Chaska Area Quilt Club’s 2014 biennial show

Local quilters bring new life to an age-old pastime.
Peggy Tanler, owner of Prairie Point Quilting in Eden Prairie.

For some people, the term “quilting” brings to mind grandmas in rocking chairs or pioneer women who quilt out of necessity to keep their family warm, whereas “modern” is reserved for artwork, music, buildings and even furniture. But to members of the Chaska Area Quilt Club and many other communities of women around the world, these two terms fit together seamlessly.

Today, the traditional world of quilting is getting a modern overhaul as new styles, patterns and techniques make their way into quilts. From the use of solid fabrics in place of prints to the absence of borders and the use of negative space, modern quilts are bringing new life to the age-old tradition.

Peggy Tanler of Eden Prairie, who runs a business finishing quilts (the stitching that holds the quilt layers together) with her 12-foot long-arm machine, sees first hand the surge of interest in modern styles. Although she enjoys working on any style of quilt, it is a special treat when a client brings her a modern quilt because that’s when her intricate stitching takes a more prominent role. “With all of the negative space you can see the stitching … and it can be quite fabulous without all of the [traditional] color and fabric patterns,” she explains.

Although her business is just a few years old, Tanler is not new to the quilting scene. After 30 years of practice and at the age of 62 with two young grandchildren, some might think she fits the traditional grandmother quilting profile. But Tanler couldn’t be more excited to welcome the change. “It gives longevity and energy to the craft,” she says. Since more young quilters are joining in the pastime thanks to modern quilters guilds and a vibrant, supportive community, quilting doesn’t have to be labeled solely a “grandma craft.” In fact, Tanler has made a point in recent years of teaching young quilters and fostering a love of quilting.

Samantha Chenier of Deephaven completed her first quilt three years ago in one of Tanler’s quilting classes. Although the class wasn’t specifically focused on modern quilts, Chenier discovered that modern styles lend themselves to the less experienced quilter since they naturally have a simple design and often use straight lines. “Modern is a good place to start,” she explains. As a young mother in her 30s, Chenier doesn’t have endless hours to spend honing her craft, but enjoys piecing together baby quilts to give away as gifts. “It is a nice creative outlet where I end up with something that is practical, but also a piece of art,” she says.

Many quilters, like Chenier, incorporate elements of modern quilting into their own unique style and designs. As Linnea Stromberg of Chaska points out, “[Quilting] doesn’t necessarily have to be labeled traditional or modern.” There are many “traditional” quilts that incorporate a modern element or two, she explains. “We are all taught some basics, but you can go anywhere with it,” Tanler says. “You can take something very traditional and give it a little modern twist.”

Quilt Show

For a peek at local quilts—of both the traditional and modern varieties—check out the Chaska Area Quilt Club biennial show, September 26-27 at the Chaska Community Center (1661 Park Ridge Drive). There are more than 100 members from the greater southwest metro area, and the goal is for every one to enter a quilt in the show. This year will feature world-renowned quilter Gail Garber, who will lead three workshops and present two free lectures. Other highlights include a quilt challenge, silent auction, vendors and a raffle quilt crafted in part by the 2014 Minnesota Quilter of the Year and club co-founder, Audree Sells. Speaking of modern quilts, come check out the raffle quilt. As Stromberg points out, “It is anything but traditional.” Admission is $6. Visit caqc.net for details.