One of the Facebook quilting groups has been having a discussion about quilting rules. The question is are there really rules and where did they come from and do we need to follow them.
Here are a few rules you might have heard (these aren’t necessarily rules I follow but are rules I have read or heard)
- always sew a 1/4 inch seam, or on some lists always sew a scant 1/4 inch seam (but how much less than 1/4 inch is a scant 1/4 inch)
- always press toward the dark fabric
- never press open a seam
- never press with steam, or on some lists always press with steam
- always prewash the fabric, or on some lists never prewash because the fabric is easier to work with when it still has the sizing in it.
- always use 100% cotton thread
- always pin before sewing
- always check for accuracy and square up your blocks
- always use matching thread
- never wash a quilt by machine
- always use bias cut binding
- always hand quilt in a hoop or frame
- basting is the most important step in hand quilting and should be done with thread
- you must use very small needles for hand quilting
There are many many more that I am sure you have heard.
I have often said that there are no quilt police and no rules but I have changed my mind. I do have rules that I apply to MY quilts. I do always prewash, I do use 1/4 inch seams, I do use steam to press, I do wash finished quilts, I always hand quilt in a hoop or frame, I always pin baste very sparely. I use whatever size needle is best for the thread and stitch I want. MY rules for MY quilts are what I find work best for me.
So where do all the rules come from? If I were to teach someone how to quilt I would teach them how I do it. My rules would be what I teach. I would naturally teach the way I do. My practices , at least initially, would become the rules for the new quilter. They get passed on and that quilter may add a few new rules and take away a few but the rules come from the experiences of the quilters. They aren’t meant to be restrictive, they are meant to help! I have made a lot of mistakes but once made I learn not to do it again and I add to my personal list of rules.
Here is an example: I made a whole cloth quilt and I really do love it. When I made the top I didn’t have an extra wide piece of fabric so I had to piece it. I ran the seam right down the center and every time I look at the quilt that seam is the first thing I see. It really detracts from the beauty of the quilt. I should have followed the rule of not piecing a whole cloth top down the center. Here is the quilt
That seam down the center does show. I should have either bought an extra wide piece of fabric or pieced it as the “rules” tell me.
That way the seam would not be down the center and would not bother me as much. (also it turns out that quilt judges do not care for center seams) I put a lot of work into it and I love it, but It could have been better if I had followed the rules. New rule for my list….always use an extra wide fabric for whole cloth quilts.
Another example is my snowflake quilt. I didn’t plan to ever enter the quilt in a show, I just wanted to give it try to see how it would work. I used fabric I had on hand and I used batting I had on hand. Unfortunately I didn’t have a wide enough piece of batting so I joined two pieces together. I zig zag stitched them together with an edge joining foot and it looked great. but when I started the very dense quilting I saw my error. The seam in the batting shows. Here it is
do you see that thin line going through the center reindeer’s heads? So there is a new rule for me. Don’t piece the batting if the quilting is going to be very dense or the quilt will be entered in a show.
Those 2 rules are not meant to be off-putting to people, or to make me feel like I know everything. They are rules that I hope will help others avoid my mistakes.
Now what about breaking the rules?
I spent many years teaching floral design both to college students and to professionals for the floral association. Like quilting floral design is an art, but it also has rules. In floral design there are rules for balance, proportion, scale, color harmony, rhythm, suitability, unity etc. The rules are the building blocks that make a pleasing composition. I always teach the students the rules. After the rules are established and understood you can begin to break them in an informed way. You need to know the rules to break them. (some day I will do some posts all about floral design rules) There are also some rules that should not ever be broken. If I do not follow the proper care and handling rules the flowers will die and the customer will not be happy.
Many of the quilting rules are there to make for a more sturdy quilt ( I want my quilts to be used so being sturdy is always a concern for me) The rules are really about construction more than design.
The rules of quilting that many feel are oppressive or limiting are there to help make your job easier and keep you from making mistakes. The rules are the result of the experiences of generations of quilters.
Do I follow all the rules? NO But I am often sorry I didn’t. The rules I follow for my own work are those that I have learned through experience. I honestly do not think that they hinder my creativity. The quilt that I have been posting about the last few days might look like it doesn’t really follow what might be considered traditional rules, but it does.
I am following all my rules. The top is one piece, the batting is not pieced, I am quilting in a hoop, I pin basted it, I will wash it when it is finished, and I don’t feel at all restricted.