A Crafter's Life

The Case for Modern Quilt Design (from the 1970s)

Contemporary quilt design, innovative quilt design, improvisational quilting, modern quilting, and intuitive quilt design are not recent ideas. You probably already know this but sometimes when reading quilting publications over the past couple of years it appears like these ideas are portrayed as new ideas in quilting.

My friend and quilting mentor, Betty Anne, studies the history of quilting. She loaned me a book from her quilting history book collection, Quilts & Coverlets: A Contemporary Approach by Jean Ray Laury.


This book was originally published in 1971. Here is an except from the book that makes a case for intuitive, innovative, contemporary, modern design (in 1971):

…for many years, quilt making was unaffected by contemporary art. In early America, the sources for quilt designs came from nature and from all articles of everyday use – the patterns on dishes, the designs from cast-iron stoves, political symbols such as the eagle and the star, wild flowers and other natural forms. In the twentieth century, however, none of the new influences of the time seem to have permeated quilt design. Even the strong influence of Art Nouveau, which was apparent in other crafts, had almost no effect on quilt making.

Perhaps women lost confidence in their ability to design. We saw watered-down versions of old designs, used over and over, with few of the revitalizing changes essential in any “lively” art. Only recently is the influence of contemporary art once again seen in our quilts. Modern designers of quilts are not concerned with reiterating statements made years ago. They have their own comments to make, comments which are relevant to our own times.

…Quilt makers today are recapturing the spirt and essence of early American quilts, At last we can look forward to exciting designs. Gone, thank goodness, are the rows upon rows of obese, sunbonnet girls in pale green and lavender. Traditional designs no longer meet our needs. Creativity and inventiveness make it possible to modifier and rejuvenate the old approaches and techniques…If we can retain the structural integrity of the traditional quilt, and add to it a contemporary approach in color and design, we achieve a quilt which merges past and present.

New ideas, are rarely new ideas. They seem like “new ideas” when they get popular!

I was fascinated by this book and all the “modern” quilting ideas discussed in a book published in 1971.

What are you thoughts?