All posts filed under “Quilting

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Quilt no. 015: Improv Study in Yellow and White

After finishing my block for the Denver Metro Modern Quilt Guild’s Twisted Sisters Quilt, I had a bunch of the assigned fabrics and this white on white circle. I dislike letting UFOs sit around and when the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum announced their 25th Anniversary Challenge, I knew what I was submitting.

Quilt no. 015: Improve Study in Yellow and White Detail

Quilt no. 015: Improve Study in Yellow and White Front

With this quilt, I basically just wanted to explore piecing together fabric without meticulously planning the layout. I had a bunch of fun putting together the original block and wanted to continue with it. It brought me way back to the way I used to piece together corduroy and denim for bags when I was around 14 or 15, which was haphazard and aimless, letting the piece of fabric grow and shift until it was as big as I wanted it to be.

Quilt no. 015: Improve Study in Yellow and White Detail

Quilt no. 015: Improve Study in Yellow and White Front

That said, it has led me to a place where I want to do more improv piecing. It’s been interesting to see what comes from intuition and reaction, rather than meticulous planning. It felt much more important when I was first gaining the skills set I needed to make a quilt to have specific plans and measurements.

After taking Sherri Lynn Wood’s improv class in early June and reading her book, I think I’m headed off in a new direction. I’ve always thought quilting was fun but improv piecing feels much more engaging. I’m pretty excited to show off what came from her class and a larger quilt inspired by her Floating Squares score when they are finished.

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Quilt no. 012: Quarter Squared

I like to think of Quilt. 012 as Quilt no. 011’s little sister quilt.  This tiny darling, 30″ x 30″, was constructed entirely from the trimmings and leftovers from Quilt no. 011, because I couldn’t bear to throw away all of those triangles. This quilt taught me how to have serious patience when it comes to piecing. It also taught me that I should be way, way more meticulous when it comes to trimming flying geese blocks. My goal was, honestly, to use up of the leftovers from Quilt no. 011. I bought half a yard of fabric to bind it; everything else was leftovers. The quilting was simple, meant to highlight and complement the visual effect of the piecing. The back is a golden yellow linen look fabric that I bought from Lost and Fawned’s destash sale nearly a year ago.

Quilt no. 012: Details

I like to think it speaks for it’s self, which is part of the reason why I am rushing through the details of the quilt. But also because I’ve got some stuff to talk about.

I spend a lot of my non-quilting time thinking about quilting. Pondering color palates at red lights, turning over ideas about composition while doing the dishes, contemplating my newly discovered interest in improv piecing. One of the things that I keep coming up against is what to do with the quilts I’ve made. Sell them? Give them away? Hold onto them with the hopes that someone will want to hang them in a show?

I don’t know. I freeze up when it comes to figuring out how to get my work in front of an audience and/or monetizing it. I’ve never been compelled by the business of art; I’ve always just wanted to make stuff. My disinclination towards selling my work, in the past, has made me feel like a goddamn failure. I started making quilts because they felt like a purely creative endeavor, motivated by my interest in learning a new skill set and exploring fabric as a medium. Now that I have an ever-growing stack of completed quilts, it’s hard for me to not ask myself what to do with them.

Quilt no. 012: Back

I contemplate selling them, of being the artisan that I sometimes think I want to be. But I get stuck, tripped up in branding, pricing, advertising, doing shows and markets. I don’t know who would buy them, especially not at the price point that would compensate me fairly for my time. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that when it comes to creative work that monetizing it might not be the answer. It’s not that I am lazy. Making for the sake of making means something different than trying to make a product that someone wants to buy. While I wouldn’t mind selling my quilts, I do not want it be my sole goal in making them.

I might end up changing my mind. I do that a lot. But right now, this is where I am.

Quilt no. 012

What has made this last year so good for me, in terms of quilting and creative work, is that I’ve found community to share what I’m working on. When reading about the history of quilts, I was struck by how social it often was. It was something that was I missing. I had it when I was at college and it petered out as everyone went their separate ways. I found it first on Instagram, I recently started hanging out with the Denver Metro Modern Quilt Guild and have met an incredible amount of smart, deeply talented people who’s work is outstanding. I am humbled by the fact that I get to hang out with them. While my life has been kind of a mess this last month, I am looking forward to attending meetings, having some time to sewcialize and hang out with creative folks again.

I feel more compelled to be a part of a community of makers and to find where I fit in to that community. I’m more interested in getting modern quilts out into the world and getting other people’s work seen, both by quilters and non-quilters alike. At this moment in my life, I want to be a part of something bigger than I am, rather than trying to get noticed as an individual. I think it’d be way more rewarding for me to, for instance, teach others or help put together local shows. I’d love to hear your thoughts, dear reader.

Quilt no. 012: Front
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Quilt no. 011: Fogged

I am envious of the talented quilters that populate my social media. I see them start and finish quilts and other projects in matter of weeks and months while I am still plodding along in my hand quilting. I pieced 7 quilts in the past 12 months and finished 4 of them. I suspect the remaining three will take me until, at least, October to finish. Quilting is a slow process for me. Hand quilting is about letting time pass without consequence, of having a place to channel creativity, anxiety and perfectionism. It’s about giving myself idle time to get lost in minutiae and detail. It’s about finding calm and quiet in the repetitive motions, about losing myself in work. I feel accomplished and focused when I spend a few hours every day hand quilting.

Quilt no. 0011: Blowing in the Wind

I feel conflicted about my slow, plodding, methodical working process. I feel like I should be churning out work, to get it up and in front of people, to continuously send WIP images to my instagram account. To output for the sake of audience. To have more than one quilt in mind to submit to shows and competitions, to have a choice. I’d even like to be able to see my work evolve faster, to execute my ideas and have them be finished pieces. Despite the fact that I’ve got a bunch of WIPs, I’m still contemplating three more quilts to be made in the future. I’ve got fabric earmarked and piled together, inspiration images pinned, planning vectors half started.

Quilt no. 0011: Front Texture Quilt no. 0011: Front Stitching

Basically, quilting forces me to slow the fuck down.

Quilt no. 0011: Back
Previously, I’ve pieced and quilted quilts according to sections, which is a nod to the Amish quilts I love so much. For this one, I wanted the pieced sections to interact a little more and so I let quilting lines intersect, let others bleed out of their space. I think I was successful in creating more motion in this quilt. It feels less still and static than the others I’ve made.

Quilt no. 0011: Back Detail & Drape Quilt no. 0011: Back Texture

This quilt was made for the sake of making. I wanted to challenge my piecing skills. I wanted to make flying geese blocks. I had a bunch of grey and blue-grey scraps from previous projects that I wanted to use up. I have a thing, a negative thing, about leaving scraps sit around with no purpose, which is also why the back is the way it is. I was thinking about mist, about foggy days. In a Missouri summer, I was longing for a cool, misty landscape. I was thinking about moving to Colorado, about mountains, about craggy rocks and pine forests.

Quilt no. 0011: Front Texture

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Quilt no. 010: Feedsack Scramble

I don’t really having anything meaningful to say about this quilt, other than the process of making it. It was a fun and quick quilt to assemble and it’s size meant it turned around really quickly. I bought two identical feedsacks at an antique mall in Pennsylvania, way back when Aubrey and I first started dating. Originally for a high protein chicken feed from a company out of Massachusetts, I was drawn to the type faces and the colors. I was thinking about postage stamp quilts, about neat, organized rows when I planned it. I was thinking about mid-century typography and graphic design, modernism and, as always, minimalism.

Quilt no. 0010: Feedsack Scramble

That said, I do have something to say about Completely Cauchy’s navel gazing at small community.

I am largely at the peripheral of the Modern Quilting movement. I don’t have a huge network inside of the small community that does exist and the network I do have is entirely based off of Instagram. This is largely because I live in a rural place and partly because I like community when I can engage with text. I’ve been musing over the conversation around being accepted to or rejected from the show at Quiltcon 2015.

One of things that has frustrated me in finding quilting community was a fundamental lack of constructive criticism. I think a lot of the hurt and backlash from being rejected from QuiltCon was because there wasn’t any feedback given. If the work you are making is largely self-propelled and some what insular, it is hard to receive feedback. If the only feedback you’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive and then you are rejected from something that is propelled by the community you are part of, it feels really personal. I think being able to make a space to talk about work and give constructive criticism would be really great way for individuals and the movement alike to grow. Teaching one another both to see the successes and short-comings of the work we are making was fundamental in my growth as a maker.

Quilt no. 0010: Feedsack Scramble

Social media has made connection much easier, which is awesome. It’s awesome being part of something where everyone is each other’s cheerleaders, where we are collectively inspired by each other’s work. I believe it is part of the reason that I picked quilting back up; I wanted to make and be surrounded by people who make for the sake of making. The community around quilting, both now and historically, has largely been an organic thing. It feels the opposite of my experience in the fine art world.

One of the first things I learned in school was that I was part of a tradition. In order to move beyond what had already been done, it was imperative to learn the history of the medium and to refine craft.

After returning to it from a decade of hiatus, I approached quilting in the same way that I was taught to approach photography. The first book I read was Quilts in America. I come from a family of women who sew and quilt and grew up and lived in an area who’s quilting history has been extensively researched. My main inspiration is the Amish quilts of Lancaster county. I approach quilting with the idea of using stuff that has outgrown it’s use as one object but can be remade into something new and useful again.

Quilt no. 0010: Feedsack Scramble

I don’t think the modern quilting movement is a-historical, like Joe the Quilter says. I have seen far too many clever takes on traditional work for me to believe that most modern quilters don’t know their history. A lot of modern quilters are working from another place of reference; from fine art, modern graphic and industrial design. Even if one isn’t away of it, we live in a postmodern world where things are appropriated and mixed up and re-appropriated.

I see parallels between the criticism of modern quilts and studio quilts, when they exploded in the 90’s. When one group of makers tells another group of makers what they’re doing isn’t quite right, it does NOT foster community between the new and the old. It drives a wedge between them. I have reverence and respect for the hundreds of thousands of quilters that have left behind incredible work. I think inviting mixing between traditional quilters and modern quilters, to let the lines blur, has the potential to pass knowledge around in a circle, rather than in a line.

Quilt no. 0010: Feedsack Scramble

Similarly to what has happened with quilting through out history, modern quilting will be another movement and another means of making quilts. I think it’s harder now to have that perspective because it feels we are living in the future. The western world lives at and in the forefront of technology in a way that has never happened before. Quilters are making their own archive with every single blog, instagram, reddit, facebook and twitter post. Quilting in the 21st century may look very different then it did in the 18th, 19th and 20th century but it is still the same at the core.

The purpose is to make, to create, to construct something with one’s own hands. Regardless of intention or aesthetics, to quilt is act of self-expression.

Quilt no. 0010: Feedsack Scramble