When invited into another quilter’s studio, I never turn that offer down! Roaming or following a quilter around her studio offers concrete information as well as subjective impressions. As creative people we borrow ideas and find inspiration in the work of others. Pat Pease and Wendy Hill invite all of us to explore new possibilities in their book Creative Quilt Challenges: Take the Challenge to Discover Your Style & Improve Your Design Skills. This book feels like an extended visit with two quilters alive with energy. These two quilters share their techniques as well as the excitement of collaboration.
Pat and Wendy open their book by explaining, “The idea to explore our shared affinity for friendship, fabric and design came naturally to us.” After devising seven challenge themes, each made a quilt relating to the theme. Those fourteen quilts became a special exhibit at the Pacific International Quilt Festival in 2013. Sometimes the quilt was passed back and forth as each added to the whole. We can now see those quilts in this book which explores the creative impulse and emphasizes the benefits of collaboration between friends.
I don’t see quilting as a competitive sport, so I am enthusiastic about how readily and easily women share ideas and inspirations with each other. Each quilt is a journey. We make our own series of decisions about what to include in our quilts and what to leave out (or cut apart). Pat and Wendy discuss their very different approaches to the creative process–one is more methodical, the other more intuitive. Perhaps you will find yourself in their musings about their creative process.
I am writing this blog post as part of the blog tour arranged by Pat and Wendy’s publisher C&T Publishing. Visit the other ten posts listed below to see what other quilters found valuable in Creative Challenges. Also, be sure to leave your comment here to be entered into a drawing to receive your own copy (international winners get a digital copy).
Challenges and collaborative efforts are a central part of my own quilting life, so I am also choosing to include some examples from my own quilts. The authors explore options such as working with textured fabrics like silk and linen. I’ve been exploring both, although I do not use stabilizers. Yes, silk is slippery, and their idea of using a ½” seam allowance with non-cotton fabrics is a sound tactic to try. Here is my all-silk quilt made with recycled silk. The dark “peacock blue” fabric of a nubby silk is cut from a blouse. This project began in a guild retreat class on The (Modern) Disappearing Nine Patch taught by Adele Atha. I followed the instructions and kept rearranging, but felt I wanted to add more of the peacock blue fabric. Once that was done, it still felt like the quilt needed a zinger or two. That’s how the squares of copper and chartreuse silk came to live within the boundaries of Downward Mobility (32” x 32”).
Pat and Wendy encourage this idea of exploring and modifying as you go. I like the idea of starting a project not knowing where it will take me. I liken it to leaving a guided tour and exploring the countryside on your own. The risks are minimal and the rewards many as you explore all your options.
Choosing the binding for Downward Mobility offered me one last chance to catch the viewer’s eye. I found a bright, multi-colored cotton to repeat some of the rich colors in the quilt. In the past when I have chosen to use a silk binding it was because I just had to have the vibrant terra cotta color of that particular fabric. With that silk binding, I worked slowly and carefully, starting work on the binding only when I was fresh. I’ve discovered that working with tricky fabrics or new ideas goes better when I am not frazzled.
Pat and Wendy’s chapter on techniques intrigued me. I was glad to see the detailed instructions (with photos) on applying a two-color binding used when you want a different color binding on front and back. I first used this technique when I did not have enough of the fabric I wanted to use for the binding. To solve this problem, I paired it with a different fabric to be viewed on the back edge. It proved a useful way to “stretch” my limited supply of that favorite fabric for the front.
In many ways this book is an educational tool as well as an adventure in quilting. I learned about “shot” fabrics. These are fabrics woven with two color threads. One color is in the warp threads and another color is used in the weft (crosswise) threads. I have been attracted to these shimmering fabrics, but was unclear about their composition. Shot fabrics could be cotton, linen, rayon, silk or a blend. When white is one of the colors it is usually called chambray.
My own experience with collaborative quilts has only been positive. In 2014, Therese Ramsey had purchased a castoff block at a studio sale from well-known modern quilter Jacquie Gering. I reworked the block and added several slices to make an inner border. Therese created the next border of selvages and we were off on a fun journey. The result is our quilt, Red Robin (38” x 47”), seen below. This is just one of the quilts I now have through “joint custody”.
Another version of a challenge comes for me when I discover unique tidbits at a thrift shop that seem to be calling to me. I may not know the creator, but I like her creations. My quilt Pumpkin Treat contains four different thrift shop items. Several years ago I found these small scale granny squares (on the right in the photo). I was drawn to these petite squares even though several were unraveling. My mother often crocheted similar squares from her leftover yarns uniting the yarn scraps with black edgings. I stowed those twelve squares away until I found the other elements. The repaired granny squares and the small orange felt bag were the starting points. At a thrift shop, I was impressed with the tidy handwork done by unknown hands on the orange bag.
Set together on a background cut from a shirt, I appreciated the energy I saw on the design wall. The electric blue inner border came from a beautiful dress made of a 75% silk and 25% linen blend—paid $.50 cents for this find. The Kaffe Fassett border fabric and the Phillip Jacobs floral I used for the appliqué contrasted with the plaid. I was so enamored of this project, I added tiny copper beads as accents on the appliqued leaves of Pumpkin Treat (29” x 28”)
Creative Quilt Challenges has encouraged me to expand my design skills—the more we experiment the more we build our confidence. My next challenge, inspired by this studio visit with Wendy and Pat, is to take their challenge to use zippers to add color, texture, or whimsy, or all of the above. If you, too, decide to do a zipper-laden quilt please let me see it. I’d enjoy hearing about your process. Go to www.ctpub.com to explore this delightful book.
Blog Tour Calendar
Monday, March 28: Lynn Merrill with C&T Publishing
Tuesday, March 29: Maria Shell That’s me!
Wednesday, March 30: Sandra Clemons
Thursday, March 31: Tierney Hogan
Friday, April 1:Gina at BOLT Fabric Boutique
Monday, April 4: Yvonne Fuchs
Tuesday, April 5: Kristin Shields
Wednesday, April 6: Paula Mariedaughter
Thursday, April 7: Teri Lucas
Friday, April 8: Wendy Hill, wendyhill.net/blog