Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Courage to Feel Creative: Taking Control of Your Quilts, Part #2

Every single quilt we make has the potential to be better (more what we like) than what the original pattern or picture of a quilt suggests. I love hearing from the ones that say they don't even use a pattern anymore, can't hardly figure them out or get frustrated by the directions! See, that's what I think helps us to be more creative, because we have to figure out the math. We have to problem solve with our favorite techniques or be willing to learn new ones.
Started with a pattern:
Changed color throughout
Added more rows of triangles
TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR QUILTING: Simple ideas to think about for Partial Creativity when using a pattern or even a picture of a quilt as your guide. Mostly pointed at less experienced quilters to get them thinking about all the very different ways they can make unique (to them) changes!

  • Change the colors of the quilt: Would it look better scrappy? Two-tone? Navy background instead of green? It’s a baby step that often feels EASY and often where most quilters start improvising first. Try scanning a picture and changing it to gray scale if you have trouble imagining something different.
  • Use a different block pattern than the one stated in the directions: If you like the Ohio star pattern better than the Sawtooth star pattern, then that’s a simple change to make.
  • Change the centerpiece or a border in a medallion quilt.
  • Make the sashing and 1st border out of the same fabric as the background fabric to cause a floating effect for the blocks.
  • Change the size of the blocks in the quilt: Could they be larger or smaller and look better to you? What about a mini quilt or a quilt with huge, over-sized blocks?
  • Try adding a border or two onto your quilt: Don't just think about one-fabric borders, there are also scrappy and pieced borders to consider. What about a mix of solid and pieced borders?
  • Consider changing the shape of the quilt: Not everyone likes their quilts to be square. What about adding an extra row or two to the quilt, rounding the corners of the quilt or even trying a scalloped edge?
  • Could it the quilt use some applique?: What about appliqu├ęd words, a saying, the year or your initials?
  • Consider the sashing: No sashing? Pieced sashing? Scrappy sashing?
  • Simplify the quilt: Don’t forget to look for what could be eliminated from a quilt. Sometimes less is better.
Started with a pattern:
Slight change in colors
Addition of asymmetrical border to change shape of quilt
Addition of applique elements
It's important to make it a habit to always consider changing different elements of a quilt pattern--one area at a time as we get to it--even if it's our own design. I don’t cut out all the fabric for an entire quilt at one time anymore.  It makes more sense to finish one stage before making the decision to continue with the pattern (or picture) ‘AS IS' or not. Sometimes there other ideas we want to play with that seem more important!
Started with a pattern:
Slight change in color throughout
Substituted applique elements
Addition of top and bottom borders to change shape of quilt
Extra out-of-proportion applique blocks
Beginning quilters starting with a pre-determined pattern need to know that little changes will probably not affect the underlying integrity of the quilt; ie, the things we love most about it and the reason we want to make it in the first place. Every change is not going to have a perfect ending, but it‘s usually worth the effort to try just for the experience gained.
Started with a picture instead of pattern:
Slight change in color throughout
Substituted centerpiece block
Subtle change in a few applique elements
Slight change in border widths from original
There are definitely dilemmas that can result from making a change--any change! This is where people struggle the most initially and then give up in frustration, so it's good to start small.  Working through a resulting problem (even if it takes a couple go-rounds), makes it easier to move on with more confidence to the next quilt, that is, if the design problem is ‘solved’ to our satisfaction! lol As we gain experience, it will get easier to predict how a simple change will affect the quilt too. Basically, making a change that ends up causing unforeseen problems forces us to find a creative solution, so it's really not something to fear! In actuality, sometimes it's the best thing that can happen to our quilts because creativity has this crazy habit of building upon itself.

We need to think, play and consider.  Sit on an idea and then come back and consider it once more. Don’t be in too much of a hurry and rush things! Will it work? Do we still like the idea? Are we excited about it? If so, then we need to go for it, because excitement is really important to capitalize on. One little step at a time through the application of partial creativity makes all the difference in learning and growing our personal creativity. We start feeling REAL confidence in it because there are results right in front of our eyes. The primary goal should always be about making quilts that make us happy!


  1. Just brilliant much to reflect on!

  2. Great ideas for mixing it up and taking some risks with our craft!

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  4. I've read your post a few times, trying to absorb everything you suggest. Each time I pick up something different. I love how you've experimented with your quilts and done so very successfully. Thanks for the tips on borders - something I really need to work on. You saved the best for last - making quilts that make us happy! Take care, Byrd

  5. You are showing some yummy pictures! And it is lovely to read your thoughts on creating them!

  6. Thanks for listing so many helpful ways to tap into your own creativity! It's like instructions for improvising on a recipe and making it your own. I LOVE your triangle quilt!!

  7. Your thoughts are great ideas to think about. Considering the " what if" is a simple way to add your own personality to any quilt.

  8. The asymmetrical design choices are splendid.

  9. Audrey, I'm going to print that list and put it in the front page of my "idea" notebook.

    I adore your quilt with the light blue sashing and oversize applique, btw. Was that blue sashing "your" change? Brilliant.

    Now the problem with your theory is, if you let the quilt dictate what it wants, you may end up with something so totally different from the original plan (for instance a bed quilt rather than a lap quilt or throw) that you have to start over again and make another quilt! Not that that's a bad thing.... seriously, I think its wise -liberating, actually - to listen to that little niggling little thought when viewing your incomplete quilt, which is the quilt telling you what alternate direction it might want to go. You never know what delightful surprises you might end up with.

    Please keep going this thread, Audrey. I see a book in the works!

  10. It's a funny thing, I've recently been challenging myself to slow down and read quilt patterns properly. I'm such a visual person I usually just look at the picture, get a few measurements and go from there. I don't think I've ever made a quilt exactly to a pattern, I'm often changing them to match a scale of a print or fit a purpose, eg a bed size from a cot size.

  11. I especially like your statement that "making a change that ends up causing unforeseen problems forces us to find a creative solution, so it's really not something to fear!" Creativity leads to (unexpected) creativity. Letting yourself go where you want, and working through the surprises. Great post.

  12. such an important thought: "one area at a time as we get to it".
    because one part of a quilt 'informs' the next part of what may or may not work. i find that if i work too far ahead in my creative efforts i lose touch with the work and the additions and/or changes don't have the same energy. in the end i won't be as satisfied with my finished quilt/project. i also find that this process can't be rushed. if i don't know just what i should be doing next then i have learned to set it aside and go on to something else that is whispering to me . . . ends up being a lot of WIP's but i'm okay with that.

    so many great ideas for creative thinking while quilting.
    once again i have enjoyed seeing your examples.


  13. An early quilt I made, as a wedding gift, I made from a picture. The funny thing about it was later I realized the original was a minature and I made a full size quilt.

  14. Just love this post, it is inspiring. Greetings


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