I don’t consider myself a quilter, but I’ve spent the better part of the last week doing just that. In an effort to help my SIL with her nonprofit quilt center, I volunteer some time one day a week doing whatever is needed at the center. Sometimes I vacuum and take out the garbage, sometimes I cut fabric and batting, sometimes I actually sew.

This past week there was a push to create some quilted holiday table runners to have as a fundraiser for the center. So, I created my first designed, pieced and quilted project. Three different red/green/white fabrics with a center red bird picture, minimal amount of meander stitching and a self binding using the backing material – not too shabby! (oh, sorry – no picture!)

The three hand-stitched quilt tops that the center has promised to machine quilt were also crying out to be finished as they are wanted for gift-giving soon. Somehow, using the Grace frame with free-arm capabilities has turned into my job. I got so frustrated with the sewing machines that were set up to use on the frame – all sorts of tension and skipping and breaking problems. We finally got the mid-arm machine fixed – and the first top was a breeze to do with the machine working well. Wound up doing a meander and what I considered to be a wind pattern (some of the material in the top had wind-looking marks on it). I actually did a little celebration dance when I finished the first good row! Not so outwardly jubilant when the whole thing came off the frame today, probably due to the fact that I had to go back and unstitch the first actual row I did that still had all the tension problems visible. But, my part is done on this first quilt and my SIL will take care of the binding.

I think I’ve got one of the best parts of the whole quilting process – I get to play on top of someone else’s piecing without having the agony of designing it, putting it all together or finishing it at the end. Don’t get me wrong, there is still enough agony with the free-arm quilting as I don’t want to mess up someone else’s work. It’s just so fun and freewheeling “driving” the sewing machine over and around the quilt.

Hmmmmmm, I better start repeating to myself “I am not starting another fiber process, I am not starting another fiber process, I am not…..”

Think that will work?!?!?


Boundaries. Limits.

Among some recent research on creativity issues and exercises, the idea of placing boundaries and limits is suggested as one way to help move you into a creative vein. Limit your time, your material, your size of project, whatever. It is suggested that having everything too wide open can actually stifle creativity: where to start and what to do?!?!?

The problem I have with thinking in terms of boundaries and limits is that I usually associate a negative connotation to them. They bring to mind blocking and barriers, the extent to which something can be done – beyond which is usually a dire consequence. The barbed wire fence around the pasture which we were not supposed to cross for fear of the bull on the other side.

Roget’s New Millennium Thesaurus gives the following as synonyms to boundary: beginning; compass; fringe; frontier. I like these terms much better – so much more positive in nature.

Surely the beginning of something is the nearest ‘boundary’ and the farther and farthest limits can be considered the fringe and frontier to be reached.

If I think in terms of my creative process and the work that comes from it, and place a limit on it in some fashion – e.g. use only the color orange – that gives me a starting point, a beginning without really defining the end boundary. I can go beyond orange into the whole range of tints and values and shades and textures, etc. By limiting access to the rest my box of crayons, I can concentrate on shape and size and sizzle.

Having a boundary actually gives me a compass for my work. It defines my starting point and steers me in a direction that may or may not be similar to what I’ve done before. The end result is not a foregone conclusion; I may actually make it to that frontier or veer off to a fringe area.

The best part about having a boundary or limit, is the ‘going beyond’ the limits, the breaking out of the box that we all try to do that gives our work a distinctive look and feel. The thought that gives the spark to try something different, out of the ordinary, unplanned or unusual. Those ‘a ha!’ moments when it all comes together and feels right.

I usually wind up pushing limits when I find myself asking “what if…” in the middle of something, knowing full well that I’ll never be able to try all the possibilities I come up with. But the what ifs, the compass directions, often don’t come until I’ve already got something started.

I’ve been putzing around for several weeks now, not really getting anything accomplished in my artwork. Guess I better set some limits!