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What Are the Best Quilts?

Photo: Retailer

You may have noticed that decorative quilts have gone from dusty family heirloom to something of a coveted item. Take A.P.C.’s updated takes on the traditional textile, for instance: The French brand has been releasing them for years now, and each collection sells out almost immediately. But according to design editor Kelsey Keith, the rise of the quilt as an objet — whether displayed on your wall or bed or couch — has perhaps less to do with popular apparel brands releasing their own versions than it does with an overall newfound consideration of and respect for the history of Black quilting that, she says, has emerged in the art world over the past decade and a half. Per Keith, this trend is “typified by artists in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and someone like Rosie Lee Tompkins.” (Quilts made by Gee’s Bend artisans are now available for purchase on Etsy.) In the contemporary quilts-as-art space, Keith notes that artists like Meg Callahan have received attention for producing “minimalist and geometric” styles, while Nasozi Kakembo, the founder of xN Studio, points to fiber artists like Bisa Butler and Stephen Towns as others who are making their mark. Sofi Seck, the founder of handmade-décor retailer Expedition Subsahara, adds that cartographic-art quilter Valerie S. Goodwin “uses her love of architecture, aerial views, and maps to create breathtaking pieces.”

An offshoot of this quilts-as-modern-art movement, according to Keith, is vintage quilts’ return to the forefront as “people are recognizing (and recycling) the craft of traditional quilts.” Some of these people, she notes, are white-mom influencers like Julie D. O’Rourke (a.k.a. Rudy Jude) who display quilts as an extension of their “wholesome, pioneer, Ma-and-Pa vibe.” But it’s not just the homesteading-cosplay set that’s casually infusing popular culture with heritage quilts; high-fashion designers like Bode and “freak-folk” DIYers like Psychic Outlaw have also caught on and are upcycling them into apparel.

All of which is to say that quilts seem to be here to stay. In their most basic form, quilts are made of multiple layers of cotton and stitched lines; they can be decorative and incorporate traditional patchwork design, or truly minimal quilted coverlets (often in solid colors) that have uniform stitched lines. While there’s a booming market for vintage handpicked quilts on Etsy and Instagram — self-proclaimed quilt obsessive Sarah Willis calls it “very sustainable and community oriented,” noting that some of her go-to sellers include Stitched and Found, Cindy’s Antique Quilts, Whippoorwill Quilts, and Cats on Quilt — you can also buy new quilts, a lot of which are still handmade or hand-finished. To find some of the best quilts at different price points, we reached out to people with exceptional taste for their favorites. Below, 27 quilts that keep the spirit of the traditional craft alive — most of which feature some type of pattern or print, with a handful of minimal solid coverlets for those looking for something more understated.

Best under-$100 patterned quilts

A handmade quilt takes a very long time to make, which means they are generally expensive. But you can also find commercially produced ones that look just as nice, like this three-piece set that includes a quilt and two standard sham covers that designer Rochelle Porter recommends. She loves the “soft pastel” colors of the abstract design, saying that they “bring instant serenity.” Those not sure if they want statement-making or subdued will appreciate that this quilt is reversible (the back side is solid white). With a list price of $99.99, this technically falls within this price range by a whole penny.

Achuziam Maha-Sanchez, a co-owner of the Brooklyn boutique Peace & Riot, loves the quilts from Graymarket. The brand is “doing beautiful block prints that give a casual, effortless look to any bedroom,” she says. Her favorites include this quilt in indigo, which is hand-printed and hand-stitched by a family co-op in Jaipur using a traditional Rajasthani quilting method.

Kantha quilts come from Bangladesh and the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. While not technically a part of the Black quilting history Keith and other experts reference above, their fabrication and stitched lines make them quilts nonetheless (and covetable quilts at that), so we’ve included styles recommended to us on this list. Many kantha quilts are handmade from vintage saris and have the characteristic running (or straight) stitch in their design. They can also be quite expensive, but there are more affordable options if you know where to look. Etsy sells a bunch, like this indigo handblock-printed quilt with a floral design that Curbed’s architecture critic Alexandra Lange recommends. “I love indigo for bedding because it is graphic but not too harsh,” she says.

Here’s another vibrant kantha quilt that Lange also recommends. She likes how the rainbow stitching contrasts with the solid colors (it’s available in five primary colors), calling out this turquoise (listed as “light blue”) as a “fun unisex choice.”

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Iva Dixit, a staff editor at The New York Times Magazine who calls herself a “cotton snob,” pointed us to this razai — the Hindi word for “quilt.” Made in Jaipur from hand-block–printed cotton voile, razais like this remind Dixit of the “thin cotton razai I brought with me from India” that she still uses today.

Best under-$200 patterned quilts

We’ve written a lot about Marimekko’s iconic floral bedspreads, and it turns out the Finnish textile-maker offers its vibrant patterns in quilt form, too. Porter is “obsessed” with this quilt, which features parallel channel stitching and reverses to a bold black-and-white print. Bonus: This quilt comes with two matching shams.

Porter is also a fan of Justina Blakeney’s line of quilts, including this one that comes with two shams. “Blakeney’s designs never miss,” says Porter. “The large-scale crosshatch pattern gives it a unique modern/boho feel.”

Best under-$300 patterned quilts

Pendleton, the heritage brand primarily known for its wool blankets, “also has a surprisingly good collection of quilts,” according to Diana Budds, a senior story producer at Curbed. Lange agrees, saying, “I like what Pendleton is doing with modernizing traditional designs and tweaking the colors.” Budds is a fan of the Zion National Park quilt, whose rich color scheme is inspired by its namesake’s red-rock formations and the afternoon sky.

For interior designer Lauren Ashley Allan, sourcing quilts is like observing a piece of art. She recommends “selecting pieces because they resonate with you, not because they are expected.” Like our other experts, Allan turns to Etsy for heirloom quilts. She particularly loves this quilt by Louisiana-based 2ndFloorQuilts for its “geometric handmade design” and “exceptional quality,” which means it will “stand the test of time.” Allan also loves its autumnal color palette composed of “warmer natural tones” and notes that “quilts are fun to change out with the season.”