Thursday, May 19, 2011

On ruining a quilt top...

A couple of weeks ago I was stitching my entry for Ste. Marie aux Mines. Hand stitching is rather contemplative, and since this top has been very thoroughly thought through and does not need much brain-attention on its way to being finished, I can let my mind wander. I got onto the train of thinking about the title of the challenge, namely „Enchevêtrement“ (in French), translated as „Tangle“ into English and as „Geflecht“ into German. (I see quite a problem in the translations because a tangle (which constitutes a mess and is certainly something you do not want to have) and a Geflecht (which is sort of orderly and a situation that may be hard to retreat from, e.g. in a family situation, but it does not include the semantics of ‚messy’ to such a degree as tangle does – but that’s a different story and I don’t really want to go into linguistic specifics here...)

So, while thinking about the title I vividly felt that I needed something to sew on the machine to give my finger tip a break from pushing the needle (I’m working without a thimble because it kept breaking the thread.) I also realized that I might actually have a second quilt that I could enter in that challenge, if I could finish both of them on time.

Just after Christmas I had started a new piece which I had also meant to become a part of my series „Play of Lines“, again using a drawing by my son as inspiration.

"Mom, you can use this to make a quilt!"
Using the drawing was slightly different this time, however, as it was the first time that my son had actually given me the drawing with the words, „here mom, you can turn this into a quilt now“. So whereas all his other drawings that I had kept were just his drawings I preserved and could either use or not use as inspiration. As much as I liked the drawing, this one came with a bit of obligation.

As it turns out, it went fine in the beginning, and within a few days I had progressed far enough that I considered the whole piece almost finished. I liked it, but it needed something else which I could not come up with at that point. So I put it away a little bit to let it ‚sink in’ and then perhaps add one or two little things before it would be all done.

That was the top that came to mind while I was hand-stitching. 
The next morning I set to work – and for one reason or another ruined the whole thing. You may understand that I was pretty upset about that. I had auditioned the lines which I inserted before I cut the top by pinning them on top. But when I saw them sewn in, they did not feel right, and at once I started thinking ‚and how are you going to quilt that anyway?’
It had very nice sections, such as this one

And this one.

The individual sections I really liked, but it didn’t work as a whole.

Frustrated, I folded it up and was going to add it to the UFO-pile. I called my friend, told her about it, got myself some empathy and consolation. A couple of days later she had invited us for lunch and just for completeness’ sake I took the failure along to show her.
She looked at it - and really liked it a lot. I was amazed. She agreed that she did not know how to go about the quilting, either – but she’s not a quilter. She just liked the design,the boldness of color choice, and the interaction of the lines, all of which are thngs that I want to work with in that series. We agreed that it would take very well to be turned by 90 degrees – a step in design which I take quite frequently, in fact, but which just hadn’t occurred to me in this particular case, probably because I had already turned it once at an earlier stage.

So after lunch I took it back home, put it back up on the wall and kept looking at it off and on for the rest of the afternoon. She was right – it’s a pretty cool design. And after I had taken my son to bed I even came up with an idea for a quilting pattern. It will need a bit of special attention, but it’s not ruined after all. If I get them finished, I will enter two quilts at Ste. Marie-aux-Mines.


  1. I have to agree, I love what you have and I can't wait to see it quilted. Thanks for sharing your talents with us.

  2. It is fascinating how we sometimes know right away what is appropriate in and for a design, and at other times we need to come at it again from a different angle/point of view, or after time. But I think that artists and designers are to a large part problem solvers, and it is this that gives us the greatest pleasure. Good luck with both of your entries.

  3. Olga, I agree with you - solving the problems is the best part of it all, even if it gives us hard times in between. But these are self-made problems, and wouldn't we rather solve those than some the were inflicted on us unwillingly. Thanks for your encouragement - I'll let everybody know about the entries' fate.