What makes a modern quilt pattern?
Asymmetry. Bold, unusual color choices. Gradients. Popular novelty trends. Remixing the classics.
Of course, classic quilt patterns are classics for a reason–they’re timeless, and they always fit. But if you’re looking for brand new patterns, or inspiration to play with unusual colors, or permission to riff on your favorite pop culture themes, then look below for my list of my favorite FREE modern quilt patterns.
And remember, when you make your favorite quilt pattern, below, don’t feel like you have to follow it exactly! Personalizing the pattern to fit your personal style is the key to creating a modern style.
Half-Square Triangle Block
Look closely, and you’ll see that this quilt is made from one of the most traditional–and simplest!–blocks that there are: the half-square triangle block. Even beginning sewers can easily master this quilt pattern! The key to making it into a modern quilt, then, is the color scheme. Notice the unusual color combination of mustard yellow and grey, and the black that you would think would clash horribly with the mustard, but doesn’t.
Also, notice the asymmetry of the quilt. Even though the pattern is uniform, and could be monotonous, the eye is continually engaged because there’s no clear rhyme scheme with the way the colors are laid out.
Here’s another way to turn the half-square triangle block into a modern quilt pattern–the herringbone. The layout means that people will have to take a close look to figure out how simple the blocks really are, and it’s that simplicity that makes it modern.
This quilt has a very contemporary color scheme and the way that it’s pieced means that you could choose only the motifs that you like best, substituting them for any motifs that don’t appeal to you.
Mustard and Grey
This is a really popular color combination right now! Again, this is a simple quilt pattern, the hourglass block, with the color choice the thing that makes the quilt contemporary. Mustard and grey look well with greys, black, and white, so you have more options than you might think.
Of course, not all modern quilt color combinations are mustard and grey. Color gradations, ombre, and rainbow schemes are all wonderful choices. I’m especially fond of these types of quilts because they look novel and contemporary, but I don’t have to worry that today’s “trendy” colors will look old-fashioned in 50 years.
Modern quilt patterns often remix classic quilt blocks in unusual ways. This houndstooth quilt, for instance, comes together like a nine-patch quilt, but you would never know that by looking at it!
You don’t have to abandon classic or vintage prints and patterns to make a modern quilt. Look closely at the quilting in this quilt, and you’ll see a chaos of zig-zags and squiggles that interest the eye, even while the fabrics, themselves, utilize more classic colors and prints. In many ways, it’s the best of both worlds–a pieced quilt that never goes out of style, with something extra for those who have the eyes to see!
I’ve mentioned asymmetry a few times as a key component of modern quilts, but here is another great example. You’ll recognize the trendy colors, but also notice that the overarching pattern of the quilt as a whole is off-center. You can do this with any large-scale pattern, and I think it would be especially enchanting to continue the pattern on a matching quilt, perhaps for a room that children share or a guest bedroom with twin beds.
Every generation has its own particular theming. I fondly remember how great paisley and giant sunflowers (bonus points if they were pieced out of paisley prints) were in the 70s, and Sunbonnet Sue was pretty hot when my great-grandmother sewed a huge Sunbonnet Sue quilt that got passed down to me. These days, though? We shine through the power of GEOMETRY! Like modern architecture, simple lines are transformative when put together in compelling ways.
There is nothing more modern than whatever is the going pop culture obsession of the day. Fan art has come a long way–a decade ago, collectors sneered at my Star Wars and Avengers T-shirt quilts as a bad way to waste a good T-shirt, but these days half of my local Comic-Con’s dealer tables are indie artists with their fan art, and my collection of original prints of fan art in my favorite genres is growing. Too much information, I know, but whatever.
So yes, you CAN make a T-shirt quilt out of your favorite Star Wars characters, or a postage stamp quilt in which every block represents one pixel of your favorite Super Mario Bros. scene. Your descendants will be fighting over that one!