I rarely take the easy, sure way to a finished quilt. Sometimes I see a quilt pattern that looks wonderful but imagine just one or two little tweaks that I think will make it better, make it my own. Or maybe I want a similar quilt but just a little smaller. Or larger. Or with the first border narrower and the second wider wider, or a pieced border. I make things harder for myself when I try to change up patterns and especially when I choose to create without a pattern -- the times when I dream up a quilt in my mind: imagine, draw, choose fabric, cut, sew, alter, sew some more.
Why do I do this? Elizabeth Healey, author of Stitch, Fabric & Thread: An Inspirational Guide for Creative Stitches, offered these thoughts which mirror my own.
There is great comfort in following a design created by someone else, be it a shop-bought kit, an article in a magazine, a book or even an online tutorial, since much of the planning and thinking is done for you. All you have to do is follow the instructions and you should get a replica of what's on the packet. Coming up with your own design is far more daunting and can be filled with frustrating moments as you strive to realise your vision. But when you get it right, it is infinitely more satisfying than anything bought off the shelf.
Creating from scratch can be difficult, daunting, challenging, and can call a maker's creativity into question causing self-doubt and uncertainty. But when one succeeds -- what joy!
Without doubt, the most challenging quilt to make is/has been the Gwenny-style basket of flowers medallion I began last year. It was part of a sew-along hosted by Lori of Humble Quilts. I'd already made the center when the sew-along began; the border themes were suggested by others but the creative interpretations and decisions were mine.
The first border theme was childhood.
The next border was log cabins.
So far so good with all of the above. The next border was stars. And that was the border where I started to question the way this quilt was going. By now it measured about 58" x 64". I wondered about the widths of the borders -- were they too similar, not similar enough, etc. And the colors? Not much variety in colors in the borders. But I continued on.
The last border was "something fishy." With such a large quilt and only a month to make a border, I chose what I called fish tails. I should have realized, but didn't, that a 3½" final border (4" on the bottom) for a quilt this size wouldn't work -- would be disproportionately narrow compared to the other borders.
By the time that border was stitched in place I knew the quilt was in trouble. I auditioned a few additional pieces of fabric around it with the idea of adding one more border but it seemed to me that nothing worked. (Can you imagine me wrestling? I'm not suggesting that I disliked the process, just that the choices didn't come easily.) It was nearing the holidays and I needed the floor space so I folded the top away to work on later.
Later came last week. I laid the quilt out on the floor again and within a day decided to remove the fish border, make the star border narrower, and add a wide blue border with the idea of adding applique. (Blue water is definitely fishy.) This is where the quilt is today. (I'm beginning to think this style of quilt--Gwen Marston/liberated-- is beyond my current abilities.)
I've thought about omitting the vines and adding only flowers and leaves, as though they're floating on top of water. I've thought about vines and leaves only. I've thought about circles/bubbles; clam shells; waves in some form or other; etc. If I had found a printed fabric that would have worked for a broder, I would have used it. To some extent I'm probably stuck on too literal an interpretation of "something fishy" but at this point it doesn't really matter whether this border has anything fishy about it because the sew-along is over.
I could just stitch those vines, flowers, and leaves down and call it done. Gwenny style? I'm not so sure. Good enough? Yes, probably. That border is not unlike many I've seen around the internet when I search google or pinterest. It works well enough. But could it be better? Could it be more original? Could there be a border that adds to the quilt more than this one does? I think the answer is probably yes to those last three questions.
So I'm wondering, dear readers, when you create an original quilt of your own design, do you keep working on it, playing with it, wrestling with it until it's perfect? At what point do you decide it's perfect? Do you ever settle for good enough, call it a learning experience, and move on?
By the end of October I want to have made a decision about the border on this quilt and have begun (and maybe finished) it -- for One Monthly Goal at Elm Street Quilts.
I'm linking this post to
> WOW at Esther's Blog
> Let's Bee Social #197 at Sew Fresh Quilts
> wip link-up at Silly Mama quilts
> Midweek Makers #92 at Quilt Fabrication
> UFO Progress at Jo's Country Junction
> One Monthly Goal at Elm Street Quilts
> Finished or Not Friday at Busy Hands Quilts
Thank you, ladies, for hosting.