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What makes a quilt a success?

I think and dream about quilts all the time.  I might be remembering one I’ve previously created, improving one I am working on or imagining one I want to make. Those compelling quilts that I want to make urge me to stop at quilt stores or pull fabrics out of my stash when I am right in the middle of another project. The yet to made quilts are amazing! They are perfect. I’ve found the greatest fabric, the actual quilt matches my fantasy and everything is sewn without the slightest mistake. That must be what makes a quilt a success, perfection? No! I don't think so.

perfectNone of my actual quilts are perfect, not even close. But I adore them all the same. And for me they are a success. Somehow, in spite of whatever mistakes I may make, I love the whole completed quilt. And I find I really don’t like a quilt as I am making it, I change it.  The reasons whyare varied which makes me wonder. What's the essential part of making a successful quilt?

Maybe it’s the fabric. Certainly we all spend a lot of time buying fabric. Heck, I buy it all over the world. If I love it I buy lots and I figure out later what I am going to do with it. So is that the most important part? Maybe!

However, I was in a round robin and one participant sent a gorgeous center block that had stimulated tremendous additions and the fabric was kindof lousy. Correction, really lousy. You could see through the white and it was very cheap fabric. But, oh I lusted after that quilt!

Hmmm, if I coveted a quilt with mediocre fabric that wasn’t even finished then design must be the trump card, the central element that makes a quilt be a success. Maybe? But I have seen quilts which are clever and well designed and should work, they really should. But somehow, they just don’t speak to me. And I’ve seen colorful Gee’s Bend quilts without a discernible design and they make me want to grab them and and hold them close to my body. That is a successful quilt!

There’s a thought, color. There are color workshops in every quilt store in America. There are color wheels, colorhand dyed fabrics and color swatches so you get exactly that shade of sparkle blue twilight that you want, no NEED, for your quilt.

And then there are threads in every pastel, bold, classic or blended shade a computer can come up with. Now we know, it’s color. Or is it? If that is true, why are whole cloth quilts so stunning? It’s just one piece, one color and a whole lot of gorgeous stitching.

Now we are getting somewhere. It’s the stitching. It’s the perfect corners, the 12 stitches to an inch and the diamonds whose points are as sharp as a sword. It must be the impeccable binding whose endings and beginnings are an enigma known only to the creator.

It feels good to have nailed down the most essential part of a quilt, the sewing itself. Phew, I am glad that is settled. Hold on there for a minute, buddy. Let’s not rush to judgment. Does mean that quilts that sell, gather votes and grace our beds as well as our walls are sewn with impeccable skill. Those are the quilts that sing?

Maybe for some they do but not always to ME. I have seen some gorgeous examples of skill beyond my wildest dreams made by expert Amish quilters. There is not a discernible error in the entire quilt and I yearn for the the skill of that quilter. But the fabric might be meh, the colors dull and the design overdone and unoriginal.

I have personally seen beautiful skills create a quilt that doesn’t grab me. I have experienced fabulous designs that just don’t work. I have seen gorgeous fabrics and exciting colors that are wasted in a quilt that just doesn’t make my heart go pitter pat.

On the opposite side, I have seen poorly constructed quilts that are truly works of art. Some quilts have colors that have faded or ripped but have left the beauty behind. I’ve been lucky enough to view quilts made out of leftovers, used clothing or flour sacks that make me yelp with pleasure.

We can focus on just the right fabric, using the absolutely correct color theory, improving our skills and designs that are time tested and end up with a quilt that will please us in the end. Because the goal Enjoyment-wallpaper-2has to please the maker when it is done.

I maintain that there is not one essential part of making a quilt. There is not one formula for "success" because the magic that is a quilt is between the quilter and the quilt and all those who gaze upon this masterpiece. If it caresses your senses and makes you happy then that is the most important element, the enjoyment.

I love yummy fabrics, magnificent colors, top shelf skills and intricate designs. But more than all of that, I want to adore my quilts and your quilts. I want some indescribable element to grab me by the collar and make me rejoice at that fabric magically transformed into the wonder that is a quilt.

Magic, maybe that’s the most important part of making a quilt. Get out your wands and let’s go make some now.

Sew happy!

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    Kathy Mathews

    My passions are quilting and sewing. Add to that French, Spanish, books, swimming, travels, new restaurants, yoga and chocolate and you have me. All of these are best shared with family and friends. Except for chocolate, don't touch my chocolate. You can email me at QuiltingSewingCreating@gmail.com

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