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The Fiber of My Being: Skewing Stripes

Left and Right Stauber Quilt Block With Striped Fabric

In my previous column, Judy Gudelsky commented:

“I noticed you mentioned that you’ve purchased a lot of striped fabrics. As a relatively new quilter, I’ve been avoiding stripes. I thought it would be difficult to both work with the “grain” of the fabric and the stripe in the fabric pattern.”

When I was new to quilting I didn’t appreciate the qualities of plaid or striped fabric, and I didn’t piece blocks, other than log cabins, with it. Eventually I used it for borders and binding. When I did cut into it I strictly maintained its directionality.

Judy’s comment had me wondering why had I been loathe to work with stripes and plaids in pieced blocks such as those pictured below. I’m pretty sure I have an answer and it has to do with garment patterns.

Quilt Blocks Made With Striped Fabric

Sawtooth quilt, mid-19th century. Courtesy of Stella Rubin Antiques

As a teen I sewed granny dresses, jumpers and a prom dress on a treadle machine. I followed commercial patterns that instructed you to “Allow extra fabric to match stripes or plaids.” I think that admonition carried into my quilting and “match” remained the operative word. Sheesh.

I was able to match a plaid for a jumper and add a zipper and darts, but years later, quilt blocks challenged me. It was all I could do to work with an allover print, let alone follow the early mandate to match plaids.

It’s likely the above blocks were of fancy scraps left from dressmaking. To replicate them I’d have to make deliberately wonky cuts.

Last year a friend escorted me through the Old Deira neighborhood in Dubai. We picked out wovens from a basket in front of a textile shop as keepsakes. I chose three to bring home and yesterday, purposefully cut into one to create illustrations.

Woven Fabric from Dubai

Left: Sidewalk basketful of wovens; Right: My keepsakes

The Nine-patch below on the left has five identical patches of woven stripe fabric. I rotated three of them. The block on the right has three identical patches plus two patches (the center and upper left) cut deliberately slightly off-grain.

Nine-Patch Quilt Blocks Made With Striped Fabric

Left: Casual; Right: More casual

Do you have a preference for one or the other? I like the off-kilter block on the right. There is a tension to it where the two patches touch, causing my eye to pause at it. I believe including off-kilter patches, intentionally or not, is a license for whatever may follow, purposely or accidentally.

The six-inch paper-pieced blocks shown below incorporate directional fabrics not cut on grain. They seem natural, meant-to-be and lively.

Star Quilt Blocks Made With Directional Fabrics

Left: Stauber Star; Right: Hunter Star

If you cotton to stripes and plaids, my friend Susan’s Left and Right quilt should mesmerize you. Susan worked magic with her directional fabric, joyfully cutting into it without restraint. I designed only the three paper-piecing patterns.

Left and Right Quilt, 2006

Left and Right

I purchased this blue, 12″ square quilt from an annual SAQA benefit auction. Benedicte Caneill created both the “stripe” fabric and quilt. Technically, she monoprinted yardage and cut into it. Artistically she combined patches into an energetic painted landscape of stripe valleys, twists and turns.

Blue Striped Quilt

Units 30: Lights and Blue, Benedicte Caneill, 2001

I don’t know what I would have thought, years ago, of the beautiful wool composition below. Would I have embraced its artfulness? Would I become aware of horizontal “stripes” contained in vertical bars? These days I can’t take my eyes from it. Plaids and stripes will bring interest as well as movement or calm to a any quilt.

Amish 1920s Wool Quilt

Amish 1920s Wool Quilt. Photo courtesy of Stella Rubin Antiques

Of one thing I am sure: stripes will always suit me.

Anita Grossman Solomon in Stripes

Left: Anita’s Frida Kahlo Double Wrench Block; Right: Anita

If you haven’t seen my class Quick Techniques for Classic Blocks: Wrenches, Stars & Twists, you can’t possibly imagine how I constructed the Frida double wrench. Watch this two-minute preview to glimpse surprising new techniques:

We ♥ Anita…And So Do Her Students!

anita grossman solomon craftsy class

“Many people claim that their techniques will make your quilting life easier, faster, more accurate, etc. When it comes to bold claims like these, Anita’s ingenious ‘Make It Simpler’ techniques raise the bar to breathtaking heights and are nothing short of mind blowing.” – DavidS Enroll Now »


Anne Babb

Thanks, Anita! I have been stashing away some plaids & stripes, but never pick them when previewing fabric for a new quilt. I will now. Darling picture of you and you are a fantastic teacher and artist!


Hi Anne,
When toying with plaids and stripes be open to using them as a background as well as a feature fabric. Or both 🙂 The more a plaid or stripe appears in a quilt, the more natural it will seem. Using them sparsely, they tend to stick out, as I see it.

Mary e Smith

I’m amazed at what you have done with stripes & plaids. I think I will try some In log cabins. Thanks


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