March 25, 2014

Quilting Happiness . . . What Makes You Happy?

Quilting Happiness . . . those two words just seem to go together don't they?

I recently read a most enjoyable new book, Quilting Happiness by Christina Lane and Diane Gilleland. I don't know either of these women, nor do I have any stake in writing about the book. I simply borrowed it from my local library. And I'm so glad I did. You can learn more about the book here.

It's more than a project book. While there are 20 wonderful projects included, it's the other aspects of the book that I found so interesting.  The authors delve into the reasons behind why we make quilts. In the introduction they ask the question, "which part of your latest project feels more valuable: the finished quilt itself, or the experience you had while making it?" They go on to add it's their hope the book . . . "will serve as a workbook of sorts to help you explore what makes you happiest in your quilting . . . "

Coincidentally, I had been giving some thought to this even before reading the book. I've been considering not only what defines my personal style but also what is it that draws me into the world of quilting in the first place. Why do I think about quilting all the time? Yes, I actually do think about quilting almost all the time. However, I'd never really thought about quilting from the happiness side of the equation. What is it about quilting that makes me happy? And for that matter, are there aspects that don't make me happy?

In the first chapter, the authors recommend "exploring your creative fingerprint and discovering how it shows up in your work." They define your creative fingerprint as a unique set of symbols, colors, textures, and ideas that sets your heart dancing. So here's my thoughts . . .

My creative fingerprint consists of:
  • Clear saturated bright colors . . . especially in the green/aqua and pink/orange/yellow families plus black and whites. A growing attachment to low volume as well.
  • Large scale prints by Kaffe Fassett and Amy Butler along with other tone on tone prints . . . especially stripes and dots.
  • A fondness for florals, and especially leaves, including both modern and traditional prints.

This is a glimpse of my creative fingerprint in terms of my stash.

Looking beyond my studio to what inspires me are things like:
  • the tiny details of texture and pattern found in both nature and the manmade environment.
  • the variety and subtlety of colors, especially those found in nature like trees and flowers.
  • the composition of elements when I pull back and look at the bigger picture of my surroundings, specifically in nature but also in the manmade world.
  • the design elements of line and repetition are of particular interest to me.

I love the details of plant life like these hosta leaves . . .

I love the abundance, variety and subtlety of color found in flowers.

I love to look for the compositions all around me . . . especially in nature . . . 

I love the qualities of line and repetition in this cracked ground and in the architecture . . . 

These things however just dent the surface. They are just a few of the things I find inspiring visually and they certainly influence my fabric choices but in and of themselves still don't explain why I love quilting. What exactly it is about quilting that I find so compelling. What is it about quilting that actually makes me happy?
  • First and foremost is the design process. I have a graphic design degree so that influence is part of who I am and how I see things. Designing makes me happy.
  • Playing with color and texture in the form of printed fabrics. I love playing with the colors and patterns in fabrics to see how I can combine them into something visually exciting.         An abundance of visual activity makes me happy.
  • Within this abundance of visual activity though I need structure.  I need a plan in most areas of my life. Spontaneity does not come easy to me . . . just ask my husband.  Improv quilts are wonderful but they are not my style. At least for now.                                            Playing with composition and structure as it relates to the quilt design makes me happy.
  • I love simple ideas and simple techniques. Most likely you won't catch me working on an intricate quilt that might take forever to complete. I'm impatient and have too many ideas so I'm always thinking about the next design before the current one is done. (There might also be a bit of a completion complex in there but that's an entirely different discussion altogether.)          Simple ideas and easy construction make me happy.
  • Did I mention designing makes me happy? That's why I include design options in my patterns.    I really really love to design.

But to be honest, there are also parts of quilting that don't make me so happy. There are things I don't really love so much. In the past I have let myself feel guilty about not loving or at least wanting to do it all. More recently I have come to terms with admitting this and being ok with it.
  • I don't really like to do the actual quilting. I appreciate and love the beautiful texture quilting brings to a finished quilt, but I struggle with getting the results I want on my machine. I also don't like the time involved. I'd rather be designing my next quilt.
  • Sometimes I don't even like the actual sewing of the blocks. Gasp! Yes, it's true. I think this comes into play when the blocks are all identical and there are really no more design decisions to be made, it's simply production mode sewing. The design part is over and I've mentally checked out and moved on to the next quilt. It's much more fun when I still have design decisions to make along the way. 
Obviously for me the trick is balancing the design process with the sewing so I actually get quilts made, not just designed. I'm still working on finding this balance.

Getting back to the question from the book, "which part of your latest project feels more valuable: the finished quilt itself, or the experience you had while making it?"  For me it's both but mostly it's the process. It's in the designing and playing and choosing of fabrics and color that I have the most fun. This is the time when I am in a place of higher creative energy. I find satisfaction in the feel and look of a finished quilt in my hands, on my bed or hanging on the wall, but I'm always ready to start designing again. For me the real fun is in the process.

How about you? What gets your creative juices flowing? What about quilting makes you happy?

Adding this post to Really Random Thursdays at Live A Colorful Life.

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    1. Great post Anne, I really enjoyed that book as well. I also have a tendency to "check out" once the design process is over....that is probably why I like to be making design decisions up until the very end. That is why improv suits me so well....I like structure in my real life and am not all that brave or spontaneous but when it comes to quilting I'm totally the opposite.

    2. I loved this post! Great thoughts to get me thinking about what pleases me in quilting. And then can we adjust the variables to "sometimes"? Sometimes I like one thing and sometimes I like another (but I'm never a fan of improv--I'm with you!).


    3. Quilting seems to have given me purpose in life. I have finally found something that I love and am passionate about. For me, that's saying something because before quilting, other than reading there hasn't been anything I was happy to get out of bed for! I'm like you, the quilting I'm not very good at so I don't look forward to it other than getting it finished so I can get to the next one. I just started last September and I am learning so much. Thanks for your post I really enjoyed reading it!

    4. I never read the book, but it sounds quiet interesting. I love your colors, they sing happiness! My favorite parts are piecing, quilting, and binding. Least favorites are cutting and basting. Thank you for the great post, your photos are beautiful!

    5. Hi Anne. I loved having a peek at your stash. Guess what? I've been teaching my daughter in law to quilt. Yesterday she sent me a picture of a quilt she saw on Pinterest. She absolutely loved it. It was your Cascade quilt : )

    6. Wow! Anne, this was one of the best blog posts that I have read. I will be following you for inspiration. This is what I would like to aspire to. You've posed really great questions, whether they are from the book or your own they are important and I think that anyone reading will be quietly answering to themselves. You've given me a book to add to my list to read and possibly own, and inspired me to think about what my creative fingerprint consists of.

      To answer the question you've posed though, I think the process is the most important. The process is where I learn, and build the story that will contained in the stitches of the quilt. The process is where I get to figure out the puzzles of how things the various elements will fit together. The process is about playing and making those design decisions. The finished product is always nice, but each time I see the finished piece I have a flood of thoughts regarding what it took to actually create it.

      Thank you for sharing.

    7. Thanks for this very interesting post. I really enjoyed reading about your creativity. Like you I like simpler designs and how they show off some of the modern fabric designs. I admire intricate quilts that others make but know I do not have the patience or skill to create them. Your designs make the fabrics pop. I have ordered this book and am looking forward to immersing myself in it!

    8. I really REALLY enjoyed this post, Anne! I have that book and have really had a great time reading through it. I think it is time to go back and think about my creative fingerprint...

    9. What a great, thought provoking post, Anne! I loved your gorgeous photography as well. Thanks for the nudge toward that book title....I'm always looking for one to add to our guild library (or my own!).


    WaHoo!!! You're leaving me a comment. Thanks for stopping by and do come back again. Quilt on, Anne.