Pattern Buying and We Are $ew Worth It

‘morning everyone.  Are you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning?  Or bleary eyed, zombie-like and mildly grumpy like me?  I would give a lot for an unbroken night of sleep… is there such a thing?  That gorgeous thing called ‘refreshing sleep’ where your head touches the pillow, you sleep and you wake refreshed in the morning; bouncing and grinning like a mattress commercial?  The bags under my eyes are starting to resemble jowls!

There are a couple of things I wanted to share this morning.  First up – We Are $ew Worth It.  Pop on over to ‘Hunter’s Design Studio’ and have a read.  This morning there is an excellent post about pattern sharing.  The challenge is to share the love of crafting not your patterns.  To respect the designers who write those patterns and need to make a living from their work.  Ps. Sam has some gorgeous patterns on her site too!


Moving along… over the past few years I have noticed the increasing practice of selling patterns that have (only) been drawn, not actually made up in fabric.  This is a huge worry and I would urge you not to buy patterns that haven’t actually been made in fabric by the designer.  Never buy a paper pieced pattern that hasn’t been made in fabric to test it first.

Just because it looks good on paper doesn’t mean it will look great in fabric.  This includes quilts designed on software specifically with quilt design in mind (even when you can import pictures of the fabrics you are going to use).  A design that has been solely ‘made’ on paper has no guarantee of ever working properly in fabric.

I know you are asking why?

A drawn pattern will rarely take into consideration things like *scale, fabric weight, individual fabric quirks, bulky seams and tight points.  The block, or design, must be tested to make sure that the points aren’t impossible to achieve because of the seams or fabric bulk; and you must ensure that the individual pieces aren’t too small for anyone but elves to place.  Until you make the design in fabric you can’t be completely sure if any of these things are going to be a problem.  A good designer can gauge what is going to work or not, but there is no guarantee until it is made in fabric.

*scale – the conversion of a small drawing to a full-sized quilt.

Colour will always work differently between the two mediums.  What looks great on paper may look horrible in fabric.  Case in point… the panda quilt.  I started the pandas in 2012, yeah I know, two years ago!  I’ve sketched and sketched, sewn and sewn some more, and they are just being finished now.  The sketches were amazing, each of those sketched quilts was going to knock your socks off, but each and every time I translated the quilt design into fabric it failed.

A smallish sketch doesn’t take into consideration scale.  What looks great small doesn’t necessarily translate to a full-sized quilt.  With the pandas it was the overwhelming quantity of black and white.  The panda applique simply overwhelmed the other fabrics in a way that wasn’t apparent on paper (in dozens of sketches).  What was vibrant in the hand-drawn and coloured design (and then the computerised design) was flat and uninteresting in actual fabric.

Interestingly the cure for the panda quilt wasn’t more colour, it was more black and white.

pandas two

In the sketches the pandas looked cute in their abundance.  On fabric it was a scene from “The Birds” with hundreds, thousands even, of panda eyes watching you, waiting to pounce in the middle of the night and rip your throat out.  It’s the transition from paper to fabric that’s all important.  It’s only then that you can tell what’s going to actually work.  This applies to repetitive pieced designs too.  They aren’t immune from these issues.

the birds

Even drawing the quilt to scale has its problems… because paper isn’t fabric.  I have this huge roll of paper.  It’s a sheeting roll from a paper company.  I can draw a full-sized (to scale) design straight to the paper.  I do this a lot, the Miss Molly’s, Our House, Merry and Bright (formerly A Merry Little Christmas) and Fishy Fishy Fishy quilts were drawn to full size before I started translating the design to paper.  I usually colour the (paper) design with paint or felt-tip pens to give a better idea of the colours I will use.

quilt collage

You would think that this would overcome the problems of scale and colour.  But it doesn’t.  The Merry and Bright Christmas quilt had a huge colour/design flaw in the original paper drawing that just wasn’t apparent or visible until it was translated into fabric.  What it boils down to every single time is that paper is paper, and fabric is fabric.  They are two separate mediums.  They compliment each other, they are perfect companions in quilting.  But paper should never replace fabric in the finished design process.

toni xx


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