The Year Without Quilting

Akasha with the Kinetic Energy quilt

I didn’t plan it really. It just happened.

I stopped quilting. And it was good. Really good.

I spent January and February of 2015 designing and stitching like a maniac, making a couple of art quilts to submit to a juried exhibit. I didn’t expect that they would be accepted, so I wasn’t surprised to receive the “Thanks, but not this time” letters.

It’s not that they were no good, but I am realistic enough to say that when it comes to the type of design that the quilting world considers “art” these days, I have neither the experience nor the artistic eye to compete. It was the first time I’d really tried to “say something” with a quilt, and probably no one but me actually “gets it” which is fine.

However, these two quilts were a catharsis. I put everything I had into each one, and I was very happy with the results. I enjoyed making them for the most part. I struggled and agonized, but still enjoyed the process. Once I finished the quilts and the entries submitted, I fully intended to move on to making other things with some of the leftovers. A few days away from the studio doing other things turned into weeks and then months, and eventually became a year.

Whenever I’d think about quilting, the biggest question I’d ask myself was “What would I make?” I have so many quilts and wall hangings, did I really need to make more? Should I make show quilts? Quilts to sell? Write patterns? Did I really want to get back into all of that in the quilting industry? Solid answers being absent, I did nothing quilting related at all. There were other things going on that kept me busy and happy as well, but in the end if I’d had any answers or really felt the pull, I’d have been in my studio anyway.

Earlier this year, I finally felt like quilting a bit. Not for show, not for patterns, not to sell, but just to see if I could really enjoy the process again. I dug out an old UFO project that I started with my oldest daughter years ago when we lived in Germany. The plan was for us to make it together, but shortly after we started it Inchie Quilts exploded and life became all Inchies, all the time. Quilting really isn’t her thing anyway, so she wasn’t terribly sad about not doing it.

Kinetic Energy quilt by Nadine Ruggles

It’s lovely to make a thing just because you want to. Sure, there was a point to it since her birthday was coming up in April and I figured I could finish this not-too-big project in time to send it off to her. But in making this, I realized that even though I enjoyed making the two quilts last year, the very fact that the quilts were for the exhibit and would be judged drove some of the design decisions. “Will the judges think this is good, or should I do this other thing?” (I like this so I’ll do it anyway, but…) “Are Swarovski crystals the mark of the art quilting amateur?” (I’ll use them anyway because I love them, but…) “Does this speak to the theme at all?” (I think so, but…) There was a constant stream of second-guessing myself throughout the process.

Kinetic Energy quilt by Nadine Ruggles

What happened to just making things I love? I used to make things for me, without this much thought and agonizing about what everyone else would like. Really, what happened?

Perhaps that’s a part of what kept me out of the studio for a year. Maybe I subconsciously realized that even though I liked the quilts and enjoyed making them, I still wasn’t creating just for the joy of it. I’m not sure I’ve done that since…well, I don’t even know. Maybe since I got a taste of the “quilting for show” process.

Machine quilting Kinetic Energy

In any case, the break has been good. I’ve thought a lot about what I really want to do with quilting, and about what I don’t want to do. I’ve admitted to myself that I just don’t care about being “in the business” any longer (and haven’t cared enough about it for years). It’s not the quilting industry that I love—especially the industry as it is today. It seems more like a popularity contest than anything else, with all the de rigueur social media nonsense. I’ll take the creating and the quilting, and leave the rest.

Akasha with the Kinetic Energy quiltI did finish the quilt for my daughter’s birthday, as her kitty, Princess Akasha, can attest to. The pattern is Kinetic Energy, and it’s by Fourth & Sixth Designs. Though I enjoyed making the quilt and love the finished product, I doubt I’ll ever make another one since it’s made with a random piecing technique and those types of things are never favorites for me. Yet somehow, I have two of these patterns! I found the second one in my studio while I was quilting the quilt. I must have really liked it since I bought it twice!

If you’d like to make a quilt like this, you can have my extra pattern. Leave a comment here and I’ll choose a winner on June 1st and send it off! Don’t be shy—there’s a pretty good chance that you’re the only one reading after all this time. 😉

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