Last year, I did a class with David Taylor, a master of art quilts, through Handcrafters House. I love the realism of David’s work (Maynard, which I think of as ‘dog bum in the snow’, is my favourite), but there was one snag in my plan to do his class: he achieves his effects by using a lot of batiks. I really, truly dislike batiks. I forced myself to look about in local and online shops for batik scrap packs, but I could not bring myself to buy any. Eventually, I scrounged a selection of batik fabrics from my kind batik-loving friends.
Even so, my heart really was not into the batiks. At Serena’s suggestion, I put my Liberty fabrics in the car ‘just in case’ as I packed for the four-day workshop. By lunchtime on the first day, the batik scraps were back in the car and I was happily playing with my Liberty florals. My fabric choices were not David’s cup of tea, but he could tell I was miserable when I was forcing myself to use batiks, and he supported my decision.
Of course, when I started down that detour, I could not then continue to machine quilt the life into it as David does with his art quilts. Machine quilting over all that hand-appliquéd Liberty did not feel right. Instead, I was inspired by Pat Goodchild’s free-form perle 8 quilting, a bit of embroidery, a bit of sashiko and a bit of boro. (Pat is a talented local quilter who is a regular at Calico & Ivy.)
You would think that because I strayed so far from David’s plan that I did not learn anything in his class. That is not true. I do and will continue to apply the techniques he taught us – but perhaps not to create anything that mimics his amazing work.
By trying something outside of my comfort zone, I had fun experimenting. I was not precious that it had to look a certain way. I did not worry that the bird was not realistic. At no point was I sure that the idea would work, and my plan evolved as I sewed, but I was having fun going with the flow. I was also watching a lot of Wallander, Shetland and Hinterland.
The class was in June last year. Almost as soon as I began, I was determined to enter it in our local quilt show this May. I did not know whether it was going to be a good quilt, but I filled in the entry form anyway, long before it was finished.
I did not win any prizes, but I did not expect to. One of the things I like about our show, QuiltWest, is that it is primarily to display our association’s members’ work. Yes, prizes are awarded, but our association stresses the importance of displaying a variety of members’ work.
My entry was in the pictorial quilt category, and our local community has some amazingly talented art quilters. This was my first pictorial or ‘art’ quilt. It might be my last! I think it is my first quilt deliberately made as a wall-hanging (if you do not count the growth chart).
The judges’ comments gave me an A for the neatness of my stitching and a B for overall visual effect. I think that was fair. My stitches are freakishly neat (I am a Virgo), but the quilt probably could do with a bit more ‘oomph’. The stitching in the background fades into the background too much, perhaps. You have to stand far away to see the bird and up close to see the hibiscus, and I felt that could be seen as a problem.
The biggest praise came when I dropped the quilt off. The lady doing the show collection called her husband in to take a look. If you rouse your husband from the couch to take a look, it must be good, I thought.
I finished it the day before the show deadline in May, but I had not photographed it until today because it has been hanging out in the shop window at Calico & Ivy. Today was overcast, but I was determined.
The quilt’s name is inspired by the names of episodes of the TV show Friends. Friends offered their batik scraps. Friends pushed me to go my own way. Friends picked up extra Liberty supplies for me when I needed more blue. Friends helped me choose the backing. Friends encouraged me to try to something different in the background, and friends’ creativity inspired me to try new things.
Here are a few random facts about the quilt:
- It is approximately 33 x 43 inches.
- I used Liberty fabrics, linen and Quilt Lite.
- The appliqué was sewn by hand using Aurifil thread.
- I hand quilted it with a combination of Gutermann quilting thread and any sort of perle 5, 8 and 12 I had, including Finca, DMC and Aurifil.
I am really happy with it because:
- I tried something new.
- I let myself experiment.
- I completed my first solo quilt-show entry.
This has been my main project for a long time. Now it is finished, I feel liberated to play with one of my many other UFOs.