Guest series :: Mistakes become opportunities

by Admin on 14/06/2012

in Community + Creativity, Guest series 2012, Quilting

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Chawne is a multi-craftual quilter who channels all her nervous energy into making blankets and quilts to keep folks warm. She blogs about the processes at Completely Cauchy.

Thanks a bunch to Kathreen for asking me to guest post about my creative process. I thought that I might illustrate my “process” with my most recent patchwork project.

My style of patchwork is predominantly improvisational with use of the full color spectrum at once. Overall, my inspirations for patchwork quilting are historical: the quilters of Gee’s Bend and Anna Williams, while Malka Dubrawsky provides some food-for-thought with colors.

Sometimes I sketch ideas beforehand, but most often my quilts are started impulsively without any planning other than choice of fabrics. But when a quilt is intended to be large, I will stop for a moment to sketch out some ideas on how to incorporate the impulse pieces into a cohesive design. In either case, the final product rarely resembles the sketch. Really, this brief planning is more of a moment to make sure that the engineering of the construction is sound and that the materials available are optimized within the vision.

A few weeks ago, my friend Lynne sent me a small packet of scraps of Oakshott shot cotton in various colors. I enjoyed the immediate constraint of the various sizes, shapes, and colors of the scraps that served as initial constraints on the patchwork possibilities. I envisioned using the fabrics to make miniature traditional precision-pieced quilt blocks for a smaller-scale quilted wall-hanging.

But after making as many quarter-square triangles as the fabric constraints would allow, only a few skinny strips remained. Without enough fabric leftover to make much else, I use my own improvisational techniques to make small blocks of improv (see my simple improv tutorial). It was impulsive to deviate from the precision plan and I couldn’t yet see how the blocks might work together. All these pieces were left on my sewing table for a few days as I reconsidered the design.

Days later, more fabric arrived (a gift from the owner of Oakshott) and I kicked into high gear on a much larger idea. There must be a way to combine precision-piecing with improvisation. The traditional blocks could serve as a calming influence on the potentially wild and crazy improv sections, maybe?  That is, exerting a modicum of control on what might become an un-tameable beast should, at the very least, be interesting.

Block by block, the design was doubtful. But things seemed to come together in the end. This is still a work-in-progress: the patchwork still needs to be quilted. Any ideas?

My own creative process is most effective when working under severe constraints–either given by limited fabric resources or by limitations in the ability to build a good patchwork that will stand the test of hard use and laundering. Sometimes I succeed, but  other times I have to go back and begin again. But working improvisationally means that “mistakes” become “opportunities” in a second attempt at a design.


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 virginia June 14, 2012 at 8:08 am

Your use of color is so nourishing and inspiring to me, so happy for this post! always love to see what you have been working on!


2 Jacey June 14, 2012 at 9:40 am

I love hearing about the logic behind your decisions in crafting. This is one of my favorite projects you’ve created, and I look forward to seeing the end result. I don’t have any suggestions on quilting, although I always love your cross hatch style.


3 Staci June 14, 2012 at 9:45 am

So enjoyed reading about your thoughts and your plans, or lack of plans as you progressed through this quilt. That fabric is so lovely, it sparkles, and I love quilt so much. The quarter squares are like little jewels scattered across the surface.


4 Marianne June 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

I love how your mind works….the results are spectacular.


5 Rachel at Stitched in Color June 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm

C, you did very well writing about your process! Really. What I take away from this is how you feel you’re most creative when pushed against limitations. We often think removing those limitations will make us more creative, but not so. I’ve found myself most creative when designing my classes and being “forced” to work in those parameters. Good food for thought.


6 Hoola Tallulah June 14, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Oh wow, that quilt, oh my! It is SO beautiful, I am quite speechless…


7 Sheila June 16, 2012 at 11:00 am

I love this peek into your thoughts as you work. And I couldn’t agree more that often more interesting results are achieved when working within a set of limitations rather than without them. Oh…and I LOVE this quilt. :)


8 LoriAngela June 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I’m not a big quilter, but I’m a big fan of Chawne.


9 nicke July 3, 2012 at 7:49 pm

i really love this quilt and i love the idea of a quilting design that is very swirly and curvy, a complete opposite to the precision in the piecing. i love chawne so much! she is such a beautiful person! xo


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