Everyday Quilt Inspiration: Book and Movie Characters

children's books31 Days of Finding Quilt Inspiration in Real Life

There is nowhere like home! It’s nice to be back in Australia with my sewing machines and fast internet. And my furry quilting helper! The second half of my Finding Quilt Inspiration in the Everyday series is likely to be be much more everyday than the first half. And in my house, there is nothing more everyday than a children’s book. I read to both my kids before bed most evenings, and have done since they were babies. Like my mother did for me. That is a lot of bedtime stories!

Finding Quilt Inspiration in the Everyday: Day 14

A significant proportion of the world’s quilts seem to be made for children. Babies on their way, babies just born, sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces, nephews….. etc etc. And I find that kids love a good size quilt…. for sleeping, emotional comfort, cuddling on the couch, picnics, making cubby houses… wherever their imagination takes them.

characters from children's stories

So today I want to briefly discuss a common source of inspiration I often see used on kids’ quilts. That is, popular characters from children’s books and movies. There are upsides and downsides to using your child’s favourite story characters as quilt inspiration, as we shall see.

Why do people like characters on quilts?

There are at least three good reasons why people consider kids’ story characters for quilt inspiration:

  • The first is that the illustrations in many children’s stories are relatively simple, so they make great shapes for appliqué and paper-pieced designs.
  • Secondly, if your child loves a particular book character (or TV/movie character), they are going to love the quilt. So you get to simplify your process, and impress the little person in your life in one go!
  • And thirdly, there are often licensed prints or panels that you can pair with your creations to make the quilt bigger or to use as the perfect backing.

Why shouldn’t I make character quilts?

Despite these attractions, I recommend caution if you are considering making character-based quilts. There is one massive reason to be very careful. And that is, unlicensed fandom quilts featuring copyrightable characters are a form of copyright infringement. 

That said, fan art is usually tolerated as benign unless you are prolific and/or profiting from your creations. Fan art is even encouraged by some copyright holders to increase the public interest in their original works. But not everyone feels this way. So, if you must make a quilt featuring a character or story, get permission if possible. Only make character quilts as one-off love gifts for children in your immediate circle. Keep the process private….. it is unwise to share your patterns with the intention of strangers making it too, or to sell your adorable creation on Etsy. Please note, none of this constitutes legal advice, just common sense. Any fan art you create is at your own risk. You can also read an interesting article about the tensions between fan art and copyright here.

How can I be inspired then?

A more ethical way to use children’s stories to inspire a quilt is to use general ideas to create your own works. There is no hazard in making a caterpillar quilt with nibbled food-stuffs. As long as it isn’t The Hungry Caterpillar. Likewise, you can safely make a pattern for a quilt with a puppy doing something fun on it – as long as that puppy is not Kipper or Spot… or a myriad of other distinctive fun-loving puppies.

But I acknowledge this isn’t really possible for all characters. My son would love a Pokémon quilt – only actual Pokémon need apply. And I have long thought that the Mr. Men would make great appliqués. “Mr Generic Persons” isn’t really going to cut it. But if I do ever make either of these quilts, you won’t find them here. That’ll be between me and my small friends!

Now it's your turn.... what do you think?