Modern Quilt Designs – Roots in the 1970s

The 1970s were know for wild wallpaper, orange and brown plaid couches, and bell-bottoms–but quilt designs?

polyester quilt design from 1970
Hexagon Diamonds,  polyester double-knit quilt,
c. 1970, from Oregon. Collection of Bill Volckening.

I know a lot of people who collect antique quilts, Depression-era quilts, or Victorian crazy quilts. But quilts from the '70s? Not so much.

I was surprised to learn, then, that–like '70s fashions–'70s quilts quilts are gaining attention among those who value design.

Quilt collector Bill Volckening has been collecting '70s quilts for a while now, and he shared these insights with us about designing quilts in that groovy decade..

"The first thing that jumps out about the quilts of the 1970s is the color, but the quilts have relevance beyond color. Feminism, the arts and crafts revival and a new perspective on old quilts created the perfect storm for the revival in quiltmaking, and it was fueled by the Bicentennial. Many of the quilts are made of polyester double knit, a modern material that was known to resist fading," says Bill.

Polyester might have been plentiful, but cotton quilting fabrics were scarce, and many of the common tools used today, such as rotary cutters and computerized long-arm quilting machines, did not exist.

"Every quiltmaker in the 1970s had to be an innovator. The whole industry as it is today did not exist. People made their own rules, broke them, and came up with their own solutions to the problems they encountered while making quilts," says Bill.

It makes sense, then, that the art quilting movement came to the forefront in the 1970s, with artists like Jean Ray Laury and Nancy Crow.

Drawing from his collection of more than 250 quilts, Bill will focus on quilts of the 1970s in his latest web seminar, Modern Materials: Quilts of the 1970s on February 27, 2015, at 1 p.m. eastern time.

Attendees will learn about the quilts of the 1970s, what makes them different from the quilts of other eras, and how these quilts have been discovered. They will learn about the development of polyester, why it is such a colorfast material and how it got to be included in quilts.

"Quilters will be inspired by the dramatic colors, strong graphic elements and free-spirited approach. It was a fascinating time full of vibrant quilts, which cultivated the roots of modernism," adds Bill.

Come join us for Modern Materials: Quilts of the 1970s and learn about this special decade in quilt design. Disco attire optional! 

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Modern Quilting, Quilt Designs, Quilting Daily Blog, Tools, Supplies & Resources

One thought on “Modern Quilt Designs – Roots in the 1970s

  1. I have my mother to thank for introducing me to quilting. However, it was Nancy Crow who really lit a fire under my desire to quilt! In the late 60’s, I was used to seeing traditional squares pieced mainly in calico fabric. I liked those quilts but wasn’t really inspired to do any quilting of my own. (I now appreciate vintage quilts immensely!) But then in the 70’s I somehow came across pictures of Nancy Crow’s quilts, and I was astounded! Up until then, it had never occurred to me that quilting could be done without traditional patterns or without using flowered material! It sounds so naive now, but that’s how it was for me. Thank you so so much Mom and Nancy!

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