Experience Freedom in Quiltmaking: One Quilter’s Musings


A few weeks ago the speaker at our quilt guild was a local shop owner.  Her presentation was excellent, and she showed many quilts.  Several quilts were accompanied by touching stories, which I always find charming.  It’s nice to know what prompts a quilter to sew, or to know what took place during the time a quilt was being made.

One of the things that was shocking to me was a response to several questions she asked.  For example, “Who made a quilt out of XXXXX pattern?”  Or “Who bought the XXXX line of fabrics or the XXXX Jelly Roll to make a quilt?”  For each time she asked a question like that, a lot of hands went up.  I don’t mean just a few.  I mean a LOT!

I have been to many quilt shows in our part of Michigan where it is obvious that a quilt group has worked on the same pattern.  Rows after rows of displayed quilts feature the same pattern in different colors.  Or even the SAME exact color settings!  I also see many quilts that use ONLY fabrics from one designer’s line in whatever quilt they have made. These tell me several things.  One, the guild probably brought in a workshop teacher where students had to make his or her pattern. Two, students are encouraged to use a particular line of fabrics.  Three, there is a serious lack of originality in this group of quilters. 

I will agree that when a designer creates a line of fabrics, they (usually) all coordinate nicely.  Putting only fabrics from one line into a quilt provides assurance that the colors and designs work great together no matter what pattern is used.  But the creative quilter who has a sense of freedom to explore may choose several fabrics from one line and ADD TO THEM from their stash of from their local quilt shop (LQS) collection, making the quilt truly unique. 

When a designer creates a pattern from his or her quilt which is for sale or to be used in a workshop, there is nothing wrong with making the quilt as the designer planned.  But there is such freedom and – I’ll say it – glee – when you can take parts of the pattern and add to or change it up to create a blend of your ideas and theirs.  The quilt in my last post was made this way.  The center portion of the quilt was designed by and included a workshop by Karen Kay Buckley.  I loved her pattern, but I used scraps from my own stash.  I used the applique design as the center of a somewhat medallion setting.  I like how the colors and setting work together, and as I sit and hand quilt this 60 x 60 inch quilt, I like it even more.

You can go back and visit my quilt “Purple Reign” in the post shown here. 

I encourage all quilters to allow themselves the freedom to make their own choices.  Please YOURSELF.  Allow yourself new opportunities to experiment with your quilts.  Try designing your OWN pattern or setting.  Be unique.  Be an inspiration to others.  You are more talented than you know!

12 thoughts on “Experience Freedom in Quiltmaking: One Quilter’s Musings

  1. CARON… I agree with you totally … I stopped going to quilt shows because I got tired of seeing duplicate quilts… The larger guild shows can often be the worst … once saw a whole row of the same applique pattern .. very little fabric variation … boring. I find I have only been taking TECHNIQUE workshop and classes…. I took Vickki Pignattellie's class and because we all used our own scraps NOBODY was going away with the same type of project… THAT WAS THE BEST KIND OF WORKSHOP. I loved the technique that VIKKI taught but I would never want to copy any of her quilt or even her quilt style…. I had taken her class JUST to get off & away from work … I never expected to come away learning wonderful techniques I can use my own way I think teachers that encourage you to think on your own and not just try to sell you STUFF are the best kind of teachers…… NONNIE – – – – 4-6-2014


  2. Absolutely agree. A few years back I stopped subscribing to one of the quilt magazines I read because its patterns had basically become ads for specific fabric lines – they were publishing lots of patterns that required panels and coordinating fabrics, etc. There is NO fun in that.


  3. I've taught lots of beginner quilters and found fabric selection is the “scariest” part for many of them. To help them develop confidence I ask them to add one new fabric each time we made another block in the sampler quilt (and they cannot all be from one fabric line!)


  4. Personally speaking, I cannot agree more strongly, Caron.

    I am disappointed in a lack of creativity on the part of many quilters any more, thinking and quilt-making as sheep rather than as individuals. I suppose this is why I have eschewed joining guilds or groups. I have never 'collected' collections of fabrics with the intent being to make any particular quilt as someone else has, rather, I buy one thing that strikes me, and then get it home to the stash wall and fill in around it with other fabrics I love equally.

    Another great disappointment is that these wonderful places to buy fabric (whether online, via catalog, or LQS) OFTEN sell (tout, push, dangle, advocate for) their customers to buy pre-cut quilt kits. They have the audacity to write descriptions like: “Make yourself an original quilt with these fabulous “XXX” materials…” while selling hundreds of the kits! HOW ARE ANY OF THEM GOING TO BE ORIGINAL?

    I strive always to be an individual, to push the design elements of traditional block patterns to create fresh looks, or to simply use fresh material choices to convey a new feel for an old block friend. Quiltmaking is an art, and should be as original as each person participating in the practice of it. How do we get that into the heads of quilters out there? I know I teach it to one person at a time, and always, ALWAYS tell them to be comfortable with their choices, while showing them the options they have with each decision in the process.


  5. I couldn't agree more! More and more magazine and designers are in it to sell fabric/patterns/books.
    My quilts are all over the board. I've never found any appeal in a set or precut of fabrics.


  6. First of all, I love quilting and the creative experience. I love kits if it is a new concept or lesson to be learned. I don't want to spend lots of time looking for fabric to make a quilt for a lesson I want to learn. One thing I do when I make a quilt from a kit. I make the quilt from the set fabric and make one of my own from my stash at the same time. Also, I feel that even if I use a pattern, I alter it in some way to make it mine, whether it be the border, the placement. Quilts are individual pieces of art and call us to our creative spirit. What better way to be an artist than to sew the art into fabric.


  7. I've found over the years that there are many different types of quilters. Some enjoy the social aspect and stitch what others stitch. Some are newbies that are learning and find patterns and fabric selection difficult, so stitch up a pattern just as it appears. Many just want to sew something together and find kits and pre-selected fabrics quick, so that get right to the sewing, and there are those that prefer to make a quilt using fabrics they prefer. I tend to let the pattern inspire my fabric selection. Rarely have I taken a class where I used a selection of fabrics that a teacher used or a pattern recommended. I think this comes from having quilted for so long. Fabric selection in the 80's and 90's was much different than today. I had to select my own, match my colors, and buy from different lines. I believe that has made me better at fabric selection – not scary in my book. I still pick lots of fabrics from my stash for my quilts. Some quilters are more creative, some are more precise, some just having fun.


  8. Oh I so agree Caron. I buy fabric by color and love using a mixture of designer fabrics. I really like high contrast quilts so the collections of fabrics from one designer turn me off. I also hate going to a show and seeing the same quilt over and over. I have had the most fun in the past couple of years trying to make quilts completely from my stash, I have really learned that those bits of fabric that you thought would never work are actually what make a great quilt.


  9. It's funny to read this post – I was at a Guild Show this past weekend, and discovered a vendor's patterns that I totally loved. They had them available as kits, and I really debated – do I buy the kit? Do I want to reproduce exactly what they made, or do I want to make my own? This happened to be a rather complicated paper piecing pattern that required a lot of different fabrics, some of them graduations in one color. I ended up buying it as a kit, but I'm still thinking about how I'll put my own spin on it when I go to make it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s