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From instruction to inspiration: A peek inside of process - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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From instruction to inspiration: A peek inside of process [Jul. 24th, 2008|10:03 am]
[Current Mood |creativecreative]

First, let me make a confession: Avid quilters do not make quilts to give as gifts; they give quilts as gifts in order to have an excuse to make them. It would be 10 times easier and considerably less expensive to just buy something off the shelf. But then we wouldn't have a reason to play with fabric.

This observation comes by way of my fabric orgy of two nights ago. As I was pulling fabric out of the dryer I thought, I should take a look at the pattern again. I pulled out the book. I found the picture.

I discovered that I didn't like the pattern at all anymore.

Actually, that's a misstatement. I still liked the pattern's basic concept. But in the months of gathering fabric, that concept evolved in my head. I remembered it as being far less symmetrical, far more whimsical, and involving a much broader color palette.

When I looked at the original again, it was just not as visually exciting as the one my brain had conflated. And the one I want to make is the one in my brain.

The problem with the one in my brain, though, is that while I had this abstract idea of it, I didn't really have a clear picture. I'd left it to broad brush strokes, because I thought I had a pattern to rely on. So now I was looking at piles of fabrics that I love, but lacked the "engineering" to begin putting it together. My right brain had a pretty, but abstract, picture. Now my left brain had to kick in to figure out the math of it.

The original pattern idea was quite simple: Squares of bright novelty fabrics broken up by lines of smaller, black-and-white checkerboard "trails" across the quilt. In my mind those trails were an irregular pattern that strayed around the quilt. In the pattern, they are just 3 or 4 sets of very regular "steps" starting high on the left side of the quilt and ending lower on the right. In my mind, the color palette of the brights was extremely broad. In the pattern, it's limited to the red/yellow spectrum of colors.

What I want is the checkerboard trail moving irregularly through the quilt, and the many bright fabrics. I am not worried about using the fabrics to create specific shapes (the stars, houses, baskets, etc. that so many quilt patterns are about). I want this quilt to be a treasure hunt: there will be cats and dogs and fire engines and princesses and chop sticks and dinosaurs and cars and trains and many, many other fun bits. I want this to be the kind of quilt that a child can look at in a "Where's Waldo" fashion, where she will have favorite blocks and ones she doesn't like. That is the point of the quilt. So I am retaining the simple square structure, though in some places a single piece of fabric will span the space of two squares because the picture on the fabric requires more room.

In the original, the checkerboard squares, which are half the size of the others, are the only uses of black and white fabrics. But I have a bunch of bright designs on black backgrounds that are too large to really be seen in such small squares. So I will be adding a border that is a larger checkerboard, which will allow me to use those larger patterns.

And of course since I'm working across the whole color palette now, I will have to cut out all the fabric squares and put them on a design board in order to arrange them in a manner that doesn't muddy the checkerboard and is pleasing to the eye.

It's a good thing this baby arrived in the summer. It's going to take a while for me to finish this, but she's not going to need the quilt for a while.

So that's it: the tale of how I went from copying someone else's pattern to using it as an inspiration. It's more a variation on a theme than an original, but I feel good about it. Pictures as soon as it's a physical reality and not just a more wholly formed idea in my head.

[User Picture]From: mycorethoughts
2008-07-24 02:52 pm (UTC)
I very frequently do that with knit and crochet patterns. Once you know the basic concepts of how to construct something, whether it's a quilt or afghan or sweater, all that's left to do is work out how you want to change it. To me, that's a great deal of fun! And the satisfaction of having created something unique is pretty cool, too!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-07-24 04:44 pm (UTC)
Yes, I think anyone who gets halfway good at a craft soon finds the itch to adapt.
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[User Picture]From: conscience
2008-07-24 03:41 pm (UTC)
I just had to say...my mom made me a quilt like that when I was about 2 years old. Mostly out of found fabrics the family wore...her old high school uniform skirt is in there, my favorite baby bib, my first baby blanket (Pooh!), brothers courderoy pants I used to steal because they felt good to sleep on...as well as some embellishments she made (she embroidered like crazy) of animals (of course!)...sheep, pigs, dogs, horses...

I still have it, though it's totally in rags, 32 years old.

And I still love the cord pants and uniform patches, and still hate the itchy patch of pink wool on the bottom right corner :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-07-24 04:42 pm (UTC)
It sounds like a wonderful thing to have.
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[User Picture]From: kisekinotenshi
2008-07-24 06:57 pm (UTC)
That first thing you said, the confession, is totally how I am about knitted gifts as well. That's why I'm constantly telling my friends I will knit things for them, even when I have a ridiculous number of projects already lined up, because I love knitting and want to try new things and always have something fun on my needles. The giving of the gift is almost an afterthought, except for the part where I bask in their adoration for something so nice (I have been lucky enough not to have insensitive recipients for knitting gifts so far). But most of it is having something to knit. XD That can sometimes be a bad thing, unfortunately, if I've stopped liking the pattern halfway through or otherwise gotten frustrated with the particular piece of knitting. You can talk to my best friend's shawl that was supposed to be a Christmas present last year about that... I lost the pattern to boot, but I wasn't enjoying it much before that either.
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[User Picture]From: miripanda
2008-07-24 08:28 pm (UTC)
First off, cool! I've always been privy to fits of craftiness ... a late night and some extra money often found me at Michaels or MJ Designs investing in cross-stitch supplies, crocheting supplies, acrylic paints and wooden tchochkes to decorate...or if I was at my grandmothers a foray into her quilting den... So I'm impressed at your quilter's dedication and focus, step 1.

Last month I went up to Vermont with my family to this giant annual Quilting festival...(full of crazycakes quilters. I mean, seriously) and it was really impressive to see the way people adapt traditional patterns, or break from them completely. I grew up surrounded by quilts made by the women in my mother's family, and it's sad to think that the tradition will pretty much wind down when this last generation of women fades out. My mom is too ADD, I'm too clumsy.
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[User Picture]From: katspaw156
2008-07-25 02:41 am (UTC)

Different medium, same idea

I think this is the way I cook.

P.S. Rebecca says goo (thanks)

Edited at 2008-07-25 02:42 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-07-25 03:24 am (UTC)

Re: Different medium, same idea

Makes sense.
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[User Picture]From: theferrett
2008-07-25 06:33 am (UTC)

I love you.

Bed now.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-07-25 01:08 pm (UTC)
Love you, too. Kisses.
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