In years past, I have seen art quilts evolve from linear, grid based designs to organic swirly pieces with blobs (int he best sense of the word!) of design elements strategically placed. It is always a mystery to me why the linear, grid based designs went out of fashion. I suppose block quilts were just not ‘in’; too old fashioned, not new enough or fresh enough, boring. Too bad, too, because a linear, grid based designs make it easy to incorporate many of the principles of design.

-Unity? No problem. Put the same color in each block.
-Repetition? No problem. Put the same type of design element in each block.
-Balance? Put three design elements approximately equal distance from each other in the grid. Easy to measure or eyeball, because you have a grid.

Well, kids, they are back. Many of the quilts at the Quilt National exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, had some kind of underlying grid. Sue Benner’s piece Fugue XI, had a grid of stitching as part of the design. Lisa Call’s Structures #31 was also grid based. These are definitely art quilts and not the classical block based designs, but they also most definitely show that the design features of a grid works well in art quilts.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the organic, swirly designs. However, I do have problem if the general design is poor. Good design is everything. You can have ugly fabrics, a saggy structure, poor stitching, but if the design is good, fewer people will care about the other problems of the quilt. I also don’t think it is ok to just adhere fabrics to a backing and call it a quilt. You have to think about the design and be deliberate about placement. (Playtime quilts don’t count. If you are just working through ideas, by all means, just adhere blobs to fabric and get it out of your system. When you go to make something for Quilt National, then get your design board and principles out and spend some time thinking about the overall design.

One design book I like is called Design Basics by Pentak and Lauer. They update the edition every year or so so you should be able to easily find a used copy, which is just as good as the latest and greatest edition.