Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Process: Working past the self-doubt

Whenever I start a quilt, I always have an idea of where I want to go with it. But it's just that, an idea. A seed that's been planted in my mind and I let it simmer for awhile, and think about what I want it to look like, how i am going to approach it, and I start to gather my materials. Then, when I am ready and I know that can have an uninterrupted block of time, I begin to play around with the fabrics and the shapes I want to make. And as I start to put things together, it suddenly takes a turn in a direction I wasn't expecting. It either doesn't look like what I envisioned or the fabrics won't do what I want them to do. And will people 'get' what I am trying to say? That's when the self-doubt starts creeping in...

I started this quilt as part of the Mod/Trad challenge put out by the Montreal Modern Quilt Guild last year: take a traditional quilt block/pattern and make a modern interpretation of it. 
I drew my inspiration form the Traditional Double Wedding Ring Quilt. My intention was to put emphasis on the space inside the interlocking rings. 

I cut the 'wedges' free-hand and made an equal number of black and white ones.
And being that they were cut free-hand, they were not a uniform shape which presented me with the first challenge (and frustration) of how to assemble the quilt top.  Plus I realized that they would have to be assembled 'on point'. Not a huge challenge but still...

I played around with the arrangement quite a bit,

tried to balance out the white with the black

But as I moved things around, 

I discovered that the more white I removed

The more I felt drawn into the quilt

I was frustrated though, because I had wasted so much fabric to make the white pieces. Add to that the fact that the quilt was going to be lager than my design wall.

And this was the point when the self-doubt really set in. I was straying further from my initial plan but still wanting to see where this was going. A tug of war of sorts between being determined to make the initial plan work or following in the direction that I was now being taken into. 

Several times during the process,over the course of MANY days, I came close to giving up. 

And maybe about a year ago I would have. But what I've learned from experience as a quilter and a teacher is not to be discouraged if things are not perfect. That's what I tell my students. 'Don't let inexperience stop you from pushing forward. How else will you gain experience under your belt?'. 
So I pushed forward with this project. I had already come this far. No one needs to see it if it doesn't turn out. 
And that's another point too, isn't it? "No one needs to see it". Why do we always concern ourselves with that others will think? 
The lessons to be learned are to trust our own vision for what things should look like, trust in our abilities and our skills and never create for someone else but from a place that is true to our selves. 
"If you are willing to do something that might not work, you're closer to being an artist."  Seth Godin


  1. thanks for sharing your process. I think many of us share that feeling of self-doubt. and I don't think your white pieces are wasted -- you'll find something great to do with them.

  2. I can't wait to see your finish on this project. I so enjoyed reading your blog as you shared your process including your self-doubt. I struggle with my vision, as I try to implement it and often end up with a finish that doesn't look anything like my initial idea. I also worry about how my designs will be received. It's all part of the journey, isn't it?

  3. So true! I think we learn the most in the depths of frustration and struggle. We learn to walk by falling numerous times. Same thing with the design process. Matisse often made the same painting more than 20 times before he was satisfied. Thank you for having the courage to show your process.

  4. Love that you shared your story. I am the have that idea but somehow it doesn't turn out the way you planned. Sometimes better...sometimes not. Hang in there. I once started making a diamond quilt and found that the finished quilt would be way too HUGE. So, I made another set of triangles. Guess what... I have used the some of those 'too big' triangles in another quilt and have another idea to use some more. As you go thru the steps in making your quilt you might get another idea for a quilt sparked by the leftover 'white' pieces.

  5. "Why do we always concern ourselves with what others will think?
    The lessons to be learned are to trust our own vision for what things should look like, trust in our abilities and our skills and never create for someone else but from a place that is true to our selves."

    Wise words that can, and should, be applied to everyday life as well...

  6. Hi. I'm so glad I found your post. I am thinking about a similar one (but more colors, and not an organic shape). I was wondering about appliquéing it by machine (not sur yet for the stitch to use) or do it your way, enclosing the leaf into two sides. I tested four kinds of appliqués, I will now have to test the way you've done it. This method has the advantage of creating a leaf with strings or patchworks. I'll come back to see your WIP.

  7. My friend Lynne sent me over to read this -- I'm so glad she did. What an excellent post!!!