Finishing

Don’t get excited – I haven’t had a complete personality change and actually finished my crochet blanket already. Although I am still rippling away industriously, so yay me. No, today I thought I’d show you one of my (many) works in progress and talk a little about how long it takes sometimes to get to the finish line, and how much a project can change along the way.

Take this block for example:

Waaaaay back in late 1994 I decided to enrol in a class at the local evening college to learn to quilt. This was one of the first blocks I made, hand-drafted and handpieced, though originally it was bigger and centred. Ugly, isn’t it? File it under “What Was I Thinking?”. In my defence I can only say that the range of fabrics that were available back then were very different from the options we have today. Country style was all the rage, and quilt shops were a sea of mustard yellow, brick red, dark blues and olive greens.

I managed to find a few brighter fabrics, as in this Dresden plate block, another block we learned in class:

But after a couple of blocks I had a problem. Everyone else was using a limited number of fabrics, all carefully co-ordinated, and constructing a traditional sampler quilt out of their class blocks. But I was going wild buying fabrics and trying different combinations in my blocks, so none of them matched. Even then I had the whole “if three colours are good, then thirty must be better” thing going on.

Besides, I’ve never liked sampler quilts. So some of my blocks got turned into cushions, and some of them just sat in the cupboard. For 17 years.

After about a year of lessons I went off into the world, armed with my newfound knowledge, and began to branch out. I started projects I saw in magazines:

This was but one of many blocks in a large country-style quilt. It was a lovely quilt, but I never got much further than this. Country can be beautiful, and I often admire it in other people’s houses, but it’s not really my thing.

The strip of yellow rectangles down the left-hand side in this picture is an off-cut from another UFO (UnFinished Object) I started in a workshop.

Other workshops produced finished quilt tops (though not, you will note, finished quilts):

and more off-cuts that I bundled into the bag with my lonely orphan blocks. The bag got bigger, with more off-cuts and left-over background blocks, such as the tumbler blocks that make up the background of this quilt I made for Drama Duck when she was born:

Hey, look at that! A rare sighting of an Actual Finished Quilt on this blog. Designed it myself, too. Mind you, I say I made it for her “when she was born”: that was certainly the intention, but I think she was three or four by the time it was finished.

And sometimes I made a few blocks just to try an idea, or for a project I then abandoned:

I know, you’re shocked. Me, abandoning a project.

So they went into the bag too.

Every so often I’d pull out the bag and fiddle with the bits and pieces inside. Everything was different sizes, different colours and styles. Nothing went together. I’d move things around then shake my head and stuff it all back into the cupboard.

Then late last year, inspired by the mad riot of clashing colours I saw every time I did a class with Kathy at Material Obsession, I pulled out the bag again. I threw things up on my “design wall” (aka a sheet hanging over the curtain rail in the dining room) at random. I pulled a handful of wildly colourful big prints from my stash (looove the fabrics you can buy now!) to tie the assortment of colours in my blocks together. I made a couple of new blocks, again trying new techniques (like the wonky star at the top of the next picture). Only this time I had a plan in mind for them.

So I guess you could call this my “sampler quilt”, that I started all those years ago at evening college.

It’s changed a lot along the way as I learned new skills, and started (and sometimes abandoned) new projects. There are pieces in there from quilts I love, pieces that mean something to me, as well as pieces I don’t really like. A lot of history.

So sometimes finishing has to take a long time. You have to allow time to learn the skills you need, time for your tastes (and even the materials available to you) to change, time to change direction half a dozen times. And then you can cobble together a Frankenquilt out of left-overs, experiments and memories.

I can’t call it finished yet, since the quilting’s not done, but the top is complete so, creatively speaking, it’s finished. A new creation out of spare parts. I’m really quite fond of my Frankenquilt, though opinions are divided among the rest of the household. Demon Duck thinks it’s really ugly. Baby Duck just thinks there’s too much quilting and crochet on my blog lately and not enough about important things.

Like him.

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4 Responses to Finishing

  1. Cardygirl says:

    amazing journey…thanks for sharing!

  2. This was hilarious–and profoundly true!–and I love the word “Frankenquilt.”

    • Marina says:

      It’s a lot like writing, isn’t it! Much time required to learn and grow and change your mind. And add new bits and repurpose others and change your mind again … and again … and again