The Year of Slowing Down

2015 was to be the year I put more thought into each piece I made. I hoped this would translate into fewer but better pieces. What did I mean by better? Work that was more thought out, more polished, appealing from a distance and close up, and reflective of my experimentation with different media.

I certainly achieved fewer pieces.

Other changes I can discern:

I’ve stopped buying a lot of printed fabric, but have collected more hand dyed looks. This means my local quilt shops haven’t seen my face. One jelly roll (the first I ever bought) of Caryl Bryer Fallert Radiant gradation fabric has seen me through at least two projects.

Color Slide

I’ve stepped up my thread purchases, especially for hand sewing. I now own at least 30 different colors of perle cotton.

I’ve tried to refrain from just sewing fabric scraps together. Some spontaneous sewing still crept in, but I rationalized it as a base for free motion quilting practice.


I’ve done more hand stitching (I hesitate to call it quilting) on pieces.

Arcs edges finished

I’ve made peace (sort of) with free motion quilting. I’m never going to turn out gorgeously intricately quilted work, but I can do enough FMQ to fake it. Just don’t ask me to FMQ something big.

I’ve begun to back away from quilt show rules for how I finish work that’s meant to be hung. I still finish working quilts for durability.

Yellow Jacket detail

I’ve gotten over the modern quilting movement. There are some practitioners who I admire greatly, but lately modern quilting seems to be more about commodification – patterns and fabrics, etc. – with a loss of focus. Modern traditionalism, anyone?

I’ve learned to let ideas gestate, often for months. Slabs of fabric I may use in a winter landscape quilt lived on my design wall for over a month. The design is drawn, but I’m now reconsidering whether I want to go a lot more abstract.

IMG_6721I’ve entered shows that aren’t quilt shows but are art focused. One of my pieces was accepted for a SAQA Concrete and Grasslands traveling exhibit. Two others are in a local fiber and pottery show. I’ve also entered a traditional quilt show where the judges liked my work more than the viewing public did. Judy Niemeyer ruled in popular opinion.

I’ve explored tissue paper fabric. Yes, spray inks and dyes are something else to spend money on. Luckily, you can over spray colors on the paper so you don’t need more than 6 or 7 little spray bottles.

MackJoannaAllFallDownFinalOn the social side of quilting, I now participate in two small art quilt groups and one traditional guild, and I’ve joined SAQA, a national art quilt organization. I think the modern quilt group I belong to is dead. We haven’t met for some months.  Some friends got together for a fabric fun retreat in June and enjoyed it so much we’re repeating it next June. Akron experimental quilters will try to get a small group together in 2016 to try new techniques and learn from each other.

I don’t know if I’ll make specific quilting related resolutions for 2016. After all, I’m still working on the ones for 2015. So, in 2016 I’ll repeat paragraph one as needed.



Filed under Commentary

4 responses to “The Year of Slowing Down

  1. Jane Herbst

    Joanna, you seem to have more joy and energy in your 2015 quilts than previous years, perhaps a result of what you described as slowing down and thinking about your art and craft as you explore what is most important to you. I like to think my mix of traditional and modern with some art-ish thrown in (learning techniques and having fun all over the quilt-map!) reflects my quilt goals of “mindful quilting” with quality winning over quantity. I fully agree that functional quilts must be durable (a baby/child quilt especially is quilted well to hold up to multiple machine washings) and I ignore “quilt show rules” for anything I don’t plan to enter in a show. By the way, not to quibble semantics but since the first quilting was hand-stitching I would “argue” that your hand stitching, including that beautiful work in perle cotton, is quilting if it holds the front and back together through the batting. I look forward to reading more of your posts in 2016.

    • Many thanks for your thoughtful comments and close reading of what I wrote. As to the hand quilting vs. hand stitching, if my quilt is held together totally with hand stitches (I think that’s happened twice) then I call it hand quilted. If I use machine stitches to do the heavy lifting and use the hand stitches decoratively, then I call it machine quilted with hand decoration.

  2. You had a very fine year, in terms of the quilts you made and the thought processes about the making. I really like seeing the variety of looks you achieve–nothing predictable about your style at all!

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