13 August, 2014

Creativity in Quilting Input Needed

Dear readers, I need your help. I've got something in the works and I'm looking for input. Any feedback you can provide would be really helpful.

Not everyone uses patterns when quilting. And some people never use patterns. I know we've discussed this in the past, but I really want to dig deep into this. Pretend I am your therapist, tell me your real reasons for sticking with patterns. Are you afraid? What are you afraid of? If you decide to go out on your own does anything beat you down? Do you hold yourself back? Does someone else hold you back?

I'm looking for what quilters perceive as the limitations to their own creativity.  Because, whether you believe it or not, we are all creative when it comes to our craft. It's just that not everyone sees that in themselves. I want to know why not.

In the flip side, many have no qualms at all about creativity. They feel confident when it comes to doing their own thing. What about their approach or mindset makes these people different?

As I said, any input you provide be valuable to me. If you prefer to comment anonymously I totally understand. And feel free to send me an email directly if that is your preference.

Thank-you

53 comments:

Cille said...

Okay... Tough questions. I'll try to answer you as I best can. Hope it makes sense. I use patterns, but rarely follow a pattern 100%. If I'm in a hurry or have a deadline I am happy to resort to a pattern, but mostly I'm just inspirered of them and I make up the rest as I go along. Honestly I find knowing the exact end result before I even started a bit boring .
Very often I see two patterns e.g. in a book and can't decide which I like most and I end mixing them ( e.g. a particular background technique and a particular shape). These are by far my best quilts in my own opinion. If I do go by a pattern I always end up changing the size of the blocks. So I am using patterns, I love good quilting booke and but lots of both. I just end up with my own versions.

Cheryl said...

I rarely use patterns, preferring to figure things out for myself. Including the math. I use tutorials for blocks, and that sort of thing. I used a pattern for my first quilt ever, and looking back it seems so silly to me since it was a very simple quilt.

Christine said...

Hi, Cheryl: we met in your improv class at Quilt Canada so you have already heard me say that I love working from a pattern. When I sew, I am relaxing and having a pattern allows me to do that. Someone else has done the thinking and the planning and the calculating. I can just sew. My sense of accomplishment comes from how well the project turns out (and from using my choice of fabrics).
Christine from Ontario

Jean said...

Depends what you mean by patterns - it could mean you follow a book/bought pattern religiously, even down to the fabric choice, or that you have a drawn-out plan before you start, or just that you cut paper patterns to cut the fabric from.
I'm assuming you're asking if we make quilt using someone else's idea/layout rather than figuring out our own. Personally I use other's ideas as a starting point. I have done this for all 4 quilts I have made (2 not quite finished yet tho). I was brought up to have a go, try out ideas, not to believe my ideas weren't as good as something in a book. I am encouraging my children to think the same way. Maybe it is a cultural thing, here in New Zealand we have a long history of that kind of thinking. Maybe in the US/Canada people hold experts more in awe :) Or perhaps it is because I'm making these quilts for my own satisfaction, I'm not really making them to impress people so it doesn't matter if they come out less than perfect.
Hope that helps,
Jean

greycatquilts.com said...

I rarely use patterns, and am more likely to develop a design for a quilt top all on my own.

The biggest reason for this is that I find most patterns released today to be completely uninspiring. I feel like there are severeal created to showcase a fabric line. As soon as I see a quilt produced from an entire fabric line, I'm bored.

Part of the joy in creating a quilt, for me, is playing with the different fabrics in my stash, and seeing how they work together. It's also about using what I have, not running out to buy something just because someone else made a pretty. Yes, I do love adding to my stash, but not an entire fabric line at a time.

LT said...

Cheryl,

I've always used patterns, although I will tweak them so that I get the quilt size I want out of them. I think I use them because it's a safety net of seeing what someone else has done and therefore having some reassurance that what I'm going to create can't turn out too bad. That said I've never done a quilt kit or followed the exact same color story/fabrics as any of the patterns that I've followed. One of the things that I like about patterns, especially older ones is the following in the path of a tradition and making it my own. I've always liked the concept of freedom within tradition, which I know doesn't necessarily make sense as a phrase. Also, for me quilting isn't about creating art, but about creating something useful, practical and beautiful. So I don't have as much of a driver to create an original pattern or design. I think that covers my reasons. Good luck with your project and thanks as always for sharing with us!

Teatime Creations said...

I use patterns but mainly as a starting point. I might start and change blocks or designs as the mood changes or my vision of the quilt change. Early on when I began sewing I would follow directions exactly but now I rarely follow the design as presented. I definitely put my own color/fabric pattern/design focus on the quilt. It is fun seeing how different it can look with a different color that the original. I believe we each have our own vision and like drawing on a canvas the painting/quilt become your own.
I must say though that I do follow patterns exactly when I am learning a new technique from them. Once I have mastered it I then have freedom to explore.
Interesting question.

liz said...

I do not use patterns. I bought one created by a friend once, and while I genuinely love her pretty and original design, I have not used the pattern ... yet.

I love improvisational work and I love being inspired by the work I see in the blogosphere an IRL. Quilts made from a pattern, and especially from a single fabric line, are very boring to me.

I have quite the stash and I love seeing what I can create within those parameters. AT this point I'm only stashing solids as I love negative space and large amounts of solid fabrics.

This comment of yours made me pause for a minute, as I initially thought you were referring to the actual quilting, not the piecing:
"Not everyone uses patterns when quilting"

I definitely don't love everything I start, and some does not go anywhere, but I feel like I learn from my "mistakes" and take it in stride.

Looking forward to hearing more about your project!

Alexis said...

While I love the look of improv quilts, I admit I always use patterns. I think it's because I only have small amounts of time to quilt in the evening and I like knowing there is a plan and that I have the right quantity of fabric. For me the act of creating the quilt is the creative process, not the act of designing the quilt. But I hope to move forward with my skills (I'm a fairly new quilter) and gain the confidence and knowledge to be more free-flowing!

Sewing In CT said...

I like buying books and being inspired by others. I will often start with a pattern and then go off on a tangent. I have finished some kits as they were. I have made one quilt as a challenge, using a tea towel as the starting point. It was quite a success, but also stressful in its development. I have limited time and sometimes it can take awhile for inspiration to strike.
All this said, I do have 2 postage stamp quilts and 2 pattern quilts in the works. One is paper pieced and being done in French General, the other is a Jen Kingwell, which I adore but found myself modeling mt first 4 blocks on postage stamps, so we will see where that goes! I started and stopped a Farmer's Wife because I couldn't see my scrappy blocks going together harmoniously.
I like scrappy better than fabric line patterns, but scrappy sometimes looks odd. I am working on a quilt with a template and enjoying that a template doesn't mean a pattern, per se.
I definitely do my own thing with free motion quilting and like exploring with that but have bought many books for inspiration.

Laura C @ littleandlots said...

I find that I use patterns when I want to relax and sew something pretty for relaxing. I want to use fun fabric, I want to see color, I want to keep my hands and brain busy. I know I am able to go off-pattern and have been pleased with the results when I do, but it feels like more work to push through to where I am doing design work and solving design problems. I am a hobby quilter, not a Quilt Blogger or a Quilter, so I often quilt to relax. If that means making two or three Fancy Fox quilts because that seems fun to me, that's what I will do! Perhaps if I felt design work was relaxing, or easier, I might do more of it.

Elaine said...

I love to use patterns and even sometimes the colours shown, cause I find it hard to work it all out on my own, adding seam allowances, dividing, and making sure the pattern works out. I love to sew comfortably and get it right; patterns allow me to do this. Sewing is time out for me, so I need it relaxed as possible. Hope this helps and I also want to say thank you to you. Although I have never commented before, I love your blog and books. Thank you

Kacey said...

I dislike math (and am error prone), so patterns help me to make sure I don't waste fabric or get to a point in cutting and realize I need more of something. I can spend more time making and less time worrying if I follow a pattern!

Pam said...

Thank you, Cheryl, for asking these questions. It's all about the block for me. I love the history behind the names of quilt blocks so when a project comes up, I search through my black and white block books to find something suitable for the recipient and appealing for me to work. I do a rough sketch of the block, decide on how many I will need for the finished project and then adjust the scale if needed. I am a visual learner so reading a pattern makes my eyes glaze over. I can figure something out by looking at a picture of it rather than reading the directions.

A pattern eliminates the element of surprise for me too. Don't get me wrong - I am blown away by what I am seeing these days. I love to see what others create but their color scheme, border addition or block repetition is their choice, not mine. I have a little rebellious streak in me so having to work with someone else's fabric selection (as you would find in a kit) has no appeal for me; in fact it would feel quite restrictive. Figuring out the block size, the colors to use and the amount of fabric needed (plus some to add to the stash) keeps my mind nimble and really satisfies my creative drive. But as much as I sketch, plan and calculate, the quilt is likely to change once I start putting those blocks up on my design wall. It's a process I thoroughly enjoy and it keeps me pretty happy. Take care, Pam

Patti said...

Great question! I tend to be pattern dependent. Part of it is admittedly laziness on my part. I could figure and design but like the ease of having it done for me. I quite often make little changes in patterns but tend to stay true to them for the most part - I'm often drawn to the fabrics/colours used in the pattern as well as the design. Creativity is a learned talent for me. It doesn't come naturally. So I am thankful for the talents of quilters like you who take the time to design quilt patterns. It brings me happiness and enjoyment in my quilty life.

Zrinka said...

I followed a pattern once. For my very first quilt. Since then, I have been making up my own. It's about a challenge really. How to go from a drawing to finished quilt. how to cut the pieces without using templates (which I really don't like). And finally which colors/fabrics to use. I do read books to get inspiration and ideas, but I do not buy patterns. Hope this helps.

Julie said...

I use a pattern or at least start with one. When I don't the math gets the better of me and I end up with a wonky shaped block and or an odd shaped quilt.

Sew Jacky O said...

Hi I love looking through books,magazines, blogs etc for inspiration and will often start a quilt based on something I've seen. But as the quilt progresses I may make changes . This may be to the size, the border, the set of the blocks or it may come about because I've not paid attention and have made a (mistake) deliberated design change!!!! Whatever I always carry on and go with it. Generally things turn out well.

CapitolaQuilter said...

More often than not, I don't use a pattern or if I do I'll give it a twist. Collecting magazines, books and even actual patterns still has an appeal and is useful for concepts or inspiration. The times when I've replicated something already made I've been bored and the result just didn't feel authentic to me so I try to avoid doing that.

Kay Stephenson said...

I suspect the answer might have broader implications for personality type. Some of us are comfortable as followers and to be part of a group. Some of us need to be the leader. Personally, I prefer to make up my own designs. I also grew up believing that being just like everybody else was a bad thing. Thanks Mom. I also don't really enjoy taking quilting classes, but would rather see something someone else has done and then challenge myself to figure out how to do it on my own? Sound a little overly independent (bordering on anti-social)? I hope not, but for me quilting is mostly a solitary pursuit. The time alone creating recharges my batteries and makes me enjoy social activities, like guild meetings, more.

Lauren said...

My answer leans towards Jean and Kay's - I guess it has to do with the willingness to grapple with complexity, knowing it could lead to ... I hesitate to say failure, but maybe that's the crux of it: how does the quilter define success, and therefore what "failure" would constitute a risk? In my experience, new world culture supports anarchy (in the sense of DIY, mind your own business-ness) compared to the old world which values tradition and expertise more. The creative act to me must include some aspect of uniqueness, not just craftsmanship, but that's likely also a part of that attitude/definition thing.

Lauren said...

Bottom line (no edit button on comments) seems to be process people vs outcome people. I start with a fabric pull and one central element to calculate from, wing it and fiddle to get it to square up, and in the end I get what I get. If I were trying to replicate something I'd be sorely disappointed every time!

Danica said...

I definitely lean towards being 'the follower' when it comes to piecing. I simply don't have the imagination that alot of quilters have. Even if I had all the beautiful fabric I could possibly imagine put in front of me and was asked to make something of it I wouldn't know where to start. I would immediately start to visualize a design I have seen before.

Most of my work these days are bed size quilts and I don't have the patience to push that much fabric through a standard sewing machine so I have a wonderful quilter that I hire. I do not follow a quilt design on a pattern even if I piece from a pattern. When I choose a custom design, as opposed to an edge-to-edge quilt deisgn, I get inspiration from other peoples work but somehow I can be a little more creative when choosing a quilt design.

I really consider myself more a crafter than a designer. I absolutely love the modern trend and particularly when I see designs that put a modern spin on tradional blocks. I would like to thank everyone who shares their work so others can use their work as inspiration.

Anonymous said...

I use patterns but also do my own thing. It's about 50/50. When I do use patterns it's mainly because it's easy -- it tells me how much fabric I will need, it does the work of figuring things out. I use patterns because they give my brain a break, making for some quick and easy sewing.

GO STARS! said...

I use patterns to a point. A lot of times even with a pattern, I'll draw the block/quilt out on graph paper. This helps me to work out in my head how the blocks go together. I will also graph my own original designs, not always do they get made in fabric though. I'm a very visual learner with quilting so I don't often read the pattern all the way through - guess how many times that's gotten me into trouble. I rarely use the exact fabrics used in a pattern so my quilts will look totally different than the pattern. I've been pushing myself in the improv area in the last couple of years and am learning a whole new side to myself.I love the look of the improv quilts but letting go of control of where a quilt/block is going is hard for me. Let's just say I'm a bit of a control freak. But I'm learning that trying to always control is not always a good thing.

tawa said...

I don't use patterns because I am a kinesthetic learner, according to my kids, i.e. i learn by doing. I look at a pattern, and by line 2, my brain is scrambled and it makes little sense. I need to do with my hands. And so, I tend to see a pattern, then figure it out in my head and go from there. Now given that I am a beginner quilter with only 3 quilts under my belt, this means I am limited in my outpout, so I have forced myself to pick up a pattern, the Gypsy Wife Quilt and start learning some new techniques. I find the process of using a pattern almost terrifying, the rigidity, the sense of failure if it doesn't measure up exactly, the imposition of material choices, colour choices, seem stiltifying. But I am sure it will be a valuable learning process. The natural process for me is to pick up fabric, choose colour instinctively, choose shapes instinctively, and draw on what I have seen in books, blogs and in others work to create something new.

Elena said...

I buy lots of patterns and books and magazines with patterns, but have only used a couple of patterns to the letter (almost) in my life. Mostly I get them as inspiration and/or as a place to get started before I do my own thing. I started quilting before rotary cutters and special rulers using templates I copied or created myself from cardboard or plastic coffee can lids. A lot of times, when I'm buying a pattern, I'm thinking it may teach me a new modern way to do something without having to resort to slower, less efficient techniques. A lot of times I'm disappointed in how little I actually do learn from the patterns, but I'm still glad for the inspiration. Overall, I just feel more satisfied when I design my own quilt and just figure it all out for myself.

Rebekah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jackie said...

My only reason for following patterns is fear, fear of it not turning out, fear the colours don't work together. When I find a pattern I like I'm even stuck trying to use my own fabrics, I get stuck with the picture of the designer's quilt and struggle using my own colours.
With the last couple of patterns I've purchased I've been really disappointed with them. The instructions are missing steps, some of the keys ingredients for the top aren't even mentioned and the last quilt top I made had no mention of the bias strips needed and I had already cut into the fabric and didn't have enough, granted I should have realized this myself.
I'm truly wanting to start doing things out of my comfort zone and if it doesn't turn out then my dog will get a new quilt for his bed Lol.

Rebekah said...

I enjoy the creativity of picking out fabrics and quilting the finished quilt. Making the quilt top is meditative for me in that I follow instructions, cut to a specified layout and piece the top mindfully. I like getting in a sewing groove that allows me to focus my energy on each step all the while knowing that I will have a finished project that looks similar in layout to the pattern cover.

I do create my own designs occasionally and enjoy the math aspect of creating the pattern, but for me the creative part is all about combining fabrics in an interesting way.

Relentless Toil said...

I'm one of the lucky ones that can look at a design, or a quilt, and figure out how to re-construct it without a pattern or instructions. The challenge this poses for me is that I am torn about purchasing a pattern I don't "need" while wanting to credit, and financially support, its original creator. In the end I've only ever purchased/used 2 patterns in 20+ years - one was your High Five quilt from Sunday Morning Quilts. Love it.

Colleen said...

I like to use patterns.

I don't feel held back or afraid. I follow a pattern for the same reason I follow a recipe - there are so many good ones out there, and someone else has done all the experimenting (and failing) for me. I can just sit back and enjoy the process.

We're all different. Some people feel constrained by patterns. I don't. I'm still being creative - I pick the fabric, choose the layout and quilting design. I may tweak the pattern or make it a different size.

Some day I might design my own quilt. Or maybe not. It's not a big goal for me.

Whenever I go to a quilt show, I am reminded that I am probably in the majority. Most of the quilts I see are made from patterns, and I see people snapping up the kits at the vendors' booths. However, I often hear and read comments from the online community that imply you're not a "real" quilter if you quilt from patterns. I disagree.

Tricia Sagen said...

I just don't see it as a bad thing that I buy patterns. I don't see it as a lack of creativity as I still choose the pattern, fabric, size I want it, etc. Someone has to buy the patterns or where would the pattern-makers be?! The part of quilting I enjoy is looking through magazines, buying quilting books, searching for just the right pattern to go with a color scheme, etc. I only have so much time in my day to quilt and buying a pattern helps me get right to it!

Denise in PA said...

I love to follow patterns and that doesn't bother me. I don't feel I'm all that creative - and that doesn't bother me either. I have created my own designs from time to time, but really don't enjoy it all that much. I'd much rather "follow the directions" (it's kind of like crossing things off of a list - I love to do that too!) - the joy for me is in the making - the cutting, the precision of the sewing and fitting things together and, like I said, following the directions!

CitricSugar said...

I followed patterns more when I was more of a starter but the book that really taught me to do the rotary cutter thing also taught me how to identify a block and calculate the yardage I needed to put together my own thing. I rarely use patterns but sometimes it's an easier way to learn a new technique, for speed OR to make sure a specific quilt fits a defined budget (creativity sometimes means you buy more than you need for a project because you want to have wiggle room, want to have lots of scraps or just aren't sure what's going to make you happy once you start cutting into it. ) More often than not, I'm following a "pattern" that my brain has come up with and I short-hand a plan on paper before I buy or pull fabric from my stash. For paper-piecing, I tend to buy patterns because I haven' t figured out how to make my own for more complicated things like birds in trees or something... But if it's all straight lines, I can usually do it myself. It's more satisfying to be creative in my own right but I've looked at patterns for inspiration and have more quilting books than I should considering they're mostly inspiration or "guidelines" at this point.

I have also pattern-tested, which is a little different because you get a pattern and can sew but you also get the added puzzle and challenge of editing and providing feedback to someone, which is interesting as a more cerebral quilting exercise. Dorky, n'est pas? :-)

Jamie said...

I tend to agree with Tricia. I've been a long-time sewer in more of a crafty way (fabric bowls and boxes, etc.), and have really started making quilts in the past year. I enjoy filling my stash with fabric I like as I come across it, then I pull for a quilt and go find whatever else I need. Having a pattern that says X number of fat quarters or cut XX" wide of strips takes some of the agonizing over what to do with a totally blank slate. I'm sure as I get more experience under my belt, I'll take more chances and color outside of the lines. I bought Sunday Morning Quilts shortly after I discovered your blog, because I fell in love with the quilted storage boxes and the idea of the slab technique to make things from scraps. I haven't been able to work on that, yet, but I'm looking forward to finding time to make something for myself! What I don't like is when patterns have horrible instructions. I had a no-sew birthday crown I bought at my LQS and I had to MacGyver that sucker. What I made that first time was much better than where the instructions were leading me, so I feel like I have some instinct when I know it's not going well, I just may not have the experience yet to know what to do about it. I had bought the Hip to be Square pattern a few years ago because I liked the block designs and also the colors used in the cover photo. When I finally got it out to make it, I realized it only made a 68 x 80 quilt. There were no alternate instructions to make other sizes, and I wanted to make a queen. I even emailed the publisher to see if they had any advice (no response). After consulting my LQS, I increased # of fabrics and made x% more blocks, which I now have to trim down because, in matching my seams on some of the blocks, I've lost some of my quarter-inch allowance in areas. So again, I have to MacGyver - and I've been too scared to make the cuts, so I've been starting at the pile of raggedy blocks for 3 weeks now...

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Never used a pattern; used ideas and inspiration that I have seen online, in magazines, in blogs, and in old pattern books for many pieces and parts of the quilts I make but none has been made from a pattern. No two are the same either.

beth lehman said...

this is so fascinating... to me, this is somewhat personality based!! i fly by the seat of my pants most of the time... don't like being told what to do, don't like planning a whole lot ahead of time, and don't like rules... i NEVER plan completely ahead of time for a quilt. i cut as i go without doing any math. sometimes what's in my mind translates just the way i thought it would and sometimes it doesn't, but the process is what i love so much... it's how i learn about myself, to trust my instincts, to just try... for me there are life lessons in the quilting i tend to do. great question and conversation here!! i love reading the responses!

zippyquilts said...

Hi Cheryl! I rarely use patterns, though I have used them to learn new techniques. I figured out in college art classes that my ideas are as valid as anybody else's, so I don't worry about it. Also figured out in art classes that "art" is 90% chutzpah, i.e., being willing to put it out there. Good luck with your project. I'm bummed that I didn't get into your values class at QuiltCon, by the way. Hope to take it elsewhere sometime.

Christina Wakefield said...

I generally make up my own quilt patterns. My second quilt was a drunkards path variation I completely designed myself, including templates (Turtle quilt from TBay quilt show). I may use a pattern (usually from a blog, magazine or book, I don't usually buy individual patterns) as a jumping off point, but I will usually mix and match different design elements or change the block sizes, to create something new and all my own. I look at a quilt and think "Oh that's cool, but it would look better with more X or less Y, or a little bit of Z from that other quilt." I will use a pattern to learn the process of creating a block, but my finished product probably won't have the same layout.

The only time I have used a pattern all the way through is when I was taking a class, and even then, I didn't read the pattern, just followed the in-class instructions and used the templates. The only other pattern I bought because I liked the block and couldn't figure out how to make it (turned out to use partial seams) it was kinda nice not to have to calculate yardage, but it kinda felt like a cheat. After I figured out how the block was made, I don't think I looked at the pattern again, and I made my sashing different widths in the end too.

I think a great deal of the creativity of quilting comes in fabric choices, since the same pattern will look completely different with a different colour scheme or different values. I was horrified in my first quilting class when I learned that one of the other ladies was using a moda bundle for her fabrics. I'm pretty sure I was so shocked I actually said "isn't that cheating?!!!" out loud! The shop owner had taken so much time teaching me how to pick out fabrics for my quilt that I just figured that was part of the process of making a quilt, and it was a part I had really enjoyed! Why would you eliminate that creativity from the process, especially when sewing from a pattern?

Josie McRazie said...

I love to look patterns to get inspiration but I often hive them my own spin! To me it is part it the creative process. I often 'figure's out the pattern on my own even if it is not what the creator had in mind. I did a swoon quilt but never bought the pattern. For me it was a pretty straight forward block. I do love improve books that give options. I bought SMQ and have made 3 of my own projects from the book. But for me those are rough guidelines. I just love to create! And love to see what others create!!

Karen said...

I still consider myself a new quilter. I've been quilting for a little over a year now. I approach all my quilting projects (and other sewing projects) with the attitude that I am trying to learn as much as I can. Every patternmaker, and quilter, has valuable knowledge to share, and I appreciate when more experienced quilters share methods and though processes. That said, one of my favorite parts of quilting is the imagination and design, and I tend to use others' patterns as inspiration and can rarely follow the directions as written. I have used block patterns and follow instructions exactly for block of the month at my guild because I think it's important to produce blocks to the specifications when making them for someone else. When I'm making something for me, or for a family or friend, I tend to do whatever I want. I enjoy coming up with ways to optimize the process (can you tell by now that I'm an engineer) and find that the patterns I've seen do not do that. I also really love improvisation and am not nervous about making something that will need to be fiddled with to get put in with the final project. The creative process is the fun part for me. It's all exploration for now.

MariQuilts said...

Good discussion, Cheryl. i loose interest in a project if I know exactly what the end result will look like. I sketch very little and just start playing and cutting etc. The more improv I do the less patterns appeal to me.

I think that fear often stops people from working this way....it helps if your creativity was nutured as a child.

In some ways it's a challenging way to work but it's exhilarating to ride the wave of creativity.

SeaBreeze Quilts said...

Hi Cheryl. I happily do both. I am completely self taught and rely on Craftsy and tube videos. I don;t know any other quilters in person! I will buy patterns or kits that show me how to do certain blocks or techniques. This way I know I will have something nice at the end! While I am making the quilt kit or looking through books or websites/blogs (including yours!) I will get the most frantic and vivid thoughts of quilts I can create myself. It's like the patterns and quilts are a stable base for learning and achieving new skills and then the ideas just go berserk after that. It really keeps me awake some nights. I will never have the time to make all the ideas in my head! Thanks for your great questions and your blog!

Sheryl said...

Patterns are something that I sometimes use but often not. Unless I am particularly tied to an outcome I would rather figure it out myself. With new techniques a patterns can be a great learning tool as well.

On the other hand I only use patterns for the math and piecing instructions. I'm not interested in quilt kits or using someone else's fabric selections.

mpv61 said...

I get ideas from everywhere, but I never buy or follow patterns. Designing is part of my fun and my process.

I have a lot of fabric, some I've bought over the years, some I inherited (my grandmas both sewed, so I have some wonderful vintage fabrics that are so much fun for scrap quilts), and some that others have given me because it no longer appealed to them or they didn't sew/quilt anymore.

Sometimes my designs have to allow for the fact I only have a certain amount of something. The 9-patch on my bed is made up of 2" squares solely because that's all I could make with the gorgeous 50s fabric I wanted in the center.

Another reason I can't use other people's patterns exactly is that I like a 1/2" seam, and quilting patterns almost always use 1/4". I like to have wiggle room. ;)

For those people who are nervous without a pattern, I urge you to try it. Yes, you'll make mistakes. Often, your quilt will look better because of the "fixes" for those mistakes. You'll add a little border around those squares you cut too small, so they'll match the 9-patches you need to alternate with, and the little border will "make" the quilt. If you're still not convinced, search for a tutorial on how to do improv squares, and consider following those instructions as your "pattern."

mpv61 said...

By the way, when I do look at patterns in quilt books, it bothers me when they don't show fast ways to do things. We all owe it to each other to share tips and tricks, so if I see something along the lines of "Cut 100 squares and sew together in 10 rows of 10," I see red!

ruthsplace said...

I use patterns, but also make up my own designs.

I use patterns if there is a quilt that I really love and want to make my own version, or if it's a complicated block and I don't want to work out the maths myself.

Cathy L said...

This is a great question, and it is something that I struggle with. I have predominantly used patterns but have a strong desire to learn to improvise. I am new to modern quilting, and find that the patterns help me learn techniques. I see improvised quilts and often can’t figure out how the quilters put them together. I am currently making a “Missing U” quilt from “Sunday Morning Quilts” and struggled with the first few blocks, agonizing over what pieces of fabric to combine, but now I am starting to go a little faster and it is becoming a bit more natural. I read your recent article in Modern Patchwork and I am going to try some of your suggestions, and also check out some of the books you mentioned there. Hopefully with practice I can become a bit more creative in making my own quilts. I am amazed at everything you do!

Kay Stephenson said...

So many great thoughts shared here. After reading everything it seems to me that in fact we have the option to use someone else's pattern completely, use the pattern to get inspiration of learn a technique, design our own pattern and then follow that, or improvise. While I design my own patterns and also do some improvisational work, I do look at patterns for technique and inspiration. This was even more true when I was just starting out. Even though I've been quilting for over ten years and have only followed someone else's pattern once, I do buy, look at, and learn from other people's patterns.

Judymc said...

I have been quilting for 33 yrs. and I only buy applique patterns since I'm just not very good at drawing. I'm hoping to practice at designing my own applique. I think "practice" is the key word here! I know how to draft blocks, so there isn't much of a reason to buy pieced patterns. I actually have cut WAY down on purchasing patterns since I have so many already.

Nancy said...

I love fabric and I love sewing so when I hit the sewing room that is what I want to do. So I follow a pattern most of the time. Not always to the letter but sometimes I make changes to make it work for me. Like what is up with all those lap quilts? Too small, I like bed quilt size. But I do not have time to do a bunch of designing, I work full time often more than 40 hours a week so sewing time is at a premium. I think I worry most about starting something getting stuck and having a UFO that I have to force myself to work on, but not liking the process. So a pattern is my security blanket.

Carla said...

I buy books/patterns/magazines for inspiration and sometimes a technique. I made a triangle quilt recently and I referred to a triangle quilt pattern I had purchased to double check how the pieces were supposed to be lined up in order to sew correctly (turns out the pattern didn't have a clear instruction for that!).

My color placement was 100% different than the pattern and I added another design element (pieced triangles along with whole triangles), which made it my own.

I like designing and doing math to figure out my own projects, but sometimes I don't have a lot of time, so I fall back on patterns.