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The Pattern and the Process


Do you enjoy following patterns or prefer creating your own designs? Having taught thousands of students over my 30-plus years of teaching, I know this is not always a black or white answer. As a pattern designer, of course I’m hoping you will say, “Yes, I love following patterns!” I do think we can have it both ways.


Patterns can provide a good starting point in reassuring you that your treasured fabrics will be used in a way that will produce a pleasing outcome, as you can see an image of the finished quilt. Patterns can also eliminate the need to calculate yardage and experiment with techniques as well as construction. Much of the guesswork is removed.

Even if you enjoy putting your own spin on a design, patterns can be a great starting point. I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ve always enjoyed piecing, especially on my sewing machine. Traditional patterns have been my go-to for inspiration. I look at the designs, try to figure out the easiest way to cut and construct the blocks and select fabrics that may be different from the expected. I prefer to let my quilts evolve rather than know the final outcome right from the start. This process keeps me excited and engaged in the project as there are always new decisions to be made. With that in mind, let me share again the Kaleidoscope blocks I featured in my last post.


The starting point for this project was a collection of cotton shirting fabrics. My goal was to use the stripes in a playful way that would create interest in the blocks; the traditional kaleidoscope was my choice. I especially enjoy the movement and designs created when the blocks are joined together. However, I’ve made several of these quilts over the years and wanted to try something new, but what?

Inspiration wasn’t coming quickly so I turned to some of my go-to books – The Quilt Digests by The Quilt Digest Press. Each of the five volumes contain interesting stories, a gallery of quilts and some history on quilt making I can read them over and over and always find something new and inspiring.


While flipping through the pages of Volume 4, I was struck by the colors and design in this quilt. It feels similar in fabrics and colors yet has different elements.


I was inspired to make some of the striped Fence Rail blocks with some of my leftover fabrics. I didn’t have enough yardage to cut the strips with the stripes running in the same direction as the kaleidoscope blocks but I convinced myself it would be ok, even add interest, so off I went with cutting and sewing.


Often times when I'm on a roll, things just seem to fall into place. As I was cutting, I looked over at a stack of fabric I had recently purchased from my local quilt shop. This beautiful Kaffe Fassett print, Hydrangeas, was on the top of the pile.


I like to explore many options before making final decisions. One of my favorite design mottoes has always been “What if I try this?”. I pinned the fabric onto my design wall next to the pieced block and liked what I saw. I loved the large scale print in this fabric and wanted to showcase the beautiful hydrangeas so rather than cutting the fabric into narrow strips, decided to cut large squares.


The last design decision was selecting fabric for the corners of the Kaleidoscope blocks. My love of Kaffe Fassett prints as well as dots led me to explore the possibility of using the blue "Spot". It felt perfect.


Putting all the pieces together revealed my new quilt. It is not what I thought I would be making at the outset of this project. It's softer and less bold in color than I normally work in, but I have certainly enjoyed the process. My definition of a successful quilt is one that pleases me, and in this case: mission accomplished.


Until next time, happy creating.

~Laura

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