In previous posts (here and here), I mentioned the poem that provided the inspiration to combine my poetry with my quilts. Around this same time, I was also reading Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer. My taste in books is nothing if not eclectic.
Wonderbook is aimed at science fiction and fantasy writers, which I am not, but I carry a strong conviction that lessons can be learned about story structure and character development in any genre. And besides, the book was filled with imaginative art work as visual aid for story telling, which was a selling point.
I don’t think we ever out grow the desire to read picture books.
I was reading this very intriguing book because I intend to finish my novel someday. Nothing more. I expected to learn more about the art of writing. Maybe pick up a couple of pointers to guide me in the process. I did not expect to learn something about making art.
I think that’s what did it, really. The book, combined with my poem and the picture the poem drew in my mind, exposed the connection between my compulsion to tell stories (even in the typical short narrative form of poetry) and my desire to create something that is visually pleasing (quilts).
The What If? moment came while reading the book.
The AHA! moment came with the poem.
So this is the journey to bring Words for Grey, the poem, to life, as the quilt.
Next week: Part 2 – Creating the Canvas
Do you find inspiration in what seem like random connections?
I’m amazed at how pleased I am that I finally made this quilt. I’ve carried the design in my head for close to a decade and to see it come to life was so satisfying.
I considered several options on how I wanted to quilt it. Straight lines radiating out from the center, like a star burst? Follow the diamond shape of the kite, starting in the center and grow the diamond as I neared the edge? Or follow the abstract shape of each piece?
I went with option 3, the abstract shape because that was the finished product I could see in my head. I used a cotton / poly Madeira rainbow variegated thread in both the needle and the bobbin. I would have loved to use metallic thread, but I gave up trying to fill a bobbin after one epic, snared fail.
Stitching short strips of each of the fabrics used in the quilt top created the binding. I used to have mad skills to machine stitch the binding to catch on the back, but those seem to have diminished with all the years of not quilting, so I hand blind stitched to anchor the binding to the quilt. I added little “V” pockets at each corner on the back to hold dowels for hanging. And, of course, added a tail because what is a kite without a tail?
I had such fun making this fun design. I could see mass producing the pattern one day in the near future for others to make their own.
To follow the construction stages for this quilt, please see Part 1 and Part 2.
How do you feel when you complete something you’ve waited a long time to do?
When I saw the painting that inspired The Kite Perspective, two things struck me and have remained vivid memories in all the years I’ve carried this design in my head. The bright colors and the abstract shape of each color as part of the whole.
My initial sketch was very geometric.
However, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted the quilt to be as soon as I finished drawing it. But I colored it anyway so I’d have a visual concept from which to work. I wondered how I could piece the fabric together if I cut it with curves. Until I went to IQF Chicago in June. Where the puzzle of how to build my puzzle was solved.
At the show, I peered intently at the numerous, miraculous works of fabric art and a light bulb went off: MistyFuse and top stitching along the raw edge! As soon as I had the idea, I also did a mental face palm because, really? Crazy simple solution and I’d complicated it in my head.
But this light bulb moment is one of the reasons why I think it is important to attend quilt shows and guild meetings and talk to other quilters. The answer will almost always be found by looking at another piece of art or talking about it with another artist.
In Part 1, I shared photos of the paper pattern I made to cut out the design pieces. I used triangles for the back, so that was pieced with a 1/4″ seam allowance. For the top, I cut the fabric to match the pattern piece, allowing for overlap. I then laid all the pieces on the full size poster board mock-up. Working one at a time, and by piece number, I pinned the pieces together at the overlap, flipped to the wrong size and drew a guideline on what would be the “top” piece. I cut MistyFuse to fit and ironed. Once all the pieces were fused to create the kite top, I top stitched just shy of the raw edge using a corresponding thread color.
Almost a decade ago, I worked for a general contractor who filed a claim for compensation for construction time lost. We lost a month of production due to flooding at the job site from a tropical storm. The site collected all the water from the surrounding area in the large excavation we’d dug for the future building. This “Act of God” issue lingered, unresolved and disputed for months and, as these things tend to do, ended up in the hands of lawyers.
One day, my boss and I went to see our lawyer to discuss the claim. We were escorted through the office suite up a flight of stairs. Hanging high on the wall near the plush mezzanine was a brightly colored kite, which turned out to be a painting.
If you’ve read my first post, you’ll know I’ve been out of the quilting world for several years. I would like to say I always knew I’d come back to it but I can’t. I figured I’d make a random quilt here and there, maybe after my heart-sons graduated college and got their own places. Then I could commandeer one of their bedrooms for my work room. But that was a haphazard thought drifting along one of the many twists in my mind, sharing space with the other thoughts on other mind twists, wishful dreams of ways I could live a creative life.
I can, however, say with all the certainty that my independent, strong-willed mind possesses:
I’ve always known I was meant to do creative work.
The problem, reinforced by well-meaning adults (when I was young) and society (all the rest of the time), is that creative work is notorious for not paying well. Unless you’re one of the very few who make it big. Since there was no guarantee spending my productive working years making art would result in luxuries like food or a retirement fund, I copped out and went corporate. Or, to put it another way, I did the practical thing and got a job.
There’s nothing wrong with that; there’s just a part of me that wishes I had been as strong-willed when I was starting out as I’ve grown to be. If I had been, then I would have been brave enough to try.
The job isn’t creative but it pays well and is producing a nice nest egg for that far off day when I won’t have to wake to an alarm clock, shower, dress, put on 4″ heels, and slog my way through commute traffic. (I’ll miss the heels.) So I’ll keep it, or one like it, as long as needed.
But the lack of freedom to create in the day job has been killing my spirit, sucking the soul right out of my fingertips. I watched my essence drift away in wispy whiffs of heart. It made me cranky because I could not find the balance between work me and live me. Work me was taking over and the lack of creativity in my day-to-day produced literal pain. So I went in search of balance.
Turns out I’d already found that balance in my Sweets.
He encourages, in fact, actively supports, me. Not just the things I like or love to do, but me. I’m a lucky lady.
With his support, I embraced leaving work at work, going to the gym to swim before going home, keeping up with my prolific reading, and investigating ways I could make creativity an integral part of who I am, not just who I want to be.
Earlier this year, I dove deep into researching myself so I could figure out the best way to bring my imagination to life, so I could find those things I love to do. A couple of things popped to the surface of my memory ocean.
Poetry. And quilts. What if I combined the two?
I’ve written poetry since I was 9. During the tail end of the dismal, dank, absolutely miserable Chicago winter of 2013-2014, I’d written a poem about rainy, dark days after staring out my office window. As I scribbled the first draft of the poem, I saw a quilt. It formed, almost fully designed, right alongside the words I’d written. I sat back, stunned. Not at the awesomeness of the poem, but because I suddenly knew what I was meant to do.
My poetry would inspire my quilt designs.
I went home that evening and in the rat-a-tat-tat that is me excited, told Sweets I wanted, no, needed, to go get my sewing supplies out of storage. He smiled and said okay.
Of course he did.
When we got everything back to the house, I opened the boxes and discovered an unfinished quilt — Celtic Knot. I’d forgotten all about it. Maybe I’d blocked it out.
Celtic Knot was a pre-made pattern, a stained glass quilt design. When I purchased and started it back in 2007, it was a total b*tch to work on. To create the “leading”, I was required to snip, fold, and glue the raw edges back onto the “lead”. Tedious. And difficult. I needed Herculean strength to squeeze the glue bottle to dispense the glue and I’m no Hercules. Or Xena, if I’m going to get the gender right. I’d given up on the project. After all, not every quilt gets finished.
However, I have a mild case of OCD. When I re-discovered Celtic Knot in that box, my OCD wouldn’t let me start on a new creative endeavor making poetry quilts as a way to keep myself sane until I finished what I’d left unfinished. I made a decision: if I could find pleasure in completing a quilt I originally had no drive to finish, then I would know I was on the right path.
So I went and bought a new bottle of glue. One that didn’t require me to possess Xena’s strength.
That bottle made all the difference.
I finished the “leading” and piecing the “glass” in a matter of a few weeks. Working backwards to let the quilt inspire the poem, I wrote one, printed it on fabric and used it to sign the quilt.
The quilting isn’t all that great – I went with stitch in the ditch and my stitching was erratic, but you can only tell if you get up close. And the binding. I don’t want to talk about the binding. Suffice it to say, I’m really out of practice and I’m glad no one sees the backside of a quilt when it hangs on a wall. But I finished it.
And I loved the process. So much so, I immediately began the next one. Stay tuned for progress reports!
What has stopped you from finishing a project? Did you find a solution?