International QuiltCon Returns to the Austin Convention Center

It's the Modern Quilt Guild’s biggest celebration & display of craft

International QuiltCon Returns to the Austin Convention Center

QuiltCon, suggests the press release, is for modern quilters what ComicCon is for comic book creators and fans. Hard-hitting investigative team of journalists or not, we’re not going to clarify or argue that statement – because it’s spot on.

The first QuiltCon was held in Austin in 2013 and was a knockout success, the Convention Center flooded with people ogling the vast array of visual wonders on display, scoping out the many demonstrations of products and techniques, attending professional-level workshops, and generally having a good ol’ fabric-fueled time.

We’d reckoned that first one would be a hit – we’re no dummies – which is why we interviewed Heather Grant, the founder of the Austin chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild and one of the main fomenters of the almost-annual convention.

This year, even though we know that just having the acclaimed quilters of Gee’s Bend as keynote speakers is enough to make one’s needles twitch, we figured we’d ask a couple other folks – a pair of local sew-and-sews, if you will – what they think.

Why, we asked them, is this QuiltCon such a big deal?

“QuiltCon is a big deal,” says Kim Kight of Cotton & Steel, “because there is an enormous community of modern quilters and sewers worldwide, and everyone knows one another through the Internet, but we don't get the opportunity to get together in real life very often. I guess in that way it's like any hobbyist or special-interest convention. But the textile arts are very visual/tactile and quilting has historically been a communal art, so getting out from behind one's screen and coming together is kind of essential.”

But isn’t there already another bigtime quilting convention?

“Well, the International Quilt Market is held twice a year,” says Kight, “and it was and still is the major gathering for the industry. But it's to-the-trade only, so someone who 'just quilts' and isn’t a fabric company or designer or shop owner is left out. So this collective feeling in the community, of wanting something more open, built up over several years. I think this is partially what inspired QuiltCon to happen in the first place, and what made it such a huge, expectations-surpassing success its first year.”

And of course the craft itself – the art form – isn’t what’s become lodged in the popular conception, right?

“Right,” says Kat McTee of Stitch Lab and Art Cloth. “Quilting still makes some folks think 'Colonial Williamsburg bed & breakfast nightmare' – but modern quilting isn't that, and it's not the futzy goddess-laden 'fiber art' of the 1970s, either. Modern quilters are doing really interesting work with color and line, designing textiles, stitching and dyeing and screen-printing fabric, and doing digital printing. It's a true visual extravaganza, and we’re lucky to have this event happening right in our own backyard –particularly because this medium is tactile; it begs to be experienced up close and in person.”

Up close and in person is precisely how you can experience some of the world’s best modern quilts and all the industry and joy that surrounds them, at the Austin Convention Center this Thursday through Sunday.

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