Drought, Improvisation

The entire process has been interesting. I started with the intent to improvise, to use my ugliest fabric, and to enter a show. I also planned to apply color and design theory and stay rigidly within a complementary color scheme.

I succeeded in those goals. It was butt ugly. Really it was. At first.

The ugly brown fabric I chose was one I bought in bulk with a lot of other bolts. It languished on the shelve for three years. At a quilt guild meeting, I heard several others talking about their ugly fabric challenge. I thought it was a great idea, I knew exactly the fabric I would base this on. At least now I had a challenge to use it up. This fabric was so bad, no one wanted to swap for it and I couldn’t give it away. Being raised frugally, I couldn’t just toss it.

Amazingly I also had in my stash a blue which was exactly opposite that brown on the color wheel and it was also an ombre.

Now this was improv, with no pattern or plan. So I just started by layering the two fabrics and cutting big swaths in mild curves. I sewed those matching curves together, of course with big chucks I ended up with things that wouldn’t lay flat. So then I chopped up into blocks  that would lay flat and decided I would just sew them together. It looked like a muddy mess with no life to it. It was the sleepiest boringest most awful quilt I had ever made. Now what? CMYK color wheel to the rescue. I realized I needed some pop. but what? more blue.. na, more brown, na.. but what? Would I need to change my complementary rule? Well, turns out on the CMYK color wheel that orange is really brown that isn’t diluted. how wonderful! And I just happened to have a yard of the perfect orange in my stash. So I began layering and slicing orange into the most boring blocks. I ended up with something much more interesting, now the blocks had fire! I realized. Muddy browns, Sky blues and fire.. the name of the quilt came to me at that point.. Drought! We were living it for real and this quilt was being born in the middle of drought made of the colors of drought.

For me 100% improv is impossible. I compulsively have to add rules as I go, I have to build a framework or I get “stuck” and go nowhere. I have found that 4-7 rules is the right number to get pleasing results. A few rules give structure, too many rules and the improve quilt will look plain boring. Limiting the number of rules encourages experimentation and flexibility when “issues” arise in the process.

I had been in a stubborn Dr Seuss mindset regarding quilting during this period of my life. This could have been my mantra:

I’m not going to do straight lines,
I don’t like straight lines,
I will not do them, no I won’t,
I will not do them,
It’s not a joke.

My rules for this quilt were:

  1. Must use the single absolutely ugliest fabric I had in my stash.
  2. Must stay in a complementary color scheme using the CMYK color wheel.
  3. Keep the idea of a “modern” quilt in mind especially negative space, scale, contrast, and incorporate illusion depth of field ideas.
  4. Let the quilt develop. i.e. Build each stage as I go without pre-planning the next stage… Worry about the blocks first, then figure out the layout, then the quilting plan, then figure out the binding.
  5. If it gets a few wows from people, enter it in a couple of shows.
  6. My Reward if I do all the above: (not really a rule, but a goal
    If I do all this, Get a new camera. (see one has to set fun goals especially if one is using ugly stuff to create new stuff. I had a goal even if the project stayed ugly and got boring. I believe in rewarding oneself at the end of onerous tasks. And my old camera, was really old, and had white spots where pixels were burnt out, and needed replacing really badly)

(if you want to know… I got all the way through number 5, so I had to get the new camera so I could submit the quilt to the shows. YAY!)

Author: FreeFormQuilts

South Texas chick who drinks margaritas, swears, quilts, leaves her christmas lights up till March (inside the house), and has an opinion on everything. Has a not-so-secret occupation and she also married into one of the coolest ranching families ever.

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