Modern quiltingModern Quilting Blog

In this new showcase I’m featuring four Modern Quilters that you will love!

Jayne Willis

I’m Jayne (AKA Twiggy & Opal) and I live just outside of Nashville Tennessee.  I began sewing when I was a girl in school, but it was always a casual interest.  There has always been ‘needles and thread’ in some form or another in my life, but nothing that changed me like quilting has.

My daughter Britt taught me how to quilt in 2005. She begged me relentlessly to learn, and I finally decided to try it, mostly so she would stop bugging me. Little did I know then that I would come to love quilting with a passion I never knew I had!  I couldn’t be more thankful for the ‘gentle’ nudge she gave me.  From there I taught myself by experimenting with techniques, styles, colors and designs.  I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to do quilting, which allows me to sometimes think outside the box.

I’ve always been drawn to color.  My favorite color combination is yellow, pink and orange, and gray is my go-to background color of choice.  Solids are what I’m most comfortable with; that’s not to say a print or two won’t make it into a design on occasion! 
The one technique that changed everything for me was improv quilting.  The ‘no rules/no rulers’ intrigued me and stimulated my brain like no other technique.  I love puzzling together bits and pieces!  There’s a freedom I feel in letting go and seeing where a design will take me.  I’ve also come to love the precision of foundation paper piecing.  After a little improv it’s nice to change it up.  Curves, whether improv, drunkard path blocks or circles have been a favorite of mine and make appearances in many styles of my quilts. 
I get inspiration from all the places everyone else does: lines and patterns found in nature, other quilters, fabric, and flowers.  Since the pandemic, we have planted and are growing a flower garden. Flowers are a great inspiration.  Who’s to argue with natures color palette?! Often I’ll visualize and daydream about ideas I have.  I love to let my mind wander with ideas until I’m ready to tackle new compositions.  Imagination is the best source of all!


Becky McNeill

I started quilting as a child with very traditional, hand-pieced quilts made with cardboard templates just like my great-grandmother made. I didn’t really enjoy following patterns, and I especially didn’t like having to be precise in measuring, cutting, and piecing, but that was the only style of quilting that anyone I knew was doing at that time. When a college friend first mentioned the modern quilting movement to me, I jumped at the chance to try something different. I joined The Modern Quilt Guild in 2014 and experimented with lots of different styles and techniques over several years before finally finding my place in improvisational design.

For the last few years, I have focused on creating studio art quilts made primarily with improv strip piecing. I find inspiration from a wide variety of sources, but my work always tells a story and often speaks to social or environmental issues. I spend a considerable amount of time in researching concepts for my designs, reading about topics, learning about issues, and fleshing out my thoughts before I even begin selecting fabrics. Recently, I have made quilts about the science of climate change, the concept of “home” in modern society, and my own emotional reaction to the pandemic. In these quilts, color has strong significance and carries the weight of the message. I work with just about every color imaginable in my quilts, but a good, true red is my favorite color…and my signature shade of lipstick, as well! I teach quilting at our local arts center, and my work has been shown in galleries, exhibitions, and magazines across the United States. Right now, I’m looking forward to my first solo exhibition, which was postponed due to COVID, and to being able to wear my lipstick out in public again!


Renee Tallman

Growing up, I spent lots of time in the sewing room with my mom. I got pretty proficient with floaty skirts and dresses through my teen and young adult years but was often disappointed when things didn’t fit quite right at the finish. The main thing I loved after completing my first quilt in 1990 was that quilts don’t have to fit. I immediately started drafting my own patterns as a way to save money, usually starting with something traditional and tweaking it in some way. 

I joined a traditional quilt group but my work was considered inferior by many of the members, who often pointed out that my quilts were wrong for one reason or another. I stayed in the group for years because I love quilting, I’m confident in my work, and I enjoyed participating in the quilt shows.

In 2011, I learned about the Modern Quilt Guild and the concept of Modern Traditionalism and realized that’s where I fit in! The support and friendship I have gotten from the modern quilting community over the past 10 years has been nothing but amazing!
I have loved patchwork and bright colors for as long as I can remember. I don’t have lots of room in my life for useless knick-knacks but quilts are art you can use and that’s what I love most about them.


Phong Chi Lai

I’m a Vietnamese-Australian and grew up in Adelaide, Australia. After graduating with a marketing degree, I lived and worked in London before moving to Paris to start an internship with a French fashion house. Paris cemented my love of beautiful things, both old and new. I returned to Australia and decided to train as a shoemaker.After several years as a shoe designer/maker (operating my own artisanal footwear label and within the commercial design sector), I took the opportunity to work with a social enterprise in Vietnam and Cambodia called Mekong Quilts in 2014. Mekong Quilts is a social enterprise developed to create sustainable employment for rural women in Vietnam and Cambodia through the creation of handmade quilts and accessories. It was here that I discovered an appreciation for quilts and the quilting process. It was a two-way learning exchange – I mentored them about design and marketing while they taught me about the technical aspects of quilt making. This led me to research and explore other textile-based co-operatives in Nepal, China and India. This reinforced the social and environmental care that has always underpinned my ethos as an artisan – slow, functional luxury, made by hand.

Taking inspiration from my experiences, I developed my own textile practice, Studio PCL (Phong Chi Lai) in 2019. I am based in Melbourne, creating from my home studio. I work with natural dyes, often foraged or from food-waste and up- cycled natural cloth. I enjoy the palette that can be extracted using natural dyes – pinks and reds from madder root, avocado skins and Eucalyptus leaves, yellows from Weld, onion skins and Australian native plants and a multitude of blues from Indigo. Using traditional techniques such as patchwork, hand-embroidery and assemblage, I build compositional complexity based on free hand form, colour and tonality to create contemporary quilted cloth works that sustain a history and an ongoing narrative.