EXPERIMENT. My focus word of 2014.

It’s tempting to think of experimentation as an improvisational creative process. Just try it! See what happens! In fact, no, in both hard science and social sciences, experiments are set up with great care and planning. Scientists define the question, determine what variables might impact the outcome, decide which variables to control and which to change, and carefully observe the outcomes.

In quilting an easy example is creating a number of sample pieces of free-motion quilting. Start with the same backing and top fabric, the same batting, and the same stitching design. Then try different threads. Observe the different looks of the stitching you’ve done.

Another example: in EQ7 or another design program, you might draw several variations of a border, using the same center design and color scheme. Changing just the border piecing, you are experimenting with the final look of the quilt.

For artists, working in series gives similar benefits as more structured scientific experimentation. Though I didn’t intend it as an experiment, I guess that’s what I’m doing with all the medallion quilts. It’s true that each one I do teaches me more about the format and how to design for it. For instance, one Medallion Sew-Along sample I’m working on now began with a center block of three main colors. Peach, red, and teal.

Backed myself into a corner on this one!

Though the peach and red both have more colors in their prints, the three colors dominate. Besides that, they are similar in value, as the peach reads as a medium rather than a light. I really constrained myself with that center block and needed to find ways to bring more color and more contrast into the quilt. Though I’m happy with its direction now, (after experimenting with different solutions,) in the future I’ll try to vary medallion centers more, to give myself more options.

Working in series is one way to experiment. Practice is another. Practice for the sake of improvement is simply experimenting with different technique or position or supplies. You test over and over, seeing what works best for you. And once you’ve found it, you try to repeat it, to verify and solidify the results.

That said, I also like the more casual notion of experimenting. Just try it! See what happens! And here is where I sometimes let fear stop me. At my best, I go ahead. After all, what’s the worst that would happen? Quilting isn’t brain surgery. No one will die if I mess up.

Still, I’m a structured gal. I know for me, I’ll do best with a list. What do I want to try? Why?

Here are a few things on that list, not particularly well-defined and in no particular order:

  • multi-size block quilt
  • using Shiva Paintstiks to transform fabric
  • long-arm quilting designs — practice/experiment
  • art quilt of shapes (Matisse inspired?)
  • art quilt featuring words (EAT/hunger-related)
  • landscape quilt of Irish rowhouses along river
  • landscape quilt of cityscape
  • quilt portraying boulder
  • quilt portraying snake

Looks like most of my intentions to experiment are to change the way I use shapes on fabric, breaking out of pure geometric formats. Even making a block quilt from many sizes of blocks breaks the linear boundary, beyond what I’ve done in the past.

What do I need to break free from? What constraints keep me confined to the linear, symmetrical structure? Nothing needs to. More to ponder…


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