Sunday, March 7, 2010

Answering Elena's question (sort of)

Yesterday Elena posted a comment that I thought deserved a good answer. She said, “I am still learning the quilting basics - the medium, techniques and tools. Definitely the first stage. Three years at this now and I am finishing my second quilt. Any tips about getting more prolific while still hanging on to my other job?”

Although I am now retired, my twenty years of working for a consulting firm makes me incapable of answering a question like that without asking other questions first. Elena, why do you think it’s taking you 18 months per quilt?

Is it because your life is so busy that you can spare only one hour a week for sewing?

Is it because you don’t have a decent workspace, and you’re cramped and distracted when you try to sew, or you have to set up and take down your machine every time you work?

Is it because your sewing technique is shaky and it takes you a long time to actually make what you have decided to make?

Is it because you don’t have good tools, with a cranky sewing machine that makes bad stitches, an ironing board too small to get your quilt really flat, or no design wall to put your work on view?

Is it because you have performance anxiety or some other kind of mental block that leads you to do a million other things rather than work on your quilt?

Is it because you have a hard time deciding what quilt to make next?

Is it because you are paralyzed in the planning stage, sketching and erasing and auditioning fabrics and questioning your own decisions and starting all over again with new sketches and never actually starting to sew?

Is it because you bit off more than you can chew, trying to make a king-sized quilt and then getting frustrated because (of course) it takes so long to piece it and it’s so hard to quilt?

Is it because you lack support from other quilters or other artists, so that you feel alone and uncertain?

Is it because your loved ones either deliberately or unconsciously sabotage your quilting, interrupting you or disparaging you or running off with your scissors or spilling their snacks on your fabric?

Obviously the solution depends on what the problem really is.  If you can analyze why it’s taking you so long, you can probably figure out for yourself how to improve the situation. But if you do that, and think of some things to change, and you’re still frustrated, then write back and I’ll try to make additional suggestions. My life as an artist is pretty smooth now, with a supportive husband, no day job, a big studio and a wonderful bunch of art friends to provide aid and comfort. But it wasn’t always that way, and I can remember how I struggled to get where I am now. I’ll be happy to share my experiences and ideas with you.

1 comment:

  1. Kathy, thank you for your thoughtful response. You deserve a reply in kind for your collection of good questions.

    A couple did apply and one still does. At least my sweetie no longer asks why I am cutting fabric into little pieces for reassembly. And my great Quilt Therapy group have been meeting monthly for 18 months. I've dodged my compulsion toward perfectionism somewhat because I don't make traditional quilt patterns. So no worries about matching points!

    For the first year and a half, I was discovering the wide world of art quilts. Many workshops and many more quilting books. Then nearly a year and a half ago, I committed to improvisational piecing. Most other approaches hold little interest anymore. Sometimes it's slow going and I want to just follow a pattern. But I know I would get bored.

    From the time I committed to piecing, that's 9 months per not-large quilt. That's not including small projects, trial pieces. I can learn more about quilting lines by quilting more tops. The what where how and whys of quilt lines seem elusive for improvisational quilts.

    I have many ideas percolating. After another one week workshop in May, I'll have many more. If I don't follow through with these and don't make many quilts, will I be able to find my voice?

    This is the gist of it. I invite you to browse my blog for a nearly complete trajectory of my quilting life.