Monday, December 9, 2013

Not a quilt


I don’t think this is going to become a quilt any time soon.  Here’s a quick quilt story for you:  when I was young in the 1970’s, crafting was abundant and my mom was always making stuff.  I wanted to make stuff too, so I went into my closet in the middle of the night with a pair of scissors and cut up all my clothes.  You know, as you do.  I spent a whole summer with a paper grocery bag full of 6” squares next to my lawn chair, earnestly toiling and stitching.  The resulting hand-pieced quilt top (never actually quilted, I’m sorry to report) was sloppy and, while tender in its innocence, pretty unappealing.  Over the years, there was some learning--visiting Grandma and getting schooled in how to make quilts the right way--and then some informed unlearning--the happy discovery of Gee’s Bend and the aesthetic of Denyse Schmidt.  I found out there are all kinds of ways to sew fabric together, and they are all good.  But here’s where I am right now:  I’m having a hard time with wonkiness.

I was way, way inspired by a pattern photo, hoo boy!  I went straight to the stash and cut up all my clothes.   By the way, the cutting up part?  Seriously fun.  I attacked this pile of scraps with vigor and zeal, and reduced it to a heap of strips in every angle, and then dove in.


Two things now—first, the pattern [there are so many inspiring patterns in this book, by the way, and I will probably attempt and fail several more of them] is great.  Incidentally, it also provides instructions for making this quilt “perfect”, if that’s how you roll, and that’s totally how I would roll now if the fabric weren’t already all cut up.  But that was not my plan going in.  No, I was going to fly by the seat of my pants, fling this thing together in a mad burst of creativity, threads a-flying.  No pinning, no measuring.  Out the window, rules!  See ya! 


Also, I am aware that I have taken the degree of “wonkiness” a good deal further than perhaps the designer intended, and let me say here, too, that a finished wonky-block quilt made by somebody else is a thing of beauty indeed and I admire it and wish I could go there, but right now, I can’t.  I seem to have gotten to the point where I like it when the seams are straight and all the corners line up and things are orderly.  I mentioned this to a friend who knows me well, and she gasped.  Well, you have to let yourself evolve, right? 


So, I folded these three blocks up neatly and rolled all the every-angled strips into a fussy and organized jelly-roll sort of thing and with pinkies in the air tucked it all very tidily into a bag to await the day I am once again prepared to let my freak flag fly.  Meanwhile, I guess I am into measuring things now, which is so weird it’s like I don’t recognize myself. 


  1. I love the wreath in your heading, it looks so inviting.
    I am a fly by the seat of your pants quilter most of the time. I get too tied up in perfection if I don't let myself go, I tell myself I enjoy the handmade look more, and I feel less stressed when I don't have perfect 1/16th seams. I hope you will get your project back out soon, and just have some fun with it.

  2. Well you never know unless you try. I just finished a hotch potch jumper saying I was going to use all different coloured wool but in the end I had to buy two balls to finish off the pattern because I could not bear to go off piste anymore!! Go and see... Jo x

  3. I just made my first quilt top (still working on quilting my sandwich together) and of course it is super wonky! I really don't care though, the fabrics are bright and cheerful and I'm going to have a blanket when I'm done! I'll leave the perfection to my better craft, knitting. As always LOVE your blog and your posts :)

  4. My favourite quilts by far are the 'simple' ones, with squares or strips. Anything complicated just looks horribly mathematical and I don't like geometrics. I also saw the back of a quilt top the other day, which was made by a perfectionist and it was still pretty much a free for all on the back. All those lumpy bumpy seams!

    No, I like to have a good chunk of the fabric to look at and that means just your basic squares usually. Other than that I love applique quilts but not complex pieced ones. I don't like the quilt to have 'proper' quilting fabric either but rather be based in its roots of using up the fabric you had. To buy rather expensive (very, if you are in the UK) fabric to cut up into little pieces seems an anathema to me. Many of the more complex quilts just don't have much aesthetic appeal to me, although I do obviously appreciate the skill involved which is a lot.

  5. I've tried wonky. I just can't seem to break the habits instilled by the precision piecer who ran the formerly local shop. (She and her shop relocated to another state.) The only way I can deal with all the bizarre free-form bits is if I'm string piecing. And that usually means that I'm using a specific shape foundation, so it's still pretty structured.

    Good luck finding your wonky gene. I don't have one. :)

  6. I couldn't do anything wonky at all. My favourite thing is squares - so perfectly symmetrical, balanced, lovely. Nice and easy on the eye. Wonky would drive me bananas. I am aware that I sound a bit controlling about this!

  7. I've been lurking your blog for a while now (Love your style!) I JUST won a copy of this book in a raffle this weekend. It's so neat, and this quilt had my eye as well! When reading the pattern I couldn't help feeling like the perfectly symmetrical version took all the steam and fun out of the thing. Embrace the wonky!

  8. It is so funny how sometimes you have to do something before you can discover it about yourself. So, at least you now know that at the moment off piste angles are not for you. Perhaps they will be in the future though! xx

  9. Oh I loved this post no end!! I love wonky crazy quilting and the first time I attempted a precise quilt, I called my quilting friend who had talked me through her design software to design said precise quilt and asked her if I really needed to cut that piece 2 5/16". She laughed and asked if that was a serious question!! The pieces are still lying in the top drawer of my sewing desk. Be who you are meant to be, but ruffle some feathers once in a while.

  10. Kristen, I was smiling as I read this post. I have never made a quilt. Someday I might just try my hand, and expect that I might go the paper piecing route, that might give me my own personal blend of neat, precise, and free flow. Don't know. Don't know when I will find time for this adventure.

    Back in the last century (how I love typing that) I did see a magnificent exhibit of the Gees Bend quilts at the Whitney Museum. Saw it twice. I was truly drawn in to the colorways, the geometry, the use of old clothes, particularly denim, and the fine stitching.

    And...of course, I bought loads of the Gees Bend stamps when they were issued. Bet that you did, too.


  11. I too, admire other people's lack of perfection as I see it, when patchwork doesn't line up neatly and squarely, when painters paint pictures in a slapdash looking manner and it looks great... these things always seem to look better when someone else does them. I try and it just looks like I need to change my glasses, or find a new hobby. As a child I loved colouring in, and still do, and still I have to keep within the lines. If my colour bleeds over the black outline, that's it, the picture is ruined for me. Pathetic really....

  12. Your quilt blocks look very Gees Bend! I like the notion that those women can take any kind of fabric (which doesn't always play well together) and create a beautiful wonky quilt. I think I fall in the middle between precision and fudging it ( adding a small piece at the end of the row to make it fit ,a la Gwen Marston). You gotta do what feels right. Now you know :)

  13. whatever you decide will be beautiful. love your memory of early making...

  14. I have to say, I can't do wonky either. I just doesn't look right to me. Each to her own, right?