Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Things I've Learned about Quilting

Vacuuming and laundry duty today was actually interesting, as I used the time to do a bit of thinking about my growth as a Quilter. So, here are some of the things I have realized about where I was, and where I am now.

1. I no longer believe in UFOs (Un-Finished Objects). When I first joined a quilting guild as an absolute newbie, I was given strict guidelines about what is considered a UFO, and how incredibly bad it is to have a number of them. Oh, the guilt. Oh, the stress I subjected myself to, trying to finish projects that should maybe never have been started. Now, with a little more experience under my (not quilted) belt, I have a new attitude. F#@k UFOs! The whole concept stinks! They aren't unfinished objects - they're test pieces on a concept, that proved the concept was not worthy of more time as it stood. They are ruminations on an idea. They are a way to chart growth. I no longer need to force myself to finish things better left unfinished - they instead go on a particular set of shelves, which I now refer to as The Lessons Learned Library. No guilt. No stress. Just valuable lessons that I can apply in future, successful work. And, if I'm ever stuck for something to work on, I can pull one out and try a new approach - like cutting it up into smaller pieces and giving it a whole new lease on life. Yup, a much better attitude.

2. I no longer listen to that little voice that says "It's fine that way, just leave it." Why? Because that little voice is a BIG FAT LIAR! It's NOT fine that way. If I leave it, I will always be bothered by what the little voice told me to ignore, and chances are the piece will stagnate and become a frustration to me. So, my stitch ripper and I are now on really good terms. Yup, I've unpicked seams that didn't quite match, even though they were close. Yup, I've unpicked free motion quilting that was only a little disjointed. Yup, I've unpicked quilting in the ditch that missed the ditch by just a hair in a few places. Why? Because back when I didn't do the un-doing, I lost all pride in the work. If I'm going to spend time and money on a piece, then I want to be able to display it with pride, not stick it in a closet because that one mismatched corner really bugs me. Now, I finish and display my work with pride and with joy.

3. I no longer dive right into full scale projects. My days of cutting the pieces for every block right off the bat are over! Test pieces - it's all about test pieces. So what if I end up with a zillion little test pieces? They don't need to end up in a large project - they were simply to test for a bigger piece. Nobody needs to see them, and they aren't the end goal. They are simply a way to test out colours, patterns, value (my biggest issue), and quilting designs. Sometimes, they are even a way to test a new embellishment technique. And that's just fine. If I run out of the beads / yarn / ribbon later, I can remove it from the test piece. Yup, it may sound wasteful, but which is more wasteful: two or three 12"x12" test pieces, some rejects, the final accepted and used as a guideline for the development of a full sized piece, or a whole king sized quilt, cut, pieced and then rejected for lack of adequate value shifts?

4. I no longer believe that everything I do is art. Just because I made it myself, doesn't mean I have to love it. And if I'm not loving it, I don't have to finish it. And there's no need for guilt about it (see Number 1, above). Now, each piece I do gets a cooling off period (locked away in the dark for a bit) which allows me to forget the details, and then when I bring it out for display, I can look at it with a fresh eye. I no longer put my name on anything until I am completely satisfied that I can be proud of it. If a piece still looks finished when I pull it back out of the closet, I will label it and call it happily completed. Other times, I recognize the piece still needs some work. The great thing is, during the cooling off period I often get ideas for improvement of pieces. So, after allowing for a suitable amount of time (gotta be sure about the improvement), I will liberate the piece from the closet and make the improvements, then back in it goes for cooling off before I sign it. It works for me, and ensures that I really am satisfied with each finished piece.

So, my quilting attitude has changed. I don't charge in half cocked. I take my time. I test things out first. And I'm proud of my work, now! The failures are small and easy to live with. The successes are worth all the prep work. My quilting attitude has it's own rules, and they might not be White Glove Quilt Police worthy, but they work for me.

One more thing - those people that suggest to "gift" away UFO's? They should be gifted with as much crap as possible. Really, if I think it is so crappy I don't want to finish it, then why the hell should I impose it on anyone else? Aargh! What idiocy. Note - This opinion does not apply to the beautiful projects unfinished due to health issues, death, etc., so please don't Blog-Flame me on this one.

However, I do believe in occasionally getting together with a quilting friend and going through The Lessons Learned Library. Sharing those past lessons learned can be valuable to both parties, and who knows - they may see something they absolutely love and know they can use it. Then, they can go ahead and take it. But unsolicited "gifting" of crap? Nope, not from this Quilter.

Okay, enough ranting. Begone Logan! Back to the Studio!


Nicky said...

Thank you for sharing your "quilting rules" - they are quite illuminating and I admire you for sticking to what you believe. Great that you can do the ufo thing without feeling guilty. I haven't quite got to that stage yet as I feel like not finishing things off is one of my weaknesses to be vanquished. But maybe I should ask myself why I am not finishing things off and take it from there.

Mrs. Mel said...

Gosh I have a box of ufos and wonder why I am saving them since I only get them out and look at them when I am trying to find other stuff...if I bring them to my art quilt group and say they are free, I will go home with a clean and empty rubbermaid box. Sometimes an empty box is preferable to a box full of never to be finished junk.

Sonji Hunt said...

Yes, I have my "quilt hospital" behind the door of my work room. Sometimes they have to die. It is life. Sometimes they live with their particular ailment or disfigurement and sometimes reconstructive surgery will give them lease on a brand new life.

Isn't cleaning a wonderful way to get deep about your own methodology and approach to creating? Yes, it is. So silly to answer ones own questions. But at least I'm doing it on your blog this time. YIPEE for your self realizatons, Logan. Free at last.

Karoda said...

I almost didn't read this entry because you started with vacuuming and laundry and I just came from Debra's site, A Stitch in Time, who is also cleaning house today...the guilt, the guilt.

But since I pushed the guilt aside long enough to finish reading, I thought about a piece I have incomplete called "water lily girl". I did the face of the girl a gazillion times, I talked about this piece all the time to total strangers, people would ask me how she was coming along,...when I finally attached her face to the background I hated it! This was about 2 years into the quilt top. I haven't touched it again...but she does keep calling me. I know I will make this quilt, but will abandon this entire top and start from scratch...that just hit me that it was okay to do back in January. Keep sharing your Learning Library!

Diane said...

These are great lessons. Life is too short to feel guilty about stuff like this. And I love the change from UFOs to Test Pieces. I'm going to keep this in mind! I have one basket that I think of as "the kitchen" because I put projects in there that I *do* want to finish but I need them to simmer on a mental back burner...

Moedertje said...

I am impressed--will use your wise words to investigate my own subconscious adherence to so-called quilt-police rules. I have not joined or belonged to a guild, as I've never been good at following other people's ideas, preferring instead to experiment on my own; learning from both mistakes and successes.

Your opinion of the 'gifting of crap UFOs' is right on the button, as, having been the unfortunate recipient of other people's abundance of UFOs, I know how disappointing and insulting that gesture is. I received giftwrapped balls of unravelled wool once (as a gift for my three-year-old's birthday), with instructions to knit him a sweater with it, and say it was from that person. That son rcvd a much more age appropriate gift from me, instead.

I love sharing quilt learning lessons with my daughter, and we both grow from this experience, especially as she serves sticky cinnamon buns with cream cheese icing with our coffees (with REAL cream).

Maureen said...

Keep up the good work Logan!I LOVE mouthie quilters who refuse to be burdened by either the "guilts" or
the quilt police (poor sad creatures :-)
Did you know....some UFOs make excellent DUSTERS!! Not that I dust too often.