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Out of the Attic: Quilting for the 'Pinterest' Generation

The first-ever international Modern Quilting Convention – QuiltCon – starts right here in Austin today. So what exactly is “Modern Quilting”?

Quilting has moved out of the attic and into the realm of cool. Just ask the millions of people on websites like Pinterest and Etsy.

QuiltCon organizer Heather Grant says the craft started its internet revolution in 2005… when it became easier to share photos online.

“People really started to share their work online and started to find each other online through blogs and Flickr," QuiltCon Director of Marketing & Programming Grant says. "Flickr was a very popular gathering place for quilters. So that started the social media component of the modern quilting movement which was the main component to get modern quilting where it is today.”

Credit Tyler Pratt for KUT News
QuiltCon organizer Heather Grant.

But Grant says the first mention of “modern” and quilting together actually happened a few years earlier … in a Martha Stewart Magazine article about Denyse Schmidt.

“So many of us saw that first article in Martha Stewart and were really inspired," Grant says. "Because I had quilted a lot in my early twenties but, once I saw that article, I was like, finally, this is it. I get it now. … My craft path is quilting and I want to do it like Denyse.”

Modern quilting is a little hard to define. But it’s anything but a bunch of squares sewn together.

“Lots of solid fabrics, use of asymmetry, lots of inspiration from modern design—both art and architecture. Something that I would want in my home versus something that my grandmother had in her home," Modern Quilt Guild Co-Founder Alissa Haight Carlton says.

Haight Carlton doesn't dismiss the older styles of quilting. She says modern quilting is just about finding or creating something that really speaks to her.

As with traditional quilts, today’s quilting plays with shapes, space and color. But some quilts look more like a Mondrian art piece – you know, a white canvas with random rectangles in primary colors. Others resemble spiderwebs.

The possibilities have drawn quilters in their 20s and 30s. But many of the 150 or so modern quilt guilds around the world also have older members.

Grant admits – when it comes down to it – all quilting is the same.

“Modern quilting wouldn’t exist unless we had the construction methods of traditional quilting. So, no rivalry at all. Just a lot of respect," Grant says.

This isn't the first makeover quilting has had. Art quilting was popular in the 60s and 70s.

"It's the first sort of new wave of quilting in quite some time," Haight Carlton says. "And I often say it really combines traditional quilting and art quilting—in that they are functional quilts like traditional quilting but there's a huge emphasis in design like there is in art quilting."

The first international convention features workshops and lectures. There’s also a quilt show and sale for those that can’t do… but can buy!

QuiltCon runs today through Sunday at the Austin Convention Center. A day pass is $10.

Update: Here's a Quiltcon slideshow from photographer Filipa Rodrigues, powered by the KUT Austin Flickr page.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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