Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Scrap Quilting ABC's: Authenticity--Part 3 of 3

Okay, one more post in this series and then I'll shut up and go back to my regular posting! This is the part about scrap quilting that is very difficult for me to put into words. Most people will tell you that color usage and value are the most important components in scrap quilts. I'm convinced that there's a third equally important component: authenticity. All I can say for sure is this: we recognize it when we see it. It's the part of your quilt that shines forth as genuinely YOU.

Let me give you some examples. All of these quilters have a distinct style and most of it has to do with how they put the details of fabric and color together. When you see their quilts anywhere on the web, you think, 'oh, that's so and so's quilt'. Go have a look at: Molly Flandersnifty quiltsQuilts By Cheriblue elephant stitches, and Humble Quilts just to name a few. They have learned to be authentic!

Even from the beginning I realized that there were fabrics that appealed to me more than others, such as plaids. For me, they sort of exemplify the utility and a certain timelessness apparent in antique make-do quilts {my favorite style above all else}. After reading Roberta Hortons 'Plaids and Stripes' book, I rushed to add to my plaid collection. After gathering enough fabrics, I was able to make the quilt below--90 sawtooth star blocks made completely out of plaid fabrics! What an exhilarating finish! And then I realized that making quilts completely from plaid fabrics wasn't really 'me'. It was fun, really interesting and I learned a lot about working with directionals. It just wasn't the whole picture of who I wanted to be as a quilt maker.
My Plaid Stars quilt. LOVE the plaids but
there's too many of them together in one place!
The specifics of the fabrics you use in every single quilt are telling a story, hopefully your story! Take a moment to consider what 'feeling' you want to convey with your scrap quilting. Are you brash and bold? Subtle and blendy? Sweet and heartfelt? Sneaky and unexpected? Whimsical? Adventurous? Playful? 

These are all things that can be communicated through the total package of how you put your quilts together. In part one, I addressed color placement and color families. Think about how colors such as pinks and reds can convey sweetness, passion, power or even rage. Unexpected color combinations can be whimsical, unexpected, or perhaps make your quilt appear vintage . In part two I talked about how value changes can help in creating light spots, energy, motion, even sparkle in your quilts. Learn to let your discriminating eye take advantage of value to say something in your quilts. Does your quilt reflect happiness? Rigid formality? Does it make you want to go on a picnic or curl up with a book?
In this quilt, I chose to use a light colored plaid in the background because
it reminds me of a well worn shirt. I wanted the quilt to feel comfortable and
well loved. I used browns to ensure that the quilt isn't pretentious even though
it has a more complicated pattern.The reds have a bit of 'cherry' in them so
they won't have that contemporary look that often feels reserved.
The warmer red brings it down to earth, making it more inviting and cozy. 
Letting your unique self be on display through scrap quilting may seem kind of crazy at first. Think about it this way. Nobody will ever be able to put fabric and color together quite like you do! Why not celebrate that? Take that fabric 'love' that is compelling you to be a quilter and enjoy the freedom of expressing yourself in a totally unique and genuine way!

A really easy way to further develop your personal style in a quilt is through the details of the fabric print itself. Have you ever purposely made a quilt for a man and thought about how to make it more masculine? Made sure not to use any flower prints? There are ways to combine prints that emphasize personality.
All the light colored fabrics in this quilt were chosen because they have a
very soft look. I wanted the prints to be very sweet, light and almost
romantic when paired with the reds. Not cheesy romantic, but like a quilt
you would want to curl up with in at a vacation home somewhere off by
yourself, maybe have a bit of a cry and have everything feel better.
If you're not already, start making a conscious effort to buy small pieces of fabric you love or that pull on your heartstrings. Bring them home and mix them into your stash. Whenever you're in the mood to make a scrap quilt, go to your stash first and start pulling a large selection of fabric. Don't immediately run down to the quilt store to buy more of a certain color. There's probably something in your stash that could work if you only put your mind to it. The fabric in your stash is more YOU at the moment than a brand new piece from the store. I'm not sure why that is, but trust me, your fabrics often need to come home and live with the rest of the family for awhile before they settle in properly!
These fabrics are mostly reproduction style prints or plaids that reminded of
those gorgeous mums we see in the fall. All the lovely summer color
 is dying back and then there's these beautiful pops of color, saying
'look at me!' Color doesn't have to be extravagant to be beautiful. The
creamy white remind me of those pretty, frosty fall mornings.
After you pull some fabrics that look and feel good together, fold them into neat stacks of color families and value. Stack them up and let them simmer for awhile. Then drag them back out for another play. This gives your subconscious, your instincts and that wonderfully artistic eye of yours time to decide what's missing, what needs to be emphasized, the color that could best be the sparkle, or if a certain color will look better in a different style print or hue.
In the geese block, I kept coming back to the idea that some of the fabrics
needed to be more 'aggressive' than others, whether in color or in print.
Finally I just quit fighting the idea and went with it. If the geese want to
squabble a little for dominance, who am I to argue?
For some of us, this time to simmer or marinate is an important fine-tuning step that helps everything gel or 'click' into place. It make us take the time to ensure that color, fabric, and print combination feel comfortable and right. I've heard some people call it 'curating', but for me, it's more about giving the fabrics time to talk. Are the fabrics squabbling like little kids or are they high fiving each other wanting to move on to the good stuff? Only you have the answer to that question! Don't rush through the process every single time. Some quilts take longer than others to germinate, much less to bloom.
These fabrics were pulled out of my scrap bin, but I dug deep
in order to get the feel that I wanted: cheerful, friendly and
somewhat whimsical. This basket ended up feeling very fun and
playful to me, mostly because of the combination of prints and color.
Remember, not all of our quilts are going to the be exact same colors or evoke the same response. For one thing, we are moody creatures. I'm not always in the mood to make a cheerful quilt and I doubt you are either! And too, I rarely ever actually put a name to the feelings I'm trying to convey at the start of building the fabrics and quilt ideas. There is just a feeling in my gut that says, 'No, not that fabric' or 'Yes! That fabric is perfect.' And then, after all the fabric is pulled together and I'm cutting it or sewing it, {sometimes hand quilting it if I'm slow to understand}, the actual 'feeling' of the quilt starts sinking in and I'm delighted by the story it's telling me.
Every time I work on these log cabin blocks, I feel so much emotion. The fabrics
are very soft in color, but the prints have a lot of energy. That contradiction
is extremely compelling to me and I'm so eager to see where this quilt is taking me,
what story of mine it wants to tell!
Be aware that our friends and family are not always completely comfortable with the story we are {sometimes inadvertently} telling through our quilt making. They get accustomed to a certain distinctive style that we have developed and perhaps it feels easy and happy to them. Then we change, grow, stretch ourselves a bit and suddenly we are making a quilt that makes them feel uncomfortable for some unfathomable reason! Perhaps it's darker and moodier or maybe it's not that at all. It could be a bright, graphic and modern look that is making them squirm. Don't worry about what others think! If you're making what feels good and right to you, they will quickly catch up and realize that the new style is just another side of you. In fact, it's probably been there all along and you're just finally getting around to giving it a proper voice.
These fabrics were put together in a formulaic way for a QAL
I did with some friends--same quilt, different outcome sort of thing.
It feels like a quilt that would be taken to the lake when it's 100 degrees
outside. The only problem is, I would be the girl hugging the shade, applying
my fourth application of sunscreen and whining about the heat. It's
entirely too cheerful and shallow in depth to feel like a proper ME quilt!
Because of the open and free-sharing ways of the internet especially, we can all be guilty of getting caught up in trying to put fabrics and colors together in a way that isn't truly us, not down deep where it matters. Quilting to please or impress is a no-win situation because we will eventually lose our joy in the process and feel a disconnect to what we are making. The very fact that scrap quilting involves using lots of different pieces of fabrics, gives us the ability to have a greater amount of detail, layers, depth, plus authenticity in our quilts.

Don't ever be afraid to 'be genuine' no matter how awkward it might feel initially. The quilts that we get the most pleasure out of {even if they end up being given away}, are the ones that have us embedded in every little part of them. And too, interest is interest! I'd rather have five people standing in front of my quilt at the local quilt show discussing why they don't like it, than one hundred people file past with just one quick, little disinterested glance. If there is something so very compelling about my quilt that actually people stop and look at it, then I've got to be doing something right!


  1. Some very wise words there about finding your own voice in your quilts. I think that is why I am always making little changes to patterns I use - making it more my 'style'. Your beautiful colour and fabric combinations reflect your style perfectly - love it!

  2. I agree with Every Stitch - I too try to make all my quilts "mine" and I wish more quilters would deviate from the commercial patterns.

  3. Another fascinating post. You've made me realize a few fundamental errors in my scrap quilts and why I frequently don't end up with the quilt I originally visualized.

  4. A good reminder to by our own person, not to worry about what others think. Which is good advice in life as well as quilting. When I first read Roberta Horton's book, it took me on a long plaid journey too. Those quilts still make me happy.

  5. So very, very well said. As a long time student and maker of scrap quilts, you nailed it on this part.

  6. What a great post, it is so important to make quilts (or anything) with a bit (or a lot) of ourselves in it. And that holds not only for scrap quilts! My quilts often start from my stash, mostly fabrics I bought because I like them (having no quilt shop close by helps), and though they all have a completely different "feel" they are very much "me".

  7. I've enjoyed your series. Thanks for your thoughts and time.

    I have a couple of UFO quilts that are just like everyone else's in blog land (popular yearly sew alongs) that I really don't want to finish because I don't really consider them mine. But someone else may enjoy them as a gift so I will.

    I'm really tired of seeing all the same quilt in the same colors all over blog land and then I am hungry for a glimpse of something unique. So I try unique.

    I think that it takes a while to find your own voice in creative writing as well as creative quilting. I think I've lost and found my voice a few times!

  8. I'm so happy to be included in your "identifiable quilts" list. :) I did so many quilts last year that weren't me, but were growing experiences. I'm ready to get back to what I want to make.
    What a great 3 part article!

  9. So much to think about Audrey - this series deserves several re-reads! This year I am making a concerted effort to make quilts that really speak for me. I've reduced my stash by quite a bit, only keeping those fabrics that I adore. Surprise surprise - I'm not sure I can find a theme! I'll work my way through them, seeing who plays well with whom. Somewhere along the way I'll identify my style. It's all about the process and I love it so - take care

  10. Great, as usual. Your quilts do have a signature look and I think it's because they tell the viewer something new about you each time. You've expressed your creativity process well and given me a lot of "food for thought". I'm cutting out a quilt right now that I bought the supplies for a few years ago. I have to admit I'm no longer in love with the fabric. I'm going to continue making it but you've given me the courage to make it my own and change up some of the obvious choices for sashing and background. I can hardly wait to go to the sewing studio! Thanks.

  11. Thank you for this series on color. I have learned quite a bit. I remember when I was learning water color painting. After a couple of lessons she looked at my painting and said, "You are developing your own style." The painting we were doing was of a New England beach town. All the buildings were weathered browns and greys. The only spot of color was the ocean and a lone catamaran on the beach. I painted each house a different bright color and changed the foliage to palms. I was on a tropical beach now. I find myself attracted to fabric in those tropical colors of blues, greens and coral. And I often select a pattern by the colors in the quilt in the book or on display.

  12. Another great, thought-provoking post. I agree it is important to hold on to who we are, to allow that to be expressed through what we make and to trust our own voices. It can be too easy to focus on an imagined end and not listen to what our instincts (and our fabric) are telling us.

  13. A very well done series Audrey! I think another purpose for the "simmering" period is the chance to add something new to the mix. While you can start with your stash which has been gathered over time, there's nothing wrong with going out and seeing and adding something from a more recent period that just came on the market. Sometimes the time period a fabric was designed or sold in has a specific "look" too and adding something newer also can add "spark".

    You are so right that we should listen to our own voices and try to put it in all of our quilts. I believe that even when we are making the same quilt in the same colors or fabrics as everyone else, there is always room to still add a little "YOU" to your finished project!

  14. HI, I left a longer comment earlier this morning but it must have been eaten by the cyber monster. The short version is : thank - you, I am recently awakening to what you already know and this series has been a great help. please, as what you wrote in the beginning of your post - do not " shut - up ", your quilts and writing are inspirational.
    Sincerely, Colleen

  15. Thanks for this series. I've particularly enjoyed this last post - its's given me pause for thought. As ever, Audrey, you're a very insightful person. Thank you.

  16. I need to read your posts again, very inspiring, each quilt or project needs a spark of personality, even if it takes time, take it slow and and enjoy !

    1. I couldn't find your email so wanted to say 'thank you' here! Best of luck getting through them all.:)

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  18. This is such a helpful series and this last installment has some good insights. Quilters are so unique; I always enjoy the many ways they personalize their quilts.

  19. I have really enjoyed reading this series. You've articulated a "scrappy" authentic sensibility so well, putting into words many things I feel and know but haven't been able to put into words. I also enjoyed your posts about creativity. Your words and your many quilts as examples - it's all very inspiring!

  20. Do not take offense when I say this post made me cry. There was such a deep truth to your wording, and I was primed to both hear and understand finally. This is a well worded series on scrap quilting that rises heads above the norm. I am so appreciative. Thank you.

  21. I love this article! I hope you don't mind me sharing it to my newsletter readers next week. I really love the way you interpret each of your quilt digging more of who you are and all. I have been loving doing this recently and trying all various things to see how I like it. Thanks for your thoughts!


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