You just finished your quilt top, and now you're faced with that dreaded question, "how do I quilt this?" It's an all-to-common question, and the answer is not always easy. There are as many ways to quilt a quilt as there are quilts, and nobody can explain the best answer because all answers are equally valid. It's all about the quilting choice that's right for you. Our Full Line Stencil collection can help narrow the choice but ultimately, what is really needed is some inspiration.
I had a customer ask me recently if there was an easy way to determine how to quilt a quilt. This is a difficult question. It caught me off guard, so I took a deep breath, trying to gather my thoughts, and since I knew there is not one particular correct answer to this question I told her of my personal experience and how I pick a design to quilt.
Using an example of a quilt top I just finished to illustrate my process I began my explanation as best I could. "I like to pick through a variety of different stencils; overall patterns, motifs, whatever pulls my attention and I place it on the quilt and try to imagine it quilted. You can go through our website online or our printed catalog and do the same. My recently finished quilt top was just two different alternating blocks. Sometimes I think I'm going to quilt block by block, and I end up finding the perfect overall pattern so I try to stay open to all options and not have any preference. I continued my search until a stencil I placed on the block "sparked joy," as Kon Mari likes to say. I knew immediately it was the one, although it began as a random choice in the pile with no expectations."
This is the one that not only spoke to me but it screamed "pick me!". I knew I had to use it. The two fundamental elements of the design made it a perfect fit: the size, and the theme. I chose #60019, Daphany, by Anne Bright (the largest version), and for the outer and inner borders, I chose Dancing Sunflowers by Dave Hudson, #40017. You can see the design on the two blocks but what's missing is what it looks like when they're all sewn. A beautiful secondary design emerges, as shown in the line art, also below.
How did I do that? Can I explain how I did that? I'm not sure, but I'll try. I think it has to do with a conclusion I came to years ago - that creativity does not come from us. It flows through us. It doesn't even belong to us. I focus on this idea throughout my day. It doesn't really matter what I'm doing. Whether it's deciding how to quilt a quilt, finding a solution to an accounting or computer problem, even ordinary questions like "What am I going to cook for dinner?" or "How am I going to manage all I have to do today?" can be answered by relaxing into the flow of creativity. Step out of the way of your limited, finite, ways of thinking and invite the flow of creativity in. The best ideas come from outside our thoughts, by getting out of the way of our thoughts. The important thing to remember is we can't get away from our thoughts without relaxing. Creativity just doesn't flow well when we're tense and trying to force a solution.
I did my best to explain to this customer on the phone that there really isn't a simple answer to her question. I suggested she have a go-to choice that she could fall back on when she got stuck. Many times this results in the relaxation needed to allow the creativity to flow again. It wasn't until last Saturday morning that this idea to write about creativity came to me. I have to admit that being unexpectantly put on the spot during that phone call blocked me from articulating the true answer. This beautiful, sunny morning, relaxing with my coffee, I was reminded how I really operate.
This may not be the explanation for deciding how to quilt your quilt that you were hoping for. It's such an open-ended question. I can only try to answer it in bits and pieces. Sometimes when I'm stuck, I start with one thing that I know I want to do and build on that. Sometimes I thought I knew what I wanted to do but I was so stuck that I had to let go of that idea and do something else. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Bad ideas will get stuck. Let them go. Use our Ultimate Quilt Pounce and audition different designs if white chalk is a good color for marking your top. You can iron off the Ultimate Chalk if you don't like it. If a Pink Chalk or Blue Chalk makes more sense, brush them off if unsatisfied. Sometimes seeing the transferred stencil pattern on the top helps as opposed to placing the stencil over it. Don't be afraid to try things. Once I had the perfect border stencil in mind for some sashing on my quilt. I was so disappointed when the stencil proved to be too wide for it. I tried it anyway to see what it would look like and I accidentally stumbled onto something great! It was our Daisy Chain border stencil. It was wider than the sashing I wanted to quilt but having it go slightly over the edges made it look like a flowery vine climbing a trellis - much more interesting! I went with it. Another thing that helps is to make regular deposits into your creativity bank. This is why I love spending time on Pinterest and Instagram. All those impressions get logged into our imaginations. They spark ideas, they inspire.
Even just a few minutes a day will build a tremendous resource from which to draw ideas. We have a huge advantage. Our mothers and grandmothers could deposit ideas into their creativity bank only from the small circle of friends and family that immediately surrounded them and the well-known traditional designs they saw in magazines. I'm sure some outliers did their own thing, but others couldn't really benefit because their reach was so small, the world was so big. Today our resources are exponentially more vast and we have more time to explore! We can see what people are doing all over the world. The outliers of yesterday are today's icons that show us ideas we would never have dreamed of trying.
I'm trying to share that I've seen a pattern emerge over the years, across different situations countless times. Once I told someone working for me during our early stencil production development, "this is how we're doing it now but I guarantee you we will not end up where you think we will end up". I was right. She commented on it six months later. How did I know that? By looking back and realizing how I rarely end up at the destination I intended when first stepping onto the path. It wasn't because I was mistaken about where I was going. It was because I was bendable enough to let creativity in and take me someplace other than where I initially imagined. The key is to relax and know creativity is always looking for a way in, a way to be expressed. Allow it in, I think you will be surprised by what you end up with! When that creative force is flowing through us there is no effort, there is no stress, only fun and the result is beauty, or ease, or simplicity. We live in a creative universe, I'd much rather tap into it for ideas than rely on myself. I encourage you to take a deep breath, breathe in the magic, relax and create something beautiful! Relaxation is the key, but so is patience. Sometimes I sit and stare at my quilt top, just quietly waiting for the inspiration I need to come. And if it doesn't come, I go and look at Pinterest for a while. Don't rush the process! For those of you who already know this, we can agree on one thing very firmly, and that is, there is never enough time in each day to do all we want to do.