Thursday, June 20, 2013

Anatomy of a failure

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been working on a wall-hanging type deal that I consider to be pretty much a failure. Not a throw-myself-to-the-ground-and-wail-with-despair kind of failure, but a failure to achieve the ends I had in mind and a failure to execute what I envisioned well enough to please myself. This was the good kind of failure, because in all the things that are wrong with it, I can see what I need to do to make it better, and I believe I can eventually succeed in making it better. Sometimes, a failure just needs to be cut up and put in the bottom of a lizard cage. I don't think that is the case with this one. But, as it is, it is NOT something I would put in a book or a show (except maybe a side show), and I'll show you why.

This was the design I made in Illustrator, which is my main quilt design tool right now.

And here is the top, before it was quilted. You can see in the above illustration that it will have a blue border. I was in love with the combination of the blue with the two purples—still am, actually— and the idea I had was that I would quilt the purple areas with thread in that blue, and then the blue binding would help draw that color out.

So here is the whole thing finished.

I did a series of arcs in the center. I used an EZ Quilting Circle Cut ruler to mark the circles. At first, I tried using a walking foot, but I found that it was very hard to turn the quilt under it. I kept having to stop and pivot, and that created humps in my lines that I didn't like. The lines ended up being smoother wen I used a regular foot and never stopped to pivot, keeping the turn smooth. This cause an ungodly pain in my left shoulder, but what's a little bursitis among friends?

I did straight lines on the outer squares, angled to sort of emphasize the outward movement I was going for. The lines were marked at roughly half-inch intervals and were actually quilted first.

Then in the sort of center background squares, I did a moderately dense stipple. This is my only decent free-motion stitch.

Then in the corner triangles I took this plastic plate from IKEA:

and traced it in various places to produce a looser, more mod texture.

One of the major problems was the chalk I used to make some of the quilting marks. The white chalk washed out just fine. But I was alternating between white and yellow, trying to determine which one didn't make me want to claw my eyeballs out, and the yellow, for the most part, left a residue. So much of my blue thread, has a distinct yellow cast, as does the fabric behind it. I wouldn't have washed the quilt at all if it hadn't been for those damn lines, which didn't come out anyway.

With the curves in the center and the straight lines, at first I was tying off at the end of each row, but I got tired of that pretty fast, and I decided to just travel to the next line in the ditch of the seam. Except the damn quilt kept being all snakey and I couldn't keep that damn needle in the stupid ditch. So, this little jump happened all over, and it looks sloppy.

I did a pieced back, and here you can see the color combo better, because I added it to the piecing here. However, it's crooked. It wasn't supposed to be, so it bothers me.

In retrospect, I should have stitched in the ditch around all the blocks, as this would have helped the back look a little better. But I wasn't too keen on attempting any more ditch stitching, so I skipped it.

While I'm usually happy with how my stippling looks from the front, it always has these...pulls?...on the back side. I've played with tension on my machine in every possible way, and it does no good. So, this is probably something I'm going to have to accept.

Now, looking at the front again:

In general, I do like this. But the blue stitching doesn't come out on the purple well enough, and even though it's there in the binding, I want to see it in the quilt more. So there will be a redesign that adds that blue in there somewhere. I love the design of the quilting in the center and in the purple boxes, and I like the stippling pushing those squares back, but I'm not happy with the corners. I like the curved-corner rectangle motif, but I don't think it works here. I think next time, I would extend the stippling in those areas, so the background stays pushed back and the purple squares have more dimension next to them. Or, there's another idea I had for some curved lines that might also work if I can find a way to draw them.

The problems in my quilting are hard to photograph, but they show up very well if you are standing even a couple feet away, as someone might be in a show, and so I would never display this quilt except as a teaching tool. But I know I can make it better, and because it is small and manageable, I'll definitely do it again and give myself the opportunity to make it into what I want it to be. Ultimately, the person I have to please is me, and I have to find the balance between being too hard on myself and just accepting any old crap I spit out. I want to design. I want to teach. I want to write books. I need to be good enough to do those things, and I'm not there yet.

But I will be.

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