When we’re kids we learn a lot of rules: look both ways before crossing the street; don’t hit your brother; say “please” and “thank you”; wash your hands after using the toilet. As we get older, rules pile on higher, but some of them are laws: cross the street at the corner with the light; don’t steal candy at the drugstore; don’t burn rubbish in town.
By the time we become quilters, we’re used to following rules and laws. And for most of us, we’ve learned that getting along with others is easier when we don’t rock the boat. We go along to get along. Sometimes other people (those quilt police) try to tell us what to do and not do. It can be easy to assume they are right, and that we need to obey.
It’s worth examining whether or not the laws and rules make sense, both in real life and in quilting.
There are some quilting “rules” I follow pretty strictly.
Melanie’s Top Rules for Her OWN Quilting Realm
1. Prewash fabric and press it before cutting. I know some quilters don’t bother with prewashing, and if they’re happy with that, it’s okay by me. For me, I prewash for multiple reasons. First, quilting cotton shrinks about 3% when washed and dried. That’s about one inch for each yard. Second, I don’t like having the sizing chemicals in the fabrics when I work with them, due to sensitivity. Third, some fabrics do bleed when washed. I’d rather have that happen before building the quilt than after. I press the fabric because my cutting is more accurate, which is important to me.
2. Keep fingers away from the rotary cutter blade edge. This is a rule borne of personal experience. ‘Nuff said!
3. Never be mean to another quilter about their work. Thoughtful criticism is fine when requested. Meanness never is.
4. There are no secrets. If someone else wants to know how to do something, share the process.
Um… I can’t think of many others. In my view, pretty much everything else is just a guideline, or perhaps good advice. Pressing seams to the dark side? Yeah, sometimes. And sometimes to the light, and sometimes open. Always have a quarter-inch seam allowance? That’s a really good idea, but in fact circumstances don’t always call for that. Always use a 2.5″ double-fold binding cut on the bias? That’s just crazy talk!
Quilt police have no room in our work. While others may have much to teach us, we need to think through our processes and evaluate our art on our own terms.
What rules did you learn about quilting? What’s the silliest quilting rule you ever learned? Do you still follow the rules? Why or why not?