Thursday, September 19, 2013

The new book

My new book -- if it ever gets finished -- is meant for beginning to intermediate quilters.  I have noticed, at the state fair, in quilt guild show-and-tells, in other quilters' forums and in conversation that many quilters wouldn't think of starting a quilt without buying a pattern or finding one in a magazine.  Although they're eager to strengthen their technical skills in sewing and quilting, they're apparently willing to go through a lifetime without ever using their own design skills.

As I write in the book:  Why are so many quilters willing to learn and stretch when it comes to execution, but not when it comes to planning?  I've known ladies who have been quilting for 30 years and turn out exquisite quilts by the dozen, but still use other people's patterns.  No matter how many state fair ribbons they've won, they're still  not confident enough to make up their own designs.

To me, that's sad.  My great joy in making a quilt is not that I've sewed straight seams and gotten it to lie flat -- heck, any Third World sweatshop worker can do that -- but that I've made a pleasing design, and that my quilt is unlike anybody else's.  This part has the creativity and the joy, and I want to do that myself, not buy it from somebody else.

This book is built on a concept: that you can start with a simple, ever-popular traditional quilt block pattern, break it down into its component parts, and then vary the parts over and over for an unlimited source of quilt designs.  The first time I had this insight, it was regarding the log cabin block, but this book is based on the rail fence block.

Here's the traditional rail fence quilt:

Here are a couple of variations:

I suspect that many of the quilters I know personally, including the readers of this blog, are beyond the stage where they need this kind of encouragement and hand-holding.  But maybe you would be intrigued by the thought process that helps you start at a known place and move to somewhere different and totally personal.  And maybe you would like some of the helpful hints on technique.

It's going to be an e-book so I hope it will be accessible and affordable to a lot of people.  I'll tell you more another day.


  1. This looks great, Kathleen. I hope that it encounters an excited audience. My own stitching began with cross stitch at a young age, sitting with aunts every afternoon in Greece all working from DMC paper patterns. The most daring would sometimes use threads of colours other than those specified!! I remember the shock, horror, and even outrage when I started designing my own patterns - nothing amazing, simply adaptations of the basics, as you say. But some of them also started to venture into this unknown land, and as you say, the satisfaction was immense.

  2. I find that lots of people come and look at my quilts and ask where I "bought the patterns" - when I say that I made them (and can sell them the patterns sometimes) they are quite horrified, as if I was doing something completely outrageous. And then they say "oh I couldn't make that" - but surely the point is that they would not want to, if they have the skill to make that they don't have to, and can make their own..
    Odd, really
    Love your samples

  3. I've had those same thoughts as I attend guild meetings. It makes me sad, all that ability being held in a little box.

  4. But people find their joy in different ways and choose to expend their energy differently, too.

    Both making (pattern followers) and creating(adapting a pattern or not using one at all) can be satisfying. If someone wants to create but feels held back, that is sad; if someone is content with making, that is living their life as they see fit.

    (Dolores, who has followed your blog for a long time, but never commented)

  5. Wonderful concept! It will be helpful for people to stretch their skills and build confidence in their own creativity. Maybe a lot of people pick up quilting because they want to make something, but don't have confidence in their own abilities to create an original design. I know this was true for me. Patterns are a great entry into the quilting passion. You're going to help many take that next strip--haha, I meant step, but spell checker won with the pun.

  6. Good for you - can't wait to see your book. I remember the amazement when I was at a quilting retreat and started cutting up a quilt to rearrange it. The ladies were interested but agreed that they'd never consider doing that.

  7. I love traditional style quilts, but I am amazed how few people design blocks in that style.

    There are just so many ways to draw symmetrical lines within a square but most people think it has all been done before, but they are so wrong. But then those people will buy five patterns using the same block rather than make a few changes themselves. I find it a bit sad that so many people will not even consider stepping out of their comfort zone.

    Story for you ... I was at a sewing day working on a quilt and one of the girls asked me what pattern I was making using. I said it was one of my own. She continued by asking me where i had bought the pattern, and I tried to explain that I hadn't bought it, I had made it up myself, drawn up the pattern sheet etc. She told me I wasn't allowed to do that because it was against copyright.

    I wasn't too sure if I was going to laugh or cry, so walked away with my quilt, needle and thread!

    (One who always reads, seldom comments.)

  8. I agree with Nyasabrina. Don't assume all those people who are working traditionally decade after decade really long to make to make non-traditional quilts from adapted or personally inspired designs, despite how interested they sound in what you've done. True there are some who want to break out of the traditional mould so to speak, and the book sounds a great starting point for those who really do want that. As an e-book it should find a good audience. But I know plenty of people with very high levels of ability and skill who gain huge satisfaction making quilts from traditional patterns or precise, tested patterns other people have developed. Most of these don't really want to make 'original' quilts, and I see nothing wrong or 'sad' with that. I'm the reverse - I own a couple of antique quilts in patterns I admire, and love seeing traditional patterns in exhibitions and books - I just don't want to make them myself. People see a picture in a magazine, and want to make one just like it, that exact pattern, in just those colours for themselves or someone in the family, there's nothing 'sad' about that. Raffle quilts, too really turn some quilt makers on - and they're usually traditional because 'traditional' has broadest appeal. It's very human to want things to stay the same - and equally human to want to change things a bit, or a lot.