Why follow a pattern when you can be creative

Tonight is blogapalooza, one hour to write a post on as assigned topic. The topic for today’s blogapalooza is “Write about something in your life you once obsessed about but now rarely, if ever, think about.” I read it out loud and before I had finished, I knew the answer.

photo004I used to read and stick to the directions of a pattern to the letter. If the quilt was shown in blue and yellow, I made it in blue and yellow.  I think a lot of people make quilts that way and it’s great.

I have made the quilt on the left twice. Both times I followed exactly how it was in the book. 20 years separated the making of the two but that’s exactly the quilt I wanted.

Another example is when I made a school house quilt, I made it in red and white. I didn’t even consider any color besides the traditional combination. I had a pattern and I followed every line, even the border.

I love this quilt. I wish I had made it for me, I lust after it! school-houseI know it’s my daughter’s but if she ever doesn’t want it, hey, my hand is out.

I am really glad I went through the stage of following a pattern. I think patterns are still really important in garment making, unless you know how to alter them which is not my specialty. I still mostly follow the pattern when I make clothes.

By following patterns for clothing I learned how to put in zippers, set in a sleeve, encase elastic and match a plaid. I learned all the basics and then some. Lately I have a little fun changing them, just not in my very traditional current class.

Now I have a different mind set. I think, why follow a pattern when you can be creative? This took me a while to believe and I realize it is not for everyone.

For 30 years of quilts I followed the patterns religiously and bought them knowing what I would get at the end. It was predictable and led exactly where I wanted it to. No surprises when you piece and quilt that way.

In the past 7 to 10 years I have gotten much more daring. First, I changed colors, talk about daring.

Then, I added or deducted a border. I changed some borders, making them easier or harder as my tastes evolved. Finally I was ready for even more and fellow quilters emboldened me.

There is a woman in my guild who has a saying about patterns that I will quote here.

A pattern is only a suggestion of how to make the quilt.

I love that! And sometimes, the suggestion can be a picture or a scene you saw. Or even less, just something in your imagination.


The first time I really went wild was for this quilt. I used the picture on the right to create my Irish in Chicago quilt. I was very nervous to take this huge risk.

Even after I finished it, I was doubtful. But hey, it was accepted to be shown at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago. Yippee!

Since then I have gotten less and less reliant on patterns. Sure, I will make an old favorite as I did when my grandson was born. But now I willing to see where my ideas and inspiration willdrunkards-path-quilt-cropped-re-and-marked take me.

Sometimes, I fall on my face. I interpreted the Drunkard’s path in a cosmic sense and broke up the pattern and made a universe quilt. It had lots of Drunkards curves in it but was rejected by IQF.

That’s OK, although I was upset at the time. It helped me on my journey of creating my own quilts. And block patterns can just be suggestions as well.

Following patterns was the way I learned to sew clothing and it worked out for me. But great garment sewing means you have to know how to change the pattern for your body. I am not a garment pattern at that level.

I moved on to quilts and I followed the patterns and learned all the basics of quilting. Now I am free to quilt my way, I rarely think about a pattern.

I use all my own ideas and color combinations. I create blocks and change them up. I start quilts that I don’t know exactly how it will end but it will be all my creation.

And the mistakes? Those are mine too!

Sew happy!

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Interested in my last blogapalooza post? You can read it here.

Filed under: blogapalooza, Creativity

Tags: patterns

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