In my twenties and early thirties, I taught many local women my age and older the basics of quilt making. Those basics included tool recommendations, hand and machine piecing, pattern drafting (not many books of patterns available in the late 1970s), and of course, fabric selection.
Back then, Winterset had Alexander Fabrics on the north side of the square, as well as our wonderful Ben Franklin store on the southeast corner. One whole section of our Ben Franklin was (and still is) a robust fabric and sewing department. Co-owner Judy Trask is herself a skilled quilter.
Students in my classes went home from Session I with a list of fabric requirements for their first project. Often that first project was a Honeybee quilt block they could either finish into a toss pillow or use as a starting place for a bed quilt. (Honeybee is perfect for teaching both patchwork and applique.)
I happened to be in Ben Franklin shopping for fabric myself when one of my students came in, her fabric list in one hand, a giant sofa cushion clutched to her chest. The sofa fabric was a large-scale, high-contrast floral with a lot of brown in it. (Brown was having a heyday in the late 1970s.) Judy whispered to me when the student was out of ear shot that she had already been in three times, always with her cushion, unable to decide on fabric for her Honeybee block. The lady had been to the other fabric store as well.
I’ve never been keen on pushing people regarding their choices—fabric or otherwise—and this student was older than myself by five or ten years. I tried to help her, and when nothing seemed right, I boldly asked, “Do you like the sofa?” “No,” she replied, “I hate it!”
I went on to teach quilting classes nationwide for twenty or so years, and (remembering the hated couch cushion) always encouraged my students to make the quilts they desired to make, in fabrics they loved, rather than try to “match” anything. By and large, if you pick fabrics you like, they will coordinate well enough with other things in your home (unless you hate your decor).
In 2020, my husband and I moved into an historic building just off the town square. A patterned rug that had been on the floor of a guest room wound up fitting in Mark’s office space just off our bedroom, and none of the quilts I’d made for our bed over the years played well with the rug. Luckily, I have always loved that rug, so it was a joy to pull coordinating fabrics from my stash, then walk up the street to Piece Works (now on the south side of the square) and add a few more. I had fun making the quilt, and it looks great on our bed.
P.S. Inspiration for the quilt I made, which Mark and I named “Hugs & Kisses” because of its Xs and Os, now belongs to the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, NE. The quilt was among those displayed at the Whitney Museum in the famous 1971 exhibit of quilts.