I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of talented modern quilting artists over the years. Their craftsmanship and design skills are amazing. I want to make all of their quilt patterns! (Seriously, I do.)
Since there are so many beautiful and diverse modern patterns and quilt block designs around, I decided to explore one of the essences of modern quilting: fabric choice—specifically, solids versus prints.
When modern quilting became ‘a thing,’ solids were predominantly used. Several designers flourished and created a great deal of enthusiasm and renewed interest in solids.
“Racing Fade” by Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill is one of my favorite quilts. She uses solids exclusively—and so well. Sheri’s design was inspired by the checkered flag of car racing, which she imbues with gradient colored patches ‘fading’ from dark to light; the light patches almost disappear on the far edge.
Sheri’s careful color choices of solid purples, greens, and blues demonstrate how mighty the humble solid can be when combined with other solid friends. Her use of a consistent white background and dense quilting make an outstanding statement. A true winner in my book!
Lisa Swenson Ruble was also inspired by the checkerboard—in fact, naming this quilt design “Checkerboard.” Lisa uses a color block technique along with improv Log Cabin blocks in her design. The large color blocks of white and gray as background are accented dynamically with the orange and blue quilt blocks in bold solids. I love this quilt for the powerful, graphic quality provided by the solids. There is plenty of negative space in this design—another hallmark of the genre—for machine quilting.
Many designers have also explored using prints in their modern quilts. Malka Dubrawsky—whose work with solids and hand-dyed fabrics always thrills me—also works very effectively with prints. I particularly love her “Half Square Grande” for its perfect use of small-scale prints throughout the design.
One of Malka’s many skills is how well she utilizes value and color. In this quilt, she started with a pack of coordinated fat quarters. First, she split the fabrics into two groups: warm and cool. Then, she arranged each group by value: from light to dark. Only then did the cutting and sewing begin, building from the light center out with increasingly darker strips and quilt blocks. In the end, the quilt positively glows from its light center. The effectiveness of this design is complemented by Malka’s use of these relatively subtle prints.
Stacey Day created “Fade Away” with one solid—the white background—and a range of six gray prints, started from the lightest light and ending with the darkest dark. That full value stretch is key to this very effective design. The resulting quilt is a luscious ombré that is absolutely thrilling!
A third option, of course, is to use both prints and solids. One other favorite quilt is the mostly solid “Left and Right” by Louise Wackerman. Louise’s quilt is all about the value of her chosen colors and she does not ‘discriminate’ whether those fabrics are solids or subtle prints. Frankly, she used mostly solids but the occasional print is a hidden gem, calling for a closer look.
The key to using prints effectively in modern quilting is the prints themselves. Subtle, tone-on-tone, mottled, and low-volume prints are vibrant and eye-catching when paired with solids. They are team players that don’t scream “look at me,” detracting from the other fabrics or the paramount purpose—the quilt design itself.
All of the quilts I have mentioned are available for purchase individually. Enjoy more modern quilt patterns in the New Pattern category.
And did you know, Quilting Arts Magazine is celebrating its 100th issue?! We are all quite proud of this milestone and this wonderful issue. Check it out!
Always sew modern,