“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut
It hit me this weekend why I was disappointed in the outcome of a quilt re-design: it’s just the normal trials and tribulations of not following the pattern.
Patterns usually work
When you follow the pattern you can count on the result. A pattern has been tested, the measurements work, the seam allowances are correct, and the blocks fit together.
Follow all the steps, and you will get a finished piece that looks like the pattern. Simple.
Creative adventures have bumps
Being creative, adventurous, and a bit quirky, I always want to try this or change that in applying my own style to a project. The result is, well… the result.
Sometimes these adventures come out as I envisioned. Sometimes it won’t go together, and the result is disappointing. Occasionally there’s an epic fail. But all of these are normal results when you choose to NOT follow the pattern.
So it is with my monthly quilts
Since December, I have been participating in an online “top-a-long” group. The most colorful part of a quilt is the top, and in this group, the goal is to create one top each month.
For me, an organized program like this is great for structure, inspiration, and deadlines. But most of the time I end up experimenting, unable or unwilling to follow the designer’s patterns as written.
The Christmas quilt
This design started with silly pre-printed panels and some Christmas blocks that I loved. It could have been fast and easy—use the pre-printed blocks add sashing and a border—done!
Well, I love the wonky Christmas trees—they are from a table runner pattern. I love the Present blocks—I found several free designs for those on line. The challenge is how to fit all this merriment into a single quilt top.
You can see that all the alternative blocks are very fun, different sizes, and… difficult to put together. I ended up rather freeform-piecing the rows with the Christmas blocks. In the end, I managed to tie it all together reasonably well with color and theme. I’m calling it a success!
The Valentine quilt
My riff on the top-a-long heart pattern was a success. The design was supposed to be diagonal hearts, but I added the envelopes so it looks like Valentine cards. It turned into a banner.
Once again, you can see the blocks I used to fill the spaces since these two were not originally designed to go together. I was happy with the outcome. This is what it looked like before it was backed and quilted.
Irish Chain part 1
Changing up the St. Patrick’s themed pattern went differently. Twice. The Irish Chain pattern features diagonal lines of little blocks to create diamonds. Not wanting to be too cute, I avoided adding the more traditional shamrocks in the alternate spaces. Instead, I found colors I was pleased with that were not St Patrick’s Day green.
In a word, the first try was disappointing.
Irish Chain Part 2
The second try was great practice with producing crazy quilt blocks in a process called “Stacking the Deck.” I love my fabrics individually, but together? Well, they are just okay.
And in this experiment, I learned that that patchwork quilt blocks just don’t look that good with Irish Chain. But you don’t know until you try!
Oh well. Two more projects finished is better than perfect—and the upside is that I made my goal of a quilt top for March ahead of schedule!
Growing my soul through practice
I forget that quilting is new to me, so there will be wins and losses when coloring outside the lines.
When you have lots of experience in a medium, the choice to depart from the pattern is more likely to work. When I work with wire, for example, I can make a piece from scratch, and it works for me most of the time.
While the world slowly comes back to life and most art shows and galleries still on hold, this is how I’m stretching myself creatively. Starting with good materials and just experimenting is a lot of fun.
So risk making an epic fail, something wonderful can happen!