Saturday, 12 May 2007

Stashbuster topic of the week

The Stashbuster topic of the week was "Do you prefer to work from patterns & follow them to the letter or do you prefer to get ideas from patterns & then just \"go with the flow\"? Most of my quilting career I have made copies of other people's designs, but I have to say that the last few years I have been feeling that this type of copying is less creative than when I try to make up something entirely or mostly from scratch. And it is the quilts where I have contributed the most originality that I feel most proud of, somehow they just feel 'better' than the quilts where I have just copied someone else's ideas.

In general, I would say I get my inspiration from the designs of others, either from actual patterns or from photographs I've seen in books and magazines. I am capable of reproducing simple quilts from photographs without a pattern, but I do rely heavily on a visual reference for choosing the fabric values and 'feel' of the quilt, less heavily for the actual colours. I don't feel I am very artistic or imaginative at coming up with original ideas, but once I have a starting point I am pretty comfortable doing minor tinkering or using my own techniques to achieve the same result.

When I do follow a pattern, I rarely follow it to the letter, and this would be partly because I think I know an easier way to do it ('think' being the operative word here, doesn't always turn out to be true), or because I've made a mistake and have to undertake some creative bodging to get to the end result.

I think I come closest to being artistic when I have to make something from a given starting point, for example, the blocks from a Round Robin. For example, I coordinated an Internet Round Robin many years ago and I asked for appliqued house blocks. I received a variety of blocks from the participants, in many different sizes, on different backgrounds. It took me a while but one day I took the plunge, got out the seam ripper, and liberated those houses from their backgrounds and reassembled them into a landscape, adding in bits of landscape, trees etc. to fill in gaps, to produce my quilt "The Neighbourhood".

Another Round Robin, which was the usual borders-around-a-centre process, needed some major surgery to replace or resize a couple of the contributions, and then sat around for years because I didn't know what to do with it. The chance gift of a number of Anvil blocks from someone else's unsucessful Block robin (they were different sizes so she didn't want them) gave me the inspiration to finish off this quilt which I called Almost Amish.

I sometimes take my inspiration from the fabric, like this lap quilt top made from Civil War fabrics. I didn't know what I was going to do with these blocks I'd made until a friend gave me the vertical sashing fabric (which she thought was too ugly and she didn't know what to do with it - when she saw this top, she wished she'd kept it).

But having to make up a design entirely from scratch is still majorily out of my comfort zone and I don't feel these quilts are generally very successful. I ran a mystery medallion quilt project with my group last year, we started with a centre block and then I set rules as to the dimensions and theme of each border, but people could use their own fabrics and do whatever they wanted. Of course, this meant that I also had to make a medallion quilt, and apart from deciding to use my blue & white fabric collection, I felt very much at a loss particularly as the quilt grew and grew. I'm still not very happy with the result, which has a 'Blue & White China' theme, and it isn't quilted yet.


Meredith said...

Your quilts are beautiful. Good luck with your machine. I think being in a round robin sounds like fun. I have never been in one.

swooze said...

I stand in awe! Your neighborhood quilt is fantastic!

Kathy Wagner said...

Are you kidding me?!?!?
These quilts are amazing and very creative! WOW! All "one of a kind" and wonderful. Your neighbourhood quilt reminds me a bit of Newfoundland, but it is too green and not enough grey rock to be Newfoundland!
Happy Mother's Day!

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