Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Adapting Quilt Patterns -- Part I

My day is off to a perky beginning.  It's only 10 a.m. and I've done my morning devotions, the dishwasher is hard at work in the kitchen and the bread machine is hopefully producing an excellent loaf of sourdough artisan bread for Thursday's turkey stuffing!  (Though I am still in my jammies.)

One of the lectures and a workshop that I've offered for the past few years is titled ADAPTING PATTERNS.  During it, listeners and students are guided through some steps to open up new options for using some of that pile of patterns and tabbed pages in our favorite magazines.  This series (I think there will be 4 parts) will share some of those ideas with you.

We'll start with the easiest way to adapt a pattern -- changing the color and/or fabric style.  And I'm going to use my pattern, MISSISSIPPI MUD, as an illustration.  That's it on the left in this booth photo from one of my road trips.  It's the oldest pattern in my line, Mary Huey Quilts.

Mississippi Mud came to life in the late 1980's (I think).  My teaching mentor, Mary Ellen Hopkins, of It's Okay To Sit On My Quilt fame shared a pattern called Mississippi Simplified that would make good use of what we called "connector corners".  Most gals call them "snowball corners" today.  When I began to putter with the block design, there were two triangles whose placement bothered me, so I eliminated them.  When I shared the design with my Quilt Sitters Circle group, they were excited enough about my modified design that I began to offer workshops. 
To say it was popular would be an understatement.  During the late 80's and early 90's, I taught it so often that I got tired of it.  I finally wrote the pattern so that when customers whined about my not offering the class, I could set them up with the pattern and they could make the quilt.  The photo on the front of the pattern is traditional reproduction style fabrics and frankly that is way many quilters organize their fabrics when making it.  Everyone sees it as a "traditional" quilt because of the cover photo. 
I've made at least a half dozen of them over the years from crib to queen size and my students are always amazed when they meet someone here in Northeast Ohio who hasn't made Mississippi Mud.
A student's signature version.
Over 25 years, it's an easy quilt for me to produce (I can knock out a crib size top in a day) and I like to make it for gifts since it's a "signature" Mary Huey design.
My granddaughter, Grace, with her big girl bed quilt.

As you look at the three versions of the pattern, which one catches your eye?  Most of us are more heavily influenced by the color and fabric style of a quilt than we realize.  To see a pattern in your preferred style is challenging until you manipulate your mind into thinking about it that way.  It's hard to subdue the instant "yuck" and look at the design for itself, but once you train yourself to take this deeper look, you will discover some wonderful patterns. 
Two weeks ago, I taught workshops for the Chambersburg Quilt Guild in Pennsylvania and the Towpath Quilt Guild near Syracuse, NY using this pattern.  I can't remember the last time I got to teach Mud -- it must have been quite a while because when it came time to send samples to each guild, there was nothing to send.  So I had to make two new ones.  When explaining to gals how to chose the fabric, I suggest that they "theme" it -- all one color family or all one print style -- and make certain the fabric chosen for the star contrasts strongly with the other fabrics. 

Both of these versions differ enough from the photo on the pattern cover plus I send out small scale mock-ups in two other color ways -- my goal is to help students see more possibilities.  But I have to tell you, what happened in those workshops was very exciting. 

Belinda arrived with this assortment of black and white prints -- it broke one of my cardinal rules for this design -- no light background prints.  But it works!!  I'm not sure it would work with other color families but who knows?  And that lime green star may not work for you, but how about orange or hot pink or turquoise?  Mmmmm!! 
Fran took one of the popular new Christmas collections and did this -- I never would have thought to do it in all pastels with a dark star.  You don't need to find this fabric collection -- you need to think about the effect of using a pastel group of a color family.
Bali's always work well with this pattern, but I've never had a student do it with the entire color palette and be able to find a batik that contrasts as well as these pink stars.  Generally, I suggest students use only a cool palette (greens, blues, purples) so they can chose a warm color (yellow or orange) for the stars (or vice versa).  But this works just fine!

Ann's assortment of large scale florals looked chaotic when she first pulled it out -- but I think I need some of this chaos myself.  What a great look!  This time the contrast of the star is established by the scale of the print, not the color. That's a new idea for me.  Do you think polka dots are the new neutral?

So take another look at that latest magazine today and explore the possibilities of the patterns you don't like in it.  Ask yourself "how would changing the color palette or the style of the fabrics effect this design?"  And then listen to your brain's answer.

Pull out some of your favorite patterns to revisit them by updating with a change of the color palette or fabric style.  I enjoy making patterns again -- it's easier the second time because I know the "in's and out's" of it. 

Let me know what discoveries you make -- as for me, I need to go now.  The dishwasher is finished and the loaf of bread is looking good.  But more important, there is another version of Mississippi Mud I need to make!!

Mary Huey

1 comment:

  1. Mary,
    I unfortunately missed your presentation while you were at Chambersburg. One of the gals emailed and said you are from Chardon. I went to CHS from 9-11th grade and still have fond memories. My family lived near Bass Lake. Hopefully I can catch up with you the next time you are in the area. Have a wonderful holiday.