I’m excited to announce my new project, The Quilt Diaries! This new passion project is a simple one where I’m committing to making mini quilts inspired by meaningful words and the stories of the people in my life. This project’s goal is to help me stay inspired and learn new things by creating something I love on a regular basis. So far, it’s been a lot of fun to dream up and make these fun little quilts!
The Quilt Diaries was sparked by the need to get out of a creative funk. Last month I hit a low in my creative business. I was stuck. I had been working hard on my business since the middle of 2018 when I left my day job. Since then, I had worked through several ideas and products and realized things were not working and they were burning me out. I started my business to host creative events and offer tools for others to host their own events. Heavy local competition and the challenge of building a brand while trying to host events was tough. At the end of the day I realized that I did not enjoy this work enough to push through the challenges. A big reason I started my business was to do something I enjoyed. It was time to really get honest about what I really wanted to do.
Coincidentally at the same time, my husband shared a YouTube video titled, “The Drawing Advice That Changed My Life,” from Australian artist, Campbell Walker of Struthless. In this video, Walker shared how a consistent creative practice helped him focus and become the artist he is today. The short story is that he lacked focus and asked his mentor how he could be more successful. His mentor pointed out that Walker liked to do many things but didn’t really focus on one thing which was scattering him. To be successful and practice focusing, his mentor recommended that he draw one thing, the same thing for a year. Walker took his advice and decided to draw an ibis, or “bin chicken,” an Australian bird that likes to forage in garbage bins. Over that year, the process of drawing the ibis took on a life of its own that was a catalyst for Walker to expand his creative work in unexpected ways.
After watching Walker’s YouTube video, I realized I was at a similar point where I have been scattered and not so focused on one thing. I took stock of what I had created and what really inspired and energized me. What did I make time to do? What excited me? What did I spend time dreaming up ideas for? For me the answer was quilting. So, I decided to implement a creative practice to make a quilt on a regular basis.
I had to give some thought to this as making a quilt a day was not realistic, even a mini quilt. Also, what was I going to do with a number of completed quilts? I had just made a large donation of crocheted scarves and blankets that had piled up while I worked through different projects and ideas. I spent a considerable amount of time figuring out where to donate these items, too, as many nonprofits are very specific on what donations they need. I didn’t want another project to cause more “creative clutter.” Answering these questions, here are the parameters I considered:
Value. I had to define what I wanted to get out of this. What was the purpose of doing this? My first answer was to spark my creativity and fall in love with creating again. I also wanted to try new techniques and practice my quilting skills.
Simplicity. The project would have to be simple so I could finish each one in a reasonable amount of time. I wanted a consistent deadline so projects would not linger on and on. The goal was to create something inspiring, again not more UFO’s (unfinished projects).
Subject Matter. What was I going to put on all these quilts any ways, especially if I planned to make a bunch of these? I could try a bunch of different quilt blocks. But that idea really didn’t excite me. What did excite me was the Word of the Year Quilt I made in early January. I loved combining words and textiles in that project, which was very energizing. I decided to combine my love of inspiring words and fabrics by using a phrase or word in each quilt. You might even see some numbers and symbols appear on a quilt, too!
End Use. As mentioned earlier I wanted to avoid creating clutter. What could I do with these quilts once they were done? After some thought, I decided I’ll decorate my studio with some of them, give some of them to the people who inspired the quilt, and maybe sell some if there’s an interest.
Size. These quilts are small by design. Most quilts are only 9 1/2” square when finished, making them the perfect size to try new techniques and practice quilting. I’ve based this size on layer cake pre-cut fabric pieces with the idea that I can quickly grab a layer cake piece to start a quilt. This size allows me to try things in small areas and quickly, not having to having to make a larger quilt just to try something new.
Try New Techniques. The smaller quilt allows me to try new techniques much quicker using less supplies. So far, it’s really sparked my creativity and I’ve already learned several new techniques in just the first four quilts. My favorite new technique has been using iron-on glitter vinyl letters cut with my Cricut Maker. The Maker does small precision cuts I could not make easily by hand cutting.
Use What’s On Hand First. It turns out these mini quilts are great scrap busters. So far most of the materials used have come from fabric and batting scraps from other projects. I’ve even upcycled the fabric from my husband’s work shirts. I love that I can make something from things I typically have on hand!
Follow My Bliss. I try to follow my inspiration when making a quilt and not get too hung up on “what I should do.” Some quilts have turned out really well and some are a bit messy. I remember to give myself grace because I am learning and exploring. Also, I’m not worried about how the quilts will be perceived. This is my creative practice and I’m open to seeing how it goes. This is about satisfying my creative requirements instead of worrying about what others will like.
So, there you have it, the parameters of my project. With a few mini quilts under my belt, I'm quickly realizing that each of these quilts really tells a story. Each one has been inspired by life events or people I know. That's been fun to explore in this project, too!
I hope you'll join me as I continue to create these mini quilts. I think it will be a fun adventure!