The Tartan Challenge


Bill and I debated a lot over whether or not to include Tartan in Transparency Quilts. Bill wanted to include it because he loved the complexity and the efficiency with which he was able to design the construction. I was hesitant because I was worried that it was the most complex pattern in the book by far and requires better-than-average craftsmanship. Although I thought that the transparency itself was really successful and the finished quilt is beautiful, I wondered if it would be too hard for the average quilter. In the end we decided that it was important to have different projects for different skill levels so we kept it in.

We also decided to include this quilt in response to the comments we sometimes hear about the Modern Quilt Movement. Some suggest that the Modern Quilt Movement is simply about abandoning rules and concerns over craftsmanship. The idea is that “rules” inhibit creativity and that “letting go” of concerns about matching points and sewing consistently will result in quilts that look fresher and more modern.

Bill and I feel that there are times to design and sew in a completely intuitive way but that sloppiness is always just sloppiness. How you decide what goes together is an entirely separate issue from how well it is constructed. Whether or not you plan a quilt completely or whether you work intuitively and improvisationally, striving for good craftsmanship should always be a goal.

Tartan is a good example of a quilt that is modern yet requires a very high level of craftsmanship and planning. The sewing is simple but to make this quilt successfully, you’ll want to make points match pretty closely. In the book, we offer pointers on how to do that more easily. You only need six fabrics but you’ll want to spend some time making sure that the color relationships are successful.

Many people have called the studio to see if we are kitting any of the quilts in this book because some people are finding fabric selection for the transparencies challenging. These quilts were made in 2010 (the book publishing process is a long one) so most of the fabrics are long gone. However, we thought it would be helpful to show you some Kona solid equivalents of the colors used in the original quilts. So here are some colors that would work for the Tartan palette:

[Note: Computer monitors are calibrated differently so the darker blues may look like a bunch of black blobs to you but we chose these colors based on actual swatches.]

9 thoughts on “The Tartan Challenge

  1. It’s a lovely quilt! My husband Bill said that at first he thought it was a wool blanket, then he noticed the lovely textured quilting. Smart man! I agree that good craftsmanship is essential in any style of quilting, and helps us get the results we want.

  2. I’m wondering if a set of hand-dyed gradations would work for this? I noticed this vendor who offers an 8-step gradation, which would allow for a bigger step to the lightest, which seems to be the case in this quilt:
    I don’t have the new book yet, but look forward to getting it soon! For a long time I avoided anything that needed matched points, but I’ve noticed that now I seem to be able to do it. . .

  3. I am so looking forward to getting my hands on your book & I am trying to. Another beautiful quilt here & my husband will love it too once I show this to him.

  4. Thanks for the fabric suggestions. After talking to you on the phone about help with fabrics I can now use the colors suggested and the color wheel and analize their relationships.

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