Thursday, January 3, 2013

Now that it’s been gifted and is in its new home, I can write about this quilt, which I made for my MIL for the holiday. In a way, this was a commissioned piece, which offers challenges in ways that are special to commissions. The challenge is to use my creativity to create something envisioned by another, and to be true to their half-formed vision as well as my own creative sense, and sensibilities.
My mother in law wanted a throw for her guest room, which is done up in creams and browns, using a beautiful African mud cloth hanging and a couple of wood masks. The fabrics she chose for the throw were these:
1. A repeating figures fabric, in green, pink, gold, and brown:

2. a gold and green fabric:

3. This blue and gold fabric:

4. This brown leopard print:

And one Fat quarter of a zebra print.

Not only are these NOT cream or brown (well, except for the leopard print), but I could not figure out how to make them go together, let alone with the rest of the room.

The first step, which took a while, was to fold the fabrics into rectangles, then lay them on the floor, in different patterns and configurations. I tried it many different ways, and shuffled them around, and left them in the different formations for days at a time, and nothing came to me. I was stuck.

I put the fabrics away and went to my trusty graph paper. I drew different patterns of shapes: squares, rectangles, triangles and strips. And nothing seemed to work.

The magic shift happened when I took out one of the fabrics I’d been given. Now I wanted to use all the fabrics my MIL had given me, but once I took out the zebra fabric, the rest fell into place.
I made blocks like this:

At this point I had a really clear idea about how to lay the blocks out. But when I tried it, it didn’t look right. I cannot really explain, but the order didn’t work. I tried shuffling the blocks again, and nothing worked. I tried randomizing them, but this is much harder to do with rectangles then, say, with squares. Eventually I realized that three blocks organized horizontally are the same length as two blocks organized vertically. And so I had it. I put it together like this:

Once I put it all together I realized I had enough left over pieces to make a pillow, and I was able to use the zebra fabric after all (though I still didn’t get a picture of it)!

For the backing I wanted to do something different. I like having double-sided quilts with different “flavored” sides. This way, if the owner wants a change, all s/he has to do is flip the quilt over. However, as this was commissioned for a specific room, I knew I needed to stay with the theme. I found this fabric, and while these are Polynesian rather than African masks, the colors were right, and I thought it would go ok with the masks.

I gave it to my MIL for Christmas and she loved it. I enjoyed the challenge, and the liberation that comes from working with fabrics, patterns, and palettes I would not normally go for.

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