I fear I misled you in my last post when I talked about diving into quilting projects sans patterns or rules. The fact is, I think about a project for a very long time before I begin cutting or stitching; before I even consider buying fabric. Once a project presents itself to me, (I really do experience them as organic beings) I go to my stash to see if I can avoid the delays that shopping presents. For the uninitiated, a quilter’s stash can be anything from
a box or drawer containing a few lengths of fabric to a basement or garage that resembles nothing so much as a fabric warehouse. Mine once could have filled a couple of medium-sized closets, had I been disciplined enough to keep it contained. Since our big downsize it lives in a couple of laundry baskets under the bed. (Giving away the bulk of my stash when we sold the house was a wrench akin to abandoning beloved children.)
The stash usually presents me with further food for thought, and in many cases changes the flavour of the original idea altogether. Often an idea grounds itself on a specific fabric from the stash before I discover how much of that fabric I actually have. Frequently I unearth a forgotten treasure that immediately becomes the focal point for a quilt. In most cases I get out all the colours and patterns that speak to me at the moment, along with things that I think may work with them. I check rough lengths and lay them out side-by-side and overlapping in varying combinations, essentially trying them on for fit before I commit. And then I leave them there. This presents a challenge in tiny living quarters, and nets me a raised-eyebrow from the man as I drape my colourful collage over the couch. “It’s percolating,” I tell him. He grins as we both make sure there is room for the dog on one end of the couch. There it sits for days, sometimes weeks in full view, as I alternately stand back and view, re-fold, rearrange, rethink as I go about my everyday life. Sometimes I have to buy fabric to make it work, and invariably get more than I need, thus adding to the stash.
Eventually it comes down to the physical work of the quilt. Sometimes I get out graph paper and coloured pencils and sketch out my ideas. Even when I do, the finished product bears little resemblance to the drawings. I try to predict how many strips/squares/triangles in each solid, stripe or print will be required to execute my idea, but I nearly always have to go back to the stash, and occasionally the drawing board. It can be a challenge to figure out how to give it just the right touch without running out of a special fabric before I get to the backing and binding. I have heard that writers of fiction often feel themselves to be merely the vehicle as their characters write themselves. Chaotic as it may be, I love the process of creating and tweaking a project until it becomes exactly the quilt it wants to be.