09 October 2012

Reflections on: size

The challenge was to make a quilt that measured 50 inches square. Sounds straightforward, right? No such luck – my quilt had other ideas. It simply did not want to be that size and fought me all the way. The quilt won.

It has always been difficult for me to make a quilt to a specific size, mainly because I don’t plan the design. I usually have a vague idea of what I want to do and how I will start but after that… well anything could happen. Often I run out of a particular fabric or don’t like the way it looks so take it all out. Or I cut pieces the wrong size and have to ad-lib to make them fit. Other times, the quilt top just screams at me to stop at a certain stage.

That’s what happened in this instance. The quilt needed to be 50 inches so it would be part of a cohesive display of other 50-inch quilts. That made perfect sense to me. I imagined them all hanging in a row, attracting viewers’ eyes. It would look odd to have one stand out just because the maker (that would be me) couldn’t follow the rules.
Of course, that is the essence of my problem. I’ve never been very good at following rules. I always want to tweak here and there or change interpretations. Considering how many pattern instructions I’ve written over the years, you’d think I’d know how to respect a directive. There is no evidence of this in my sewing room,  though.

So I started off ok, cutting strips and stitching them together. As I arranged them on the wall, I liked what I saw. I cut and stitched some more and rearranged things to make them fit. Lovely. After a while I thought I should measure the top to see how close I was to 50 inches.

It was only 30 inches!
I kept plugging away, thinking it would be easy to finish the top that day. I cut and sewed busily and finally had everything arranged on the wall to make a quilt the required size.

I hated it.

Rather than take action, I closed the door on my sewing room and tried to forget about it. I left it to ‘mature’ on the wall, but I still didn’t think it worked. I started on another potential 50-inch quilt instead.

It was a couple of weeks later that I accepted I had to let the quilt be what it wanted to be. I rearranged pieces to form a 25-inch quilt instead. My design worked on that scale just as I imagined it would. I took a deep breath, cut pieces for the batting and backing and started to stitch the layers.

This quilt told me the size it wanted to be and all I had to do was to listen.


  1. I work the same way - letting the quilt dictate size and design. To me, they have a life of their own. I am merely the means for it to get there. :)

  2. Anonymous7:17 pm

    Despite all the time I spend designing virtual quilts I make real quilts by making it up as I go along. I find it boring trying to follow even one of my own designs.
    I have never entered a challenge, but tried a couple of times!


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