Done frogging, but still thinking

And it’s the thinking part that usually gets me into trouble, you know. Here’s the deal: While I was machine quilting this little wallhanging (it’s “just a get.it.done. item off of the Creativity List:, you remember), I was really enjoying myself. Well, except for those insane arguments with the OCQ and the frogging anyway. But mostly, I was having a ball, and wondering why I felt like this was so different than the norm.

Sounds a bit weird, right? I mean, this quilting thing is supposed to be at least marginally fun all the time, isn’t it? Okay, except for basting, because basting is no fun. But you know what, even as I just typed that out, “basting is no fun,” I realized that even basting this little quilt wasn’t the usual “no fun” process. So what gives?

I’ve had plenty of time in the past few days to think about it, since machine quilting marked patterns is pretty easy and leaves the mind free to wander, and frogging is definitely mind-wandering time. I’ve started wondering if I’ve really been enjoying quilting lately, and I’m starting to think that the answer is “no.” Which is kinda scary.

Stars in my Hand

If I think back to the last time I was truly enthralled with most of a project, my mind comes to rest on Stars in my Hand. That was a great quilt, and I enjoyed making it for the most part. The only thing that wasn’t actually fun was the endless stippling, and part of the reason for the torture was that my hands and arms just can’t take the abuse of tiny stippling anymore, and that quilt really drove the point home.

The quilt I made after that, Grasping Reality, was way outside my box and I know I didn’t enjoy making it as much as many of my other quilts. Stretching boundaries is a good thing, but I think there is such a thing as going too far, and then maybe the potential for true joy in the process is diminished by an inability to rise up and meet your own expectations for success.

Then came The Misery Quilt, which was again outside my boundaries (though not as far), and I’ve fought to conquer it every step of the way. These kinds of thoughts have been running around in my brain lately:

  • Just because you like how something looks doesn’t mean you’ll like doing it. I knew that, but I seem to have forgotten it or pushed it to the back of my head for a bit.
  • If a project is so difficult that it just doesn’t feel natural, and you’re having to work at it way too hard, maybe it’s just not ever going to be right. Again, stretching boundaries is good, but maybe there’s a limit to that goodness.
  • It’s possible that in my quest for mastery and the blue ribbon winning quilt, I’ve lost sight of the type of quilting that I really enjoy doing.

So what is it about this quilt that I pulled out of the stack to finish up that’s bringing all of these nagging thoughts to the top? Is it that it’s smaller and easier to work with in the machine? Is it that the basting took almost no time at all because it’s not a huge quilt? Maybe it’s just that I’m not stressing out so much over it because it’s not for show, or maybe it’s that I’ve missed quilting with cotton thread since I’ve been using silk for almost the last year.

While I’ve been machine quilting with this fat cotton thread, I’ve really been enjoying making these much larger stitches and seeing the great texture it ads to the quilt. The machine noise is very rhythmic and soothing as I listen to the noise it makes with each stitch. It’s just so different from quilting with silk thread, where you can’t see the individual stitches unless you get really up close and personal. When I quilt with silk, I have to listen more to the pitch of the motor instead of the sounds of each individual stitch, and I feel like I have less control and it’s not so relaxing.

Butterfly Houses

Dimensional Weavings

Find Your Way

Aside from the mechanics of it all, I’ve also been thinking back on the quilts that I’ve made that I really had fun with, to see if there is some sort of pattern. I’m not sure that there is, but I do know that I loved the “play with it until you get it right” designing process that I used for Butterfly Houses, Dimensional Weavings, and Find Your Way (shown at right). These were quilts where the interplay of colors and values was integral to the design, and I love playing with little bits on the design wall to make the magic happen.

Even way back in the beginning of my quilitng life, it was playing with the fabric that meant something. I started out making Bargello quilts; I loved picking out the many fabrics and strip piecing them together and seeing the magic and the movement happen when they were cut and sewn once again. Now that I am thinking about it, all the quilts that I’ve enjoyed the most have heavily relied on fabrics and how they interact with each other on the surface.

The Misery Quilt even started out this way, with diamonds that were hand arranged on the design wall until they were just right for the center star, but somewhere along the way, it transformed into a monster that I’m not enjoying anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there have been enjoyable moments, but they’ve been much fewer and farther between than the pain in the arse ones.

The beginning of the journey with The Misery Quilt was headed in a good direction I thought, but then I made decisions that took the design further and further away from what I really like to do, though I wasn’t thinking about it in that way enough to realize it. I took the workshop in Paducah from Diane Gaudynski, and then I wanted to quilt everything in silk, and then each subsequent decision on that quilt affected the next, and now it is what it is. If I can get past the background quilting, I can probably finish it off, but it will probably prove to be a true test of my mettle just to make myself do it.

Maybe all that fancy Diane G. feather quilting and dense background patterning in silk thread is just not me, and I’ve been trying to make it me. Yes, I can do it, but do I enjoy doing it as much as I enjoy other types of quilting? Even after all this thinking “out loud” as it were, I still don’t necessarily know the answer to it all, but it is probably worth more of my brain power to figure it out so I can get back to the enjoyment of the journey.

2 thoughts on “Done frogging, but still thinking

  1. It’s good to read your self-examination which is resonating with me. I see that I sometimes have a tendency to challenge myself to try things that are harder, then a bit harder… then perhaps I see that I’ve passed the zone of enjoyment and play, and entered the zone of hard work.

    It’s been refreshing for me to remind myself that just because I CAN do it, doesn’t mean that I SHOULD do it. Sometimes, I just have to put aside the voice that wants me to do it perfectly, and go with the voice that says it is good enough.

    Many thanks for sharing all your voices with us.

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  2. I sometimes have a tendency to challenge myself to try things that are harder, then a bit harder… then perhaps I see that I’ve passed the zone of enjoyment and play, and entered the zone of hard work.

    Yes!! That’s exactly it Gillian. You said it so much more succinctly than I did!

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