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Let the Quilt Guide You

Let the Quilt Guide You

By Janelle Cahoon, Quiltcentric

My husband laughs when I tell him my quilts-in-process speak to me, but it’s true.  If I listen carefully as I work on them, they usually tell me if what I’m doing is right or if I need to change a color, a planned border or layout, if I need to add appliqué or make some other change.  I almost never end up with the quilt I first envisioned.  But guess what?  The quilt I end up with is better than the one I started to make!

So how do you learn to listen to the quilt speak?

Take your time.  Quilts speak slowly, usually in days rather than hours. If something seems not quite right, keep the quilt where you’ll see it often and let it ponder for a few days, or even weeks, until it can tell you what’s needed.

Be flexible.  If your quilt must be like the picture in the magazine, you’ve already blocked out the voice of your quilt in favor of the one that spoke to the designer.  Remember that their quilt’s voice is not necessarily superior to your own.  Let your quilt tell you if it needs changes, even if you really like the pattern you’re working from.

Listen carefully.  Quilts speak very, very softly.  They don’t shout “No!  No!” very often.  They usually speak in a whisper, a little niggle that says “something’s not quite right here” or “I need something more.”

When the quilt speaks it’s up to you to figure it out from there.  I once pulled more than two dozen fabrics to find the right binding for a wall quilt for my husband’s office.  He watched in a kind of bemused  way as I tried one fabric after another over the course of a couple of weeks, discarding some fabrics  immediately, letting a few sit for a day or two before reluctantly setting them aside.  Some of them “might do” but the quilt didn’t love them.

Did he think I was crazy?  Yes, I think at first he did.  But by the end of the process I think he was beginning to understand – it wasn’t really about what fabric I liked or wanted, but what the quilt needed… what the quilt was quietly asking for.

And when I pulled out yet another batch of fabrics to try for that binding, many of which were desperation picks I never thought would work, the quilt finally found what it wanted.  It sighed happily and said, “Yes!  This one!”

I had a similar experience when making the Crouton Blocks I recently posted here.  The initial fabrics all worked together well and the block looked good.  No problem.  But by the next day I was starting to hear that little whisper saying something wasn’t quite right.  I knew I wanted a bold, cheerful quilt and I decided that the yellow I’d used was too gold.  I pulled out a brighter yellow.  Then the green wasn’t right and the blue was too dark.  I ended up replacing more than half my fabrics over the course of 3 days, even though there was nothing actually wrong with the initial colors I’d chosen.   When I made the new sample block, though, the new colors were just right, and the completed wallhanging was bold, bright and cheerful.  Perfec



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