Monday, May 5, 2014

Quiltmaking 101 -- why I did it

So I've been writing this book, and it appears to be nearing completion despite my best efforts to delay, procrastinate, expand the scope, and other dysfunctional author behaviors.  When we started on this project there was a concept: you don't need to use other people's patterns to make your quilts.  But rather than sending my readers cold turkey into the wilderness, I would present a general plan -- starting with the traditional rail fence block -- and a bunch of potential variations from which they could compose their own quilts, as many as they wanted without ever duplicating.

I liked this concept and wrote that part of the book, then took a break for a long time while I made a bunch of quilts to illustrate some of the potential variations.  That was fun.

does this look like a variation on Rail Fence?  it is

Then I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my ideas and suggestions about technique, and wrote a couple of chapters on things like how to press your quilt blocks (the only quilt-police stuff I really believe in) and how to make beautiful facings with no lumps at the corners.  But if I wrote about how to make beautiful facings, shouldn't I also write about how to make beautiful bindings?  And so on. Pretty soon this part of the book had expanded to become the how-to guide to every facet of quiltmaking, and in fact overshadowed the part of the book that I really wanted to write, about design and composition.

Fortunately, before we committed to putting all this stuff to press, better judgment returned from its extended vacation.  We realized that this was supposed to be a book about a concept, not about techniques.  But here I had written plenty of good instruction on every aspect of quiltmaking and it sure seemed silly to just throw it in the recycle bin.

My partner/editor suggested that I post it on my blog instead, and refer readers of the book the the blog if they wanted this kind of information.  Which seemed like a good idea.  So over the next few weeks I'm going to post these chapters, catalogued so people can go back and access them easily.

Experienced quiltmakers may find some of this discussion too elementary, or discover that I'm telling secrets that you've known for years, so feel free to not read these posts.  But even though I consider myself an expert in quiltmaking technique, I always love to read how other people do it.  Sometimes I learn new tricks; sometimes I just get a nice warm-and-fuzzy feeling from thinking that I do it better than they do.  I hope you'll find something to think about if you do read this series.

One advantage of publishing via a blog rather than via a printed book is that you can change your mind, fix typos, improve your own work endlessly.  And the finished product can incorporate comments from readers.  So if you have thoughts on what I've written, either positive or negative, please leave a comment.  Share that warm-and-fuzzy-my-way-is-even-better with the rest of us!  And if there's some technical aspect of quiltmaking that I haven't covered, let me know.


  1. I also love to read the basic how-to's of others. There is always some tip or method that gives you an aha! moment. Looking forward to reading your bonus chapters!

  2. I've already learned a lot from your technique-based posts in the past. Thaks for sharing so generously!

  3. yes! thank you! i'm looking forward to these how-tos!

  4. In your book, do you talk about calculating yardage? Sometimes I want "x size of quilt for Person". Then I fiddle with the design idea for a while, begin to implement, run out of fabric (two ro three times), then eventually finish. I'm not looking for super specifics like"1 5/8 yds for color A", I'm more thinking about "Is this pile big enough". Drives me nuts to have to keep going back to the store when I'm on a roll.

    Looking forward to the 'bonus' chapters!

    1. of all the things I am going to write about, calculating yardage is not one if them. it rarely crosses my mind -- my theory is to buy twice what I think I'm going to need (that is, if I'm not working out of my stash to begin with) and if I need more, and I can't buy more, I punt. (sometimes the punt gives you a much better result than if you stuck with your original fabric)