Every Quilt Tells A Story

process quiltmaking Apr 20, 2021

Every quilt tells a story and fabric selection is often the heart of that story. 

Without fabric we wouldn’t have a quilt, so it gets top billing in our story telling. Fabric makes up the characters of our story.

Years ago my good friend went to Hawaii. She and I lived together when I was a beginner quilter so she’s directly seen me grow up in this craft. Needless to say, she was quite excited to buy some fabric for me in Hawaii. I, of course, loved the thoughtful gesture even if I was sure – at the time – that I would never use the fabric. It was a mix of Hawaiian prints and batiks that I felt weren’t really me. Nor did I find them terribly inspiring. So they sat in a neat bundle of the shelf of the closet.

 Fast forward a few years and she was expecting her first baby. Immediately, I knew that the fabric she gave me had to feature in the quilt. The bundle came off the shelf, finding friends in my stash along the way. I had the fabric selection, now I needed to find the quilt in it. Funny enough, it wasn’t that difficult once I committed to the fabric.

The design of a quilt gets as much attention as the fabric. Like a novel that can be character driven or plot driven, a quilt can be led by its design or the fabric first. The fabric and the design are intrinsically tied to each other, regardless of which one you decided to use first. We might choose a block pattern based on the name of the block and the fabric because it is the recipient’s favourite colours. Or the design comes from pattern purchased on a trip and is a joyful reminder of it. Whether improvised, plotted in software like EQ, or coming from a pattern, we often choose the design to tell the story.  The design is the plot of the quilt story.

Every decision you make in the creation and finishing of a quilt adds to the story. There is a reason you chose that thread colour and that quilting motif. It could be as simple as it simply matching the quilt top and your skill level or comfort with free motion quilting. Or it might because you have a deadline and the long armer has a spot free. It’s all part of the story.

 Batting selection, binding fabric and technique, and whether you wash the quilt as soon as the last stitches go in all contribute to the story. These are the plot twists, book cover, and written dedication. Until all the parts of the story are complete the quilt is not complete.

The last step in your quilt’s story is to put your name to it. There is rarely an author who does not sign their book – even if with a pen name. You created your quilt’s story, you should put your name to it. In quilting, these generally means putting a label on it.

There are times when the story the quilt tells is as straightforward as really liking some fabric and always wanting to try out a pattern. Other times it is a complicated memory wrapped up in special fabrics. Regardless, it is up to you to tell the story, record it in your quilt, and put your name to it. You are the author, the maker, the quilter.