Sometimes running with inspiration has magical results. Each step of the process is a natural extension of the last, and the vision of the end product keeps you on the right path, just doing the next thing, until suddenly, the project’s done. Sometimes doing what seems natural, however, can be a mistake, especially if that next thing is done without thought.
This happened to me when I made my Quilt for An Inner Child. While I haven’t had much success with improvisational quilting, I keep trying it. For this quilt, my goal was for the finished piece to have an unusual shape. While the challenge of making such a quilt was exciting, it was also distracting.
The quilt top was finished. Instead of focusing on how to quilt it, I was wondering how I would hang it. I didn’t bother to think, just went with my gut. I was anxious to get to the finished piece, so I chose the popular over-all quilting many machine-quilters default to and stippled
Over-all quilting designs ignore the boundaries between the blocks. The stitches run over the surface of the quilt and across the seams without considering the design made by the fabric pieces. I stippled Hey Nonny Nonny, because I wanted the colors of adjoining pieces to blend together. But it was not a good choice for Inner Child.
The strong colors and many pieces of Inner Child don’t lend themselves to blending visually. I was a third of the way through when I realized I’d made a mistake. My quilting looked like a toddler’s scribbles. Dismayed by the mess I’d made, I let the quilt sat idle for months.
Partly, I wasn’t sure how to fix it, but mostly, I had a lot of dense machine quilting to pick out, a tedious task at best. However, I couldn’t keep quilting it this way. The bad quilting made my intentionally wonky blocks look like mistakes, as if the whole thing was made by someone completely inept. I loved the colors and fabrics in this quilt. It deserved better.
Eventually, I decided to treat each piece of fabric as a separate section. I wound up using lots of different patterns, but only one for any given patch of fabric. It’s a slower way to quilt, but it was also much more fun. I got to come up with lots of continuous line designs that fit the whimsical character of the piece.
In the end, I was satisfied with how Inner Child turned out. My idea for how to hang the piece worked, but what really sells it for me is the quilting. It enhances the piecing, and fits well with the mood and energy of the quilt. The whole experience was a great reminder that every part of a project deserves careful attention, if we want the final product to succeed.
Have you made creative mistakes because you didn’t take the time to think? What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your creative choices?