My friend Amanda tagged me in the “Around the World” blog hop, and while I normally don’t jump on this sort of bandwagon, this blog hop has a bit of a different feel and I have loved reading the posts from my friends reflecting on their creative process. Plus I’ve been meaning to update my blog for FOREVER, but a lot has been going on behind the scenes here! I’m still sewing a ton (and I have SO MANY projects to share), but in the last couple of months I finished up my post-doc fellowship and took a tenure-track job, which involved moving to a new area and staring the new job. Things have been a bit crazy, to say the least! But carving out time for creativity has been so important to me, and documenting my work and my process goes along with this!
Like many of my friends, I also have made the switch to using instagram a little more frequently– namely because I don’t always have time to edit photos and write up a blog post, but I can snap a quick shot on my phone and share it right away. If you’re interested in seeing what I’m up to, I’m greenleafgoods on instagram; my profile is not public, but if you request to be friends I’ll be happy to add you!
1. What quilting/sewing thing am I working on?
Ha, this question is kind of funny because I always have at least 3 (…or 4 or 5) quilts in progress at any given time. Realistically, I am finishing up binding on two quilts, I’m cutting and piecing another top, and I’ve been pondering how to quilt my dresden quilt top. I finished this beast up a few weeks back, and I think I’m close to figuring out how to finish it off!
I also just acquired this sweet vintage singer featherweight, so I’ve been spending a little time cleaning her up and testing her out. She is in great shape, and her stitches are pretty perfect! I think I’ll be doing a lot of piecing on the featherweight from now on.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, in a lot of ways it doesn’t! I am constantly (seriously, constantly!) drawing inspiration from the work of my peers, and I feel very at home in the “modern quilt” genre. And this can mean a lot of things, as debate about modern quilting has revealed. But after making many, many quilts I’ve realized that I heavily favor the improv process. I *can* paper piece when I need to, but I don’t really enjoy it! I also think a LOT about incorporating traditional elements into modern designs. Again, I know I’m in good company here!
The one way I differ from a number of other quilters is that I tend to not use patterns. I will often look at patterns to see construction and piecing techniques, but then I take that knowledge to figure out what works for me. For example, when working on my improvisational double wedding ring quilt, I focused on techniques for sewing improv curves. Once I had that mastered, I felt very confident that I could execute my design.
3. How does my writing/creating process work?
This is really a cyclical process. I am often inspired when I see someone else’s work, though usually I identify an element of the work that stands out to me (for example, I love the colors they chose, or that’s an interesting block design, or I love how they laid out their quilt top) and then I think about what aspect of the design I would want to incorporate into my own work. Every once in a while I’ll see something that I just want to make my own version of, but usually I’ll latch onto an idea and then mull it over for a while. Part of this process is then searching out all examples of the particular method or design I’m interested in and looking at all the variations to see what resonates with me. This part of the process usually has a couple of criteria– I have to find something visually appealing AND I have to think through whether I’d find the process of creating the project enjoyable. Sometimes I find something I love, but I know that I wouldn’t find it that fun to make, so I think about what version would be fun for me to work on.
For example, when I began my improv double wedding ring, I searched high and low for other improvisation DWR quilts. As you can imagine, there aren’t many! Next I identified my process– the improv curves I’d need to make my shapes. I also considered the layout, and how I’d nest the curves so that all the shapes would line up. During this phase I often draw rough sketches to see if my ideas are practical. Then I dive right in– I find the best way to learn is to try it out, so I start cutting and sewing and see where things go.
Here’s another example: I was asked to make a quilt that showed a family home and incorporated elements that were unique to the family. I took a photo of their house, and then searched for all sorts of patterns that might approximate this shape. I found a good one, and started paper piecing it– but it wasn’t feeling right. I modified my approach to be improv, and I added things like the kids in the windows and the cat on the porch.
I knew I needed to add a mountain to the back left of the quilt, and a garden to the right, with some wildlife mixed in.
This was the most fun to make, because it was so challenging but so freeing to just put things together and see what worked. For the garden, I was inspired by the purl bee mini quilt, and I did a smaller version in the quilt. I also used improv patchwork for the sky and grass and dirt, and pulling these sections together was so much fun.
Overall, I try to start with a rough vision of what I want to make, and I look for examples to draw from to inform my choices during the design and implementation phases. But I’m also always open to seeing where things go– sometimes I work on something that just doesn’t “work” and I listen to the quilt top to tell me when things are feeling right and when they need to change. It’s an unpredictable process, but that’s what I love about it.
Now I’d like to encourage some of my friends to join in and share their process. I’d love to hear from my friends Kristie (of OCD: Obsessing Crafting Disorder), who constantly amazes me with her productiveness and eye for color and composition, and Kate (of The Story of Kat), who continues to make quilts I want to steal, and creates the most amazing original embroidery designs.
Thanks for reading my super-long post! I’m planning to share some more of my quilt finishes soon!