Ask Jo: My Clouded Judgement

Every so often I get a question from a blog reader that I believe others might be interested in too.  I answer them here on the blog.  Today is one of those days.

This email came from Phyllis after she read a blog post where I was contemplating what I was going to use for corner stone and sashing selections on quilt I was making.  She was upset over what I had written and sent me a longer email.  In part it read “...Would you want people going on the internet and openly talk about re-designing all your quilts?….. I would imagine you are exhausted from all your hard work and maybe that clouded your judgement.”

This was a little surprising for me to read.  Although I am admittedly tired, I really don’t think my judgement is clouded.  I did not blast the designer (I love her work!!)  I did not say I hated the quilt (I don’t!)…I actually think hers in her colors looks great….all I said was that I didn’t know if I liked the sashing for my quilt.  I still don’t know if I do or not.  I am just in the contemplation stage.  I might go with the originally designed sashing and I might not.  Honestly, I haven’t decided…I purposely asked for opinions to help me decide.

I change up quilts all the time.  Back in 2010 I joined a group who was making one of Miss Rosie’s Schnibble patterns each month.  I loved the idea and had gobs of fun doing it.  But honestly, the size of the Schnibbles that Miss Rosie designed are often 32″ x 32″.  That just isn’t a size for me.  I often changed up the quilts and added to them.


I prefer baby sized quilts and for me that means somewhere in the range of 42″-48″ square.  The original patterns were just too small for me.

I really don’t think that is was offensive to change up a pattern.  I still created the designer every time I posted about it on my blog.

One time I was really excited about an on line quilt along.  I jumped right in and started making all the blocks.  In the end, the finished design ended up having lots of applique on it and was tea stained.  That’s not me.  I contemplated on what to do with the blocks.  I had a good time making the blocks and I can see to many the finished product was awesome but it wasn’t something I could use in my house and I didn’t have anyone to gift it to…and I didn’t like applique.  Was I suppose to finish the product just to be true to the designer but not true to myself??   I don’t think so.

I ended up taking those blocks and used them in the backing of my Orca Bay quilt.

Was that offensive to the designer?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think my judgement was clouded in any of these cases.  I did what I thought was right for me and my fabric.

Now about the part where the email said, “Would you want people going on the internet and openly talk about re-designing all your quilts?”  Honestly, it doesn’t bother me a drop.

We had this quilt Peaks and Valleys as a Moda Bake Shop pattern.

A blog reader made that quilt and changed up the white to a gray.  Were we offended that she didn’t like our choice of color?…no way!  We were just thrilled that she liked the pattern enough to give it a try.  We were totally happy that she blogged about it.


In my mind, changing things up is how quilting evolved.  Can you imagine what quilting would be if we all were still just sewing 6″ scraps left over from clothes we made?  That’s how quilting started…I sure am glad that people stepped forward and changed that original design up so we could have the MANY-MANY-MANY quilt blocks and designs that there are out there today.

By the way, thanks Charisma for showing us what our quilt would look like with different coloring!!  It’s awesome!

Seeing tweaks on our quilts helps me learn as a designer.  I see what people are looking for…I see other possibilities.  I love that.  I want to grow as a designer…not be stuck sewing 6″ scraps together for the rest of my quilting life.

I did a blog post and gave a recipe for Blueberry Zucchini Bread.  My family loved it.  I make this ALL the time in zucchini season.

A blog reader left a comment that said something along the lines of “her family didn’t like it at all.  The bread was heavy and dense.”  Was I offended??  NO!  It just reminded me that each family is different and that when I give a recipe I should try to remember to describe the product more so people will know from the beginning if they’d like to give it a try or not.

I change up recipes all the time.  If a recipe calls for salt, I rarely put it in.  My family doesn’t need more salt in our lives.  If a recipe calls for cream of chicken soup and I only have cream of mushroom, I change it up.  I by no means have any intention of offending or putting down the person who first created the recipe.  I am just making it my own.

I encourage all of you to take any recipe we post…any craft we do….any suggestion we give and any quilt we design and make it your own.  Change up the colors.  Change up the size.  Change up the sashing.  We don’t mind and honestly, we’d love to see you do that.  Blog about it.  Facebook about it.  Credit us back for the original design and share how you tweaked it.  We are flattered that you even give any of our information a try.  We certainly don’t want you stuck with a quilt that you don’t like simply because you wish you had not changed up the quilt to your liking.  Make our things your things.

One of my favorite designers once said, “…my quilt, my fabrics, my choices…” I heartily agree.  even if that is just my clouded judgement.

38 thoughts on “Ask Jo: My Clouded Judgement”

  1. Well written. There is no law or rule that anything must be recreated exactly. I am always amazed when I talk to people who will not deviate from either the fabric or sizes or anything in a design. I will switch colors or types of floss in cross stitch designs. I will swap out colors and even patch fabric to get enough for quilt designs. Teachers like Bonnie Hunter celebrates the creativity of her students when they change up her designs. Brenda Papadakis does not mind people using the Dear Jane blocks in many different ways. They lead us toward our own creativity.

  2. Amen Sister! Jo, you covered a lot of territory here and I agree with you completely. What a dull world we would have if everyone was lock-step in their sewing. I think a lot of us began by copying exactly what we saw on a pattern cover… for about two quilts. After that, I think it was easier to see our own possibilities. Keep up the great work! I promise I’ll probably be changing colors when I work on one of the quilts in your new book. Congratulations on such a fine product.

  3. Your choice in making a change shows you wanted it to be your own look. Egos get in the way a lot of times. Even if you had bought a kit for this quilt your finished product is your own. I always say how many ways can squares, rectangles, triangles and circles can be sew into a quilt? Chris

  4. Wow! Jo! This is a good sensible & reasonable post. Often I will be inspired by a pattern or kit & add something I like to it or make it more me or if gifting personalize it for the giftee. Especially if it’s a pattern I try to use fabrics that I have in my stash so if I run out of fabric the finished quilt might not have as large a border or I might decide my quilt doesn’t need a bolder for it’s purpose or even other substitiions. I never worried that I was offending anyone especially the designer but always thought it that it was a compliment that I liked the pattern or kit enough to purchase it. But …………because I purchased I thought it then became mine to use how I pleased as long as I didn’t claim it as my design even tho I made my own original changes.

  5. I don’t have a blog, and I guess I’m considered a lurker. I read any where from 10-20 blogs a day while having my morning coffee. For the most part I enjoy each and every one and pick up many, many patterns, ideas and recipes. Some I’ve done and not all have turned out as well as I would have liked. I,ve also shared weddings, births, illnesses, moves and even deaths. I would never think to tell anyone what I didn’t like about a recipe or pattern or how someone should or shouldn’t do HER quilt. The person who wrote you should remember its best not to say anything than to say something that is mean spirited. Shame on her. So glad you printed a reply for all of us to read. Most quilt teachers that I know are tickled when a student changes up their patterns. By the way, I know the teacher who gave us the blocks you put on the back of your Orca Bay – she is very free spirited and I know she would be pleased that you did her blocks and used them in whatever way you wanted.

    P.S. love reading about your house journey.


  6. If we all did everything just alike what a boring world we would live in. I don’t think that most designers, cooks… artists of any sort expect everybody to do exactly as they did. I think that creative people expect other people to be creative as well, even if it means a change in the pattern they designed. Variety is the spice of life!

  7. Very good post. How dull and how difficult the quilting world would be if we didn’t color outside the box. If you think you have to make the exact fabric that is in the pattern and either didn’t buy the pattern or the fabric when it came out you would most of the time be out of luck to re-create the original. I am the same way with cooking the recipe is only a guide – make it your own with a dash of this and a splash of that. Keep up the good work.

  8. Judy S. @ Ampersand

    I made your “Jimmy John” quilt and changed the name to “Batik Zipper” since I used batiks and don’t have a brother named Jimmy John. :)

  9. Very well said. I totally agree. I think quilting is all about putting your spin on things, which makes it yours. Recipes too. Some people like the pattern exactly as it is and thats great, but some people love the idea behind the pattern and not every aspect of if so make little changes, and thats great too. There are also those who cant do that and have to follow it to the T. Its your quilt, you are making it, do what ever you want! I would even venture to say that if designers saw all the changes that were made to there patterns there would be some that they would really like.

  10. Of course there is no reason you can’t change a quilt design to suit yourself. If Phyllis had been following posts about the Grand Illusion mystery (especially on the Quiltville FB group) she would see that hundreds of people have altered the colorway, or the setting, or the sashing, or the borders of the block.

  11. This is why I don’t have a blog. I guess I could just have no comments. That was a judgmental comment. What you do is up to you. I am always amazed by the rude comments left for others who share their talents with us, like you and Bonnie Hunter. Keep your chin up. BTW, how can I buy your book where YOU will get the most $ for it?

  12. When people are overly vocal in their comments and opinions I always take a step back and think. I dont know what is going on in this persons life. I dont know what experiences may have lead to this outburst of negative or upset words. I smile(virtually) and hope that turning the other check helps them. I love how you addressed this. And you are very respectful in your opinions of others work. I do have to say there were some very rude discussions of the quilters pattern on HER facebook group that I was offended by. But I always try to stay positive.

  13. Whether a recipe or a pattern (quilting, clothing, or home decor), it’s only a guide. We change it up to suit our tastes. The blog police is getting to be too much. Judy L. got lambasted a few days ago for using an incorrect spelling on a word. Who cares? Love your blog, Jo.

  14. Great blog post, Jo! I totally agree with everything you wrote. I don’t design quilts, but if I did, I would be honored if someone changed up one of my designs. I think as long as you give the designer credit for the inspiration, the designer should be happy you made the quilt your own. By the way, I’m having the same debate over the sashing in the quilt you are working on. I’m leaning toward a solid sashing because that works for my eye. I agree the original looks great with the sashing. Mine doesn’t and I want to give it as a gift so I have to make it work for me. Keep doing what you’re doing, and keep doing it your way!

  15. Here’s a wonderful quote from the actress and singer Bernadette Peters: “You’ve gotta be original, because if you’re like someone else, what do they need you for?”

  16. Well said Jo. I have been thinking about writing patterns myself and would love to see what other people could make from them just by changing the shashing, setting, or colour placement. “I would imagine you are exhausted from all your hard work and maybe that clouded your judgement.” I think that might apply to the author of the email, but certainly not to you.

  17. I cannot think of a single quilt I’ve made that I haven’t tweaked at least a little so it’s MY quilt. I purchase plenty of quilting magazines and patterns and love them, but like you, I want a quilt I make to reflect something of ME, be it the fabric selection, making it scrappy instead of using a single fabric family, etc. Thanks for a well expressed post.

  18. Wow does that blogger think differently than creative people I know. Patterns are just for inspiration to many of us. For me if I wanted a quilt just like others, I would buy one from a manufacturer who sells them by the hundreds, that is just how I roll. Nothing wrong with replicating quilts for those who enjoy the process but for some of us our minds just can not work that way.

    Thank you for you wonderful blog.

  19. I know a lot (most?) designers are pleased when someone takes their design and runs with it. And, I know that Carrie of Miss Rosie’s does…I’ve seen her “say” it many times around blogland!

  20. Amen–I am totally with you…When I first started quilting, a wise quilt teacher told me to “always do something to make it your own”……Yes—-do that….you will love your quilts all the more because it is “yours”…..I do what you do–I make recipes to suit me and use what I have in the house…..and it is always just fine…….why not try something new????

  21. Well said. My sister says, “I am not buying a quilt kit. Why would I want the same thing everyone else is making.” Well, I buy kits but I add my own touch, change a fabric. add a fabric, ass a border to make it bigger, etc. The kit is just a jumping off point. Same with the pattern. I had some precuts I wanted to use in a certain pattern but not enough so I added a border to make it the size I needed. I don’t know of any designer that would be offended by an adjustment to their pattern to make it fit your needs. Some people are to judgmental.

  22. I feel the same way you do and you explained it just how I would. I’m sure the designer didn’t mind because that just means there are more people quilting and that’s why designers design! ((Hugs))

  23. Jo, one of the things I like so much about your blog is that you share your process – you let us see how you work your way through a project. You were looking and thinking and tweaking things that struck you as not quite right (for you) – don’t we all? On that particular quilt, I went with solid sashing. The 2″ sashing units vs. 2.5″ inch block units just bothered me, and with the checked sashing, my eyes just couldn’t find a place to rest. That doesn’t mean that Bonnie’s original wasn’t pretty, or wasn’t a good design. She’s just a more devil-may-care personality than I am, I like things a little visually calmer, so that’s how I made mine. To each his own. Please keep sharing your creative process with us!

  24. How you found the time to respond to that comment is simply amazing. I thought your response was done really well. If I guess at what this quilter was speaking about, I recall the designer saying this is what I’ve done. She welcomed changes but said she wouldn’t be telling people how many more blocks to make, etc. When you began the blocks using at least one different color, that reminded me I didn’t have to just use those colors. I later saw many different choices which was great. I admire you for getting so much done all the while you’re working on your new house, writing a book, etc. I began pulling the fabrics even though I didn’t care for all of them but didn’t get past that stage. Anyway, great response. Love the new book and can’t wait to see more photos once you’ve moved in,

  25. Elizabeth McDonald

    Oh, Jo, boy did I get into this discussion LATE! Changing the colors, the size of the blocks, maybe even some of the blocks themselves, are all ways to express personal creativity and help us (the maker and the audience too!) to grow. It is true that some of us are alot more comfortable being “flexible” and making changes than others are. In the end, quilting is a fun and ever-evolving passion – and we are all free to enjoy it in our own ways. BTW, I consider all of the quilt blogs I read to be gifts, and I sure do appreciate them, yours included!

  26. I don’t think you have clouded judgement. Love your blog. Love your designs. I am one of those people who look at a pattern, and then turn it in to my own. I look at the pattern as my inspiration, but if I spend my time making the quilt or pattern, I want it to reflect me. No one is hurt in this — I bought the pattern, and do credit the designer in my label and to friends. I am free to chose my fabrics, my size, my sashing, and my borders. I feel after all you add the blogging world just take the comments with a grain of salt and feel proud of what you do. Thanks again

  27. Hi Jo, love this post and every word you wrote rings true! A couple of years ago I cut out 120 2 1/2 inch strips to make Scrappy Trip Around the World…well those strips sat around, were moved from one spot to another and back again…then I saw your Jimmy John quilt on your blog!!! And there was the free pattern!
    I had to alter things to accomodate what I had available and it was much more work than your easy pattern! Early this month I got in and finished it! And I love it so much more than I thought I would! It is more scrappy than using a jelly roll but will do it again one day…using your pattern properly.
    Thank you for sharing your life with me…I am inspired by your awesomeness!

  28. Sounds like a visit from the quilt police…a pattern is just a starting point. What a boring world this would be if everyone “colored in the lines.” If you credit a designer and then tweak her pattern, the designer gets her credit. Thanks for your blog…I do enjoy it!

  29. Well, Jo, I never have the materials a quilt calls for and every single quilt I have ever made is unique because of that. I don’t have the money to just run out and buy “exactly” what each quilt calls for. I find a design I like and make it with what I have. Never have had a complaint about it–not even one. LOL.

  30. People can be so freaking judgmental! I would hate to see 1000 people make a quilt exactly the same. I love the tweaks and changes that make them individual. That make them your own. That’s the fun part. I can’t even count the number of times that Bonnie shows someone’s variation of her quilts and LOVES them. You’re doing a great job and I love seeing your variations.

  31. Excellent blog post. I thought the whole point of making anything was to make it to fit what you like. Patterns and recipes are just guides. Hopefully Phyllis will not be designing any quilt patterns it would be too stressful for her if someone did not follow her fabric choices and pattern exactly. The best part of any quilt show is seeing someones interpretation of a quilt design.

  32. I hadn’t even considered that changing the color or borders or ANYTHING about a pattern might be construed by the original designer as offensive! I think that quilting, sewing, cooking or any kind of crafting is a creative endeavour. We all use ideas and ‘recipes’ to suit our own style by changing, augmenting and adjusting things as we see fit. I would hope that a designer would be delighted that we adapted their pattern to suit our needs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top