I've finished a baby quilt that is now my second foray into modern, improvisational quilting. But really, it is my first venture, as the other modern quilt I am thinking of, which I made for Ben, was based on an image in a book, and though each square was shaped differently from the last--each one unique--I had a much more methodical approach to that one. I knew as I was making it where I was going and what the result would look like.
This time, I was going off an idea of stained glass windows, and the lines that separate the slices of color within the image. I had a yard of fabric that I'd gotten from (the amazing) Spoonflower fabrics, with animals and solid, plain background colors, something I would never in a million years have purchased for my own aesthetic. It's a child's print, perfect inspiration for a baby quilt I wanted to make for my lovely friend LaVonne who is due in September.
I didn't have a concept at the beginning, when I bought this fabric, and so by the time I thought of stained glass (albiet, as a very abstract construction), I realized probably any fabric would have gone better with that concept than that of a square-based grid of critters. I knew I only wanted to use solids besides the single print, so I picked up orange and teal. This was turning out to be a color scheme I never would have anticipated myself using. Black was essential for grounding the whole thing, to go between each larger segment and make my vision of a cut-up assemblage of scraps come together. But Whipstitch was out of solid Kona black (or any black for that matter, except corduroy). So, I would use corduroy instead. Babies love texture, right?
I wanted to throw this quilt in the garbage about a dozen times.
Designing it was a huge creative challenge. Everything I did seemed good in theory, and then once I started piecing things together, I was reluctantly reassuring myself that it would turn out like some of the stunning works I've seen, while secretly hating it. I hated this quilt for much of its creation. That sounds weird, and also sad, since I am making it for someone out of love. And I do love the creative process--even when it's challenging.
But the point is also that quilting with a person in mind, as a gift for them, also allows me the gift of time to think, sew, draw, scheme, plan, fail, and by the time it's done, grow. I love that I grew so much in my art and my craft while making this for LaVonne, her husband, and their daughter or son.
It did not wind up in the trash, or in temporary (permanent) storage, nor was I overly tempted to buy new, different fabric and start afresh. I scaled down the final size, because larger trials I stuck to the wall with Scotch tape were not graphically pleasing. The smaller size meant I could enjoy the parts I did like. I do have a rather larger than normal scrap pile, which I don't care to ever look at again.
By far the greatest joy in making a baby quilt is the ease of machine quilting at home, whipping the small thing around under the needle. It also means you don't lose interest too quickly, and can devote more time to smaller, complex designs within the quilting itself. The machine quilting is what made me truly love this quilt. I was more delighted with each additional row, stripe, triangle-closing-in-on-itself, square-in-between-triangle as I went along.
Ok, it's done, I did it. I made something up. It went about as successfully as the drawings I try when I have an idea, and then remember once I've tried to execute it that I am terrible at drawing basically anything. So, it looks quite different than my original intended idea, but really, that is what modern quilting often means--taking a few interesting ideas, fabrics, or notions, and seeing what arises. There is often equally as much thought, I think, in improvisational quilting as there is following a pattern. Or so it seemed to me. But then again, now that I reflect on this process, maybe there was far less. The fabric kind of lead me where I clearly, often, did not want to go. But in the end, I am happy.
I named the quilt P/L after the two names LaVonne and her husband have chosen, for a girl and a boy. I don't know if it's public information so I won't share just yet.