When I first began quilting, I had no idea WHAT I liked. All I was focused on was learning HOW to make a quilt. Thanks to Instagram and slowly expanding my online circle, I quickly realized there were so many styles, colors, blocks and ‘feels’ to a quilt. Honestly, it was rather overwhelming. So, I just started trying different styles to see what would make my heart sing, unsure of where I would land.
I started out using fabric I found on Ebay and Facebook Marketplace. I was raised to be resourceful and tend to buy second hand when possible. We were also in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, so I couldn’t go to the store. I also had no idea there were so many fabric lines and designers out there, or that there was okay fabric, good fabric, and REALLY great fabric. I still have some of that ‘not so great fabric’ in my stash from those early days and I’m sure I’ll incorporate them into lovely things with time. The fabric you see in the “Bestie” quilt photo was a purchase from Facebook Marketplace. I met the seller in a parking lot, where she showed me what looked like the equivalent to two jelly rolls (if you are new to quilting, those are (42) 2 1/2” strips nicely wrapped into a circle). She decided sewing wasn’t for her after purchasing the fabrics from a big box store. The fabric wasn’t the softest but hey, it was only $8 plus I loved the colors! I quickly learned she made some big cutting errors when I started using the strips to make a quilt for my friend of 25 years. I made it work, but lesson learned: measure the fabric rather than assuming they are 2 1/2” strips.
I had no pattern for my fourth quilt and didn’t even know there were patterns to follow at the time. I had learned how to make a log cabin and a friendship star block from YouTube so I designed, on grid paper, what I called the Bestie Quilt. I’m working on a variation of this to write as a pattern next year. What I love about this quilt is the scrappiness. I didn’t know what that word meant at the time but knowing it now, it’s where my heart leans. There are so many different places to see within the quilt. No one block looks exactly the same. It was also freeing to not have to worry about my fabric prints being placed perfectly within the quilt. It reminds me of how our lives aren’t perfect -- how we piece together experiences and seasons in our lives that create variety and tell a story.
Melanie of southern charm quilts, who could easily be called the Queen of Scrappy, has a wonderful new quilt pattern book that explains all things scrappy. There are some things to keep in mind when going for a scrappy look; it’s not completely a free for all as she explains in the book.
Scrappy also feels vintage to me. If you’ve been following me for a while you know I love old things. Like us, old things have a story. I often rescue vintage orphan blocks and other non quilty finds. This dresden block came from a second hand shop in the quilt capital of the south, Paducah Kentucky. I recently made it into a tote bag and quilted it with my Baby Lock Sashiko. Using that lovely machine will be another blog post all in itself.
Growing up, we would often take weekend outings to hit up yard sales. Dad always had secondhand and vintage things he would accumulate in his workshop, so vintage was just a normal part of life for me. I was always so excited to see what treasures I could find when we were out! One person’s junk is another person’s treasure (and contributes to less waste). It’s fun to see our 10 year old enjoy that same experience with us. I didn't realize it at the time, but Dad buying secondhand was about saving money back in the 80’s to provide for a family of four AND he was right -- the quality of things made ‘back in the day’ often were of higher quality and durability. So sometimes, you will see me use and make lovely things out of old things.
Last, I lean toward larger blocks. I like that a quilt comes together much faster when my blocks are 10” or larger. This may also come from the fact that I tend to be more of an outcome focused person rather than process focused. Plus, I like to move on to my next exciting make! Using pre-cuts also helps me to finish a quilt faster. When you are a Mom, working, involved in volunteer work, managing an autoimmune disease and a household, sometimes it just feels good (and easier) to finish a quilt quickly, and even more so if you are needing to gift a quilt quickly for a special occasion. I have a feeling most of my future quilt patterns will feature large blocks. Here’s a sneak peek at the 12 1/2” block in the 'By My Side' quilt I designed and made this past May. This quilt has a feel of scrappy and modern due to some negative space in the pattern that you can’t see yet. Stay tuned for that pattern next year!
So what's the lesson if you haven’t found what makes your heart sing? Try a variety of styles. And don’t rush yourself to figure it out. The exploration is the fun part! I’m still tweaking things along the way and always open to trying something new.
Keep making lovely things,