Thursday, June 17, 2010

playing with design--what fun

Sometimes I am lucky enough to just have fun with my work. Consider this quilt--hills and shadows--which I made a few months ago. I love it. I love the colors and the motion. It was the first one I had made just like this and if you read any of my blog posts about it, I spent a lot of time fretting about how to create the overall effect. Wondering if it would work. Did I get the colors right? You probably know all the questions. You've probably asked them yourself.  Fretting, waking up at 5 am with possible solutions,  but in the end, let's face it--it's fun. It's why I make quilts.

Well one of the results of showing this quilt is that I have a wonderful couple who likes my work but they wanted a calmer piece with a rainbow effect. Hmm. An interesting challenge.

How to make the piece without using the black and white lines? Would it even work? And the rainbow effect--definitely a challenge to get the colors to flow. But if it works--it could be lovely. You see, that's why I love doing custom work--always something new to stretch me.

I decide I should make a wall hanging as a prototype. Large enough so I can see if the concept works. Small enough that I won't be tied to the quilt forever. I am a firm believer that the way to get to Carnegie Hall is to practice and the way to make great quilts is to experiment.

Now I have a friend who makes absolutely wonderful quilts--all sorts of awards and museum collections. I love her work. She once told me she totally pre-planned her quilts before she begins. Then she spends five days doing the sewing. A very different process. But it works for her.

Not me--I begin by making a sketch--figuring out the color progression and the size of the blocks.  My sketches are very rough--usually I don't even color them in. Y stands for yellow. R for red--you get the idea. Then I start piecing. As always I tell myself that I must make what I know.

Are the colors working? Too red? Or will it be tamer and more contained when I add the blues and purples. As you can see I have already had to play with one block to make the colors a bit more intense. I think there are a few more blocks that will need to be switched.

And of course there is the problem that there is always at least one color that is hard to find--this time for me its teals. While I won't need a lot, I need a larger assortment than I have. So last Tuesday--even though the weather was absolutely perfect for gardening--sunny, no bugs, not too hot-- it's off to A Notion to Quilt in Shelburne.  (You can tell how great the day was outside just by how reluctant I was to go fabric shopping.)  I remember they do have certain teals that will be perfect for this piece.  What do you think? Enough teals? Why is it always one color that I need?

I still don't know if the quilt will work. Because each of the blocks is both a color progression and an intensity of color progression, I have to think all the time. Oh so slow this quilt is. So many blocks that just aren't right the first time. I stop and take pictures--look at it from afar. I even clean the studio a bit as I work on it. But already I'm dreaming of the next piece in the series. After all, my favorite question is "What happens if...????"

So how do you work? Do you carefully plan first or just begin? Does it change depending on what you are working on?

Do you consider the struggle fun? Are you always thinking of the next quilt? Or do you plan your works in advance?


  1. My method DEFINITELY changes based on the project. Sometimes I'm all fired up and just start working. Other times I have to think and think and think........

  2. I really like it.

  3. Thanks Tinky and Ruth Anne. I agree with Tinky some days work just flows along and sometimes it is WORK. Glad you like it Ruth Anne.