Quilters are Rule Breakers

I hate rules. 

Let me clarify. I hate rules in which I see no purpose. 

This has been a trait of mine since I was a kid. I remember in 9th grade Chemistry, my teacher, Mr. Henderson, a 60 year old body-building enthusiast that creeped out all the girls in the class, had this rule that if you didn't have your name on your paper, you'd lose 5 points. 

Now, this is a totally reasonable rule. I used to teach third grade, and it would drive me crazy when students didn't put their name on work, especially at the beginning of the year, before I learned everyone's handwriting. I get it. 

But at the beginning of every class, Mr. Henderson would go around and check that everyone did their homework. We'd pull our homework out, put it on our desk, and he'd give you a 100 if you completed all the questions, and a 0 if you didn't bring it. 

One morning he came to my desk and wrote a 95 at the top of my paper in red ink. 

"Mr. Henderson, I completed all the questions." 

"Yes, but you didn't write your name at the top of your paper."

"But it's on my desk. I'm sitting in front of it. We aren't turning it in, it is clearly my homework."

"Yes, but the rule is that you lose 5 points if you don't include your name."

"That makes sense if we're turning in the work, but is irrelevant if we're sitting in front of it the whole time you see it." 

"Sorry, that's the rule."

"But that doesn't make any sense."

It went on like this for entirely too long. 

Now, me a ninth-grade student shouldn't have been arguing with my teacher, at least not as long as I did, but this memory has stuck with me. 

Rules that make no sense in certain contexts drive me insane. 

I feel this way about most "rules" we have in the quilting world.

The rebellious 14 year old girl with waist length blond hair and braces, wants to break




Pablo Picasso famously said, "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist." 

I love this quote. I believe it so firmly, I'd like to tattoo it on my arm. (Not literally, but you get my drift.)

This is what defines an artist. 

They are a master at their craft. They know all the "rules", and more importantly, they know when they are relevant, and when it would be a brilliant idea to break them. 

I'd like to invite you on a journey to become just that-- an artist. 

To master your craft. Learn the proper way to do different techniques. Learn the "rules". But also learn how to break them in such a way that is surprising, brilliant, and definitive of your unique style. 

If you’d like to join a community of quilters from around the world who are doing just that, I think you’d love Meander. Learn more about Meander, here. 


So let's raise our figurative glasses and toast to breaking the rules. 

What's your favorite quilt "rule" to break? What drives you crazy?

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  • I’m new to applique & went to a local quilt shop for help. I brought my cut out butterfly & 10” background block and asked, how do I do this? The lady was very kind & said we’d do it together right then! She showed be product you iron on the back & explained that I should have done this before cutting out my butterfly. Then we ironed stabilizer on the back of my background block! (who knew?). Next, we ironed butterfly to block, blanket stitched it down, tore off stabiizler being careful not to pull too hard on my stitches. It looked great but it was a lot of time & work, plus my needle got gunky from the iron-on stuff behind my butterfly. I went home & broke all those rules. I sprayed 505 on the butterfly backs, skipped the stabilier entirely, stiched together & now have 12 butterfly blocks done! Maybe I didn’t do it right but they all look kind of good to me. 🤫

  • I agree in every word of your post – so true!!! My breaking rule when it comes to sew HST is, that I never mark the diagonal line with a pencil – never ever! For HST in small sizes I make a pleat with my thumb and for the greater ones I fold the square left sides together, iron it softly and that’s my ‘drawn’ line ;-) So easy and so much time saving!

    Martina Odenthal
  • Traditional quilting is all about rules. Perfect shapes, perfect corners, perfect stitches, perfect geometry. Artists break rules. Too often I get caught in the trap of my work not being ‘perfect’ enough. That is not the point of art quilting. We are using fabric as our medium as a painter uses paint. Do we judge painters that their paint application is not ‘perfect’ enough? I don’t think so.
    My favorite rule to break is coloring outside the lines which manifests in so many ways!

    Ellen November

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