Monday, September 16, 2019

Long Rambling Thoughts About Making

Make Beautiful Things is a very bright, bold looking quilt for me. It was started initially in response to an AHIQ 'words' challenge. Sort of a 'What would our quilt say if it could say anything at all' prompt. The solid yellow and dark brown fabrics were chosen quite by default, if only because they had sufficient yardage available without going out and buying new.
Make Beautiful Things is finished!
Most usually, I am adding words after a quilt is started. There I go, plodding along with my latest masterpiece and the quilt suddenly insists that it needs certain words added. That is something that happens fairly regularly around here as I find joy in the quirkiness of including words or a phrase in fabric. This time, the words would essentially BE the quilt and so it made it all the more important to find the very best wording.
The Rising Sun blocks make me happy
As the years have flown by, most of my local quilting friends have all moved on from quilting. They have aged, {died in one case} or perhaps never became interesting in challenging themselves to grow in the same way that feels important to me. Though I am very blessed to have a wonderfully supportive family rallying behind my interests, it's not like they are invested in the details of what it takes to arrive at the finish line. They are much more interested in the finished product and where, or to whom, it might be going. lol
Very simple but effective
It might seem to some like the projects careen from one idea to the next without a lot of thought, but the truth is something altogether different. There is almost always a story or theme behind every quilt. A color palette that I am ardently pursuing, a pattern, design, block {or style?} that is currently intriguing, an antique quilt that is needing interpretation, a particular challenge that I'm earnestly trying to meet, or perhaps even a stack of orphan blocks that are feeling miffed about being left behind. Whatever the case, you can be sure that I am doing my very best to make the finished quilt absolutely as beautiful as is possible.

Hand quilting makes everything even better
The quilting process is incredibly personal as it pertains to the 'journey'. Decision after decision is made that stems directly from personal experiences, current skill level, preferences, and/or the lack {or plenty} of supplies on hand. This quilt for instance, includes some largish Rising Sun or Twirly Wheel blocks that were languishing in the orphan totes. Would any of you have similarly unused colored/patterned blocks tucked away in your quilting room? Maybe the blocks or the colors, but probably not both.
Hmm.. love it with sunflowers too
The quote, 'I just want to make beautiful things even if nobody cares' {attributed to Saul Bass}, really jumped out at me as the starting point for this specific quilt. It says so much! Yes, I have good, quilty friends here on the blog who 'care'. My family 'cares'. Sometimes even the people who receive a quilt from me 'care', even if only in the abstract.
My motto
For me, the quote zeros in on something integral to making authentic and/or original looking quilts. It's become a motto sorts. Basically, I don't care if you or anyone else likes my quilts. Not to be rude, but it's really that simplistic. Oh, I get a great big smile on my face when people appreciate whatever it is that I'm doing! It feels really good and I'd be a liar to say that it doesn't matter at all.

When we make for ourselves and the furtherance of whatever journey that WE are on, then the decision making process can become greatly simplified. It only has to make sense in our heads to be 'right' which saves a lot of time lost spent testing the winds.

Do I wonder sometimes if what I'm posting on the blog here will be well received? Of course that happens! I just don't let it bog me down either way. It feels much, much better when we quit over-complicating progress with ideas and worries such as, 'Nobody likes yellow quilts!' or 'Oh yeah, these blocks are so obviously imperfect that I should be terribly embarrassed to think of using them!' or worse yet, 'This is a really dumb idea!'. Uh huh. Because every idea can be a dumb idea. Or NOT. How do we know until we try?

Don't misunderstand. You will still THINK these things and you might even be right about some of them. Many people do not and will never like predominantly yellow quilts. That's a fact. What is important is that you don't let these 'facts' diminish your desire to play with the color 'yellow' or whatever weird color that is currently tickling your fancy. Over and over again if that's what makes you happy! I can tell you that if you love a color and it shows to the point that somehow you make an amazing looking quilt with it? {'Cuz you will if you love it that much.} It won't matter if that's my least favorite color in the whole world! Suddenly, I'm gonna start thinking of ways to incorporate that very same element into my own quilting!
Gonna have to keep this one!
If I would have started out by capitulating to all these silly {mostly imaginary} external pressures, this quilt would never have been. It would have died in its infancy and those fun Rising Sun blocks would still be buried in the orphan totes or maybe even in the garbage! Where's the fun in that? I just want to make beautiful {to me} quilts even if nobody else will ever be moved by them, understand them, appreciate them or possibly even be inspired by them. By starting from a place of  'even if nobody cares', then we free ourselves exponentially to the making of more and more beautiful things. It's like a perpetual motion motion. We make. We like. We respond positively and enthusiastically. We make more. Others like it too? That's just bonus and oh yeah. Inspiration flowing to them. See how that works?

Funnily enough, this is a quilt that I stare at sort of in amazement. I did this? Made this? SO not me and yet, very, very me all at the same time. I'm constantly learning and growing and pushing myself and slowly, slowly the quilts show signs of that forward progress. When this quilt was laid across the foot of my bed, there was this huge feeling of achievement. Wowsers! What a bright, happy quilt! The challenge was the perfect impetuous to try something a little different and overall I'm beyond delighted with where it ended up.
Easier to stitch the letters to a background fabric first
Next up was the Coins and Baskets quilt. Yes, it's finished too. It was another challenge from our AHIQ friends that involved 'coins'. This one seemed super easy at first and the ideas flowed very quickly. For some reason I immediately fell in love with the idea of using up older fabrics from the stash. Where have you heard that one before?
A mix of hand quilting and stitched-in-the-ditch
Eventually, it became obvious that the original spark for the quilt was proving to be a spectacular fail. Of course, that doesn't slow me down for long as frustration is an unacceptable resting place. The ideas were parceled out into two separate projects for two completely different looking quilts. Other ideas got dumped, as well they should be.
Last minute words that seemed like a good idea
Can I just say that improv. coins are sheer fun to cut out and sew together? There will definitely be more of these in the foreseeable future! I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of grouping together several narrow rows and then creating an every-other block out of the result. Of course, something needed to be done about the rest of the quilt, but as you can see, my beloved element {baskets} to the rescue!

Really glad it has the brighter greens included
It was a fairly interesting quilt to make once the proper direction were sorted out. You can read more about that here. Lots of quick, simple decisions with the minimum of stress. Will that fabric work? yes. How about green for most of the baskets? Yes. Things like that.
Count Your Blessings is the obvious new name
Though I wanted this quilt to look good, it always felt like it had unspoken limitations. Sometimes its not a bad thing to know absolutely that the current project is never going to win the beauty pageant. We do our best to make it into the running and then just finish it out. By starting with the old gold, rusty reds, browns and black, {not to mention the improv. coins}, my default position went immediately to the 'primitive' vibe and never veered off of that particular path.
Always good to get in another finish....
I talked at the start of this post about making 'beautiful things'. You can believe that this quilt got plenty of attention too though I never believed it could end up looking 'amazing'. Close-up, there are some lovely fabrics used and I for one, happen to think that the baskets are very sweet. I even allowed myself to be persuaded into adding words onto the quilt--at a point where it probably seems ridiculous!

This quilt washed up very nice and wrinkly, giving it the proper cozy feel that every good snuggle quilt needs. It's being gifted to a friend as a comfort sort of quilt. Hopefully no-one would ever assume it was meant to be an heirloom {hands-off the precious textile!}, but rather, sit and drink coffee or tea while having it draped comfortably across their lap. No doubt you've gleaned that this quilt isn't nearly as exciting to me as the previous quilt, but I'm not a bit reluctant to claim it as one of my 'makes'. I gave it lots of love and now it's going out to spread some love. What can be better than that?


  1. I so agree with you! Every quilt has a lot of thought, decisions to make and wondering how it will turn out. Will you love it, will other people love it? In the end I always decide that it has to have my identity.
    Your quilts both look great. I prefer the yellow one.

  2. Hi, I just went and grabbed a wine before settling down to read this post {it's 5:30pm here in NZ} :)

  3. "Over and over again if that's what makes you happy!" That's why we do this. Love your humour, love your work. Working through the self doubt for your happy outcomes. You're such a creative person. Don't know much about you personally but feel your everyday life of being what everyone expects, you manage to find your true self in your creative processes. Reading blogs is my little window into other peoples worlds from a humdrum little town in eastern Australia.

  4. I will start by saying that "Beautiful Things" is my favorite of all your quilts (and, I love a whole lot of them!). It is not simply because my favorite color is yellow, but that this quilt represents all I have learned from your wonderful and inspiring posts. If I have learned anything (and I have learned a lot) from you it is that I need to be more cerebral in my blog posts. You have proven time and time again that people do want to hear the thought processes of what goes into each quilt. A lot of thought goes into our work and I need to share a little more of that instead of simply plopping a photo of my latest endeavors up on the screen. Now, if you could just send us all a little more "time" to work on that I would appreciate it! Thanks for another inspiring post!

  5. Wendy has it right: we need more blog posts like yours. We all love to read the thought process and I think it helps us clarify our ideas, slow down a bit, and eventually make something more original, more encompassing of ourselves.
    I love that: you used those few rising star blocks - so difficult and so exciting; there are only four {when I would have tried to make five so I’d have an odd number}; you incorporated white in the alternate blocks but also made the corners colorful; you used that yellow that is on the edge of screeching {lol}; you reprised the crosses in the border with a scale change; you used a full value range; and that I had a minuscule part of this by suggesting words on quilts as a challenge.
    The Blessings quilt is a wonderful use of old {tired?? Ha!} fabrics that show their rejuvenation. The greens pump them up without outshining them - just letting them make the perfect background. Those narrow coins make a useful alternate block. I must try it sometime, too. And baskets! Love the way you added the words to a new background and then appliquéd that on.

  6. LOve that saying as I feel the same way about my quilts. So terrific to get the orphan blocks in a quilt and making it look good!! (that is my problem with the orphan quilts I've made)
    So much goodness in your post!!

  7. You are an artist (or 'maker' as the internet peeps refer to it). While fabric and quilting are your chosen medium, you are an artist. You have something to say that only you can say, and you say it through the quilts that you create. The fact that you have been growing and coming into your own as an artist/quilter over the years can be shown through the changes in your posts over time: experimental, process-filled, action-led, series-driven quilting. It's been truly inspiring.

  8. Thanks for sharing your 'long rambling thoughts'! I like what Tricia said, 'You are an artist,'
    I agree with her. And you are the best kind of artist, not to get stuck up about it but because it's a heck of a lot of fun.
    Keep having fun, I'm sure taking notes.
    I love the baskets, I imagine they're each full of blessings.

  9. It feels good to like our work enough to not care what anyone else thinks about it. I have slowly come to that conclusion and it gives me the freedom to make the quilts to please myself. I'm glad the yellow makes you happy, yellow always makes everything else look good.

  10. It's amazing how you make so many different elements come together to create an amazing quilt! And of course I love the hand quilting texture that adds another level of beauty!

  11. Great post! I find it refreshing to read all about the processes others use & their ideas, lots of creative inspiration! It seems to me that over on IG, its fewer pics and less words, which suits many, but I still prefer to read more of a story. And I do love a bit of yellow in a quilt, but what amazes me about your unique quilts is all your wonderful hand quilting.

  12. Love Linda's comment about grabbing a glass of wine, I'm doing the same but with a cup of tea! Yes, the story of how quilt come into being is so very important and I love reading your stories, thank you for sharing your thoughts. A statement which struck a chord with me was on the subject of quilting friends, I've experienced the very same over the past number of years. The small group of close quilting pals is not down to three and I'm really the only one who is still quilting.
    This is not a rambling post at all Audrey, it is a super post, your thoughts and stories behind the two quilts shown here are informative and so very interesting. Please continue!!

  13. I'll just echo the thoughts of the previous commenters rather than repeat the, all. But I'd like to go on record as saying I love to see the spark that yellow adds to almost any quilt. Orange too for that matter. I love the fact that your quilts are always original and bear your special "signature" look, though I'd be at a loss for the words to define that "signature". Always a treat to read one of these from the quilters heart posts.

  14. I think it's a great great quilt, so personal and I love the yellow, the saying (which is a terrific motto and I'd bet a lot of us share that sentiment - we are driven to make quilts - our quilts) and the orphan blocks. The comfort quilt is sweet and the green really really lifts it.

  15. It is a great quilt - those intricate blocks, the wonderful colors, the yellow and pink together, everything. I agree with you, and try to get other people's opinions out of my head when I am making quilts, even though it can be hard to do that. I think that is why I like the casual, improv, scrap, whatever quilts the best. They are supposed to reflect me and my mood and aren't made to please anyone, not even me.

  16. Oh, Audrey - where to begin?!!?! This is a FABULOUS post! So full of insight and truth. When I was teaching at The Folk School last week, there were so many conversations about MAKING and being a MAKER. This post and both quilts in it fit perfectly inside those conversations. I'm going to save this post and share it with my students from last week - one told me she nearly cancelled her registration in order to walk away from quilting just before taking my class but that she felt re-energized and excited to continue making after spending the week playing/working with colors and scraps in an encouraging and nurturing environment (best- compliment-ever). And I love, love, love "Beautiful Things" for the reasons you shared and a few more of my own. THANK YOU for writing and sharing this post.

  17. Just thank you for this post. I love, love, love everything you share.

  18. with all of the above, I agree! what more can I say?

  19. Audrey, your quilts are appreciated by many. This was evidenced by your "Best hand quilting of the show" award at our Wenatchee quilt show last month. You have several of us local followers.

  20. Me gustan mucho sus trabajos y me gusta que nos cuente el proceso
    A mi me gusta utilizar siempre algún trozo de tela antigua y que signifique algo para mi o para la persona a quién va dirigida.
    También utilizo bloques huérfanos para montar quilts.

  21. Oh my your so right the words add so much to your quilts. I love sleeping under quilts and that one would make me want to stay in bed all day! A+


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