Quilts and Teens: Pattern selection

Making a quilt is an expensive venture. There's the raw material cost AND the investment of time to create it. The finished quilt should be appreciated by both the maker and the receiver.

I wanted to make a quilt for each of my neices this past Christmas, here's my process for choosing a design they'll want and cherish.

Ask them what they want

Simple, right? I thought so - until I did. One sister started flipping through quilt magazines, showing me 2 or 3 designs She Absolutely Loved. Over the next 2 days I'm sure she showed me 40 designs she Had. To. Have. Oy!

The second sister said "Whatever" and looked back at her phone.

OK, so I needed a new approach.

Ask them their favourite shape

I thought this might give me a better result. For example, I love all things angular - triangles and stars. Maybe they do too?

One sister said "flowers". Easy! Awesome! I can do that! The other sister said "Whatever"...sigh....

Ask about favourite colours

I hesitated to ask this. My life has been clearly defined by my favourite colour at each age bracket. In early childhood, I loved purple (but I kept getting yellow and pink things!). Elementary school was all about pink (which was good - I already had some of that!). Grades 7 & 8 I loved hunter green and burgandy - who remembers the mid 80s? High school was anything dark: navy or black - does anyone not have a black phase? My colour taste since then has remained in the blue spectrum.

So how did this question turn out?

The first sister said "Yellow, brown and green with pink flowers - like this fabric!" And she pulled out a piece of fabric. My thought: so 70's! But I can work with it - and I set the fabric aside.

The second sister said "fluorescent colours". Oh God. I couldn't believe she was serious. OK, I wore the tie-dyed neon t-shirts, the slouch socks, the eye blinding scrunchies too. Now it hurts my eyes - I'm so thankful that phase didn't last too long!

Scope out their bedroom

To get an unbiased view of a teenager's tastes, you need to see where they live - their bedroom. Ignore the pictures their mom has framed on the wall. Look at the snapshots tacked up, the music references, the magazines and books on the floor. This will give you the best idea of what their interests are today.

Is the room a complete disaster - or is there order beneath the chaos? If most of the shelves have groupings of like objects, neat piles of folded clothes and still retains personality - Jackpot!

That was the first sister's room. It tells me she knows what she wants and respects her stuff. Excellent information!

Oh sister two...actually that day the room was in Very Good condition her Mom must have told her to clean it the day before - they knew I was coming over :)! But there wasn't the order I was hoping for - Damn. Or not. Maybe the room is telling me something. Non-conformity. Rebellious. Happy-go-Lucky. Free-spirited. Actually that sounds exactly like her!

Teen quilt pattern choosing: the Nitty-Gritty

So now I've got great information on each teen girl.

Sister One

Flowers, yellow/brown/green and pink, orderly and traditional.

I'm immediately thinking squares or rectangles in the base palate with pink flowers appliqued on top. And when it's time to quilt, I can go simple or detailed. That was easy!

Sister Two

Wild bright colours, non-uniform, modern.

My first impulse is to use a pattern with lots of white space with colourful spots. I had just received the May/June 2014 issue of Fons & Porter Love of Quilting - the Scattered Pinwheels pattern was a great option.

Or I could do some improvisational piecing - make multi-coloured swatches and trim to a couple of sizes, maybe 6, 8, 10 and/or 12 inch square if there are 5-7 squares then I can improv piece them into a top with a solid white background.

The problem: both of those ideas - I Love - but this teen is tough to please. I don't want to be disappointed in her reaction....and both of these options take some time to sew together and customize. I need to think of something easier to put together...and less of a time commitment in case she tosses it next season.

Then I remembered a kit Connecting Threads had called Cabin Windows. I fell in love with this kit when it was introduced, and bought the kit - it was flannel and kinda smaller than I wanted for this purpose, but maybe I can add more fabric and build on it. That's the one!

Wanna know how the quilts turned out? Sister One's lovely earth toned quilt is here, and Sister Two's colourful Cabin Windows is here.

What about a teen boy quilt?

I used a similar approach to choose a quilt pattern for a teenaged boy. I wasn't able to visit with this teen, so it was an arm's length evaluation.

Look at his clothes

  • He wears lots of solid or striped shirts - no patterns, only a few graphic tops.
  • Colours are mostly navy, grey or white with jeans. No brights

Listen to his interests

  • Likes sports but not an obsessed fan of any team = can't use a team colour or logo!
  • Quiet, enjoys time hanging with small groups of friends
  • Not heavily into gaming or computers

So this teen doesn't want a bold graphic quilt. And though he doesn't wear any browns, the impression I get from him is that brown is his neutral. This guy feels natural, solid and reliable...like a tree. Navy blue will grow with him and never be out of style. Two solid colour choices to start from!

I think he would like something simpler with a repeated pattern. Here are my impressions:

  1. 1-patch quilt. Maybe a denim/fleece rag quilt. Good colours, durable, not girly.
  2. Herringbone or braid quilt. Done in dark, natural colours I think would be awesome. I'm thinking deep red and browns. Something that goes with an old leather book...Love this idea!
  3. Houndstooth design. A little less linear than the b-option, with diagonal movement. In keeping with the manly colour scheme, I'd like to go with scrappy shades of brown and 1 repeated neutral fabric.

I chose the houndstooth design. I had seen a webisode on Quilty! months ago and made a note in my quilting journal about this block. All I needed was this sketch to get me started. Fortunately I had recently picked up the Fons & Porter HST/QST ruler so I HAD to try it out!

I wanted to make this a good cuddle on the couch quilt - something with some weight since I'm sure he'll grow beyond the length of a standard couch and this quilt may not reach his feet for too long!! I decided upon flannel and headed to the mall to find some flat sheets.

Houndstooth quilt - 2 flat sheets is all it took!

Result: He liked it! I'm not sure he likes the colour, but it's a good neutral that he won't be embarrassed to have a classmate or future roommate to see. The classic design suits his personality. The flannel makes it perfect for lounging on the couch - which I'm told he does!

I used two queen sized flat sheets, and cut squares and HSTs to 4 inches. I didn't bother doing any math, just cut up about 60% of the sheet into strips then started making the subunits. After I had a pile of those, I laid them out to check for size and cut a bit more. Then I pieced the top, followed by some more creative cutting to make a pieced back from the leftovers. The quilt is a nice sized throw - but you can see it'll never cover his feet!

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