The End of A Scrappy Year

Each year I try to look back at what I had hoped to accomplish with my quilting, what I actually did, and how I feel about it. After Elizabeth Barton’s master class in 2016 I was eager to get back to improv, so I began 2017 with three improv pieces drawn from my scraps. One of those is shown below.

Getting Brighter

Following that palette cleanser I returned to some work I began in 2016 and finished a few serious pieces.

Mean Streets

A Grand Day Out

My dyeing/painting workshop in June left me with a better understanding of more sophisticated ways to dye than the plastic baggie method, but I realized that it helps to have an end product in mind. Flinging dye on fabric takes you just so far. Score one for Elizabeth Barton. I used the least appealing of the fabrics I made in two tops which haven’t yet been quilted. The rest of my fabrics await the right project.

Next, I began my Nancy (Crow) series and have almost completed four pieces. I certainly had planned nothing like them, but they grew out of a short play session on Nancy’s way of piecing. Too late I remembered the caveats about working with all solids and what a pain white fabric can be. I think I have solid fabrics out of my system for a while, and out of my scraps.

Nearly Nancy

Throughout the year I made what I call sketches and challenge pieces, like Baby’s In Black for a Beatles’ song challenge.

You can see all my finished work for the year on the “My Quilts – 2015 On” page.

I concentrated on using what fabrics I had on hand, though of course I bought new ones, especially larger pieces for backs. (Hello, I’m Snarky and I’m a fabric addict.) Hancocks of Paducah has great sales (like $5 a yard) on fabrics ideal for second fiddle status.

When I got tired of sewing I pulled out stencils, stamps, and paints, and added more surface layers to cloth. This can lead me to projects designed around the cloth, rather than the other way around. It’s great fun, but may not result in work that transcends its media.


Right now I have three designs in process for a bullseye quilt challenge. I didn’t expect to finish them in 2017, but that’s OK.

In mid December I made a pillow cover out of brightly printed scraps as an antidote to all those solids. I used up most of my 1.5 inch half square triangles that were bonuses from snowball blocks. So I ended the year as I began – with my scraps.

On the minus side of 2017, I spent a lot of time on a large improv piece that to date is a failure. It uses many fabrics I designed and is an attempt to interpret a Paul Klee painting. I think I can improve it, but haven’t yet figured a clear path forward. The background structure is in place, but it needs more – of something. It looms large on my 2018 to do list.  Aside from the Klee piece I made no attempts to begin a serious piece that aspires to be art. Also, I didn’t follow through on my resolve to sketch out my work in advance. It happened for a few pieces, but not that many.

I like to see 2017 as a year of synthesis between detailed planning and winging it. I naturally work improvisationally because it’s just fun, but have realized a piece needs the backbone of a plan. Lack of a plan was the downfall of my Klee piece. So lately I’ve been creating improvisational units as a starting point, then developing a plan to use the units. I resist detailed plans because once the piece is all planned out I often have no interest in repeating it in fabric. In my mind it’s done. It’s why I haven’t pursued quilt design software. Maybe I’ll do a plan for every other piece in 2018.

For 2018 I want to work more with photographs, and will be taking an online course in using Photoshop Elements. After all, I need to put my weekly photos to use. I don’t have many big carryover projects, so I need to get busy devising some.

In surface design, I want to play with gelli plate monoprinting and cyanotype printing. Last year’s birthday bounty included a pack of cyanotype treated fabric squares, which I want to print with crocheted and tatted pieces I’ve inherited.  That project will have to wait for milder weather, but I can begin the monoprinting any time, or any time after I clear off my work table. I have a stack of fabrics that need more oomph, so they’ll be my first victims experiments.

I plan to spend more time looking at art in general, rather than confine myself to quilted art. So many museums have put their collections online it’s easy to ogle art from home. Of course it’s not the same as seeing work in person, but it’s better than nothing. My local art museum offered a year’s free membership, which I signed up for, so maybe trips there will spark ideas.

Some housekeeping is in order in 2018. I need to find new homes for my work. My husband and I negotiate which of my pieces will hang in our home. He’s a traditionalist and dislikes bold, dark work. There’s just so much room under my bed. I may even take the drastic step of pitching my failures, or perhaps I’ll just cut them up.

Speaking of displaying my work, I’d like to exhibit it more in non-quilt show venues. It may turn out that national art quilt exhibits aren’t interested in my work. The competition is keen. There are many art quilters far more technically accomplished than I am, and their work is more refined. At the local and regional levels, aside from shows organized by small groups for their members, not a lot of possibilities are out there that I know about. I have to decide if I want to take on the organization of such an exhibit for area art quilters, or even if there’s interest in such exhibits.

But enough about me.  I’d love to hear from you about your accomplishments in 2017 and plans for 2018.




Filed under Commentary

13 responses to “The End of A Scrappy Year

  1. Pingback: 2018 – It Seems We Just Got Started | The Snarky Quilter

  2. Chris Wheeler

    I love reading your descriptions of what you were thinking while working throughout the year, and your ideas for this year. When I retired, I thought photography would be my hobby, but it turned out to be quilting- my first class was early in 2013 and much of my time is taken up by taking care of two granddaughters. For 2018, I am preparing to enter for the first time a couple of my quilts in some local quilt shows, so that is exciting! I love going to shows, and seeing the variety of work people do. Last year we went to the Athens Dairy Barn to see the Quilt National show and I really think most of your quilts would have been right at home there, and many would have been better choices than some that were included – perhaps I missed what was more technically refined or accomplished, I don’t know. (Except I do know I’m no expert on quilt judging, that’s for sure!). I for one would love to go to a showing of your quilts, whatever the venue.

    • How exciting indeed that you’ll be entering quilt shows! Let me know which ones you enter. Just pay attention to the bindings. Judges spend lots of time checking for square corners and filled (with batting) bindings. If you have any long borders, keep them as straight as possible. Otherwise, just take such comments made by judges with several grains of salt. They make them about most quilts. Glad you’ve seen Quilt National, and many thanks for your compliments. They mean a good deal to me. So far, the only showing of my quilts is on this blog, though I will have a quilt in Lake Farm Park this winter.

  3. It was very nice to see your quilts again and to read your words; many I can relate to. I was going to ask what you do with finished pieces but you pretty much answered that, thanks. Though the “journey” of creating a piece usually is a learning and joyful experience, I feel that the thought – “What am I going to do with it when it’s finished” has stifled or caused me to drag my feet to even begin. I’d say 2017 was a sluggish year for me artistically (and personally). I want to keep trying new things and make art that I learn from and I hope encourages others. 2018 will be better!

    • My way of dealing with the results of the journey is to work small. The pieces take up less room. That said, I just finished a top that’s 40 inches by about 62 inches. Just learned that my longarm quilter is moving to New Mexico. Oh dear. I hope that you were just catching your breath in 2017, and 2018 will be more artistically satisfying (as well as more personally satisfying.)

  4. Dolly webb

    Enjoyed your thoughts today! Somehow through surgery, I did a ton of handwork…need to just do something with it now that I can bend
    and stretch and sit At my machine! That’s my goal for the year…do something with my stack of handwork! I’ve been in to wool appliqué like crazy!

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your surgery. Thank goodness you had handwork to help pass the time. I recall you had a few kits at the ready and am glad you enjoyed the wool applique. It feels so good.

  5. So much of what you say above resonates with me, not (obviously) because we do the same type of work or with the same approach, but because we’re both intent on personal growth as quilters/artists/makers. We want to continue learning to *see* better so we can interpret better. I do think you’re a lot more adventurous than I am. 🙂

    One of your notes: “I resist detailed plans because once the piece is all planned out I often have no interest in repeating it in fabric. In my mind it’s done. It’s why I haven’t pursued quilt design software. ” Yes. I do use design software, but my best designs (and most fun,) in my opinion, come when I drag out the software late in the process rather than early. I’d commented about my class sample made to look almost exactly like the design I pre-drew. Really took much of the enjoyment out of it for me, because there were no surprises.

    For me? Lots of notions about what I’ll do in 2018. I have a couple of things going now, and a graduation quilt to make. I want to write a lot. And so on. 🙂

    • So far you’re doing great at writing a lot, and well. I’m beginning to learn that because I don’t like everything preplanned doesn’t mean I can’t do some general planning. I do want to get better at making what I see in my mind. I think you are bedeviled with the same goal.

  6. I know I keep saying this but I’m always impressed with the different looks you achieve in your quilts–no ruts for you!

    • I am indeed all over the place, in part because there’s often a gap of several months between beginning and completing a piece. Also, if I make something for a challenge I try to respond in an appropriate style.

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