Same thing only different

I tell people all the time that I have the best job in the world. I know, we all hear different versions of this. Different people have different types of work, and many claim to love it. But I mean it. Really mean it. (Not that others don’t, mind, but I don’t think all of them do.) When I am at my appraisal table, I meet gazillions of people, get to see their quilts, and I hear so many stories. The scenery is ever-changing, and always interesting.

I see a lot of similar quilts, it’s true. When a specific pattern is especially popular, I will see a bunch of of quilts out of it over several shows. Then the next pattern becomes more popular. Sometimes, though, there are “trends” even among vintage and antique quilts. I might see an inordinate number of crazy quilts one weekend, or what feels like nothing but Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilts another. Now, it is true that there are a lot of both of those style quilts around, so seeing a lot of either isn’t a huge surprise. But out of twenty (just to give a number), I might see fifteen of one style on a given weekend. I have no idea why this is, but it’s kind of funny.

Sometimes, though, I get to see more unusual pieces. That is always fun.  It thrills me to see a quilt that shows a particular maker’s personality, or his or her decision to do things a little differently. This holds true whether the quilt in question is new or old.

This past weekend, a lady brought me a quilt for which she said she’d never been able to find a pattern name. I recognized the pattern as “My Graduation Class Ring,” immediately, since I’ve seen it before, but there was something just a little unusual about it. (By the way, “My Graduation Class Ring” was published in the Kansas City Star on April 3, 1935, just in case you wondered.) Take a look at the photos below (posted with permission) and see if you can tell what is so different about this one:

mgcr1Can you tell?

Here is a photo of one done traditionally:

Traditinal setting

I’ll bet you can see it now, right? True, the green arcs in the first one vary, but that’s not it. That isn’t terribly unusual in a quilt as scrappy as this one. It’s the addition of the blue alternate blocks that really makes all the difference.

Different setting, closer.

This was no novice piecer, I don’t think. Rather than applique her circles onto a plain ground, she stitched them into a pieced ground. Cool stuff, huh?

51h8w2havkl-_sl300_Below is a photo of the original quilt pattern as published (I took this off of eBay since I couldn’t find the pattern in my own collection). You can also see a diagram of it at #4267 in the Brackman encyclopedia (at left). You can see that the pattern is sort of a Double-Wedding-Ring-meets-Dresden-Plate idea, right? At least to my eyes it is, with the funny curvy bits a la French Star. I really love the pattern but will probably not be making it any time soon.


Original Kansas City Star pattern

You probably already know that I am not much for following patterns. I did that for years and year and got bored with it, and now I just play along until I think of another way to do things. How about you? Do you mess around with patterns to create your own version of things?


  • Wendy Tuma

    I’m a rule follower, but I’m trying to learn not to be. I’m not necessarily so if it something that only I will see; but I chicken out if I have to show it to others. I’m trying to nudge my creative side a bit more. I enjoy creating patterns. One day I just picked up fabric scraps and started sewing; no pattern, nothing except my machine and scraps. It was so much fun! I need to do that again soon.

    • Lori East

      And that’s how it begins, Wendy! I was a rule-follower for years, but when I finally broke free of it, it was like the angels sang. I still make patterned things from time-to-time, and while I do have a sense of accomplishment, I get none of the joy that I do when I go my own way. Niw, does that mean everything I make is wonderful? Ahem. Not even. But it is just fabric and we all have more than enough of that to last several lifetimes, am I right? 😉

      • Wendy Tuma

        Oh yes, more than enough fabric 🙂 What was your biggest challenge when shifting from rule following to not? I struggle with being a little shy about showing what I’ve done, but at the same time wanting good feedback.

        • Lori East

          Ohmygoodness, there were challenges! The Quilt Police were so busy in my head, telling me things. It all came to a head with one quilt in the Quilting Vintage series when nothing was going the way I’d planned and those old QPs were shaking their fingers at me. In that one quilt, I intentionally shook my finger back at them, and broke all the rules I could think of, just out of meanness. 😉 I painted on it, put glitter (ack) on it, sewed paper onto it, stamped it, and did not give it a binding, just stitched around the edges a million times. To this day I think it’s the ugliest quilt I ever made, but I show it in lots of lectures simply because it represents the fact that I stood up to the QPs and did not play by their rules. Once I realized that I could do that, though, I was enchanted. I worked outside the rules and survived.

          Since then, it’s become much easier to just do what I want and not care what people think of it. If I am happy, then that is what really matters. That said, I have a couple of trusted friends who probably get sick of me texting and emailing photos, and asking, “Do you think if I move this here that it shows…?” But I am still basically working off my own intuition. And you know what? I like it.

          Give it a go! You don’t have to love everything you do, you don’t even have to like it. All you really have to do is be willing to play. Ask yourself, “What if I…?” and try it. If you hate it, use it for something else or throw it away. Decide why you don’t like it, though, and learn from it. You can SO do this. Baby steps and a desire to try. That’s all.

          • Wendy Tuma

            Thanks for giving me your insight and encouragement. Yeah, those QP that exist in my head. They need to leave, or at least sit down and shut up. I’m learning!

          • Lori East

            That’s the spirit, Wendy! Don’t let them push you around!!