Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Quilt - my creative process under pressure

Sewwvivor has come and gone for me. What an amazing ride this crazy adventure has been! I knew I would have to write this post eventually and I have sat down several times to do so, only to be easily distracted by something else. But the time has come where I can procrastinate no longer.

I never realised the great emotions that would come with the Sewvivor competition. When I auditioned for the 2014 quilter’s edition, I was hopeful to get in and when I did I was absolutely thrilled! With inflated bravado from getting through the audition, I put everything into the competition.When I got the news that I didn't get through, I will confide that I took it pretty hard. But, instead of wallowing in the disappointment of falling short of not making the top three (which was my goal) I want to use that, turn it into fuel and stoke my ever growing passion for quilting.

When Gemma and I spoke about guest hosting the I Quilt linky party, she asked me to write about Sewvivor, particularly about the design process and how the deadlines and pressure affected my creativity process. I believe it’s important to reflect on this so I can learn and improve for the future.

So, here goes, I hope you find my thoughts interesting and possibly thought provoking.



Usually when I design and create quilts, I know exactly where I want to go. I rarely sit down at my machine without a plan of attack, unless of course, the plan is that there isn’t one. Sometimes I will sketch the idea out in my note book, occasionally I will draw it on the computer where I can quickly and easily make colour and layout changes. Other times it's just the image in my head that I have carefully cultivated. But, once I’m ready to go, I’m ready.

There is no set length of time for how long it will take to design my quilts. Some designs have spent months brewing and bubbling away. Maybe they have been waiting for a missing piece of inspiration to arrive before asking to be made. Other designs have taken minutes and are almost an instinct. I have no control and they command to be made, often that instant.

However long the idea takes, it's there when I’m ready to sew.

I quite like challenges and themes, they provide boundaries for my creativity. I love this Ted Talks video on Embrace the Shake. Phil Hansen says "embracing limitations can drive creativity". This sentence came around and smacked me upside the face when I heard it for the first time.

I find that having endless possibilities can be a mind block for me as there is no way to settle on an idea. I can feel paralysed by choices when it's too open ended. Occasionally I will add my own restrictions just to help rein it in. Sometimes it can be as simple as limiting the colour palette to achieve the balance between limitations and creativity.


My first project, the iceberg, had a false start. I absolutely loved the vintage drawings on newsprint that I found, but I wasn’t sure how I could turn them around into a quilt in time. I kept coming back to them though. You know that feeling when you have a marvellous idea just beyond reach? Yeah, that. I spent days trying to reach it with no luck. Then it came to me in the shower, where most of my bright ideas eventually find me. A newspaper boat.

The very next chance I got, I made up a prototype with some newsprint fabric I happened to have on hand. I felt like I was on to a winner. My grand plan was to put all these paper boats on waves, so I set to work on them. And it failed. It was dull and flat and miserable. I put the project down knowing that it wasn’t right. Humph. With a deadline looming, there is no time to waste trying to flog a dud idea.

I went back to the drawing board and found a previous idea carefully stored in my journal for the right moment. I knew immediately that this was the right direction. I started and never looked back.

The second challenge, the washi bag idea was there. With a little bit of brainstorming with my lovely quilty friend Jules helped me refine the execution. I absolutely love that bag and get so many lovely compliments when I take it out for a walk (side note - pattern coming soon!).

Now, the third challenge was hard. The idea hadn't formed. I flip flopped between so many ideas without landing anywhere. It was excruciatingly frustrating. I spent hours at the local quilt shop wandering around like a little puppy dog. It was awful. I was lost without a clue. Fortunately my lovely quilty friend Jules gave me a generous helping of harden up and kicked me out of the store with some wool scraps and linen.

I set to work cutting hexies out then laying them out in several different ways before deciding on the final version. It felt rushed and unnatural for me. I was too indecisive and it was driving me crazy. Although I love the final quilt, this certainly isn't the way I like to work.


I like to imagine my quilt and let it percolate until I'm ready to bring it to life, at just the right moment.

I'd love to know your thoughts on how you like to bring your quilts to life. Do you take charge and commit? Or constantly change your mind while creating? Maybe it all depends on your mood of the day. It's different for everyone and there really are no right or wrong ways to design, create and make.

I'm linking up with Pretty Bobbins I Quilt Linky Party this week.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for hosting Crystal! I loved reading about your process!! I hope you get lots of linkers and some new readers <3

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  2. I'm take charge and commit for sure. I hmm and haw through the design, fine decide on something a dive in. Repeat for the quilting. I really admire all the amazing things you and the other contestants put out in such a short time.

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    1. Thanks Renee! Sometimes is nice to let loose but mostly commitment to the design here too!

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  3. I loved all your sewvivor projects, you blew us away right from the start! I totally do all my best thinking in the shower, I wonder why that is? Next thing you know, we will have scientists all taking showers to quantify the idea formulating possibilities!!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Cassandra! I think because in the shower you stop 'thinking' and let your idea centre take charge. Or maybe I made that up...?

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  4. Interesting! Thanks for sharing your process. I've had the same thing happen...an idea I thought would be a gem turned out to be a dud in real life. I like to have a pretty clear concept when I begin a project, but there are always many tweaks that happen along the way. Sometimes my seam ripper gets a real workout.

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    1. Ah, the old seam ripper. A friend and a foe. I actually use mine more now than I ever used to. weird, right?

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