Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lesson learned.

When I came back from my trip, I had almost nothing to work on, and I also had nothing I was excited about in my (very small) stash. I was completely uninspired, and I had to sit down and think about why I was feeling that way. I had had a gnawing suspicion over the last year that the way I was quilting wasn't really working for me. I lost enthusiasm for almost all of my projects shortly after I started them. I loved other people's finished quilts, but never my own.

Most of my friends and the quilters in blogland that I admire have very strong personal aesthetics, and I didn't think I had that. Over the course of the year, I thought I had developed a style that I called "vintage modern," but that didn't really speak to me.

So I went through all of the photos in my quilt books that I had tagged with post-its. The one book I knew I returned to again and again was actually the first quilt book I ever owned, which my great aunt gave me when I first started quilting: "How to Make an Amish Quilt." This is not an attractive or eye-catching book (it was printed once in the eighties, and has long been OOP), but I had turned to it almost nightly. Then I went through my Flickr stream and made a mosaic of my favorites. What did I see?

1. A Wedding Quilt for Joseph and Annie Pattern, 2. Yellow, Gray, & White Mini-Quilt, 3. Willy Nilly's Values Quilt-Along, 4. cross quilt, 5. Chaos Quilt, 6. Ouch!: piecing done?, 7. Amish Impressions Zigzag, 8. Inspiration from Gee's Bend, 9. d.o.n.e., 10. TDF quilt (aka floating squares) 03, 11. Work Quilt #2, 12. American Folk Art Museum, 13. ZigZag Quilt blocks, 14. 1000 Pyramids, 15. stalled, 16. Paletas Quilt - mussed, 17. squares!, 18. City Fair, 19. any way you slice it - ready to assemble, 20. "A la manière de Vasarely" : job done, 21. New, 22. PMC1: Adrianne Ove - Quilt, 23. Circle Side of the 'Circle of Life' Quilt by Morgan Wills, 24. Liz's Blocks - "Triple B" Bee, 25. Blue Maize Quilt - Side View

That's right: all solids. I realized that I am most drawn to very simple shapes and bold colors (hence the name of my new blog).

So I set a goal for myself that I would begin working with solids as much as possible, and I felt completely rejuvenated and creative again. I bought enough solid fabrics to triple the size of my stash within two days (whoops). I even considered doing the Project Modern Monochromatic Quilt Challenge.

I chose a berry/plum shade, Kona Cerise, as my "base" fabric from which to build out on either side of the color spectrum. I bought a bunch of fabrics online, hoping that they would match in person as well as they did on my monitor (they didn't), and got to work. I knew I wanted to do a Thousand Pyramids quilt because it is one of my favorite patterns, and it lends itself so well to solids. I made a template, and then I sliced off the top 1.5" of that template and made a baby template to plan my quilt design. Yes, I know I need a design wall. I cut out tiny triangles and glued them all down painstakingly. I came up with this:

I patted myself on the back for achieving such good balance and cut into all of my precious new solids to create 9.5" tall triangles. I sewed up a quilt top quicker than ever, stood back, and...hated it. REALLY hated it! The balance was completely off, and the Moda Grunge fabric I used looked awful in the larger triangles, though they had added some good dimension in the small ones. Someone even looked at it without her contacts and said it was "blobby." Okay, the last thing you want is a blobby quilt, right?

I thought of a million and one ways to fix it without picking it apart, including appliqueing triangles on top of those I didn't like (I even measured and made another template for that)...but ultimately, I decided that I'm going to try to salvage whatever fabric I can and call it a quilting lesson. I only "wasted" about $2o worth of fabric, and it's probably the best $20 I ever spent.

And even though I failed in this challenge, I feel more inspired than ever before. I started on a mini-quilt that I absolutely love. And I'm wondering: have any of you ever had a similar "aha!" moment? Has your aesthetic developed over the years? Or are all quilters (knitters, crocheters, etc) born, and not made?


  1. I don't know, it doesn't look blobby to me! but maybe you have to see it in person. I actually love how shimmery it looks in the picture. BUT now I'm even more excited about seeing your mini quilt!

  2. Eeek! I LOVE it, lol. I think I am creatively schizophrenic, don't feel bad. I have no attention span and tend to drift wherever the wind blows. Frustrating! Love your new blog. Anyway, I left a comment on your old blog, but not sure if you'll get it, so I'm commenting here. I'm not stalking you. Hope to see you at the next meeting! L.

  3. Oh man, on my computer this quilt looks gorgeous, but I'll take your word for it! I had a similar experience discovering my style - and I'm definitely still in progress. I know I don't like using the large-print patterns so many modern quilters adore - it's hard going against the main-stream! Keep being true to yourself and I can't wait to see what you create!