How I choose quilting motifs part 1

Twilight in the Bronx fullAs I mentioned the other day I’m going to share how I come up with the quilting motifs for a quilt. I’m going to start with Twilight in the Bronx which is entirely my own, move on to Tilde, Feather Zone and @play.  Each of these quilt are very different and each has its own story. And Twilight certainly has a story or 5 to tell.

Twilight is my first intentional whole cloth quilt. 1 1/4 yards of solid Kona cotton, a chalk pencil, ruler, batting, thread and an idea.
Briefly the idea: to stitch out an 8 pointed star (lone star) using a variety of thread to create the body of the design. Inspiration: the batik that had the center motif and the “suns” around.

Part 1: Mark the quilt top using the ruler and chalk pencil. I marked the center of the cloth with my iron by folding it in half selvage to selvage and pressing then refolding using that center line and the ends and pressing, being careful not to press out the first pressed crease.
Using my 6 x 24 Omnigrid plastic ruler I started drawing the star points. A quick glance shows you this is a 9-patch drawn on a 45 degree angle. Each point is one half inch off the center lines. The diamonds are 1/4 inch away from each other. This was to accommodate the center motif being fused down to the  cloth.

Part 2: I decided that I wanted the star to be raised so that meant trapunto. I layered a piece of Quilters Dream 100% cotton Request loft batting on the back. I didn’t do anything to hold it in place as I wanted to be able to cut a lot of it away when I was done stitching and 100% cotton batting tends to stick well to 100% cotton fabric. (When I teach quilting and we’re using fat quarters I generally don’t baste with pins or spray as the cotton sticks to cotton with out shifting)

Part 3: I liked the movement of color seen on other pieced lone stars so tried for that kind of look using the 3 colors I had: yellow, red and purple. I did this on the fly and made some decisions as I went along. Note: if I were doing this quilt now I’d be using a lot more colors of thread and perhaps splitting the diamonds in half from point to point the long way. For more movement not because I don’t like what’s going on here.

Part 4: Choosing the actual stitching motifs. I decided each color would be a different motif. If this were piece the fabric may or may not be from the same fabric line and therefore would have a different look. Each motif is something I wanted to practice and get better at stitching. Once these and the black lines defining the center spokes were all stitched in and I’d stitched around each one of the circles all extra batting was cut away, another layer of batting and the backing were layered and basted and the intense quilting began.

twilight finished 1Part 5: I won’t go into a lot of detail here because I did in previous posts – Twilight in the Bronx was quilted twice. The black area on the lower right is evidence of the first time it was quilted. The rest of the quilting was done after I’d picked most of it out. I left some as a personal reminder and because I liked it. I sat down to stitch not quite knowing what I’d be doing motif-wise. I had no active plan for this quilt and I’ll tell you quite honestly I don’t for most quilts.  When I had stitched the motif enough I moved onto another motif and/or another color.
I tried out motif after motif just because it was something I wanted to stitch and I liked it.

This quilt was completed within a year of my 40th birthday and is a personal “defining” quilting moment as “my style” is starting to emerge here. I’m still not sure what one would call that style however that’s not as important as the fact that I’m quilting and trying motifs and thread weights/colors and seeing how they play.

Looking at dates (ever thankful for my blog) I attended the Ricky Tims Quilt Seminar in May 2008 and started this quilt in early 2009. Ricky reminded us frequently over the two days that we are “smart and intelligent and you can do this!” Is there anything more important than that? Well, uh, uhm, No. There’s not.
We are smart
We are intelligent
We can do this
and

We can stop worrying about what others will think of our quilts and quilting. While I am well aware of the quilt police and their role in our quilting society, most of us do not encounter them on a daily basis. Oh we do hear their “voices” whispering in our ear that “this isn’t good enough” or “this doesn’t like right’ or “are you sure this motif needs to go here?!” or “this really sucks and you need to take out the seam ripper” or “this is awful and you should just toss it aside like an old rag”.
I’ve heard those voices I started telling them to go to H3LL! I started listening for my own voice and those around me who were encouraging me.
When I teach and students start showing me their flaws I quiet that voice down and show them what’s working and why so they have something beautiful to hold onto as they move on to the next quilt.
For most of our quilts “good enough” is good. And it’s enough.
Truthfully the only time that “good enough” needs to meet the seam ripper is when we’re competing because that’s different. And that needs to be thought through differently. And we’ll get there in these blog posts.

Happy Quilting!

Teri

5 thoughts on “How I choose quilting motifs part 1

  1. Ah yes……approval. That irritating, nagging little voice that lurks in the dark recesses of our minds. Even more than the quilt police, that little doubting whisper can derail/destroy what could have been a joy-filled creative experience. Put it in its place permanently!!!! And move forward with confidence!!!! It’s your/my “art” and it is valid!!!! Hooray!!!!!!! What others think is merely an opinion…..we all have them……and only have the weight we assign to them. Great post, once again!!!!!!!

  2. approval, I don’t need no stinking approval! encouragement, sure. a kick in the backside to quit whinin and just get on with it, yep. if I decide to enter something….a ribbon would be nice. but I sew cuz I have to. I am a utilitarian sewista for the most part, but I am learning to let the artsy part of me out….in no small part to this lovely woman! thanks Teri!

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