Today I’m off to present to a guild. I love preparing for these meetings! Each time is a treat: the audience and space is new to me, the way I think about my quilts evolves, and I get to pet my quilts as I choose which ones to bring.
One of the things I enjoy about choosing my quilts is seeing how much they have changed over time. The differences might not be apparent to other people, but I can tell. In late 2012, a mere five years ago, I made the first quilt I think of as from my “medallion period.” (If Picasso can have a “blue period,” surely I can have a medallion period!) It was for my dear Jim, made at the end of a year that was hard for both of us. I always include this quilt in my trunk shows, for sentimental reasons and to illustrate design issues.
Since then I’ve made dozens of medallion quilts. All of them taught me lessons. For example, I learned that
- the center block doesn’t need to be intricate, it just needs to be bold with multiple shapes and colors, and some decent value contrast;
- placing the center on point makes the quilt a lot bigger in a hurry;
- when you put it on point, it’s better to have the setting triangles too big than too small;
- it’s easier to add new colors in the inner and middle borders than in the outer ones;
- try arranging half-square triangles in a variety of ways, since placement of value and line make a difference in their effect;
- spacer borders and blocks are your friends.
Besides lessons about design and construction, I also learned a few things about patience and persistence, and about asking for help.
Quilting, in any format, is good for developing patience, a trait that hasn’t always come easily to me. Consider the process of making a quilt, and all the steps required. Even when it all goes well, you have to be willing to work through the fabric prep, cutting, piecing, pressing, assembly, sandwiching, quilting, binding. You know this is the short list! And when things go wrong, besides the swearing and throwing of things, there’s also unstitching, sometimes yards and yards of unstitching! Or building different blocks, or cutting different strips, or taking the whole thing apart and starting over. Yes, I did that on the Garden Party quilt.
I’ve also learned to ask for help when I need it. My tendency is to push through challenges without asking, not always a good decision. But Jim is my willing “consultant,” and I ask him for help frequently. Learning to trust his opinion (because he’s almost always right!) makes it easier to ask for others’, too. When I teach my class, a big portion of class time is in “workshopping” the students’ projects, allowing other students opportunity to advise and comment on the works in progress. They learn to evaluate the project and the process; while they do, so do I. Student comments have made an impact on multiple quilts of mine. And I’ve received tremendous help from my sister in learning to see color better.
I always hope I can convey a small portion of this in my guild presentations, along with the fun and excitement of designing and making these special quilts.
Do you enjoy looking at your past quilts? What has quilting taught you? I’d love to hear your comments.