Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rules vs. Choices

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will be shocked to see a new post so soon after the last one. When I saw this post over on Julie's blog I had to get in on the discussion. What follows is my two cents worth on the topic of The Rules in Quilt Making.

I have been wielding a needle of one type or another for at least 45 years. I learned to embroider first, as a pre-teen, and the cult of Perfectionism was deeply ingrained by the experiences of my youth.

When I came to quilt making I had two toddlers and another baby on the way. I learned “the rules” from books and magazines and tried diligently to obey them. Of course I started out with less than ideal tools and materials. I quickly discovered that until I could have a rotary cutter and mat there would be few quilts made ‘by the book.’ It took too long to make templates and scissor cut everything.

Twin size quilt for my first granddaughter, which was started when her mother was a little girl.

Even as my tools and skills improved I had no real desire to duplicate the quilts I saw in books or magazines. Nor was I interested in complex or intricate blocks. Then along came Gwen and her first book on liberated quilt making. Freedom! Enlightenment! And encouragement of a kind rarely found in the other books of the era.

Wool & flannel, 17.5" x 13.5"

For me, quilt making is the art form that I’m the most comfortable with, the easiest in which to express my creative urges. It’s not about making the most quilts or the “best” quilts or exhibiting my work or selling my work (although I would not be opposed to generating a little income!). I want my quilts to be authentic expressions of ME and MY life, not whatever the current trend in the quilt world happens to be at the moment. I also want them to hold up over time, so there are elements of the construction process that I’m picky about.

I guess I have high standards when it comes to the construction process. I like consistent seams that are straight if they’re meant to be straight and wavy if they’re meant to be wavy. I press my seams because I like the way they look and behave when that’s done. I like having a design wall as much for the ease and comfort it provides my body as for the perspective it affords. I happen to prefer a rotary cutter to scissors because I like the feeling of being in control that I get with the cutter. My scissors tend to go where I don’t want them to! Of course, sometimes the cutter does too. ;- ) I rip fabric whenever I can. Have you tried that? It’s a rush for those of us who tend to get caught up in Perfectionism.

Quilted with beads & sequins, 17.5" x 16.5"

The beauty of quilt making is that there’s room for everyone. Look at all the choices we have before us: fabric types, print types, the vast range of colors available, the multitude of processes we can bring to the work, and ultimately how we choose to apply those processes in the work we do. I no longer believe in a right way or a wrong way to do things. (However, in some specific cases there are dangerous ways to do things and it would be wrong to encourage someone to ignore those rules.) I believe in learning as much as you can about what’s available, trying out the things that appeal, and then choosing what will work best for the project you currently have in mind.

Rules or not, the question we need to ask ourselves is the one posed by Ben & Jerry:


  1. I love liberated quilting and have been heavily influenced by Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran. Safety rules I can agree with but the others went out the window long ago.
    I love that last quilt you showed.

  2. I love seeing your progression of quilts, where you started to where you're going. Wonderful work!

  3. this post embodies one of the biggest reasons i admire you so much. being able to witness your growth and struggles is inspiring and encouraging to me. your example enables me to live with the belief that there is no "thinking outside the box." there is no box. that, and chocolate is the answer. ;) still in love with the granddaughter quilt.

  4. Amen! Well written and I LOVE the Ben and Jerry question/quote!!!

  5. A very thoughtful post Sue. I also subscribe to the philosophy that I create for the pleasure of it. It's nice to see that Ben and Jerry have summarized this approach so succinctly.

  6. This is such a well-thought-out and veralized post...and I agree, NO BOX, room for ALL, IF IT'S NOT FUN, WHY DO IT. Thank you.

  7. Thank you for telling us more about your way of quilting, the way it evolved over the years and the quilts. I share a lot of what you wrote. A quilt is the expression of my particular thoughts at a certain time. I am no perfectionist but enjoy immensely what I am able to create.


Due to my health issues I am frequently unable to respond to your comments but please know that I appreciate your thoughtful responses. I cannot respond to 'no-reply' bloggers either, much to my frustration.