Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Using Contemporary Fabrics in Modern Quilting

When you enter a fabric or quilt store you may notice that fabrics today look much different than those of the past. Today a new category exists in terms of color and design. These new prints are much more rich and vibrant. And while smaller prints are still an important part of quilting, what’s being created today does not compare to the ditsy prints of the past. Quilting today is not always about repeating the past but taking the past and making it your own.

At FreeSpirit we believe Amy Butler was a catalyst in creating contemporary fabrics. She began looking outside of the industry for inspiration and expressing what she found in a whole new genre that was very different from the batiks, calico, and civil war prints most were accustomed to. Her new designs struck a chord with quilters and sewers, and awakened many who may never have sewed or quilted to give it a try.   

This revived spirit found in the modern printed fabrics play another important role in that they often catch the eye of people who may not quilt or sew, and who are then inspired to learn a new craft because they want to make something with the beautiful fabrics they’ve seen. We’re finding that contemporary fabric designs are breathing life into the industry and helping to carry on the traditions of sewing and quilting to those who may have a more modern aesthetic. 

And, as the fabrics we use have evolved so too has modern quilting. The ideals are about quilting in the now and giving ourselves permission to make our own rules. Modern quilting is all about the following:
-         - Being functional rather than decorative
-         - Asymmetry in quilt design
-         - Relying less on repetition and on the interaction of the block motifs
-         - Containing reinterpreted traditional blocks
-         - Embracing simplicity and minimalism
-         - Utilizing Alternative block structures or a lack of visible block structure
-         - Increased use of negative space
-         - Drawing inspiration from modern art and architecture
-         - Adding a print
When it comes to mixing prints and solids it’s all about balance. Much like your life needs balance between work and play, today’s quilting is all about the solids and prints balancing each other. Contemporary prints mixed together with solids help reflect traditional design but in colors and with drama that reflect today.

In this quilt by Janet Middlekauff of the blog Simply Pieced you first see the solid, then the print. The print and the colors of the print lend balance to the rich solids.

Adding a print to the fabrics in your quilt can add significant depth and dimension – sometimes lending an almost 3-D effect to your quilt. By mixing patterns and solids you allow the eye a place to rest (and simultaneously create a second pattern). Many find that cutting up prints offers surprises in the end result and spreads the color palette throughout the quilt. 

(Left) This modified Dresden, titled Gelassenheit, by Heather Jones certainly plays upon reinterpreting a traditional pattern, but the print floats on top of the solids. It pops and creates its own design.
(Right) A Twisted Path, by Simply Pieced, really shows how prints and solids can work together by creating depth and interest.

In these quilts the solid creates its own pattern and grounds the design.

Adding a print among solids adds design value to your quilt. The quilt below by Ashley Newcomb uses FreeSpirit GreenField Hills by Denyse Schmidt to create a line which becomes the central element of design on this quilt. It also has a great use of negative space allowing the prints to dance across the quilt.  

Mixing solids and prints can add an appearance of framing for both fabrics as the solids create a visual interruption in the print. Try putting the fabric first to make a simple quilt that lets the print speak. 

Adding a print to accompany your modern solids also adds texture to your quilt. Texture not just with the print but also the fabric or substrate. The print in this simplistic, and still very interesting, quilt is a linen/cotton blend from FreeSpirit presents Hapi by Amy Butler. The texture in this case is achieved within the fabric and the geometric print.

Adding a print can turn an already beautiful quilt design into a piece of art. The example below uses FreeSpirit Acacia by Tula Pink to create the butterfly in the center of the quilt. 

In quilting, and especially in modern quilting, there is room for all types of fabric. All types of substrates. All types of patterns and all types of solids. Solids may appear to have one personality but then all of the sudden when they’re mixed with a print that personality changes. Solids and prints need each other. Solids make prints special.

FreeSpirit challenges you to take your fabrics and swatches and put them on the floor or wall and move them around. Step back. See what moves you and then go for it. The bottom line is that it’s as much about the attitude of what is being done versus the fabric being used – so get out there and do what feels good to you! (And, please, share it with us on Facebook and Instagram by tagging us at @freespiritfabrics and #iamafreespirit!)

While not mixed with a solid per say, this patterned quilt reads as a mix of solids and prints because of how the fabrics are used together and mixed with more vibrant and saturated prints. What affect do these prints have on the background? How does the print read visually to you?

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