Everyday Quilt Inspiration: Necessity and Constraints

signature quilt31 Days of Finding Quilt Inspiration in Real Life

“Necessity is the mother of invention”. A saying so old that its origins are lost and the first recorded instances of this phrase are in Latin. Yet its meaning holds just as true today as when it was first penned/quilled. And it is an amazingly widely applicable truism! It is just as true for my husband’s work in leading edge communications technology as it is for mine in the more traditional arts and quilting.

Necessity is also really the mother of quilting. After all, quilting traditions are firmly rooted in the process of rescuing and recycling fabrics and other textiles to generate bed covers to keep warm. It is only in relatively recent times that quilting has become a pastime for those well off enough to acquire beautiful new materials specifically for making a quilt.

Finding Quilt Inspiration in the Everyday: Day 26

If you are not feeling inspired to quilt, it’s possibly time to do something else for a while. But it may also just be a case of having too many choices. Too many fabrics., too many patterns, too many ideas. Too overwhelming.

I find that having no boundaries and no restrictions when I am looking for a new project can be daunting, sometimes even crippling. If I have a set of expectations or project guidelines, creativity often comes to me more easily…. and the project is less likely to go UFO.

Necessity and constraints

Most of us do not have to quilt to make do and keep warm anymore. But necessity and constraints can keep a project interesting. These parameters can take many forms. Here are a few I can think of:

  • a tight timeframe. This may be an impending birth or milestone birthday. A departure or perhaps a quilt show deadline. Nothing like a hard date to get a project moving! Here is a quilt that I made for a departing friend….. the front is a relatively straight forward braid. The constraints…. colours I thought my friend would like and that reflected Australia. And the departure date.French braid quiltThe reverse side of this quilt was made of panels that I embroidered with messages from as many relevant people as I could gather. At the time I had never free-motioned text onto fabric before  – but I managed it, on time, because I had to.signature quilt
  • size and subject. If you have no idea what to do next, find out what the next challenge quilt at your local show is going to be. Even if you have no intention of entering! Working to a theme can do wonders for focussing down on a project. These two quilts were both the result of show challenge themes.
    South Australia, Ocean to Outback quilt
    Quilt theme: South Australia, Ocean to Outback
    Nine Patch Quilt
    Quilt theme: Nine Patch

    Currently I am making a quilt that would have never happened – except that I joined a black and white quilt and splash of colour quilt along. And I’m glad I did.

  • mistakes and poor preparation. Now I don’t recommend looking for this kind of motivation. It will come looking for you from time to time though. And it’s up to you what you do with it. Some amazing quilts come about because there wasn’t enough fabric to finish the original plan.
    Hand sewn quilt
    The pattern of this quilt had to accomodate three unintentional changes in fabric due to the time elapsed as it was made and the unavailability of the original fabrics!

    Another circumstance that I know forces ingenuity to the surface is when bad mistakes are made at the fabric cutting stage.
    And then sometimes, things just don’t go to plan (possibly repeatedly). One of the most satisfying quilts stories in my life was a disaster to begin with. I was asked to fix a sentimental quilt project that had suffered a number of ills at the hands of its original creator and another quilter. In the end, the only thing for it was some appliqué over some holes. But the final result was very good, and the pleasure of the rescue was enormous. 

  • budget or purchasing constraints. What can you make if you can only spend a certain budget? Only use your stash? Or a loved one’s clothing? What about a quilt made only from scraps? 
    Scrap quilt
    A quilt I made entirely from a friend’s scraps, with the exception of the black sashing and the binding. I gifted the quilt back to her as a surprise. 🙂

    How about trying to get your supplies for an entire quilt top from one location you wouldn’t normally shop from? A while back, I joined in a challenge to choose 9 fabrics  in the theme of “Summer” from a specific Etsy shop. I found all sorts of fabric I would never normally have considered. And I enjoyed it!

    Summer Crush collection Ice Cream Tones
    One of the collections of 9 fabrics I chose to enter in the Summer Crush competition.
  • a need to be different. Sometimes it is not desirable to be the same as everyone else. This can be a bit difficult if you are quilting traditional patterns in on trend colours. But needing to be distinctive can force creativity to happen. Here is a recent example I found on the internet this week. Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts was working on a variation of a bear paw quilt when she discovered a very similar pattern already existed, so she changed hers. Her verdict? “(It) isn’t something that I wouldn’t have thought to do on purpose, but I actually like it a lot” And, by the way, her blog post yesterday was all about a challenge to make a quilt with the colours of four crayons she pulled out in a blind selection. Very relevant! I love the colours she ended up with, and the quilt she made. And what a fun way to inspire a new quilt! Go take a look.

Necessity can be good for creativity. It forces you to think outside the box. And of course, once you have set your rules, they are only there to be broken! And that can be part of the fun too! 🙂

What helps you start your quilts? Special events and milestones? Do you like quilt challenges? Or are you a pattern browser? Tell us your great ideas – you might just help someone get past their quilters’ block…..

Sorry!  🙂

Now it's your turn.... what do you think?