Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Evolution of an Idea

After my last post, where I mentioned the idea of making a pattern for my Slumbering Spring quilt, I got right down to business. (By the way, many thanks for all the comments and input, I truly appreciate it)


I began by measuring the height and width of all the pieces making up the quilt top, (which I discovered consisted of 40 individually sized pieces... that surprised me, as I would have guessed I only used half as many in piecing this quilt.) From those calculations, I made a simple line illustration of the finished quilt, and also converted each of the measurements to the size that all 40 pieces would actually have to be cut, (don't want to forget those seam allowances!)


I filled the line illustration with color, and marked and labled each piece, which corresponded to a color key and cutting chart that I also made.

I was just getting down to writing the step-by-step instructions, when all of a sudden, I stopped and thought, what the heck am I doing???

It suddenly occurred to me that here I was, working to make a detailed and precise pattern for a quilt that originally was created on an intuitive level and constructed in an improvisational manner, (which is how I always create).

The whole thing now seemed rather disingenuous and not staying true to myself, how I create, or how I would like to encourage creativity in others.

However, this self-realization got me thinking in an out-of-the-box way, on how to create a series of patterns for quilts that use no pattern. A sort of "non-pattern" pattern, which would be more about the process then duplication. A pattern that showed the basic steps in how to create a quilt similar in nature to whatever was pictured on the cover, yet insuring that each quilt made would indeed be one-of-a-kind, as opposed to an exact duplication. In addition, this type of "non-pattern" pattern would also offer guidance on variations in design layout, fabric and color choices as well as size, with examples showing that once the basic process was understood, all sorts of different quilts could be made. And best of all, (at least in my world) they would be made without rigid rules that leave no room for creative exploration and discovery.

I am a person who while easily amused by little things, can also bore very easily. The thing that keeps me interested in creating, is the question... followed by the exploration for the answer. (Which is why I probably don't work from patterns, as all the answers are already there.) When I don't have a creative question to ponder, I am lost. Happily, for the first time since winter began, I feel that I finally have a question that is intriguing enough, (to me) to search out an answer. My head is brimming with new ideas, and while I don't know yet if I ultimately will or won't wind up creating these process driven "non-patterns", I am for now going to be exploring it, and in my next post I'll have a few quilts which I am working on now, that hopefully will help illustrate a bit more of what I am visualizing.

36 comments:

Think Outside the Box said...

Hi Victoria,

Love your quilts! If you're not already familiar with them Jean Wells and Gwen Marston have some great books on exploring quilting without patterns. Full of ideas but the final design is up to the quilter.

Victoria said...

Thank you! I am indeed familiar with both, and learned a lot in my early quilting days from Gwen Marston's book, Liberated Quiltmaking. I think what's floating in my mind's eye is slightly different in delivery, but similar in regards to teaching methods that encourage the quilter to make individual decisions in the design process while learning how to rely on their own judgement and intuition.

Dan R said...

start with a golden rectangle...

connie said...

I do so understand what you are saying. I love just creating what I am inspired to create. Your visions and creations are wonderful and I think your ideas are great. I hope you have a great week and I look forward to seeing your next creations.

Krista said...

I recently created patterns for two quilts I had originally made improvisationally. And I totally agree with you, it felt weird and almost wrong to do so. But to teach someone to construct the two quilts like I did would be so difficult, and a lot of quilters want the same look but really need a pattern to work from. Anyway, I get it! Good luck figuring it out, and I can't wait to see how you do it!

MariQuilts said...

I totally aggree with you on this. For me, not knowing exactly how things are going to turn out are part of the excitement and driving force that keep me going.

Linda said...

I love the idea of documenting the process rather than creating a pattern. Your work seems to depend as much on colour and value choices as the size and shape of the pieces involved, and you can't put those choices down on paper!

I'm delighted that you have found a creative question to ponder - and can't wait for the answer :-)

Sewjournal said...

Sounds like you and I work in similar ways. I don't like following other people's patterns and often when I start sewing I still haven't got everything sorted out in my head. I have to improvise as I go along.

Kristy said...

I good question to ponder indeed. I find I am often inspired by inprov pieces and even although I design a lot of my own work I always start with inspiration and a detailed plan.

I'd love to see if/how you figure it out!

Sewhappy said...

Interesting and what to do. I must admit I would love to play with a pattern, I don't seem able to follow any patterns. It is more than just a pattern it is selection and process. I understand your thoughts.

Michelle Engel Bencsko said...

Ha! I love that I started reading this and said "where the heck is she going with this??" So relieved when I got to your epiphany. :)

I was sweating it out this past week when I was asked to teach a sewing project. I was thinking... how in the world am I going to teach people how to be spontaneous, unmeasured, unsystematic, undisciplined and use intuition? The answer was: I'm not- not in 30 minutes. So I am not teaching (not as a quitter, but as one not to waste everyone's time!). But I have made patterns from projects I've whipped through as you have above. The closer I got to the end, the more frustrated I felt. Feels backwards. Been there, done that. What's next?, is really the question for me - and you. I'm glad you've got a problem to chew on these days. I am certain good things will come of it.

patty a. said...

I also don't follow patterns, but do my own thing most of the time. I like the freedom that comes with improv piecing.

Jennifer said...

You did not seem like the pattern type. This non-pattern concept is much more exciting, and I would be much more interested in it than I would have been had you put together a pattern.

I still love that quilt.

Ida said...

I love the idea of a 'non-pattern' pattern. :)

I stumbled upon something similar when cutting fabrics for the "Yellow Brick Road" by Atkinson Designs.

Truth is, I made a mis-cut. THEN, rather than wasting the Texas A&M branded fabric, which was given to me with the request of 'make me a quilt' (and many of the fabrics were out of print / a.k.a. IMPOSSIBLE to find replacements for ... just ask me how I know!), I sat down and figured out what kind of 'block' I could make from what I had.

I ended up with a HUGE block, (18 x 24), and put several of them together to eventually create a 'Texas-sized' Lap Quilt -- everything is bigger in Texas!

I think that new quilters just need to learn math. How to put together various sized blocks, to end up with the basic shape (be it square or rectangle) that they want their final quilt to be.

Rachel Hauser said...

Yes, yes, yes! Exactly. So glad you'll be going in that direction. That's what people really need to learn.

Anonymous said...

I just adore your work. As an experienced sewer but beginning artist, I would love to better understand your creative process! Can't wait to learn about it!

Venus de Hilo said...

Oh yes, I'm much more interested in process than pattern. Eager to hear more of your thoughts on this when you are ready to share.

Colleen MacDonald said...

YES!!!! This is exactly the kind of "pattern" that I would be interested in! I love to make things my own, and I find that patterns are just guidelines for me anyhow! YAY for important epiphanies!

Kathryn said...

I love how this came out, I especially love the first image sans color. I like it that there are options. I'm like you though, I love just going along and using up what I have lying around and trying to make it work in process.

Cheryl Arkison said...

I've been having the EXACT same thoughts lately. Maybe we should chat about that?

Angela said...

Well, Victoria, it looks like you don't have a huge market here for patterns, ha, ha!
I am very glad you are not making a pattern. Now, the non-pattern pattern is quite a paradox (in my humble opinion).
And speaking of paradox, here is one I find very interesting and pertaining to the subject (somehow).
Bonini's paradox: models or simulations that explain the workings of complex systems are seemingly impossible to construct: As a model of a complex system becomes more complete, it becomes less understandable; for it to be more understandable it must be less complete and therefore less accurate. When the model becomes accurate, it is just as difficult to understand as the real-world processes it represents.

Jolie said...

yes yes yes!!! That is precisely what I have been thinking about lately...a means of communicating the creative process without reverting to a *standard pattern* scenario. Good luck - it's been making my brain ache a little...

Stephanie said...

I think you would be a great teacher...helping your students to create through a process instead of replicating. I'd love to take your class. I haven't bought a pattern in ages but have found I enjoy making my own patterns. Mostly I create for myself and the enjoyment I get from it.

pioneervalleygirl said...

I like your phrasing of creating as questions and answers. I've gradually realized that my favorite part is figuring out "how would I...." So a non-pattern makes perfect sense to me - I like to get inspiration and ideas, and then take it my own way.

Leslie said...

Kindred spirits...the no-pattern quilters! Sounds like there are a lot of us :) There's an addictive and fun method/technique outlined in Joelle Hoverson's book 'Last Min Patchwork + Quilted Gifts' called the '(sort of) crazy quilt'. Thanks for all your quilty inspiration.

Sarah said...

Can't wait to hear what you have to say. It was your improvisational style, and divine handstitching, that inspired me to go in the direction I'm going in with my quiltmaking. Please check out my latest blog entry to hear a little of just what I think of you and your work.

Hoola Tallulah said...

I would love to learn more about improvisational quilting methods, already checking out the books Think Outside the Box mentioned. I am still on the beginners trail with quilts, in fact I have not yet completed a single one, so um, lol any advice gratefully received! the idea of not working to a fixed pattern appeals to me though, is it possible to just keep stitching random blocks together? I like hand stitching and second what another poster said about being inspired by your incredible work :)

Pippa said...

Gosh, I SO agree! It's a tricky balance when you want to share your work. Quilt making is just as much (if not more so) about the process as it is about the final product. I'm sure you can find a way to capture that in your 'non-patterns.' ;)

XUE said...

Hi Vic,
I must be getting daff in my old age - this posts actually contained words which boggles my mind ! So you're getting smarter then!

Victoria said...

Such great comments and enthusiasm! Thanks to each of you for such positive feedback!

Hoola Talluhla, Yes! Go for it! Lots of improvised quilts are based on piecing random blocks together. Gwen Marston's book "Liberated Quiltmaking" offers wonderful inspiration for that approach, and I strongly recommend looking at the quilts of Gee's Bend for true inspiration on working in an improvisational and intuitive manner.

wendy ladd said...

HI VICTORIA,
I own an online quilt shop and a friend and I were just talking last night about how to properly diagram out a pattern. She likes to design and share, while I"m the type of quilter than doesn't work great without a pattern as a guideline. Do you mind if I ask what program you used to draft that and color it in?

Also, I wanted to say that I personally dont find it disingenuous for an improvisational quilter to write a pattern/guideline for those of us that love the your style but couldn't really create something like without a pattern. You are encouraging creativity because various fabrics, threads and ideas will come into it. You're really helping alot of people by creating a pattern/guideline and inspiring creativity. [I'd buy it!]
Best, Wendy, The Fabric Quarter

Hey Harriet said...

Haha! I was kind of scratching my head at the beginning of your post with those very detailed diagrams. I just didn't imagine you working in such a way. And I can understand you wanting others to be more spontaneous with their quilt making also. I'm intrigued to see what you come up with regarding your non-pattern pattern. If anybody can do it, you cn Vic!

Margo said...

I agree with you! I like to work with inspiration and be original. It bothers me how slavishly people want to re-create things. I wish they could see a beautiful thing and use it to inspire their own creation, simmered in their mind with all the other beautiful things.

I will be fascinated to see how your process quilt pattern turns out :) I love your designs.

Margo said...

read the first two comments and went and requested a Marston and then a Wells book from my library. Excited to see what's in store - thanks!

Victoria said...

Thanks again to each of you, for the wonderful comments.

Wendy, to answer your question, I made the diagrams on Photoshop Elements. It runs rather slow on my mac, as it's designed for PC's. and I certainly don't think this is the ideal program to plan out quilts, and wouldn't recommend it... however it's the best thing that I had on hand. I know that there are computer programs specifically created for quilt designs, such as those from The Electric Quilt Company. I've never worked with them, so I can't say how they work, but I have heard good things.

brand-eye said...

i can't work from patterns either. i do a sketch (sometimes) then just start. or i just dive right in, usually with not enough fabric so i have to go buy more 1/2 way through. keep up the inspirational work!