Modern quilts and traditional quilts - what are the differences?

I love all quilts and I just don't want to have to declare myself a traditional quilter or a modern quilter.  (Although I did have a semi hilarious experience in a quilt store where a cranky woman queried, "You're not one of them modern quilters, are you?")  Sometimes in life you have to choose, you have to make up your mind.

Cue the Lovin' Spoonful and sing along:

"Did you ever have to make up your mind?

You pick up on one and leave the other one behind

It's not often easy and not often kind

Did you ever have to make up  your mind?".


But not all of life is like that!  We don't have to be A or B, we can be Ab!  We can like and embrace chocolate and vanilla!  We can read actual books and books on Kindle.  We can visit with people face to face, send them emails, chat on Facebook and every other social media.  I like to include more  and not exclude.

tradhqrezCurrently in quilting, I feel I am in the minority to like BOTH.  Guilds have even sprung up just for modern quilts.  Some quilters reject one or the other.  What are they?  I will give you my impression of what they both are.

Traditional quilting has been popular for a long time, the blocks have names and the patterns were created a while ago.  Many quilters still make them but use modern techniques.  You can read more about it here.  Depending on the fabrics and colors, I lust after some traditional quilts.  I have made lots of them.  Here is one which I made as part of a block of the month endeavor at my local quilt store.  It took a year to make all the blocks and another six months to quilt it by hand.  It looks a little washed out in the picture, but it is a beautiful quilt.  Right now, it is stored in my office closet but some day, I know my youngest will display it or use it and it will look great.

All of the blocks have names and using different blocks like this is called a Sampler quilt.  The fabrics are traditional and the colors all go together, in fact they are all from the Paris Flea Market collection.  I have lots of them left over in case when this quilt is used, pillow shams or something else is needed. I am talking LOTS leftover, yards and yards.  This is because in traditional quilting, the color palette and fabrics are used to all go together.

My grandmother and her sisters quilted, they would be comfortable with this quilt although I used a rotary cutter and strip piecing on some of these traditional blocks.  Don't you agree, traditional quilts are great.

I also, being the scandalous woman that I am, love modern quilting.  I am guilty as charged by the crabby store owner.  In my opinion, modern quilts use BRIGHT fabrics, even solids which was the issue that store owner had with me.  The quilting is not overly done.  The quilts are functional and fun, even have negative space contained within the quilt.  (I want to make a quilt like that.)  Overall, they are colorful quilts which are meant to be used and they POP.  You can read more about them at this site.

I am just starting to make some modern quilts.  Here is one I would consider modern although it is probably not the most modern I have made.  Shelby's quiltrezIt is also my younger daughter's quilt and she used it for a couple of  years before moving to Spain.  She left a lot of stuff for her roomie to use but not her quilts!  This quilt is safely stored in the same closet.  If you recognize the fabrics it is because they are mainly Kaffe Fassett.  Take a look at his fabulous website and drool, just drool.   This quilt is machine quilted with large meandering.  The bright fabrics are set off with a marbled solid.  These blocks do not have names but the quilt is made from a pattern called Slide Show.  I want to make other variations of that pattern some day.

These two quilts are both basically pink and green.  But boy are they different!  And I love them both even if I did make both myself.   Because there is room in this world for traditional quilts and modern quilts.  I love both just like I love both my parents and both my girls.  Some times, you don't have to make up your mind, you can have both!

Sew happy!

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    Kathy Mathews

    My passions are quilting and sewing. Add to that French, Spanish, books, swimming, travels, new restaurants, yoga and chocolate and you have me. All of these are best shared with family and friends. Except for chocolate, don't touch my chocolate. You can email me at

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