Make Good Art

Thanks to all who read and commented on my recent post, in which I muttered about motivation for making quilts. If I make quilts and no one wants them, is there still a good reason to make them? In truth, the question should be somewhat different: who is the audience or “market” for my quilts?

When I began blogging, I knew I would have very few readers. Jim would read my writing, and I anticipated a few others might wander in by accident. Though readership has grown over time (thank you!) I try not to take that for granted, and know that any given post might capture little attention. Because of that, I write primarily for an audience of one: me.

My quilting is the same. While I will always make some quilts for specific people or causes, each quilt must be made to please me. Why? Once a gift is made, it is not mine. The new owner might love it or not, use it or not, abuse it or not, thank me or not. Only in the making is it truly mine. In the making it must please me. And if it is never given to someone else? Then also it must please me. So who is the audience? Me. And if it pleases me, that is enough.

So, back to work! Let’s catch up on my current project, using that odd historical print.

20160401_182819After attaching my on point border, I was stuck. Though I had a pretty good idea of what to do next, I was out of French blue fabrics like the darker blue in the photo. A quick shopping trip to Amana and South Amana refilled my coffers. In fact at each shop I found exactly one blue fabric of the right type, and at each shop I bought 3 yards. What I don’t use on the front will end up in the back. I also bought a yard of a cheddar orange, which is used in the center block as an accent.

I decided to use a narrow spacer border in the cheddar, only 3/4″, to take the center to 48″ finished. (The “center” is whatever is being bordered at the moment, regardless of how many borders there already are.) That size gives me options for a straight-set block border. For example, I could make blocks that are 12″, 8″, 6″, 4″, 3″, or 2″ length along the border edge.

I chose 6″ square blocks, with 8 blocks on each side. The zigzagging chain is made of double-4-patch blocks. The line created repeats the diagonals of the prior on-point border, as well as the diagonal setting of the center block. It also provides a nice change in value from the relatively light values coming before, especially the broad cream-and-tan toile corners surrounding the center.


The lights that create the chain are all from my scrap drawer and pretty well cleaned it out of that type of light-neutral. Right now the blocks are built but not assembled into strips and not attached to the center.

The finished size of the center once they’re on is 60″. That is 48″ + 6″ + 6″. After that? More. I have the feeling this is going to be a big quilt, perhaps for a king-sized bed.

Finally, I’d like to offer author Neil Gaiman’s commencement address to art students in 2012. He talks about failure, disappointment, and discouragement, success, and work. The transcript provided by The University of the Arts says this:

And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing that’s unique. You have the ability to make art.

And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that’s been a lifesaver. The ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones.

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

Here is the video if you’d like to watch the whole thing:






22 thoughts on “Make Good Art

  1. Pingback: Only as Good as Your Last Quilt? | Zippy Quilts

  2. Quilt Musings

    Thank you so much for sharing that video. I have always enjoyed reading his work and the occasional video I came across, but I had not seen that one, and I found it truthful, fun, and inspiring. Gorgeous blue in your quilt btw.

  3. Thread crazy

    I love the quote – “make good art”…yes, after making several quilts for family I too decided just to make the quilts because I liked to. For me, working with fabric it brightens my day, picks me up if I’m down and gets me going. The zigzag chain border compliments the first it, smooth flow from the center to the outer border, so to speak.

  4. KerryCan

    Well, you found your answer about why you make quilts–yay! And I can see that this new one will please you very much–I love it! And, like others have said, that blue and neutral border is very striking!

  5. Elizabeth E.

    Lovely and succinct thoughts about the making. I decided long ago the same thing: I can only make for myself, and I can never keep up with the flow of quilt land. It is fun to see what everyone’s working on, but I try to focus on what satisfies my need to create. Great post!

  6. zippyquilts

    Nice quote. And my blog for next Sunday is about the idea that I am the one who gets to decide whether my own art is good. If I continue on that topic, I think I’ll link to your recent posts, if that’s OK.

  7. katechiconi

    And you do. Make good art, that is. This is a beautiful design, and the colours and layout remind me of Victorian encaustic tile floors (Google Victorian encaustic tiles in Images and you’ll see what I mean). Just gorgeous: spare, elegant and refined.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      🙂 I’m not sure “spare” will be the right adjective when it’s done. I think the next pieced border might take it over the top. Thanks as always.

  8. Ruth

    Make Good Art….how lovely and affirming. I used to work in a quilt shop. Women would come in regularly , stroke the fabric and wander around. When asked if they might need help , they would say , sadly, “Oh , no. Only looking. Nobody wants another quilt”. I will keep quilting….I don’t want to have that sad, longing look.

  9. piecefulwendy

    I enjoy your thoughtful posts (I’ve been pondering your last post for the past few days). Your quilt is looking really good — I like that double four patch border!

  10. TextileRanger

    I have not seen that Neil Gaiman quote before, so thank you! I know art has saved my sanity in the midst of disappointments.
    I love the dark blue and white border with its sort of syncopated rhythm — it makes such a nice complement to the center medallion!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks, Kathy. It is coming together well so far. I just sewed on 2 of the 4 sides of double 4-patches. And I’m checking yardages for what I can do next. I think I have a plan… 🙂


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