Although it made a big splash in 1971, earlier New York exhibitions had already laid groundwork for the success of the Whitney Museum of American Art's Abstract Design in American Quilts. These exhibitions included:
Another event may have made the Whitney's reaction to the proposed Abstract Design in American Quilts particularly warm. In early 1971, just prior to Jonathan Holstein and Gail van der Hoof offering a quilt exhibition to the Whitney, the museum's exhibition Contemporary Black Artists in America 1969-1971, organized by a white curator, had resulted in a media firestorm. The museum was criticized for not involving Black art experts, and 15 of the 75 artists withdrew their works and put them on display elsewhere. It seems likely that in the spring of 1971, the Whitney was looking for an exhibition that would draw more positive reactions from art critics and the press. Their next big exhibition, Abstract Design in American Quilts, with its combination of appeals to both textile traditions and modern art, certainly helped in that effort.
After the success of Abstract Design in American Quilts, textile and quilt-focused exhibitions became more common in New York. The 1970s saw a range of exhibitions, including: