How to Get a Quilt Book Published…By Accident

People often ask me how I got into writing books. The first one came as a fluke and the others just fell into place.

I started teaching patchwork to small groups in my home in the mid 70’s and there were very few quilt books or patterns available. If you wanted a pattern for a quilt you had to draft it yourself. I figured out that most square patchwork designs were based on a “grid”. The square was divided into a grid of 3 x 3, 4 x 4, 5 x 5 etc. If you knew what grid was used for the block, it was simply a matter of following the lines of the grid to get the design.

Mosaic together

I figured out a no math way to fold paper to get the designs and after teaching it for a few years people were amazed at how easy it. Let’s use the block above, a 4×4 grid which is simpler than it seems. Decide what size block you want and make a square that size out of paper. Fold the square in half, side to side, then in half again, bottom to top. This will produce a “grid” of four squares. Can you see now how the design is created? If not, fold it in half each way again. Now you can see that is made up of simple half-square triangles.

So one day, my Quilters’ Newsletter magazine arrived and in it was an article on how to draft an eight-pointed star. It talked about the Pythagorean Theorem, pi and all sorts of other math terminology. I was completely confused, particularly since I had figured out a very easy way to draft the design by folding paper.

Bonnie Leman_1991_LCPQ_74

Bonnie Leman

I wrote a letter to Bonnie Leman, founder and editor of Quilters’ Newsletter, and showed her my method. In a rash moment, I also wrote, “Furthermore I’m explaining this and how to draft other patterns in the book I am writing on pattern drafting.”

Bonnie phoned me when she received my letter and said how she was so excited about my book and who was publishing it? I kind of hemmed and hawed and said I didn’t have a publisher yet. She said that she might be interested in publishing it and could I bring what I have done so far to a conference we would both be attending the next month. I didn’t want to tell Bonnie that I hadn’t actually started the book, so for the next month I prepared outlines, did illustrations, wrote sample chapters, etc.

Patchwork PatternsWhile it turned out to be a larger project than Bonnie imagined, she encouraged me to find another publisher, and I did. My first book, Patchwork Patterns, had 500 patterns and was organized in categories according to the grid used for drafting them. The book is out of print and I’ve written other, more comprehensive ones since, but that one is still special to me. So that, my friends, is how you accidentally get a quilt book published.

An upcoming blog post will show you how to figure out the grid.