Sage Advice from a Seasoned Quilter

When I first started really quilting about 11 years ago I took a few classes from a very talented quilter, Leslie Ison. (I made this sunflower quilt, still one of my all-time favorites, in one of those classes.) Little did I know then that years later, her daughter Calli would become a very great friend.  So when Calli invited me to a ‘trunk show’ of her mom’s quilts, I jumped at the chance to see Leslie’s work again.  
Leslie is on the right. The show was hosted by Amber (a talented quilter herself – sorry Amber, not a great picture.)  Leslie has a way with fabric. I lover her use of color and her fabric combinations.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen her make a quilt from a manufacturer’s collection – she mixes and matches fabric lines in all her quilts. 
 This quilt is made up of 300 individually appliqued baskets. Wow.
And it’s the second quilt like this that she’s made.

 As she was describing her quilts, Leslie gave some sage advice (which I quickly jotted down on the back of a Costco receipt).

1. Make quilts that you love.  Amen to that. Isn’t it hard to make something you just don’t love?

2. Don’t worry about perfection – it’s overrated. Quilts need to have some imperfection in them.  Once again, Amen.  Perfection can be such an obstacle – I’ve seen too many people quit and give up because they were so frustrated by making their quilts perfect. Just enjoy the process and let go of the perfection.

 3. Label you Quilts. (Here’s where I need to repent. I’m terrible about this. Vowing right now to do better!)

A work in progress

4. Document your life and your history and your family’s history in your quilts. Leslie showed a bunch of quilts she’d made in memory of her mother’s kitchen, her grandparent’s farm, etc. They were wonderful.

5. Make quilts that mean something. Leslie made this quilt this spring after going to the Red and White exhibit in New York. This pattern is called Sunny Days and can be found at Geoff’s Mom’s Patterns (along with many others in this trunk show.)

6. When it comes to colors, there are no ‘rules’.  Leslie shared the experience of learning to quilt from a master teacher who told her that the quilt she was working on needed more yellow. But she didn’t want yellow in the quilt.  So when she teaches, she never comments on color or fabric choices.  Color is an expression of our own tastes and personality. Don’t feel beholden to some color-rule-book.  Use what speaks to you and what you love.

You can see more about Leslie’s trunk show at Calli’s blog as well. Thanks again to Amber for hosting. I was inspired all over again by Leslie’s amazing talent, quilts and by her love of this art form. Made me want to go home and lock myself in my basement for a week just start playing with color and fabric.


  1. says

    Wonderful advice! Thank you for sharing it. I need to get over my desire for perfection. I have so many UFO's that I just shoved in a closet because things weren't going just right. Maybe I need to pull them back out and forgive myself ; )

  2. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this advice with us. It is so helpful!<br />I have never considered making quilts as mentioned in #4. Such an endearing way to display special memories. :o) <br />Your sunflower quilt is gorgeous!! And that is one of your first quilts?! Oh my!! Don&#39;t look at mine, please. :o)<br />I hope you are having a wonderful beginning of your week.<br />Sincerely,

  3. says

    Such wonderful advice I definitely embrace these rules, especially the last. And I try to impart it on customers of the shop I work at, and I hear &quot;Oh, I&#39;d never have thought those go together&quot; so often!<br /><br />And that red and white quilt is divine!

  4. says

    I agree with you on all counts….although there have been a couple of quilts chosen by relatives that I didn&#39;t like to start with…and they ended up my favorites…so keep an open mind…

  5. says

    That&#39;s advice worth listening to! I know I get caught up in the details and forget about just enjoying the process. If only we could remember her words every time we sit down to quilt!

  6. says

    Making the quilt you love is the best advise. I so poor at labels, I should think more about it. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration. Now I need to search out that red and white block.

  7. says

    This is my 1st visit here. I&#39;ll be back just to view and enjoy the beautiful photos of the quilts!<br />I haven&#39;t quilted for years, but your blog is sure an inspiration to take it up again.<br />I have a box of patterns (some quilt) from 1929-1950&#39;s. So it would be neat to try some of the really old ones!<br />Take care-Kimberly

  8. says

    Amen to everything!!! (except maybe color – some people need some color theory to help them out a little, but nobody should ever think color theory is an absolute! Theories are not rules!)

  9. says

    Leslie sounds like a great teacher. I am not a fan of &quot;fabric line&quot; quilts and prefer my eye to the color wheel. And, you are right, her quilts are wonderful. Thanks.

  10. says

    Oh Amy, what a lovely post! Thank you for such a nice tribute to my mom. It made me get a little choked up for some reason. Can we blame it on tiredness? At any rate, I&#39;m so glad you wrote down the advice she gave. <br /><br />Summer is getting the better of me… I keep wanting to call you to see if would like to see Jane Eyre at the Water Gardens one evening… if I ever have a free

  11. says

    Glad you could come Amy. Great post and thanks for the reminder on all of Leslie&#39;s great pointers!!! Sick pictures of me, but oh well! I wish I could have taken pictures… I may have to steer people over to your blog from mine. <br /><br />Take care!<br />Amber

  12. says

    Thank you thank you thank you!<br />The advice that Leslie gives is so important. The reason it took me so long to quilt were all the reasons she listed :)<br /><br />FREE AT LAST!

  13. says

    I&#39;ve done patchwork before but not quilting. I recenty decided to make a dolly cot quilt as my first project so thank you for the timely advice. <br />Carol xx

  14. says

    Good advice,I especially like the one about color reminds me of a class m sister and I took last year, the instructor did not like my sister choice of color and kept making reference to it all weekend, I thought it rude and unnecessary. Wonderful quilt show thanks for sharing.

  15. says

    &quot;Document your life and your history and your family&#39;s history in your quilts.&quot; That&#39;s beautiful advice! To wrap a loved one in a quilt that comes with a story and sense of place creates true legacy. Thanks for the reminder!

  16. says

    I&#39;m here for my first visit to your blog because of your feature at Knock Off Decor. I started looking around and was thrilled to see Leslie Ison in your photos – I know her! And she&#39;s my quilting hero – I always have loved her quilts and wish mine were as wonderful – and I wish I could make as many as she does too! But I also make hooked rugs so that cuts into my quilting time a lot.

  17. says

    Thank you for sharing such great advice as a new quilter sometimes I worry too much about perfection , from now on I will &quot;try&quot; not to worry as much and enjoy it more : )

  18. says

    I can&#39;t thank you enough for the wonderful and super wise advice. I&#39;m a new quilter and struggle with trying to be perfect, cut perfect, sew perfect. I won&#39;t even comment on color. I just don&#39;t have an eye for it but I love it. <br />Your advice has set me free. I think I will go lock myself in my sewing room for a week and have fun playing.

  19. says

    Thanks for taking me to the trunk show too! What a wonderful collection of beautiful quilts and, of course, advise. Never too much of that! 😉

  20. says

    Hi Jeanie – I don&#39;t have an email address for you, so I&#39;ll reply here, hoping you see it. The sunflower pattern is from an old Jan Patek book – about 15 years old. I tried googling and didn&#39;t find it right away. I&#39;ll try to keep my eyes pealed for it.

  21. says

    Very good advice INDEED!!! May I borrow Leslie&#39;s advice for my blog and give you and her credit?? I just think that advice needs to be heard and read by a lot of people. Thanks SEW much for sharing.<br />Blessings<br />Gmama Jane<br />P.S. You&#39;re a busy lady but if you get the chance, come by for a visit at my little blog<br />I&#39;d love to have

  22. says

    These quilts are beautiful and the advice is so important! I agree with every word and feel that &quot;kindred spirit&quot; feeling! Thank you for sharing. I found this post in some circuitous way… am new to quilt blogging and enjoying it immensely!

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