The Creative Process

I’ve been sewing and quilting up a storm this week! I had to leave my car for repairs for three days, and it “forced” me to stay home.

The creative process interests me. That is always what I am most interested in hearing about from teachers in workshops and artists when they lecture. Not everyone is willing to share this information–I’m not sure why. So I thought I’d share a bit about the journey here.

These projects started quite a while ago, with my favorite part of the process, where I go through and pick out a group of fabrics for the next quilt. Sometimes I have a specific idea in mind, but most of the time I have a VERY vague, loosely formed plan for the fabrics. I think this is my favorite part of creating–picking just the right fabrics.


These fabrics went into the big pile of unfinished projects because I had to finish the rug for the big rug show. I hardly remembered they were there until I scrolled back through my own blog and saw this picture! That got my creative juices flowing again. But I had SO MANY unfinished projects. Sometimes UFO’s can stifle your creativity. So I made myself work diligently on a couple of projects, and then started thinking about this pile of fabrics again.

One day I was doing a good deed (giving a neighbor a ride) and had to wait for over an hour while she finished her chore. After thumbing through a magazine or two, I got out the only piece of paper I had–a tiny notebook I keep in my purse–and drew a few rough sketch ideas for the fabrics. I thought it would be fun to do two quilts out of the same pile. This is the hardest thing for me to do–settle down to daydream and draw out my ideas. But I do believe it is one of the most valuable things you can allow yourself to do in order to move forward in the creative process. Here’s one of the little sketches I drew. (I think Noah ate the other one.)


I used both sketches as I worked on these quilts. As rough as they were, I think they give you the same comfort as a pattern does for most of us. A little direction that yes, you are doing it “right.”

I did the simplest one first. A cross, using torn strips. Using torn fabric is fun! At first it is dismaying, because the process of tearing makes the fabric curl and do funny things. But a quick ironing brings the fabric back into shape. And because the fabric tears along the grain lines it is always straight!

Weaving fabric strips in a quilt is not a new idea. I’ve seen it for years, and thought it was a really neat technique, but I’ve never done it. Just weaving the strips across the center of the cross was easy and fun. I love the look of it. I love the rough torn edges.


To make it, I put together the quilt sandwich (top background, batt, and backing) by steaming the layers and fastening them with just a few pins. Then I laid the strips on top, arranging and rearranging them to get just the right combination. At this point, I will often add some fabrics that were NOT in the original pile. In the cross, the pale gray and the darker yellow were not in the original pile. Oh, and the brighter turquoise was not there either! The background was a dark brown print I had just gotten on sale the week before, so it also was not in the original pile.


After I had all the strips arranged exactly the way I wanted them, I wove together the center, pinned them all carefully in place, and started sewing them down. Since the whole quilt sandwich was already put together, I was quilting the quilt as I sewed these strips down. I decided that simply echo quilting around the cross at about one inch intervals was enough quilting.

Then I put it up on the design wall. My first thought was that it was brighter than I wanted it to be. After I put up the second quilt, my thought was that it was duller than I wanted it to be. Nonetheless, it is basically finished. Or, conversely, it could be just waiting for the next round of embellishment! By quilting it simply, it will be easy to add my perle cotton embroidery on top of it. I’m letting these thoughts percolate for a while.


Well, this is long enough for one post. I’ll share my thoughts on the second quilt tomorrow. It is not finished yet.



2 thoughts on “The Creative Process

  1. I really enjoy following along with your description of the process.
    And when you mentioned how at first, it was brighter than you wanted… and then duller… I was thinking of how I use glazes of paint to adjust the intensity of a painting, both to amp it up, or, to subdue the colors.

    I was hoping you WOULD add another layer of “glaze” to achieve your desired effects, only your “glaze” would be in the form of a layer of perle cotton embroidery! I can totally see how a softly colored layer of embroidery over the bright color would subdue it, with the opposite true for the duller colored area, with bright embroidery!

    Anyway, I look forward to seeing what you decide to do with these interesting pieces.

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