Are there “Magic Rules” in Quilting?

Jean Ray Laury (1928-2011), a visionary quilter published her first book Applique Stitchery in 1966 followed by Quilts & Coverlets, A Contemporary Approach in 1970.

Jean Ray Laury offered this advice, “Avoid looking for magic rules to rely on–you can only learn by working, and your mistakes have as much to offer as your successes. There are no rules, no rights, no wrongs….” Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine (QNM) October, 1994 p. 45

This talented woman is widely acknowledged as a leader of the quilt revival that started in the 1960s. Her wit and wisdom, as well as her unlimited creative energy caught my attention. Jean Ray Laury’s quilts with a feminist message–especially about women’ lives–have inspired some of my own quilting adventures. Her quilt named “Barefoot and Pregnant or Senator van Dalsem” is a 1987 piece which illustrates the sexist comments by an Arkansas senator. This quilt was selected as one of the top 100 quilts of the 20th century. For a quick introduction, visit:

Starfire: one of my favorite of her quilts!

“Do Your Own Thing” is easier said than done! As women and as quilters we often encounter rules and admonishments to “do it the right way”. Setting aside time to experiment and to play is one way to begin to know what really thrills YOU! Finding the time for ourselves may not be easy, but continued interruptions do interfere with creativity.

Exposing yourself to a variety of quilts is a valid way to “educate your eye”. You can see how other quilters have solved particular problems. You may notice new color or fabric combinations that really appeal to you. Taking classes is a time-honored way to expand your skills. However, as Laury suggests, “you can only learn by working”! Make it a small, medium or large quilt–but make it your own!

Final Post of Photos from my Trunk Show at Cuttin’ Up, January 18th

Blue Poppies, my original design, is made of simple squares (cut 5″), and began when I fell in love with two particular fabrics. (If you are curious–I was drawn to the bright blue and the floral print on both sides of the center diagonal.) I had to invent something to feature these two as “central characters”. Of course, without a “supporting cast” it would be a boring quilt. This was my challenge: create a grouping that would be visually interesting and even offer a few surprises when one got close. I cut squares, then shifted them around on my design wall. I soon realized I needed those dramatic nine patch blocks for some “drama” on my stage. Note how the nine patches do extend into the border.

Blue Poppies grow in a field of greens and grays with a dramatic nine patch for visual interest.

Liliana uses a “strippy” format to feature this fabulous fabric! The bold calla lilies are framed by the strips of ombre fabric–adding the calm of the flowing color changes to the busy curved flower shapes. I did hand quilt this quilt because I did not think machine quilting would enhance this quilt.

Taupe quilt: Silver Taupe

Silver Taupe is my first in a series of taupe-themed quilts. I discovered this pattern in a vintage QNM article about working with these intriguing low-contrast fabrics often associated with some Japanese textiles. This first “taupe adventure” led to three more taupe quilts of different patterns. The ombre border draws its share of attention! All the blocks in the body of the quilt are set-on-point which emphasizes the diagonal lines of the block. By contrast, each corner of the border showcases three of the same blocks in a straight set. This idea grew from necessity–I did not have enough of the ombre fabric to cover those long borders. We learn as we go!

Gold Dust features the traditional Wagon Wheel block sewn with bright contemporary fabrics. Blocks:The lighter blocks along the diagonal draw the eye at first. The strong contrast in value (light and dark) captures attention. Yet, other features demand their own notice. Some blocks are fade-out blocks blending into the background. Other blocks have blades that offer sharp contrast within the block itself. Border: Study the unconventional border. I cut the border blocks in the same hexagon shape as the pieced blocks using a darker fabric in the lower section to contrast with the blocks in the upper section. I actually ran out of the lighter border fabric and had to seek out a similar fabric to play the same role. I like it even better this way. Binding: The blue batik binding adds the last note to pull together the theme of copper colors highlighted with blue–and a few other zingers.

Thank you for your willingness to explore, with me, my passion for creating with fabric. If you would like to take my two session class Circle Play 101 based on the book by Reynola Pakusich called Circle Play: Simple Designs for Fabulous Fabrics call Cuttin’ Up at 479-846-2611. Two sessions: February 8 and 15 from 1-4:00 at Cuttin’ Up. Book included in the $50 class fee. See you next Saturday!

“Mix(It Up #2 Black & Gold” is one example of a quilt I designed after reading Circle Play. This photo was taken before I finished quilting and binding it. Note the Statue of Liberty fabric in one of the lower blocks. I bought several of these bandanas printed with Her image during the centennial celebration in 1986. Yes, my passion for fabric precedes my start as a quilter in 1994!

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