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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.

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52 Comments

  • Reply
    **MIGNONNE**
    July 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    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 ; )

  • Reply
    notes of sincerity
    July 11, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    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,

  • Reply
    Liz
    July 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Love this post! What great advise &amp; beautiful quilts. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Isisjem
    July 11, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Great advice and wonderful inspring quilts. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Blue Is Bleu
    July 11, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    Sheila
    July 11, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Lovely quilts. Wonderful advice to quilt by … thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    kristastitched
    July 11, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    great post! great advice. wonderful quilts. thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    ~The Bargain Babe
    July 11, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    All great pieces of advice. I love that she didn&#39;t want to put yellow in the quilt (I love yellow, but not every color belongs in every quilt).

  • Reply
    Jenny
    July 11, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    beautiful quilts!<br />thank you for passing on such sage advice…i need to step up my game in a few areas!

  • Reply
    Sarah Craig
    July 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Great advice, beautiful quilts, and a wonderful post!! But I&#39;m curious – did you intend the pun in your post title? LOL!

  • Reply
    Quiet Quilter
    July 11, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    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…

  • Reply
    Joyce
    July 11, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I love reading your blog! I am so grateful to have Leslie as a friend! Life is good.. enjoy!

  • Reply
    SewingMom2Three
    July 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    jodi@Pleasant-Home
    July 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Beautiful quilts! Thanks for sharing Leslie&#39;s quilts with us. Very inspiring!

  • Reply
    Wendy
    July 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Barbara
    July 11, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I&#39;ve just started quilting, what great advice!

  • Reply
    Rachel
    July 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Once again, thank you for knowing what **MY** day needed…LOL…Seriously, I love reading your blog. Thank you for this post!

  • Reply
    camp and cottage living
    July 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    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

  • Reply
    Linda
    July 11, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    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!)

  • Reply
    Rhonda
    July 11, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    love this post! excellent advice!!<br /><br />I rarely rarely label quilts of my own.

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    July 11, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Interesting – thx!

  • Reply
    Miss Nancy
    July 11, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Lovely quilts, super good advice. Thank you for sharing and have a great day.

  • Reply
    Betty Lou
    July 11, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    What great advice, maybe we should all have that posted in our sewing rooms so we remember it. Beautiful quilt and they are BIG.

  • Reply
    Gari
    July 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Jan
    July 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Oh, my goodness! Excuse me, I may be drooling!

  • Reply
    Calli Makes Do
    July 11, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    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

  • Reply
    jessica
    July 11, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    I liked this post. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Material Girls
    July 11, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    I love Leslie!! I used to take her classes all the time. She is amazingly talented and so are all her daughters. Neat lady thanks for sharing!<br />Nadine

  • Reply
    a little bit biased
    July 11, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    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

  • Reply
    lifeinredshoes
    July 11, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    Joyful
    July 12, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Fabulous quilting experience and great advice. I&#39;m a would be quilter ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply
    Amy Gibson
    July 12, 2011 at 12:25 am

    What priceless advice! I need to start labeling too…just not sure of a method that I&#39;m crazy about. Thanks for posting!

  • Reply
    Campanilla
    July 12, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Wonderful!. Thank you very much for sharing these tips so fantastic, the truth is that some take them to practice ever since.

  • Reply
    isa debat
    July 12, 2011 at 4:56 am

    tout simple et trรจs beau

  • Reply
    Carol
    July 12, 2011 at 6:14 am

    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

  • Reply
    Patty
    July 12, 2011 at 7:34 am

    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.

  • Reply
    Annabella
    July 12, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Thanks for sharing such wonderful advice and quilts and your sunflower quilt is quite stunning. I`m a bad labeler too. Must do better.

  • Reply
    Live a Colorful Life
    July 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I think one of my favorite things is to spend time with friends, looking at quilts, sewing, etc. They are all beautiful and special quilts–the red and white is my favorite.

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    July 12, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    do you have more info about the block used in the fourth picture? i like that block; it&#39;s so cute!

  • Reply
    Shannon
    July 12, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    &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!

  • Reply
    Why Not Sew?
    July 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Great post! beautiful quilts and wonderful advice ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Gayle
    July 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Sherry
    July 14, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    What a wonderful quilt show. I too am bad about not labeling my quilts. Great advice in this post. Thanks much!

  • Reply
    Maria
    July 15, 2011 at 8:23 am

    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 : )

  • Reply
    Christi Lynn
    July 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

    wow these quilts are amazing!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Earthtones Girl
    July 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Kristyne
    July 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply
    Jeanie
    July 17, 2011 at 11:44 am

    I really love your sunflower quilt! Do you recall where the pattern came from????

  • Reply
    Ineke van den Akker
    July 18, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Just WOW!!

  • Reply
    amy smart
    July 18, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Gmama Jane
    July 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    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 http://grandmamasstories.blogspot.com<br />I&#39;d love to have

  • Reply
    Cynthia@aquilterbynight
    March 15, 2012 at 6:50 am

    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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