Monday, February 10, 2014

mind the gap

Sometimes there is a gap between what I want/intend to make and what I actually end up making. Sometimes it is only a small gap, but sometimes it is a chasm. Sometimes I am fine with this, and sometimes it makes me mental. I think this surely must happen to other quilters, too?

One of the few quilts I've made that I feel unambivalently pleased with is this one:

I didn't have a specific "vision" for it at the outset, just a lot of red scraps I wanted to use up and a desire to sew mindlessly. By the time it reached a certain size I knew I would "resolve" all the crazy interior energy of the red and white checkerboard with a more consistent border. I considered adding another row or two to the outside edge, but a combination of laziness and a (rare) sense of wanting to leave well enough alone kept me from doing so.

I debated the back fabric for a while, however. Pretty early on in the process of sewing the top I had thought that this bright green fabric from my stash might just work a treat. It's actually a tablecloth I bought when I was in India several years ago. When I realized it wouldn't be quite large enough for the back, I felt quite sad. Figuring out a quilt back is actually a pretty involved process for me, I give it a (ridiculous) amount of thought. I auditioned a few alternative back treatments but kept circling back around to the tablecloth. I decided I could extend it by inserting two solid green panels, and that that would give it enough width for the ladies who long-arm my stuff. So I did that, but then I started feeling uncertain about having cut up the tablecloth to insert the panels and had to fold up the whole mess and stick it in my closet for 6 months. When I finally pulled it back out again, the extended back looked just fine to me, and I shipped it all off to Michigan to be finished. I'm actually really happy with the finished quilt - it has sentimental value for me as well as serving as a reminder to me to trust my initial instincts.

Which leads me to the quilt I've got in progress on my wall right now (top of this post). I'm not sure I'm totally loving it. Which is a bummer because it's pretty much, almost-ish, finished, I think. But somehow it's just not quite what I had hoped it would be. How did this happen? Maybe more importantly, how CAN it happen, if I am working truly improvisationally?

Answer: I guess I'm working only sort-of improvisationally.


I always start with SOMETHING when I start a new quilt. It's usually pretty loose - a shape I want to work with, or a combination of colors, or even an emotion, but there is always something. But not a predetermined end result (or only rarely). I guess I am only now realizing that at some crucial point I stop improvising in a "pure" sense and start making more deliberate decisions. At some point I must  develop at least an unconscious vision in my head? Maybe it's not possible to do otherwise?

 I don't know. Maybe I just need to balance out some of those blacks and then I'll be happier with it. We'll see.



  1. Hi! I think your blocks are very intense and reflective of maybe how you are feeling, If all else should fail, you can give the blocks away or the quilt to a charitable cause. Just a thought. As to how this happens with your blocks, what we see in our minds eye does not always match up in the final product. Loved your magazine covers that were shown, very beautiful!

    1. Hi Melody,
      it's funny, until you suggested it, it never occurred to me that someone else would want my blocks - I think it would feel like giving someone a half eaten sandwich or something :)
      Anyway, I've been plugging away at it, added another row of blocks and think I've come to a happier resolution with it.