Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks

by Erica Greenwold Reisen

KayLynn Design Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks. Learn how to take traditional quilt blocks and infuse a modern influence.

First to introduce myself, I am Erica, Kathryn's daughter and website czar of KayLynn Designs. I am trained as a Fashion Designer, but have dabbled my whole life in quilting and other textile arts. Being Kathryn's daughter meant that I was sewing by time I was 5 years old and accompanied her to many quilt shows, appraisals, and guild meetings. Even though my mom and I share a love of textiles and sewing, we often have very different opinions about aesthetics, colors, fabric choices, etc... As a kid and teen, I was more interested in making garments and costume designs than I was with quilting. I think this is in part because I didn't feel the connection to traditional quilting like my mom did.   Though, in the early 2000's, a new trend in quilt design began taking shape. One which ultimately piqued my interest and would bring me back to the art of quilting.

KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts with Traditional Blocks - "Sol" by Kathryn Greenwold

Modern Quilting is characterized by use of bright colors and prints, high contrast, solid neutral backgrounds, minimalism, and asymmetry. Many utilize traditional blocks in atypical arrangements and color pairings. Often, quilters will showcase complicated, intricate stitch-work over the neutral backgrounds.

Modern Quilting has grown in popularity largely because of social media and blogs, reaching a new generation of quilters that didn't necessarily grow up knowing how to sew or learning about traditional quilts.  You can find beautiful examples of Modern Quilting all over Instagram and Pinterest. Like modern art, Modern Quilting uses minimalism and space to communicate emotions and ideas. Younger quilters (Gen Y and the Millennials) are drawn to this style because it mirrors many elements of our values, lifestyle, fashion, interior design, architecture, etc... It is also a relatively easy style of quilting to learn, many modern quilts use simple piecing techniques such as strip-piecing or Half-Square Triangles (get your FREE Half-Square Triangle Tutorial here!).  As artists and makers, we are drawn to work that we can obsess over and lose ourselves in, but that in the end is both beautiful and functional.

KayLynn Designs' two books, Amish Shadows, Light Reflected and Roads to Everywhere, Ladders to Heaven both include designs that work marvelously as Modern Quilts.

Foundations

This quilt uses the traditional Amish Shadows block in a high contrast magenta-red ombre made from 4 tone-on-tone fabrics from Jinny Beyer set on a gray background. Kathryn drew inspiration from a crumbled building we came across on a hike when I was a child, near Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks. The remains of this woodland homestead are echoed in the asymmetrical and off-kilter placement of the blocks. Foundations invokes the Modern style through these elements. This quilt was created as a collaboration,  designed & quilted by Kathryn, and pieced by Lynn.

Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks Blog Post from KayLynn Design. "Foundations" from the book, Amish Shadows, Light. Reflected Designed & Made by Kathryn Greenwold & Lynn Reynolds Makrin
Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks Blog Post from KayLynn Design. "Foundations" from the book, Amish Shadows, Light. Reflected Designed & Made by Kathryn Greenwold & Lynn Reynolds Makrin

Catskill Mountainscape

Also featured in Amish Shadows, Light Reflected, Catskill Mountainscape was designed with modern influences, and also draws inspiration from traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e paintings. Important elements for both styles are the use of positive and negative space to create "Floating World" effect signature to Ukiyo-e.  Catskill Mountainscape is a perfect example of a tradititional block and inspiration being used in an innovative new style. The design is by Kathryn, and the quilt itself was made by Mary McNamara.

KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Patterns - "Catskill Mountainscape" Designed by Kathryn Greenwold, Pieced & Quilted by Mary McNamara
KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Patterns - "Catskill Mountainscape" Designed by Kathryn Greenwold, Pieced & Quilted by Mary McNamara

X Marks the Spot

This quilt was featured in Roads to Everywhere, Ladders to Heaven. What makes this a truly modern quilt is the application of pop colors set against a dark background. This quilt was made with a strip pack and layer cake from the same line of polka dot fabrics and was intentionally designed to work with the precut sets.

KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks - "X Marks the Spot" by Kathryn Greenwold. Pattern Available in the KayLynn Designs Shop
KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks - "X Marks the Spot" by Kathryn Greenwold. Pattern Available in the KayLynn Designs Shop

Tile

Tile is a Mondrian inspired Modern Quilt which uses a simple rectangle and strip based pattern which you can download here! Designed & made by Kathryn, this quilt channels mod style and mid-century modern elements.

KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks - "Tile" by Kathryn Greenwold
KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks - "Tile" by Kathryn Greenwold

Design Your Own Modern Quilt

As I mentioned before, it is not too difficult to get started with Modern Quilting. If you have never quilted before or you just like some guidelines, grab a pattern or one of the KayLynn Designs' books. When choosing fabrics, go bold and high-contrast. Choose a neutral for your background, grays, white, ivory, or black are the usual suspects. For your colors, some options to consider are ombre of one color family, brights & neons, or go full-rainbow!

KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks - Close up of a block by Erica Greenwold Reisen

When I was starting my own Modern Quilt, using the Field & Fallow design from Amish Shadows, Light Reflected, I opted for a cool gray solid for my back ground and 4 shades of teal for my ombre. For the quilting, I replicated the design from the lightest fabric by making a paper hexagon template to trace with chalk.

The color story and design of this quilt are inspired by two of my favorite shows, The X-Files and Twin Peaks. Which I realize is probably a little strange! I have yet to finish this quilt, but when I do, I will definitely share it on the KayLynn Designs Facebook Page!

I hope that you are feeling inspired to go out and start your own Modern Quilt! If you need more inspiration, check out The Modern Quilt Guild's website and Instagram, and the Me + You Instagram! If you use a KayLynn Designs pattern for your own Modern Quilt, be sure to share photos of it in the comments or on our Facebook Page! We love to see what people come up with! Happy Sewing!

Give Your Creative Juices a Shot of Inspiration

Renew, Refresh, and Relax This Summer

Summer is a time for vacations, visiting family, gardening, relaxing and quilt shows! Some of my favorite vacation memories are of when we were on Cape Cod, Washington, DC, or traveling through Indiana on our way to Chicago, and stumbled across quilt shows. My family was indulgent and let me stop to see the quilts. It has always struck me how different regions of the country foster different quilts. The trends in piecing or appliqué are unique, even in this day and age of internet communication.

KayLynn Designs

August 6th & 7th, Lynn and I will travel to Lake Luzerne, NY for the Hudson River Piecemakers Quilt Show. I have judged this show since 2008 and always look forward to seeing their newest creations. KayLynn will be vending throughout the show. I am offering appraisals and I will present my lecture, “Don’t Throw It Out – Save That Quilt!” Repair and restoration techniques are presented and I will demonstrate some methods for giving a quilt a few more years of life. Some quilts cannot be saved, but often they can be reproduced, so we will also talk about how to create a new “old” quilt. There is a per quilt fee for appraisals that will be shared with the guild. Contact us to schedule an appraisal or for more information.

The Hudson River Piecemakers have members from throughout the east/central Adirondack Region, bringing their own distinct style and techniques to us in this show. It’s only an hour from Albany and well worth the trip.

Summer is also a time for county and state fairs. Lynn and I were at the Saratoga County Fair last week for a book signing. Several local authors were participating and we were in the Home Arts Building. All the quilts from this year’s Fair were hung from the rafters above us and we were surrounded by paintings, garments, photographs, embroidery, hooked rugs and other craft and art items. It was a wonderful two days sharing our quilt patterns and books. If you can’t make it to Lake Luzerne, find a show or fair close to where you live or while on vacation. See what other quilters are doing. You will come home refreshed and inspired to get back into your own quilt projects, or to start some new ones!

Peace,

Kathryn

Marriage

by Kathryn Greenwold

My husband and I just returned home from our daughter’s wedding.  In early June, Lynn and her family attended her sister’s wedding.  As our families celebrated these two unions I began to think about how our quilts are often a “marriage” of the traditional with something new. 

KayLynn Designs This Way Forward by Kathryn Greenwold from the quilt pattern book, Roads to Everywhere, Ladders to Heaven

It has always amazed me that antique quilts were made in spare time, after all the chores were done and the family fed, often by candle or gaslight.  I learned to hand piece and hand quilt as a child.  However, my grandmother used her sewing machine to set blocks together.  She saw the value of tradition, but used the machine to complete her top more efficiently.  It seems that whenever women had access to a new tool or a better way of completing a task they took advantage of it. 

We now cut the pieces for traditional blocks with a rotary cutter and machine sew them.  Our appliqué patterns may be needle turned, but they also might be fused in place and machine sewn.  We have many rulers, squares, templates, quick piecing techniques to ease our work, and we have bright lights to illuminate what it is we are working on. 

A recent development in the quilting world that I am drawn to is the Slow Stitch Movement.  Slow Stitch does not mean a return to the “old ways.”  Rather it encourages us to plan our quilts, to have a purpose, and to be mindful of the process of making each piece.  It is heartening to see that we have gone full circle in many ways.  My grandmother made quilts because they were needed for warmth (her purpose), but she loved the process of making something that was beautiful.  Our stash should not be ever growing, but used.  We need to work with materials we love, patronize our local quilt shops, enjoy the process of making our quilts, build friendships within the quilting community, and lovingly use our quilts or gladly give them away. 

Which brings me back to marriage.  A marriage is entered into through love and devotion.  It takes hard work to keep the marriage strong.  The result of this work is that the love and friendship grow deeper and purpose is found in a life together.  Make your quilts lovingly so that they can be as strong and beautiful as a good marriage. 

Peace,

Kathryn

Get to know the Artists!

By Kathryn Greenwold kathie and lynn at showLynn and I have been friends for about 10 years and have collaborated on two quilt pattern books.  Our creative partnership works because in many ways we are the same.  We are inspired by the world around us, find joy in life, work for peace and justice within our community, and are devoted to our family and friends.  However, it also seems to work at least in part because we are so different in our approaches to quilting.  Lynn focuses on precision, paper piecing, miniatures, and details.  I love traditional quilting, but rarely focus on precision piecing.  I especially enjoy the freedom of art quilting, use of non-traditional materials, and experimenting with new ideas.  We balance each other which keeps it real for both of us.  

Lynn and I decided we wanted to share a little more about ourselves and our approach to quilting.  So far on this website we have mainly shared images from our books and patterns, but we have each made a plethora of quilts, wall hangings, and textile art which reflect who we are as individuals and as artists.  

KayLynn Designs Kathryn Greenwold Sol Art Quilt

"My quilts, patterns, and textile art span a wide range of styles.  I still love to make traditional quilts with the challenge of recreating a part of our quilt history.  In contrast, I love to work with unusual art materials and textiles making art quilts and framed textile pieces.  The freedom of design is exciting.  I have always been interested in space exploration, geology, and landscapes.  Much of my creative inspiration comes from these interests.  Sol pictured to the left is my response to the paintings of Sol LeWitt.  I used 20 pre-cut solid fabric strips for the colors.  The challenge in designing this quilt was calculating the angle for cutting.

KayLynn Designs Kathryn Greenwold Burgoyne Surrounded Quilt Pattern

Burgoyne Surrounded was my first published pattern.  I streamlined the piecing to make this tedious traditional pattern easier to piece and more accurate in block construction.

As I have explored the history of quilts and quilting, I took the AQS Appraisal Skills Course and apprenticed myself to one of the Certified Appraisers for a period of 3 years.  I also studied judging quilts through the NQA program.  I now offer appraisal and judging services as well as teaching, designing, writing, and custom quilting.  

KayLynn Designs Kathryn Greenwold Pine Bush Forest Floor Art Quilt Mixed Media

The work, Pine Bush Forest Floor, is one of a series of forest floors I have made using cotton, wool and silk rovings, real lichens and bark, handmade flowers and leaves, bark paper and other found objects.  They are made to be laid on a table or floor, as if you are looking down at the forest floor.  The elements included here were inspired by the Pine Bush, a unique habitat in the Albany, NY area that is home to the Blue Karner butterfly and other rare flora and fauna. "

Read more about Kathryn in her Bio on the About Page.

And now let's hear from Lynn on her personal approach!

"In 8th Grade I made my own dress for the graduation ceremony. Since then sewing has always been my hobby. Quilting, however, came to me in a blizzard, when the school where I was teaching in Hoboken, New Jersey was closed for an entire week. It was then I learned about the power of creation using little bits of fabric scraps and a plan, however simple. In these 20 years since then, I have taught both music education and quilting to students of all ages and skill levels.

KayLynn Designs Lynn Reynolds Makrin FLW Frank Lloyd Wright inspired set of small quilts

My recent focus has been on collaboration within the arts. Any time two or more work together on a project, great things are bound to happen. Working with Kathryn on our books and the development of KayLynn Designs has led to greater creativity in my designs. The results have been not only fun, but also added to my feeling that “the possibilities are endless” when it comes to artistic collaboration.

For my personal projects, I often draw inspiration from art and architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright’s windows were the inspiration FLW, a pair of small quilts.  Stained glass and the work of artists like Dale Chihuly often inform my design ideas.   Miniature quilts are one of my passions.  It’s a challenge to take a standard pattern and make it smaller.  It also allows me to be “green” by using up leftovers from other projects in these small creations.  

KayLynn Designs Lynn Reynolds Makrin Petite NY Beauty Miniature Quilt

To the right is a miniature New York Beauty that was inspired by the Schenectady (NY) guild’s raffle quilt one year which was a standard size New York Beauty.  Note the tape measure (12”) on the left hand side of this picture.  Each block is about 2” square and over 150 tiny pieces were pieced to create this quilt.  

For this next quilt, the "squiggles" technique was learned from a local art quilter in the winter of 2011.

Seven

Layers of fabric are sewn with a free-hand drawn design and then cut away to reveal the gorgeous colors below.  The piece was completed with appliqué fibers sewn to cover the seams and free-motion quilting to accent the other design elements. This technique leaves lots of room for creativity and surprise."

To learn more about Lynn, visit her bio on the About Page.