Top 4 Design Trends at QuiltCon 2023

With registration for QuiltCon Raleigh 2024 now open, I've been reminiscing about QuiltCon Atlanta and some of the works that have left a lasting impression.

Having been to two QuiltCons, Phoenix in 2022 and Atlanta in 2023, I can easily call to mind the sound of guests walking along the quilt show aisles. There are "oohs" and "aahs" intermingled with “Look at this!” and “Wow.”

There are those who set a strolling pace down the centre of the aisle looking left and right with calculated ease, and those that sidle close to the artist’s statement before nosing each quilt to take in all the details.

However you enjoy a quilt show, it’s important that you prioritize it during your trip. Not only is it inspiring to see others’ work in-person, but the juried collection serves as a bite-sized sample of industry trends. By conducting a quick scan of the works selected, we can begin to pull a list of techniques and styles to add to our list of must-try’s.

Below are the top 4 trends I saw in Atlanta’s quilt show earlier this year, including the quilts and makers that inspired them. It'll be interesting to see whether these trends will fill the aisles in Raleigh next year, and what new trends may emerge. 

Top 4 Design Trends at QuiltCon 2023

Trend #1: Loose Improvised Curves

Emilie Trahan is a master in piecing loose improvised curves into magical landscapes of colour and movement. And it seems that many more modern quilters are braving the unpredictable world of improvised piecing and embracing curves as their primary technique for design. I chose the four quilts below as they are predominantly pieced using curves - even the backgrounds are patchworked with long, winding seams that carry your eye through the piece. Enjoy the journey. 

Entangle by Emilie Trahan

Entangle by Emilie Trahan

Turnip by Susan Lapham

Turnip by Susan Lapham

Under the Sea by Debbie Kidd

Under the Sea by Debbie Kidd

Wonderland by Susan Lapham

Wonderland by Susan Lapham

Trend #2: Thread As Colour

Painting with thread is not a new technique, but it seems to be making its way into more modern quilts. Quilters are experimenting with thread and colour in ways that startle viewers. Audrey Esarey's Aura No. 1 appears to be constructed using four gradiated fabrics in each quadrant, but a closer look reveals that the gradient is the result of crosshatching various thread colours. 

Meaningfully integrating thread into a patchwork or whole cloth piece, that is, in a way that emboldens the story the artist aims to tell, is surely on the rise. 

Aura No. 1 by Audrey Esarey_closeup
Aura No. 1 by Audrey Esarey 

Confetti by Diana Fox
Confetti by Diana Fox

The Sun Goes Down Alone_Jennifer Broemel
The Sun Goes Down Alone by Jennifer Broemel

Untitled, 1-2022 by Carson Converse
Untitled 1-2022 by Carson Converse

Trend #3: Skinny Piecing 

Skinny piecing has introduced a compelling element into today's modern quilts. The technique adds hints of detail among the dominant strokes of solid fabric that are typical among many modern works and, in doing so, provides interest to the viewer's eye.

The skinny piecing in Karen Stone's and Irene Roderick's works are particularly organic as they ebb and flow like rivers of colours through muted fabrics. In Paola's work, the lime green strips gently break up the monochromatic background and help the viewer's eye trail away from the center of the quilt.

Been There Before by Karen Stone

Been There Before by Karen Stone

River Gone Green by Paola Machetta_closeup

River Gone Green by Paola Machetta

Spotlight by Irene Roderick_close up

Spotlight by Irene Roderick

Trend #4: Bias Tape

I was surprised to see how many quilters used bias tape to tell their quilt’s story. Turns out bias tape isn't just for scalloped bindings!

The stretchy characteristic of the bias tape allows it to be twisted to the whim of the artist’s hands. In Belt Path by Anna Hines the bias was applied to the piece after the piecing was completed to ensure that it precisely interacted with the patchwork to create a conveyor design with ease. In Emily Watts' piece, it serves as a dark outline in an illustrative piece.

I'm particularly excited to experiment with this technique in future projects, and I expect many of you will give it a try too.

Belt Path by Anne Hines_
Belt Path by Anne Hines

Schizophrénie_by Isabelle Dupras   Schizophrénie by Isabelle Dupras 

Super Lucky Money Plant by Emily
Super Lucky Money Plant by Emily Watts


Which of these design trends would you experiment with?
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Cristina De Miranda

Cristina De Miranda has been crafting and creating since her early years watching Art Attack. A tactile world of colour, pattern, and design appeared before her when a colleague introduced her to quilting in 2018. Cristina quickly dusted off her sewing machine and dived into a plethora of designer fabrics. Today, she is totally and irreversibly immersed in a whimsical world called Ships & Violins.