Quiltcon 2019: two Italian quilters in Nashville

"Smile" - Group or Bee Quilts - 68” x 51.5” - By Leanne Chahley Lethbridge MQG - Also pieced by Stephanie Ruyle, Felicity Ronaghan, Kari Vojtechovsky, Melissa Ritchie, Diane Stanley, Marci Debetaz, Debbie Jeske, Karen Foster, Hillary Goodwin

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Five years ago, we had no idea that our friendship and the Modern would take us three times to the United States to participate in the most important show within this new Patchwork style. After Pasadena, California twice, in mid-February we flew to Nashville, the city of country music, where small orchestras play from 9 am to midnight every day of the week! The city of Tennessee, deep South America, has been filled with quilters from all over the world that have joined the already many tourists who visit this lively city every year.

From our hotel, famous for its guitar-shaped swimming pool, for four days we went the same way to the City Music Center where Quiltcon was held. (photo 1-2)

As members of The Modern Quilt Guild, we had free access to the entire event. Quiltcon offers various thematic exhibitions and exhibitions of the various categories in competition: Improv, Minimalism, Modern Traditionalism, Appliqué, Handwork, Machine Quilting, the MQG Challenge and the Youth category. The selection is tough as the quilts evaluated for the show are more than 1500 and only 400 are chosen.

The Modern Quilt Guild (www.themodernquiltguild.com), founded in 2009, is the reference point for those who want to know more of the Modern style and identify with it. We have been members since 2014 and have immediately started to follow all its developments. In recent years about fifty more Italian quilters joined us and together with them we have promoted and carried out several Modern projects, including a charity one.

The energy and enthusiasm that characterizes Quiltcon is nearly palpable. Like in every show, many workshops are led by the “stars” of Modern, the conferences and demos are very busy and there are many crowded stands that offer fabrics, tools and publications exclusively related to the Modern style.

There were two exhibitions held this year: the works of the modern artist Sherri Lynn Wood

and the exhibition of the Childress family’s collection of quilts (Satin Patchwork, Florida 1940)

Around the exhibition pavilion and in the corridors numerous quilts were exposed created by the “chapters” of the MQG scattered around the world that had to adhere to a limited color scheme and that were donated to charity.

One of the most popular events is the cocktail party, where you can meet famous quilters, authors, Modern emerging artists or already famous ones and where participants exchange the mini-quilt created for a companion assigned by the guild.

We could meet or greet again with a presentation (they are all pleasantly surprised when we say that we come from Italy, a country loved by all!) Jaquie Gering, Cindy Grisdela, Maria Shell, Virginia Findlay Wolfe, Giuseppe Ribaudo and Anna Maria Horner of whom we visited the beautiful shop in downtown Nashville “Craft South” located next to the boutique of the famous actress Reese Witherspoon!

Other Modern expressions were the 100-days challenge in which various artists put themselves to the test, each with its own specialty and sewed for 100 days in a year and created a very interesting “ensemble” of works. In this exhibition embroidery as well had its place of honor, since 2019 was proclaimed the year of embroidery and it also found its place in Modern! There was even a Hand Sewing Lounge where you could stop and hand-stitch, something that is absolutely not forgotten in the Modern style, but revisited, especially in the hand-quilting technique called Big Stitch Quilting

We suggest you visit the Facebook page of The Modern Quilt Guild at the link https:/www.quiltcon.com/2019-winners to admire the winning quilts of the various categories. This year the Best of Show went for the first time to a Bee Quilt, led by Leanne Chahley of Lethbridge MQG, entirely created with the Improvisational technique. (Photo of The Modern Quilt Guild) Feature photo

Here are our impressions of the show and our favorite quilts.


Going to Quiltcon is very interesting and always a source of curiosity and inspiration for me. It’s a bit like feeling at home, a place where everyone speaks your same language, where wherever you turn you will find new ideas and new beauty.

I have to say that this year I noticed several things, something in Modern has changed or is changing compared to other editions in which I had participated.

Last year, in Pasadena, there were several quilts representing social protests against President Trump’s policy or violence against women and I was very impressed because we in Italy are not very used to social protest quilts … not yet.

This year instead the quilts seemed different to me, the protest is still there but less and the fabrics have changed, there are solids, graphic fabrics, but there are also flowers, Modern, but flowers!

They are large flowers, typical of the 70s, very colorful and very beautiful, mixed with polka dots and stripes.

Anna Maria Horner’s fabrics are beautiful, like her quilt shop.

In the quilt show set up by MQG there are many quilts and I must say that I did not like all the ones exposed. Some of them were, in my opinion, just technical exercises and I am not keen on this type of quilts, even if one of them struck me.

It should also be noted that not all the works were perfect, in technique and finish, but I wonder if nice quilts must also be technically perfect … not at all in my opinion ….

I consider more important the visual impact, the use of color, the feelings it arouses, what it makes us think, the balance, the harmony of the whole. It’s always worth going to see these great shows, they make us understand so many things, they make us SEE so many things…

The first one is entitled “Super Donut” by Stephanie Scardal, individual member of MQG, referring to the famous donut so much loved by Americans.

For me it’s an almost hypnotic quilt, which pulls you in… I liked it immediately.

I like the color of the background, graphically it seems perfect to me and gives me the idea of something in motion, something in evolution, like Modern.

The second, “Boulders and Chockstones” by Kathy York of the Austin MQG, is a funny, playful quilt, one that makes you smile as soon as you see it, in short, the ones I like! Beautiful colors, balanced. And the presence of cats who are vaguely “hallucinated” is something that excites me even more.

It’s made in applique’ and the quilting is done with double transport.

The third quilt that struck me is an improv work, my favorite technique, and is called “Ultra Violet”, by Stacey O’Malley of the Ottawa MQG, made to participate in a challenge related to last year’s Pantone color.

I like the color, it’s one of my favorites even if it’s a particular color that not everyone likes, but there’s a lot of balance in this composition, the fabrics are Japanese, very beautiful and readable as a whole.


The Modern style is as fast as our times, made of communications on socials such as facebook, Instagram (preferred by Americans) and others. Its evolution, however, maintains aspects related to tradition, but transformed, the fabrics are new, different and even these change at the speed of light, the collections are created and are not continuous, new substrates are used such as canvas and linen. The shapes used often start from the traditional ones but are distorted, changed in scale and the final assembly is often far from the classic grid we know, but takes on a new design, linked to contemporary graphics or the mid century modern style loved by the new generation of quilters.

With three Quiltcons to my credit, I feel like saying that every year I find new interpretations, fresh, captivating and that the technique is often overshadowed to favour design, a very important element in Modern.

My favourite quilt is “Number 21” by Miguel Huidor of the Los Angeles MQG, which I would certainly have bought if it hadn’t already been sold, which used striped fabrics as a base on which he applied overlapping stripes with a raw-cut edge, thus creating a third dimension, something new in the Modern.

The quilt “At the Junction” by Marla Varner of the Bainbridge Island MQG impressed me for how she used the color in progression, melting one color into another with ocular chromatic passages.

For the composition that gave rise to a conglomerate of houses and won a coveted ribbon in the Improvisation category, the quilt “Blue Houses” by Melanie Tuazon of the

North Jersey MQG made me think of one of the villages perched on a hill in our Italy.

Many quilts were the expression of the commitment to women and their social issues. There were many quilts containing texts, words or phrases of relevance to the person creating the work, a characteristic that is very representative of Modern, one of the many “Show up” by Sara Hunter sewn in group.

Among portions of fried green tomatoes, delicious biscuits and beautiful murals scattered around the city, we already make plans for Austin, Texas where the next Quiltcon will be held, and the location for 2020 has already been announced: Atlanta, Georgia! But these Americans never stop!

We will not stop looking, observing, pondering and learning from this new style already accepted and acquired in many parts of the world where “chapters” of the Modern Quilt Guild have arisen in a very short time and we hope to see it grow and be appreciated and practiced finding a place in future Italian patchwork events.

Daria Blandina e Roberta Sperandio

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