off by all the old style quilty stuff: matching corners, math, etc. So I will be very excited to read along on your journey.

    My go-to baby shower gift is a basketfull of children's books.

  16. birdmommy says:

    Of all the baby stuff I've made or given, the one thing that has gotten the most requests for 'could you please make us some more' are really simple flannel blankets. Just a 1 metre by 1 metre square (I think that's about a yard?) with nice double folded, mitred cornered edges. They're perfect for swaddling little ones (since they're one layer you can fold them to fit the baby without them getting too bulky), but big enough that they can still be used as 'blankies' by bigger kids.

    By husband gives his guy friends a set of miniature/jewellers' screwdrivers and several 'club packs' of batteries in different sizes. You'd be amazed at how much baby stuff needs batteries – and they always die at the worst time (I'm thinking of the baby swing conking out at 2 am – that was not fun!). And for saftey, all of the battery compartments on baby devices are screwed shut. With tiny little screws.

  17. Allison says:

    As for baby gifts, try giving something that is meant to be USED, rather than WORN. Blankets, stuffed animals, or one of those things that hangs on the back of your car seat (ala http://www.simplicity.com/p-1994-crafts.aspx), a baby cart cushion (ala http://www.simplicity.com/p-2131-crafts.aspx) for use in a few months or even one of these bucket covers: http://www.simplicity.com/p-2132-crafts.aspx. Also bibs, maybe in a couple different sizes. All of these (except for the bibs, which will get a lot of use anyway) will be able to be used for a lot longer than that cute little jacket and hat.

  18. two birds says:

    wow, you are an amazing friend!! and i didn't know you worked at sewtropolis…that's pretty close to my house! as for babies…one of my kid's favorite things when they were babies were tab blankies. here's a link: http://ny-image1.etsy.com/il_fullxfull.226769721.jpg
    for some reason, babies love tabs!!

  19. Kimberly says:

    I never used the sack like things for my babies. Easy and fast would be some applique'd onesies. Newborns and infants go through a lot of clothes so unless they have 100 sacks, the onesies will get worn.

  20. Misfits Vintage says:

    OMG I ADORE the modern quilts. I would be thrilled beyond belief if anyone ever made me one – I hope your friend appreciates it! Your fabrics are gorgeous and I think the long strip design is perfect – not too fussy and lets the fabrics do the talking. I do also love the wonky houses but that would be for someone you knew would adore it (like me!).

    I'm sorry – the only things I have ever made for babies are crocheted blankets. You could whip up a simple granny square one in a couple of nights – but I suspect you are lot more exacting than me!

    Sarah xxx (And if anybody ever sees one of those hexagonal design quilts for sale pleas let me know!)

  21. Stacie says:

    I want to learn to quilt! For baby showers, I make receiving blankets. One side is minky, one side is flannel and then bind it. There are several tutorials on line. I like to make them in fun colorful patterns because as one friend said, "if I get anything else in pastel anything I'm going to barf!" Easy peasy, cheap and useful. I have also seen some cute tutorials for burp cloths too, but I haven't made one yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge