Baking or cooking?

I was snoozing this morning and had this tiny epiphany. I was pretty proud of myself for how clever I was, then I remembered that it was really just prompted by something I had read in a recent issue of Mark Lipinski’s Quilter’s Home Magazine. (I know, some of you probably hate his magazine, and this really doesn’t have anything to do with the magazine itself….nor do I offer any comment on the magazine…)

The article was basically this: some quilters are gourmet chefs (they design the whole quilt and they may even create their own fabric via dyeing or painting or whatever…) and then some quilters would rather go out to eat at a fast food restaurant (simple, everything’s handed to them, no thought required). And of course, it’s a spectrum between the two extremes, and sometimes the gourmet chef really just needs a quick night out at the fast food restaurant.

My take on the philosophy was more along the line of thinking about how to design and write pattern instructions. So here goes, (I’m a little worried that once I get this written it won’t sound nearly as fascinating as when I dreamed it up while snoozing…)

Quilting As Baking vs. Quilting As Cooking

When you are baking, you need to follow the quantities and instructions of the recipe pretty closely. If you don’t, you are liable to have baked goods that don’t rise or that taste really horrible. I think some quilters use patterns as if they are baking a cake: they want to be told exactly what to do and how to do it and the quilt they produce will not vary too much from the original.

When you are cooking, though, the recipe can be little more open to interpretation. If you really love garlic, you can throw some more in. If you are trying to cut back on sodium, it’s pretty easy to do so without sacrificing too much taste. And there are some quilters who will use a pattern as if it were a casserole recipe. They would probably like some guidelines, but they have no fear about veering from the instructions and adding their own flavor to the final product.

So there you have it. I suspect one of the tricks to successful pattern writing is striking the right balance between the needs of the two kinds of quilters. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that…


(p.s. I’ve gotten some awesome mail that I need to post about, plus an update on using recyclable shopping bags, plus some other stuff. There, now that I’ve said I’m going to do those things, maybe I’ll actually do them. Y’all have my permission to pester if I don’t do those posts soon…)

edited January 28, 2008 to add:

So I was just looking at my blog stats and was surprised to see that some of my viewers today were coming to me via Mark Lipinski’s blog. I buzzed over there to see how that could possibly be and found that I was included in a list of blogs that were either friend or foe of “the Pickles.”

I wanted to clarify that even though yesterday I didn’t want to comment on what *I* think of the magazine itself, I would qualify myself as a FRIEND. I did subscribe to his blog via my RSS Reader, and I will probably end up subscribing to his magazine, too. I would add, though, that his magazine is quite different from what us quilter’s are used to, and if you are easily offended, his blog and his magazine might not be for you….


  1. Jan says:

    My guess is you won’t strike a balance between the two. Since I tend to be the one that mixes and matches I can sincerely say what I like is a well written pattern. If you gear it towards the people who need exact, then those of us who tend to follow through and change, will do it no matter what you do πŸ˜‰

  2. Suzanne says:

    Well, of course you will. Because I’m like that too. Duh. Sometimes, once I’ve read the cutting instructions and get the basic idea, I don’t ever even look at the instructions again.

    So really, it’s more a case of trying to figure out just how much (or how little) detail I need to give the people that need the detail and not worrying about the rest of it, since the Cooks will just ignore me anyway. πŸ™‚

  3. Jan says:

    Or even look at it as who is your target audience? If it’s geared towards beginner, never quilted before, you will need more detail. If it is a more advanced pattern, chances are you could possibly leave out some of the beginning quilting basic info.

  4. Leah S says:

    Oh dear… and I am somebody who will fib around in baking. πŸ˜€ “Oops, don’t have that, let’s try this… oops, that was TEASPOONS? I thought it was tablespoons…” And let’s just say I have a lot more luck than my husband (mr. exact in baking) does. I think it’s just a natural “get it” thing. I wouldn’t say I entirely GET baking, but I can wing it just fine most of the time.

    Same thing for quilting. I can fearlessly figure out how to resize something or put a pattern together from a few parts. I love guessing mystery quilts just by the cutting clues or after one or two steps. In reverse, I can also look at a completed quilt and figure out how it was made without ever seeing the pattern. And if the quilt is too complicated for me to figure out visually, chances are that I won’t want to make it with a pattern either.

  5. Sandie says:

    Glad you became a “pickle” LOve mark’s new take on quilting. he is funny, honest and quite talented. He takes quilting to a new and very fun dimension. For those of you that are so rigid, mark is not for you. For those that love to laugh, and look at the world as their own,raed on. There is a new adventure in every issue.

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