Monday, June 9, 2008

Quilting challenges

Alright, let's talk about "quilting challenges." I belong to a few online quilt groups through Yahoo. Since I don't have the availability or desire to participate in an actual guild right now, these online groups are a wonderful place to connect to others more experienced and just learning the art of quilting and piecing.

Often, there are various block swaps and challenges posted for the group's entertainment and education. For many reasons, I've avoided all of these but recently, I chose to join in. The challenge: pick an ugly fabric from your stash and using a set of pre-chosen block designs, make it look beautiful in a 4-block quiltlet.

I decided this challenge was for me. I had an ugly fabric. I think I may have inhaled some glue accidentally somewhere at Joann's because I have no other explanation for why I purchased it.

Also, I knew this WOULD challenge me to take more risk in choosing coordinating fabrics and planning an overall design. It would also, as I've come to find out, teach me about the entire process of piecing from start to border. More about that later. Lastly, I knew this was my chance to practice paper-piecing and curved-piecing. Neither of which I've really ever had any success with before. So, I took a photo of my ugly fabric and joined.

It took me 3 weeks to figure out what other fabrics I could use. I tried many, I even enlisted my mother and friend to help. Kudos to mom, she was a trooper and thanks to my dad who bore with me and mom laying fabrics out on the living room floor and talking over his news channels to figure the best ones. I sewed the blocks all up, still believing this to be the ugliest thing I've ever created.

I sewed the four blocks together without sashing and HATED them. Since I had a couple errors in my curved piecing, I had to square the blocks up and in doing so, I ended up shaving off some of the paper- pieced triangles. When those blocks were combined together, it made for uneven seams and incomplete triangles. As inexperienced as I am, I knew I could not hide these with quilting. I had to figure something out. I took apart the 4 blocks.

I searched the internet for ideas beyond just straight vertical and horizontal inner sashes and saw blocks set at an angle. I don't yet know if this is "legal" in the challenge, but I adopted this idea and created long triangles to add to the sides of my blocks. It worked and started to give my blocks new dimension. I was beginning to have hope this wouldn't be so bad after all.

Okay, sewed up the newly built blocks into a quiltlet but something was wrong. When I drafted my quiltlet and reviewed the draft, my eye was drawn around the quilt by the design and colors. However, once sewn, my eye jumped from one place to another and the quiltlet coloer was all jumbled and confusing. After an evening staring at the quiltlet and my drafted version, I figured out what I did, the triangles were on the wrong sides of the blocks. I couldn't leave it that way so I took apart the quiltlet again, took the long triangles off the blocks, repositioned the triangles, resewed them and then resewed the blocks together. Finally, my quiltlet was taking shape and directed my eye like it was supposed to.

Still ugly, though. There's just no escaping that.

Okay, so next I "audition" a couple border ideas and decide a simple, solid color is the way to go. My, oh my, it makes a bunch of difference. This quiltlet is not looking quite as ugly.

Well, maybe I'm speaking too soon.

At this point, I've only got the quilting left and then the binding. One week to finish so I'm trying to get myself away from "pondering" and to start "doing." However, I felt compelled, after putting on the border, to post here and let you all know, if you are like me and cannot visualize a finished product but can only visualize a part at a time, then join small challenges like this. It doesn't necessarily change the process of doing one part, then deciding the next part based on what the first looks like and so on but it HAS taught me to expand my mental zone to ideas and colors I would normally overlook. It has also taught me that sometimes, when I only have a piece of the puzzle complete, it may not be as pretty as the finished product so I should keep going and not get discouraged.

I'll post photos later, once the challenge is complete and let you know if I won "dis"honorable mention for ugliest quiltlet. It was decided to add that to the challenge because while some folks are able to make their ugly fabric beautiful, some of us aren't. All I can say, though, is I'm proud I'm sticking with this and I am having fun through it all and that may even be because I can't make this stinker look pretty. -wink-

No comments: