Wednesday, December 31, 2008

October Take It Further Challenge

Yes, you read right - this is October's TIF challenge piece - well I TOLD you I hadn't been good about keeping up. The theme for October was "to think about your textile work space. How do you feel about this space? What role does it play in your life?" Read more about the challenge them and alternate color palette here.

This wasn't too hard for me - my "textile work space" is usually a mess, piled with good intentions, inspiration, works in progress, ideas I don't want lost, but which get lost all the same in the chaos. Sometimes the chaos bothers me, other times it motivates me. Sometimes the work space feels like a refuge, and other times a war zone. I envy those with larger spaces, better storage systems, more design walls, better lighting, but in reality, the space works, although sometimes a little awkwardly. I often do an exercise I call "clearing the decks" when I've been bad about putting things away and realize my actual table work space has been reduced to the size of my cutting mat. But about mid-year I decided I didn't want to do that anymore, because that just puts things out of sight and out of mind. I decided I'd rather clear the decks by actually working on the projects piled up there. It's been a good plan, although it hasn't freed up space as quickly as I thought it would. So the studio, while getting better, is still a bit chaotic.

The basis for this piece is the result of wanting to keep using up small pieces of fabric from my string drawer after I completed the blocks for a string quilt. I discovered I had a lot of strings that were actually too short for these blocks, but that still felt too big to toss. I was in the mood for mindless sewing so thought I'd try what I've seen so many others do - randomly sew pieces together until I had bigger pieces of "fabric" that could be worked into a project.

It did not go well. I've never had much luck at this random stuff and the little pieces I was ending up with were not pleasing me at all. I go back to it now and then, having left everything piled on the floor around my sewing table, but it has been really frustrating to see it working for others and failing for me. I guess that's why I keep pecking away at it, sure that at some point it will work, if I just keep at it. In reality, though, I determined that the reason this random stuff doesn't work for me is because of what I start with. That drawer is representative of all the fabric fads of the last 15 years, has pieces both given to me, bought by me and scrounged by me. It comprises fabric from all the things I've tried over the years while I learned about quilting, my preferences, my style. I'm still experimenting, but I must admit I'm narrowing my focus these days. A lot of these fabrics don't sing to me anymore. No wonder I'm not happy seeing such a disparate range of fabrics side by side.

I didn't think the above piece was too bad, but I didn't want to keep adding to it - it's postcard size - yet it needed more. It was when studying it that I realized that it reflected the state of my studio and my quilting history. - a real hodgepodge. In it is commercial fabrics from my earliest quilting efforts, reproduction fabric, batik, my hand-dyed fabric, scrapbag fabric, fabric from a guild project, leftovers from garment making. I'm still holding on to all these different styles of fabric in my stash, even though I rarely use anything but the batiks and hand-dyes anymore. I can't let go and they are part of the chaos in my studio and in my head as I work.

I decided what the piece needed was a bit of sheer fabric with stars because that's the other thing about how I feel about my work space. In there I may have moments of clarity, even the occasional flash of brilliance, have even had moments of stardom - but most of the time I feel like I'm working in a fog, unclear about direction, and when I find direction, unclear about execution, how to proceed.

So I think this little piece is a good way to end up the year. It has told me something about myself I needed to see and make some strides to remedy. I need to keep working diligently to reduce the studio chaos and refine my focus. I can't quite bring myself to say I should let go of some of these fabrics I rarely use anymore. Maybe I just need to find a way to use them up, knowing I won't replace them the way I replace the hand-dyes and batiks. Almost anything can be used as backing, for instance.

By the way, I used a binding on this postcard, which went a bit better than the satin stitched edging. Still, it seemed to take longer than it should for such a small piece. Guess there's no truly quick way to cleanly finish an edge.


Exuberant Color said...

I think that is a very successful little piece.

I tend to keep my scraps sorted by catagory and sometimes think it would be better if I had some of them mixed together. I need to stick plaids in more often and I rarely have those scraps in with the rest.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks, Wanda. It definitely grew on me while it sat "aging" over the last month or so. This isn't the first time I've had to let something sit until I decided it was ok.