19 Stars – Quilts of Indiana’s Past and Present

Just before it’s opening day, a few friends from the Indianapolis Modern Quilt Guild and I got a sneak-peek at this fantastic new exhibit at the Indiana State Museum: 19 Stars – Quilts of Indiana’s Past and Present.

The exhibit divides quilts into two sections: “past” and “present” which each get a gallery across the hall from one another. Every quilt has some kind of representation of a “star” and is made in Indiana.


As we wandered through, we began in the “past” section which highlights some very beautiful and moving Amish quilts along with others made between the 1830s and the 1980s. I loved the simple and utilitarian look of these quilts (as I always do) and was amazed (although maybe this should have been less surprising) that all these quilts were hand-sewn. I guess many quilters weren’t using even the earliest machines at that point!


We then moved to the “present” section. As a “Modern” quilter, some of these resonated with me as “my style” and others didn’t. However, I found them all to be interesting especially because these current-day quilts had been commissioned specifically for the exhibit. This meant that each one was a representation by the quilter of his or her style, the way that they wished it to be kept for posterity.


One of the things I found myself wondering would be how we would sequence these quilts if we tried to line them up from “traditional” to “modern” in terms of design and aesthetic instead of their date of creation. I imagine the exhibit would be organized quite differently! Some of the quilts made since 1980 are much more “traditional” in their color schemes, design, and fabric choices than the older ones!

I also wondered how we can get MORE Modern quilts in shows like this!!


Some of the things that stuck in my head for future projects:

  • How do you “modernize” something that still speaks to the heritage of heirloom designs?
  • As a member of the “modern quilting movement” how do I keep improving the way I distinguish “modern” from “modern day” when I talk to non-quilters?
  • What is the best way to utilize and love quilts in their lifetime and still save some to pass down to future generations?
  • What stories and documentation should we keep with our quilts to give them context and meaning when those future generations pull them out of an old closet?


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