What Rules Do YOU Break? Open Line Friday

machine quilting, Lori KennedyGood Morning, Quilters!

Do YOU believe in the Quilt Police?

I think the Quilt Police are like the bogey man–I’m not sure they are a real thing.

There are quilt judges who evaluate quilting based on standards, instructors who teach to a standard, and bloggers who try to be thought-provoking (like my Meander no More campaign.)

But everyone knows we get to do whatever we want on our own quilts!

Maybe the Quilt Police are our own quilting conscience????

Of course it is important to understand the right way to do things– usually following the rules makes the whole process easier or look better.

But some rules are meant to be broken!


One “Rule” I always break is the rule that we should tie and bury machine quilting knots.

The mere thought of stopping that often to tie and bury a knot or even doing them later takes the joy out of the process for me.

Instead, I made up my own knot–the “curlicue knot”. I stitch small stitches in a curl and then I stitch back over them to form a knot.  Then I simply cut the threads and begin quilting!

This knot forms a mini focal point, so it has to be cute-cute-cute!

Machine Quilting, Lori Kennedy


Well I can tell you I have a very clear conscience on this point and I sleep quite well at night.

My friend, Annie Smith who is a quilt judge said she would not downgrade me if I entered a competition.


Do YOU break any quilting “rules”?

Have YOU found a work-around for a quilting challenge?

Have YOU ever met the Quilt Police?  (Was it just a cranky quilter who needed a Snickers?)

Are YOU your own worst critic?

We’d LOVE to hear!


YOUR Warden,

Lenient Lori

PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at lckennedy@hotmail.com.  Thanks!



86 thoughts on “What Rules Do YOU Break? Open Line Friday

  1. Hear! Hear! So glad you addressed this subject. I am a back tracker and snipper too! I also sleep very well at night. Who should care as long as it looks good, and won’t come apart. You made my day.

    • Thank you for giving “permission” to break that rule! I usually stitch in place several times and then cut the threads. I love your curlicue idea!

  2. yes, Amen to that!! It would take the joy out of quilting for me too to have to go and bury all those threads!! I really like the little curlicue knot! I usually try to hide a few stitches in a ditch somewhere :-).

    Funny story about “quilt police”. I put a quilt into a show once, but the borders weren’t quilted because I couldn’t decide what to quilt in them!! Entered it anyway. Two ladies were yacking full blast about my quilt as I happened to be standing right there. “Oh my goodness! She didn’t even quilt the borders!! That’s terrible. You HAVE to do that or it won’t hang right!” Before I could help myself, I burst out laughing. They were startled and looked at me shocked. I said, “That’s because ‘she’ could not decide how to quilt them so it didn’t get done…any ideas?” No, they had no ideas ROFLOL. I think I’m fairly comfortable with quilt police and doing what makes me happy! Incidentally, those borders still aren’t quilted….that’s at least 8 years ago. I may decide one of these days. And the ladies learned a valuable lesson about spouting off your opinion out loud :-).

  3. Loved this post Lori! If one is quilting for a competition, then obey the rules set out by the quilt police for the event, but when quilting for gifts, or charity, or just for the joy of it, break whatever rules you feel like! And sleep tight under that cozy, oulaw quilt!

  4. I hate drawing corner-to-corner lines on squares, so I took a straight edge and a Sharpie and drew a line on my quilting table that lines up with the needle. Now I just put one corner under the needle, put the other corner on the line I drew, and stitch away. I get better results this way than with marking each square, too. To make half squares, I line up the 1/4” mark on my presser foot.

  5. I know a lot of quilters think that Aurifil is the be all, end all for thread… I just can’t make myself spend $11 for a little spool of thread. I order mine from Connecting Threads. I also use poly, instead of cotton… I get a little irritated when beginning quilting teachers insist that Aurifil is the only acceptable option…

    • I love Aurifil. But when I teach I always say–find YOUR favorites. And if you don’t have a favorite here are some of mine to get you started. We all have different machines and work differently so everyone will find different favorites!

      • I think the thread that works well for you is what you should use. I try to keep with cotton thread, but if I have a polyester in the right color that is what I use.

    • I like Aurifil, but I also like Connecting Threads. The long arm quilters I know say it is very good thread for quilts…very little lint. I use whatever brand comes in the right color for the project!

      • My Brother VQ2400 positively HATES Aurifil thread. No amount of adjusting tension will get it to work. But Ethyl (my machine) loves Superior and Mettler, any weight.

    • Oh AMEN Kris – I too cannot spend 13.95 for the same results that I can get from CT. And I get WAY yardage. I really them and the nice postcard of threads that comes with every order. Thank you for speaking up – I love your courage. Vivian

    • I made a cute Potato bag for microwaving baked potatoes, but I forgot I had poly thread in the bobbin. The thing caught fire! BTW if a micro fire starts, don’t open the door. The lack of oxygen will put it out.

  6. I have learned that I can break “rules” all the time, and I never enter any competitions so don’t have to dwell on “should”. Last year I decided I don’t need more affirmation for my creative outlet than the pleasure of sharing with my quilt guild that a project is completed. I am not a perfectionist any longer, and so I feel more free to try things. Now I simply enjoy making and giving instead of forcing myself to “get it right”. I niw create items to be used instead if being displayef, and I receive satisfaction in helping others plus many smiles, hugs and memories with friends and children in return.

  7. Hear! Hear! I don’t tie knots, either, and the “quilt police” aren’t going to shame me into doing it. I either “tack” or do the sew-over that you show in your photo. I’ve yet to have the quilting come out of any quilt, even after hard use and frequent washing (as in kids’ quilts). Who are these quilt police, anyway, that we should except their ideas as gospel?

  8. Thank you for sharing how you do your knots when quilting. The idea of burying knots makes me rethink quilting, every time. Now I can cross that one off my list and try your method!

    Quilt police story: Years ago at the (last) retreat I’ve been to, I was putting quilt blocks up on a design wall. I had never done this in a room full of people, so I was already nervous, even though everyone was working on their stuff and not paying attention to me. Or so I thought. I was looking at my design when I voice from behind me rather snarkily said “Is it supposed to look like that?” At which point I took the blocks down and went to bed. I can laugh about it now, but it was fairly crushing at that point, I did finish the quilt, with the blocks “like that” and it’s one of my favorites, with a story too!

    • In my quilt group when we put blocks up on a flannel board, we often invite people to help us rearrange blocks if we want them to be “random”–well spread out. It’s saved me many times. Many eyes can be very helpful. We do, however, have an unwritten rule to be supportive. You can always find something nice to say about a quilt, even if it isn’t to your taste.

    • I have had a few similar experiences!! And every time I look at the quilts I think of the negative comment not all the positive ones–like I’m forever defending my choice!

  9. The way I look at it, “rules” or guidelines need to have reasoning behind them. When they do, they are very useful. It gives me something against which to evaluate them. So when it comes to rules such as prewashing, pressing seams open or to the side, thread choice, etc., I need the why behind the “rule.” Without it, they function mostly as opinions or traditions.

    So, no I do not break rules, but I may be ignoring traditions and opinions!
    Happy quilting!

  10. There is nothing wrong with working for a certain standard when preparing for a competition, but If we all strived to attain the exact standard of perfection as demanded by the “quilt police”, creativity and the joy of quilting would suffer. Better to make something to please one’s self and that will bring joy to a recipient, knowing it was made with love.
    It’s my understanding that the Amish always make a deliberate mistake in their quilts to acknowledge that only God is perfect. Better to work toward a personal best and enjoy the process. Improvement will come naturally with time and practice
    As always Lori, thank you for your kind encouragement.

    (Oh yes! I break lots of rules, but I have fun and am always learning)

    • About the Amish deliberate mistake….I usually make more than one mistake that isn’t deliberate, but as long as I am okay with it, I keep on going.

      Don’t tell anyone. I press most seams open because it makes the quilting easier.

      • LOL, mistakes creep in easily for all of us. I have asked Amish and former Amish about adding mistakes on purpose. They had never known anyone doing that.

        And I press seams open also. I shorten the stitches. It gives so much nicer results.

      • S-h-h-h-h! I won’t tell if you don’t! I press open too, except where it’s very dark against very light or white. I figure that with enough quilting (especially if using the quilt-just-outside-the-ditch pattern) seams won’t have a chance to separate, so I don’t worry about it. About the Amish again – whether or not they make a deliberate mistake – I wish I could say I make only 1, or 2, or 5, or 25; it gets embarrassing!

  11. I have to tell you my husband is the quilt police. he is an excellent woodworker and so he thinks that fabric should behave in the same way. He is very quick to point out if points to not match to the millimetre and he is vocal when in quilt shops and seeing quilts hanging up and I have to shut him up before anyone gets offended.

  12. When I used to teach knitting classes I always told my students – it does not matter how you get there, as long as you get your desired result. Life is too short to worry about the judgments of others.

    “Let she who is without errors cast the first seam ripper.”

  13. I just took a class in Houston and the teacher also told us she ONLY knots and burries her threads, if the quilt she is making will be entered in a COMPETITION. Otherwise, she breaks “the rules” too and is quite happy about it. Like your article, what she said was quite liberating for me.

  14. I love this topic!!! One of the rules I break is, I do not fold my 2 1/2” binding strips in half as I do not like the look of 1/4” bindings on most of my quilts. I like 1/2” as I think the wider width looks better an I want, and get, perfect sharp, crisp corners. I also do not care for hand sewing so I blindhem my binding on the back of my quilts with my sewing machine. I don’t do it the way you are taught to use the blindhem stitch and blindhem foot, as that would look sloppy, I have a different technique and it is very neat and tidy. I don’t bury threads, I use embroidery thread for quilting, and I am sure there are many other rules I break that would drive the quilting police crazy!!!

  15. I took a friend and beginning quilter to her first big quilt show, and I was pointing out different features and techniques to her, answering her questions as best I could, sometimes asking a docent to show us the back of a quilt, when I noticed people were following us around and listening. Then they began joining in, adding their comments and questions. Turned into a very interesting experience.

  16. For me, your signature is the “curlicue knot”!!
    I am all for breaking “quilting” rules!!
    I like the idea of not having to start/stop to tie knots.
    Thanks for sharing you tip!

  17. You said it well! Just to think about tieying and burying a knot takes the joy out of Quilting. I start with 7 tiny little stitches, one very close to each other.

  18. I had never learned how to tie and bury on machine, so I don’t. I find your thoughts on it refreshing. I am definitely my own worst critic. Working on that.

  19. Sometimes I break rules, and sometimes I wish I hadn’t, such as the last quilt sandwich I put together. I did not secure the backing before laying the batting and top on. I had wrinkles I had to fix on the backing. It took twice as long to finish sandwiching and I learned a lesson. That rule should not be broken and I wish I would have listened to the “police”that day. Some “rules” can be worked around others, ignored. Who washes all their fabric before they use it. I have looked at both camps, not sure which is right and which is wrong. Quilting should be a joy to do, not and exercise in following someone elses rule.

  20. I’ve tied, but I prefer snipping! As far as the police go, I think they’d take one glance at my quilts and either faint or just back away as fast as possible – the missed stitches and the loose bits are a fair few and because my quilts are not going to be shown, they are given to family so it doesn’t matter. Well until they fall apart at the first washing! Seams. I am learning not to press to the dark side – because sometimes they need to be pressed open to lie flatter for quilting. I’m never too sure, even when the instructions tell me which way to press – they seem to be very bulky and I just have to (and thank Eleanor Burns for this term) smoosh it flat!

  21. I love the idea of back stitching to tie the threads! Fabulous idea! I am a new quilter and just starting to learn the process of quilting! I am doing it my way! I am making quilts to be used and not for the quilt police! And yes I know some quilt police! Just tell them what they want to know and I will do it my way! 😍😍😍

  22. Hi Lori: This was a liberating post!!!! Because I was taught by the “quilting police” in 2005! But, I have never regretted it!! They taught precision, accurate cutting,perfect piecing! I really can’t complain. I am still at it over 10 years and it has done wonders for blue ribbons! Sometimes I want to “fudge” a bit, but for me it’s so ingrained to “do it right” I end up ripping it out anyway!!! Say a quilting prayer for me, maybe there is still hope! Thanks (and I will try). L

  23. Machine quilting has always appealed to me. I tend to quilt my quilts to death. When I first started quilting in my local rural community, the great quilters of this area were all hand quilters. One of them has insisted over the years that machine quilting really isn’t quilting at all. Granted, this great lady can hand quilt circles around anyone I’ve ever seen and her stitches are perfectly spaced and tiny. The AQS brought their show to the area for 3 years and over that time of her seeing the magnificent quilts winning ribbons and awards, she has begun to change her mind. So sometimes, the quilt police can serve a valuable purpose, opening eyes to other possibilities.

      • HI – Saw a great videolog from master Fons on this subject. She used analogy of walking, biking and driving a car. You could walk to the store (hand quilt) or you could bike to the store (machine quilt) or could drive to the store (long arm quilt). All are acceptable, just depends on what you want to experience. PS – I shortened her analogy to fit the box. Would love to find it again. Remember – a finished quilt is better than a perfect quilt! Our answer to the quilt police!! V-

  24. I put the first quilt that I did on my longarm in my local guild show. It was all stitch in the ditch. Not the best choice for my first longarm quilting experience. While it wasn’t the best (and I am a bit of a perfectionist), I was not ashamed to have it displayed. As I was walking by my quilt in the show, an older couple was also looking at it and I heard her say “that quilting is terrible”. I wish that I would have turned to her and said “thank you, it’s mine”! I am proud of all my work, perfect or not.

  25. I don’t stabilize my t-shirt quilts. Ever! Gasps of horror everywhere. :). I’ve done hundreds and my best are unstable.

  26. For those with newish machines, you can program in a series of stitches to start & end, go back, or whatever you like. Some will automatically do this – just check your manual. That way you don’t have to think about it. Just start stitching & enjoy yourself! I LOVED the “Grim Ripper” comment. One of my fellow quilters likes to make word play & puns (Jack the Ripper, etc.), so I’ll tell her this one — they’d make great t-shirts.

    • OMG! “Jack the Ripper”, “Grim RIpper” – I’m still laughing!

      I used to tie and bury everything (a drag) until I got a new machine. And as you said Karen, it makes tidy little knots anywhere I want and they seem to hold up nicely. All I have to do is snip off the itty bitty thread ends it leaves, easy peasy. Not good enough or a competition but I only make things for charity, gifts, or for my own use anyway and I love doing it.

      • AAARRRGGGHHH!!!! Ethyl just had another major breakdown, the sixth one in her 16 month life. I have three projects to finish, not the least of which is to sandwich and quilt an 86” x 86” quilt for my husband, for Christmas. I am traveling this week, but when I get back I am trading Ethyl in for a Janome 9400. Merry Christmas to me.

  27. This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I just finished a quilt that I hope will be carried to lots of lacrosse games and I broke a whole bunch of “rules.” I was feeling really guilty until I read all these comments. I don’t tie and bury and I go back over quilt stitches when I slip and make them too long. No one has ever complained when I give them a quilt. Here’s to the “if you can’t notice it while driving by at 30 mph” rule!

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  29. When I first began to longarm in the 90’s, the belief was that stitching over previous stitching would weaken the threads and that even crossing over a previous line of stitching was a no-no!

    I sometimes take delight in that memory when I am doing a design with lots of cross- overs!!

  30. Hi dear quilting friends! I enjoy the process of piecing and quilting. If I accidentally make a mistake I just continue. I try not to sweat 😓 the small stuff! A little quirk here and a little quirk there makes for an awesome day.

  31. The only time I met quilt police was this year. My own local guild had a show at the beginning of June. It is exhibition only, no vendors, no judging. The only prize is a viewers’ choice. We had a special exhibit of red and white quilts. That’s right, red and white. That was never defined, in the many months prior to the show. I created two red and white quilts specifically for the special exhibit. I was told one was not red and white, because there were other colors (tiny bits of black or gold, and a very small amount of print that included grey and teal — anyone looking at the quilt would have said it was red and white.) The other one qualified as red and white, even though it also had a tiny print with black and tan. They were both red and white quilts. They both had other colors, though in very small amounts, in the red. Anyone looking at the quilts would have called them red and white. The requirements for the special exhibit were not defined prior to the show itself. And yet one qualified as red and white and the other did not. I damn near didn’t include either quilt in the show. Aside from that, I make what I want, how I want, and no one but me gets to decide what is okay and what is not okay. THanks for the post.

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