What makes a quilt block modern? I’ve been thinking about this question, and the best answer I can come up with is negative space. When I first learned how to quilt 15 years ago, the idea of using solid fabric wasn’t on my radar. To my knowledge, the only people doing that were the Amish, and they were definitely not “modern” in my mind.
So I went about pairing as many modern-looking fabrics together, with no real thought for contrast and composition. I was just trying to create a pretty quilt. Use as many pretty fabrics as possible and you make a pretty quilt, right? 😉 I won’t say that I was completely unsuccessful, but now, I see the importance of balance in a quilt composition.
For example, if a quilt contains only large-scale prints, the pattern will get lost and some of the excitement of the large-scale print will be diminished because there is nothing to offset it – the viewer does not know where to focus attention. However, if a small print is introduced to balance the large-scale fabric, the pattern becomes more discernible and the viewer has a better understanding of the hierarchy in the composition.
Now this is where I continue with that line of thinking and say, if a small print juxtaposed with a large-scale print can bring more balance, a solid fabric thrown into the mix will bring even more clarity to the architecture of the design.
Once solid fabrics are introduced, the quilt pattern becomes very distinct – thus allowing the quilt to be structured and bold! That’s definitely not the only mark of a modern quilt. Some beautiful modern quilts use slight gradations in color and print to create a “watercolor” effect and a more soothing aesthetic.
For the sake of this blog post, though, I am going to focus on the use of negative space to make a quilt block modern. To quickly define negative space so you know what I mean, it is the space around the object in an image. For our quilty purposes, I’ll say that it is the backdrop behind the focal object or pattern in a composition.
Negative space does not always need to be white. As you can see in my Perennial quilt, the negative space is actually lavender. It’s not even the lightest color in the quilt. However, because of its presence, the “flowers” pop forward and is the main focus in the design.
When looking through these five different quilt block patterns, think about how you can utilize negative space to create a modern look. Click on the pattern name to find the entire pattern instructions.
This quilt is actually designed to use 1930s reproduction fabric, however the use of negative space gives this design a modern look. You could take it a step further and use a limited color palette for the ultimate modern, minimal appearance.
A super simple block for a newbie quilter. You could use a mixture of scraps, solids or prints. Depending on the placement of colors, this block can look like Xs or Os. Cute, right? 🙂
This quilt can look drastically different based on fabrics you use. You could even use a dark background fabric and a light fabric to make the crosses really pop.
The base of this block is simple half square triangles. Visit this link to see my tutorial on half square triangles as well as a math chart to help you easily size these blocks up or down. Although the arrangement of these HSTs can look traditional, by limiting the color palette to a few colors it will look striking and contemporary.
The key to making this traditional quilt block modern is to pick a few colors and stick with them. If you introduce too many colors, it will begin to look like a more traditional quilt. However, within a color range, you could play with different prints and solids.