Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What the…

This challenge stumped me.  Even though I had a couple scenarios and memories to draw from, I could not imagine a way to put them into a visual design.  So instead, I decided to use the process of making this quilt to challenge my own perceptions.

I'm a planner.  Especially in the studio.  I never cut fabric or start sewing until I have a vision of what the completed piece will look like. (or at least what I hope it will look like).

This month's challenge for me: create a quilt in such a way that I'd have NO IDEA what it would look like when finished. The process of making this piece was a direct rebellion against my meticulous, control-freak, pre-planny nature.

2013June 018

A few years ago, I bought a kit that included a bunch of African-themed fabrics cut into squares.  But I never used it.  The fabrics were so different in style, color, pattern and texture from what I am used to, I had no idea how to organize them. I couldn't picture the finished piece in my mind – everything was too random.  Perfect for this challenge!

Here are the ground rules I gave myself:
1. I had to cover roughly a 18x24 area
2. I had to use each fabric square in whatever order I took it out of the bag. NO looking, no skipping.
3. The only editing I could do was to flip the fabric so it would be face up.

Several squares struck me as downright ugly and I was tempted to leave them out. But I used all the squares. I thought the result would be something wildly busy, jarring and without logic. However, when all the squares were together they seemed to make sense.  Even with the random patterns and colors, to me the composition seems joyful, even soothing in a weird way.

For the quilting, I wanted to continue with this unplanned, spontaneous experiment.  I did some of the quilting from the back and some of it with my eyes closed.  This could possibly be the ugliest, most incoherent quilting I've ever done.  Still, I can't bring myself to NOT like it.

2013June 022

I made it, but it doesn't feel like it speaks for me. It has a life of its own.

Some viewers might say "That doesn't look like Kate Themel's work". They'd be right. It's not what most people (including myself) would expect from me.  I guess that was the point of this challenge, in a way.


  1. Your story reminds me of myself! One time I invited a friend to do an ugly fabric challenge. We grabbed the why-did-I-ever-buy-that fabrics from our stash and each made a small quilt. I was surprised by how hard it was to force myself to make the quilt, but I was more surprised by the result. In the end, the quilt was actually appealing, not appalling as I'd presumed. I also discovered one of my ugly fabrics was very versatile. I have since used it for binding in several other pieces. Go figure!

  2. LOL I hope you don't mind if I copy the idea of the Ugly Fabric challenge. It sounds like a great way to use those never-quite-fit fabrics and maybe spark some new ideas! Thanks Lisa-Marie :-)

  3. Kate, I was struck that you and I essentially interpreted the challenge the same way in the end. It was a real effort for me to do something without preconception. Interesting, but very different results. Despite your departure from your usual work, the fabrics work nicely together and chance has organized them well :)

  4. Thanks Martha! I thought the same thing when I read your post. It turned out to be a good creative exercise - letting go of control and seeing what can happen.

  5. Fantastic- what a way to stretch yourself!
    That's been one of the main benefits of this group to me- it makes me think in ways that I never have before.
    And, of course, seeing what y'all brilliant ones come up with :)

    1. Thanks Betty. I agree with you about the VP9 group. So glad I signed up :-)

  6. Wow, so 'not Kate' but so wonderful to see. I also work to a preconceived design- didn't think to do something like this- well done. I love the busy prints all together.