Derivative or not?




Here is ‘A Bit Derivative’ – my second challenge quilt for the Modern Quilt Group of the UK Quilters Guild. Like my earlier challenge quilt seen here…


…it is on the theme of ‘black and white and one other (colour).  It will be exhibited at a quilt show  or two over the next year along with all the other entries. It is a very inclusive challenge, no juried entries, just the fun of taking part and stretching yourself. The only rule is it should be 20″ by 20″ so when exhibited together they have real impact. Other than keeping  to the theme the choice is yours!

For this piece I made many, many drunkard path pieces using my smallest template then it became a bit of a jigsaw to construct and numerous variations of layout were considered but we got there in the end.


Why the title ‘A Bit Derivative’? You may have read the Modern Quilt Guild’s recent blog post about the need to ensure all quilts entered into shows are original and not derivative.  It sets out how you distinguish between the two whilst acknowledging it is a blurry line.

I think they are absolutely right to try to explain the difference but as always the devil is in the detail and boy is that line very blurry!! It has provoked a very lively debate, just read the comments to the post and you will see what I mean! To MQG’s credit they have responded to the critics with grace and patience. But it struck me as I read it that whilst the vast majority of my quilts are not shown these challenge quilts will be. I’m not sure the extent to which the same derivative rules apply to quilt shows in the UK. Indeed I’m off to the big daddy of UK quilt shows today the Festival of Quilts which for the first time will include a Modern Quilt section.  Whether or not the same principles apply, for the fun of it I have tried to determine the extent to which my challenge quilts from both last year and this are derivative.  Admittedly it’s a purely academic point but I think it’s a good way of trying to understand where the line is drawn.

The first one is easy. I used the stunning Painted Leaf pattern from Sarah Elizabeth at No Hats in the House blog for last year’s challenge.


The theme was equilateral triangles so I played with the shapes a bit and simplified it a little but basically followed the pattern. It’s clearly derivative. I did let Sarah Elizabeth know I was using it to make a quilt for showing. She was positively  enthusiastic.


With the current challenge quilt I came up with the design by pulling together a variety of ideas. I like curved piecing and in particular I like the drunkards path block. I wanted to stretch myself with small pieces and an improv layout. Whilst  I’d seen a number of quilts that had played with the placement of these blocks the design itself of this quilt was original, my main objective being a pleasing layout which avoided Y seams… The dense quilting in the background with raised elements is very common but does that make it derivitive? But the coloured thread aspect I shamelessly admit was a straight lift from the beautiful and very successful quilt by Cassandra Beavor shown at Quiltcon and juried into a number of other major quilt shows. Cassandra who blogs at The (not so) dramatic life is a very talented and innovative quilter whose work I find inspiring.

Interestingly my choice to use dense coloured straight line quilting was out of desperation!  I’d made a hash of trying to remove a stain on the quilt. Quite how the mark came to be there I don’t know but in a house of 3 children and two cats it’s busy and messy a fair chunk of the time. When I came to wash it with stain remover part of the stain on the Kona Snow fabric went bright white and the rest stayed muted yellow! Searching around for a solution the coloured thread idea hit me as a way of disguising these colour variations but also adding to the design. I’m quite sure Cassandra’s use of coloured thread quilting was deliberate and not a cover up!!


So under the Modern Quilt Guild guidelines, if it were to be entered either competitively or as an exhibit into a quilt show I would need to be open about my inspiration and seek permission from Cassandra because that aspect was derivative. Or at least that’s my read of it.

Recognising another person’s talent and attributing the inspiration to their design Is a given and is in keeping with this generous community of quilters which Cassandra exemplifies. And in that context approaching a fellow quilter for permission to use an idea of their’s is pretty straightforward.

But what about my other challenge quilt where I’ve used a road layout for inspiration.



There must be a road planner out there with soul who was responsible for this design but I suspect now long retired  as this goes back over 30 years. But who or what would I approach?  The UK Highways agency, the construction company which has probably undergone many changes since then, the local County Council? Surely it would go down as the most bizarre request received ever!

Whilst attributing inspiration is both respectful and in itself inspiring, in some cases as the MQG article says you need to apply common sense. It’s a thorny subject and one which I’m sure will invite further debate. In the meantime I’m writing to Cassandra!

Linking up with Cynthia for TGIFF at Quilting is more fun than housework (how so very true…)

Linking up to Nicky  at Mrs Sew and Sow as this is also a 2016 Q3 FAL finish – see here for my FAL list of targets

6 thoughts on “Derivative or not?

  1. What an interesting post, and thank you for explaining your reasoning. I copy ideas all the time, but they always develop into something quite different. I don’t believe in complete originality – even someone like Picasso took so much from elsewhere.


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  3. I love the quilts and the discussion. It is good even to acknowledge to ourselves where our inspiration comes and must be great encouragement when we tell the source. Congratulations on the finish(es) and thanks for linking up to the FAL quarter three on behalf of your team of hosts


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