Guild Challenges, Part I

When I volunteered to arrange programs for one of my modern guilds this year, I didn’t realize the job included coming up with a challenge each month.  Luckily, there were lots of ideas for guild challenges in internet-world, so the challenges weren’t too much of a challenge.  (Sorry, that just slipped in!)

I thought it might be helpful to other modern guilds if I posted our proposed challenges, since I’m sure other folks are in need of ideas, too.  So here’s the first one: slabs.  If you don’t know what a slab quilt block is, Canadian quilter Cheryl Arkison published the idea in her book Sunday Morning Quilts.  You can see a picture and instructions here.

modern quilt challenge

Slabs can be addictive!  And a quilt of many colors is fun.

In January, each member received brief instructions on how to make a “slab” of a single color of the rainbow.  Sort of.  While trying to figure out how to set up the rainbow challenge, I found this quote from Isaac Asimov (one of my heroes):

It is customary to list indigo as a color lying between blue and violet, but it has never seemed to me that indigo is worth the dignity of being considered a separate color. To my eyes it seems merely deep blue.

So our colors for the challenge are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.  Seems like the main value of indigo and violet is that they let us spell out ROY G BIV.  Huh.

Our slabs are 15-1/2 inches square, to be 15 inch finished blocks.  Each person makes one in her assigned color, then can make as many others as she wants in as many of the six basic colors as she wants.  At the next meeting, we’ll put all our slabs in a pile and each person’s name will go in a basket once for each block she turns in.  Then we’ll draw a name and somebody gets all the blocks.  Of course she’s expected to make something wonderful with those blocks before the next meeting!

I e-mailed examples of slab quilts to guild members as part of the challenge and also took some of my quilts to show.

slab quilt

Jerri Szlizewski combined her purple slabs with neutral slabs, then appliqued purple dots on the neutral backgrounds

Improvised slab quilt

I cut up the yellow-orange slabs I got in a swap and inserted blue

Does your modern guild have some great challenge ideas?  Let me know!  I’ll be posting about our other challenges as we go along so you can use them, too.


Your Inner Designer: 3 Formulas for Modern Quilts

It seems to me that, when learning a new skill, there is often a “formula” or basic idea that, once mastered, provides a way into successful practice of the new skill.  So here are 3 ideas for you to try.  See if one of them helps you create designs that you like.

1. Use lots of “negative space”, and start by making this background space in a shade of gray.  (The person who brought my attention to this “rule” of modern quilting has asked to remain anonymous 😉 )  Here are some examples, but I’m sure you know of lots of others:

modern quilt

Shades of Gray by Terry Aske. 2nd place award in the Modern category, Quilts Canada 2014

modern quilt

Found on

2. Another common way to “design” a modern quilt is to make it an obvious take-off from a piece of 20th Century art (or occasionally more recent art).  My design below is by no means an exact copy of any of Piet Mondrian’s work, but it certainly is an imitation of him:

modern quilt design

Thanks, Piet! by Mary  J. Puckett

Sometimes I do see modern quilts that are a direct imitation of an artwork.  However, my preference is to look at a lot of work by one artist, or by a group of similar artists, then close the book and draw something original that “references” the works I’ve studied.

For example, here’s a print I found at an Etsy shop called “Handz”.  Compare it to the quilt just below it.  It’s not a copy, but it could have been based on the print.  Or they could have both been inspired by another source altogether.

modern art print

Mid Century Modern Art print found at Handz on Etsy

modern quiilt

finished – modern drunkard’s path by m_soto on Flickr

3. Just start with modern fabric.  One of my favorite “modern” quilters is Rita at Red Pepper Quilts.  Many of her quilts are traditional designs, but she uses bright, modern, fabrics and her quilts always look fresh and modern to me.

modern quilt

Spools and Nine Patch Quilt by Rita at Red Pepper Quilts

Here’s a detail of another of Rita’s quilts:

modern quilt

Detail of a quilt by Rita at Red Pepper Quilts

Give some of these ideas a try, and let me know what you come up with!

Quilt Design 4: Choosing your color scheme

Of all the things people think they need help with, color is mentioned most often. Indeed, color can be complicated if you want to make it that way, but my preference is to make it simple. So here goes…

quilt design

Example 1: Purple Quilt

A good starting place is your favorite color. You don’t have to think too much about what that is. So start with your favorite color and then add colors that you like to see with it. Never mind that stuff about analogous color schemes being restful and complementary color schemes being lively. Yes, they are true, but if you do it that way you’re likely over-thinking it. If YOU like the color scheme, then go for it!  I love purple, so that’s what I chose for this first example.  I like gold with it, and the thought process was “I like gold with it so I’ll use it” rather than, “Gold is complementary to purple so I’ll use it.”  However, if knowing it’s complementary helps you, by all means use that framework.  I chose a grey background fabric because grey is “good this year”, as my Mother would have put it.

But let’s assume you want a color scheme kind of worked out in advance.  A common piece of advice is to pick a print as your feature fabric and then choose your coordinates from the colors in the feature print. That works fine, but it assumes you want a multi-color print as the focal point of your quilt.

One of thousands of color schemes all ready to use at

One of thousands of color schemes all ready to use at

There are lots of other ways that work at least as well. Color schemes are everywhere you look, and they’ve already been worked out by many design experts, from Mother Nature to New York City advertising specialists. Flip through a favorite magazine and choose an ad with colors that appeal to you. Take a snapshot of something pretty and use the colors you see there. Go to to view thousands of color combinations.  You can subscribe to a free daily e-mail featuring some of them. Start a Pinterest board where you save color combinations that appeal to you. Above all, have confidence in your own judgment: If YOU like it, that’s good enough!

modern quilt

Color scheme is from a visit to southern New Mexico

Now, go practice by finding some color schemes you like and designing quilts with them. As always, designing on paper counts!  And if this wasn’t enough information about color to suit you, don’t worry–I’ll be saying lots more later!

A Few Internet Ideas

A good while back I listed what I thought were some helpful hints for quilters, but there were too many to fit into a post of the length I like.  So, here are a few more, these related to the internet:

Colors:  If you want some new ideas about colors and palates, subscribe to Design Seeds ( to get free palates delivered to your mailbox every day.  It’s a great inspiration!  Here’s an example of the type of thing they send every day:

street hues

Keep track of internet ideas:  I use Pinterest ( to keep track of things I find on the internet, from quilts I want to see again to inspiration and color trends. If you like, you can go to my page ( and get an idea of how it works by browsing my boards.  Here’s a picture of the front page of one of my boards:

Quilt Ideas

Quilt Ideas / by Mary Puckett

56 Pins

Search colors:  Use Pinterest to keep up with color trends.  By putting “Pantone colors 2014” in the search box, you will get an array of palates predicted to be popular in the next season. The Pantone company provides color standards for the advertising industry but also is at the forefront of color predictions.  You can also Google “Pantone color of the year” and similar phrases to get interesting results.  Here’s a pin of the pantone color of the year 2014, just from putting the words in the Pinterest search box:

PANTONE Color of the Year 2014 - Radiant Orchid decor

PANTONE Color of the Year 2014 – Radiant Orchid decor

So, go have fun on the internet!