One of my favorite quilt books is The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. I stumbled across it this year as I was drawn to learning how to sew and piece curves. I was pleasantly surprised after reading it that this quilt book is much more than a traditional book of quilt patterns. It is a philosophy on life, sharing tools and skills to cultivate a creative life. It is a book that speaks to your mind and soul, encouraging you to be present in your work and life.
A few of this year’s dyeing projects
In her introductory chapter, the author encourages the quilter to evaluate each completed project with a list of questions, instead of judging a work as good or bad. This allows the quilter to evaluate the process and the quilt to determine what’s next. This concept rocked my world. Up to this point, I’ve shared pictures and reflected on the different quilts and projects I’ve completed here on this blog, but haven’t quite considered my work with such directness.
And so as I thought about writing my annual blog post reflecting on this year’s projects, these questions and process seemed like an appropriate way to frame the conversation.
What surprised me?
My first thought about what I accomplished and completed this year was, not much! I didn’t feel like I spent much time sewing or dyeing fabric. I started a new job, bought a house, had lots of fun weekend adventures, and didn’t really feel like I spent much time sewing. When I took a moment to look through my past blog posts though, the truth was quite the opposite. I completed a lot of quilts!
Equilateral Triangle Quilt
What surprised me was how many projects I completed that were many years in the making. You might call this The Year of Big Finishes: the Ocean Waves Quilt, the Equilateral Triangle Quilt, and the Mono Basin Quilt. All were listed in my intentions for 2015, and I feel proud that I finished them.
What did I discover or learn?
This year I participated in the monthly swatch club with Alabama Chanin. Each month I would receive fabric in the mail with suggestions on pattern and how to stitch. I discovered that having a portable project to stitch by hand is immensely gratifying. Much like a knitter has a small bag with their knitting project, I had a small bag with that month’s stitching project. I pretty much took it everywhere with me in my purse, where ever my day would take me.
Swatch of the Month
If I had fifteen minutes after work while waiting for my carpool, I could pull out the swatch and stitch. If I had a quiet lunch I could pull out my swatch and stitch. If I was waiting at the airport I could pull out my swatch and stitch. Earlier this year I learned of the fringe hours while listening to this podcast. I related to the idea that time for ourselves can be found throughout the day in short snippets, much like I was making time for myself with a little hand stitching here and there.
Swatch of the Month
What was satisfying about the process or outcome?
The most satisfying process of the year was our Out of the Box quilt group being invited to have an art quilt show at the Mammoth Lakes Library. Being invited to participate in the show inspired me to sew a series of lupine quilts, and the deadline for the show gave me the motivation to get the quilts done!
Another satisying outcome was selling my first pieces of artwork! It is gratifying to know my work is appreciated in such a way. In addition, I realized that my art is a form of volunteering. Through my art I supported two important community organizations: the Mono Basin Historical Society and the Mono County Library.
Art Quilt Show at Mammoth Lakes Library
What was dissatisfying?
At the beginning of 2015 I shared an intention to sketch a quilt doodle each day. I enjoyed this daily practice and it was going well for the first few months of the year. Then I skipped a few days, and then the skipped days started being more frequent, until I stopped all together around April. I have a strong suspicion this pattern pretty closely followed the increasing daylight length.
I am dissatisfied that I wasn’t able to complete this intention, but I also felt okay with letting it go. The best piece to come out of those few months was I made one of my sketches into a quilt! I have learned that it is possible to come up with my own original design.
Baby Quilt for Pascal
If dissatisfied, what can I do differently next time to be more satisfied?
I think my goal could have been stronger if it wasn’t so narrowly defined. I’ve learned that the process of noting quilt ideas in a journal is helpful, and when ready to make a quilt I can go back to those ideas for inspiration. Instead of a daily must, I will try to sketch or write down ideas as I have them.
Where do I want to go from here?
With 2015 being a year of finishing quilts, I find myself singularly poised with an empty feeling looking ahead to next year. I have no quilts on my shelf calling out to be completed. This is an incredibly liberating feeling, and fills me with a sense of possibility. What do I want to dream of pursing next year? Learning. I want to take this moment to try new things, push my skills, and expand my abilities.
Stencil workshop and Shibori workshop
I also want to keep in mind what I enjoyed in past projects: how much I enjoy hand sewing and having a project to stitch on while on the go, sewing with our Out of the Box quilt group, and making art to support community organizations.
Have you asked yourself questions like these after a project? Do you find the process helpful?