Tag Archives: Rules

Quilt Police-Free Zone

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?


Medallion Quilt Rules

Each year my local guild has a new challenge, and I’m excited about this year’s! The current challenge is to create a medallion quilt. Though I won’t enter, I’m looking forward to seeing the entries and hearing from members as they create their pieces.

We just started our guild year this week, and it will close out in July with display and judging of these quilts. To help my fellow members move through the process, and also to help and inspire others who want to make medallions, I’ve decided to republish some of my prior posts. The best place to start is the beginning, right? Below you’ll see the fundamental rules of making a medallion quilt.

Show Me More…

Medallion Quilt Rules — PROOF They Work

Yesterday I posted all the rules I know about making medallion quilts. To prove they work, I want to show you the first two medallions I ever made.

The very first quilt I made was in 2003 for a grandbaby. She was actually the third grandbaby, and when her cousin was born a year and a half later, I made one for him. Not that I wanted to. It was a guilt quilt.

And then the guilt multiplied, because the first two grandbabies didn’t get quilts when they were born. I wasn’t a quilter back then! So when those girls were 7 and 5, I made them baby quilts, too.

They loved the flannel-backed snuggle quilts, babyish though they were. Soon I was enthusiastic enough in my new hobby that I decided to make larger quilts, more suited to their age.

I’m a “self-taught” quilter, meaning I didn’t learn from a teacher in class. And back then there were some great on-line resources, but they were very primitive as compared to what’s available today. No, I learned with the help of a couple of great books, a few magazines for inspiration, and a lot of trial and error.

In fact, I was so ignorant, I didn’t know you could buy patterns. So I designed quilts for those girls using the old-fashioned tools of pencil and graph paper. And without knowing what I was doing, I made medallion quilts. Here they are.

Zoes quiltGeorgias quilt

I wish I had better pictures so you could see the colors, and how pretty they were. The background is a mottled lavender and pink that looks like clouds at sunset. The focus fabric is a bright print with butterflies in hot pink, orange, purple, turquoise, blue, and green. The focus fabric also led to the other prints used to create “butterflies” in the borders, as well as the chunky pieced final border.

See, you don’t need to know how in order to make a medallion quilt!

The rules again?


You can make a medallion quilt, too.

Medallion Quilt Rules

You know I’ve made dozens of medallion quilts, and I’ve thought about this a lot. Each one I’ve made is different and has its own personality, so distilling down the differences into a rule set has taken a while. But here goes:


There is no need for fear, because you can’t fail. Have fun, experiment, try new things. Don’t stress about borders that don’t fit — add a piece or whack some off. Make it fit but flat. Let it show your spirit, your honest expression of yourself.

You can make a medallion quilt.