What to See at Folklife #144: The Seattle Modern Quilt Guild

(Many thanks to Chandra Wu for this guest post! The full schedule for the 2013 Northwest Folklife Festival will be available at www.nwfolklife.org/festival/schedule beginning May 1.)

Quilt by Katie Pedersen, photo by Rendy Tucker.

The Seattle Modern Quilt Guild is delighted to share some of its members quilts this year at Folklife.  This opportunity came together very quickly, kind of like our Quilt Guild, which began in the blogging community about 3-4 years ago.  One of our members, Charlotte Clark-Mahoney, has displayed her quilts at Intiman during Folklife for several years, where her notorious tie-dyed quilt has drawn a lot of interest and delighted quilt-lovers. She thought it might be fun to add more quilts to the space this year. Who doesn’t think any space looks better with a handcrafted quilt in it? Not us! We are happy to be invited to display at Folklife and we look forward to sharing some of our work with Folklife attendees.

The Seattle Modern Quilt Guild is part of a national movement in “modern” quilting that while very challenging to define, seems to represent a new generation of quilters that are connected through social media and dialoguing with one another about the relationship between this historic women’s utilitarian craft and the modern DIY art and craft movement. Perhaps modern quilters are exploring the context of their craft more publicly than previous generations of quilters due to the exposure of the internet and mobile technology. We see a lot of modern quilts influenced by modern or abstract design influences, architecture, text and minimalist graphic design.  Some modern quilts are utilizing traditional patterns using modern palettes and graphic prints, while others are conversing with traditional quilt patterns either through reinterpretation or improvisation. The Seattle Modern Quilt Guild had its first show at Island Quilter on Vashon Island last summer, and we will be returning there to exhibit quilts from our guild’s star challenge this June.

Quilt by Becca Jubie at 2012 SMQG show, photo by Louise Wackerman.

Modern quilts appear photographed on personal blogs, Flickr, Instagram or Pinterest, where other quilters and quilt enthusiasts can view them and share their thoughts and impressions with each other. If you wish to become more versed in the folk history and craft of quiltmaking, and its new modern directions, check out the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild blog and the members links on the sidebar, or check out the national Modern Quilt Guild and its member bloggers, or the various flickr groups associated with modern quilts. And if you do link to anyone’s work or become inspired by it, try to share the original inspiration and attribute the original artist or sewist, we love the acknowledgement!

Share your impression and ideas about modernity in the American quilt, using the #seattlemqg hashtag on instagram and/or tweet us @SeattleMQG, and tell us what you think so far. We hope that viewers can contemplate the relationship between our quilts and the quilts that they are already familiar with. We don’t really know what it means to call ourselves modern but we understand why the distinction is being made: just struggling to define what it is can lead to some pretty interesting conversation about modern craft and modern art. Creating new works that stem from this new discussion seems to be the closest I can come to describing what I see in modern quilts and those who sew them. Defining the modern quilting movement is a task that no one involved in it feels entirely qualified or comfortable doing, and I am no exception. Please forgive my attempt to share the importance of it with you while attempting to avoid labels that might marginalize or exclude some of the amazing contributions to modern quilting, and just come see for yourself!

The Seattle Modern Quilt Guild meets regularly and also organizes regular group “sew-ins” for socializing and discussing works in progress.  Check us out at http://seattlemodernquiltguild.com/ and if you start “following” any of our members, let us know you found us at Seattle’s Folklife!

Quilts will be on display throughout the Folklife weekend in the Intiman Courtyard.


Chandra Wu is the Vice President of Programs for the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild.  She is a former member of the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild and began producing quilts when she was expecting her first child in 2001.