Sunday, November 28, 2021

Guild Challenge 2021: Experiments, discoveries, feedback

Every quilt teaches the maker something! I think you learn more if you try something new, or different, or unexpected... and step outside your "norm" during the process. In making my 2020-2021 guild Challenge, there were things I experimented with, discovered and learned from the process and from viewer feedback.

"Alone Together" by Veronica Hofman-Ortega
Finished size: 65" x 67.65"   November, 2021

New things I tried

A Guild Challenge is the perfect venue for trying new things—techniques, materials, composition, or whatever you've always wanted to try but something stopped you. Your guild provides a safe environment to try something—whether you think you failed or succeeded—and fellow guild members are supportive of you and your endeavors.

In the Discussion and Feedback portion of our Challenge Reveal guild meeting, several participants said they indeed tried something that was out of their comfort zone in this challenge. Bravo to all of you! 

Here are the new things I tried with this Challenge and my discoveries from working on it.

  • I used a wool batting in a quilt for the first time. My usual go-to batting is 100% cotton. I think the wool provided a little more dimension and loft in the unquilted areas. Wool is also a breathable fiber and will provide warmth.
Improv pieced letter blocks.
  • Over the last few years, incorporating words on quilts has resurfaced as a trend. This was my first use of patchwork letter blocks. The blocks were pieced totally improvisationally—laying out the darker fabrics [the letterforms] on the cutting mat and then cutting strips, rectangles and triangles of lighter fabrics for the background. Somewhat like "writing—or printing—letters with fabric." As a typographer, I was in my element creating letterforms again!
  • With this quilt, I experienced a love-hate relationship with rulerwork. I have used rulers before, but not on a large quilt. Using a ruler was easier in the center when the rest of the quilt was not yet quilted (the quilting makes the quilt heavier). As I quilted outward from the center, the quilt got heavier. Turning the quilt for using the rulers in the direction that was comfortable for me got to be more time consuming and cumbersome.
         I'm all about "having fun" with the quilting... and occasionally, this was not a fun part... especially toward the end.
  • The scrappy flat piped binding turned out especially well (in my opinion). I've done flat piped binding (or faux piped binding) on previous quilts, but this time I made the piping scrappy. 

Discoveries and things I learned

  • When quilting the scrappy heart blocks, I initially used a chalk-o-liner to mark a center heart. The second idea was to cut a heart from freezer paper and use it as a template to free-motion quilt around it. Much better, much easier and faster!
Scrappy heart blocks for the border.
  • I'm glad I included the scrappy heart blocks around the outside of the center. At one point (with not much time to finish this quilt before the deadline), I considered just the center section as being the finished piece. I'm glad I "listened to the quilt."
  • Something I learned from making a scrappy flat piped binding was to remember the orientation of the binding strip. With the piped binding process, the binding is attached to the back and rolled to the front for stitching. I understand this, but when I was planning certain fabric colors to coincide with the adjacent patchwork. I laid out the piping strips on the quilt top, but when the binding was attached, it was in reverse order. 
         Thankfully, serendipity stepped in and the color placement turned out well all the same. I chalk this up to it being a "true" scrappy quilt.
  • I really wished I had allowed more time to quilt a quilt this size... especially with custom quilting. I think I would have enjoyed the quilting part more.
Half-square triangle crumbs
  • Crumbs and scraps: It was fun to use tiny triangle trimmings for the HSTs and fabric swatches/scraps for the scrappy heart blocks. This was a welcome, stress-free and feeling-productive process during the pandemic lockdown.
Scrappy heart (before).

Scrappy heart (after).
  • A study in value: The fine tuning of the center section and incorporating the scrappy heart blocks was a good exercise for determining the correct value (lightness/darkness). I actually took out part of one heart (after it was pieced into the top!!) and replaced the fabrics with some of darker value. 

Viewer feedback

This year, my team presided over the Challenge Reveal presentation a bit differently. Rather than having the makers get up and talk about their inspiration and process, I decided to ask for feedback from the viewers for each quilt first. 

So often, quilt makers don't hear what viewers think about, were impressed with, or found interesting about their work. I think feedback is important for the makers... and important for viewers to be able to verbalize what they see in the work.

Here are insights about "Alone Together."
  • viewers mentioned they liked the variety of quilting motifs.
  • they noticed the color/value difference in the center section and the contrasting quilting motifs that helped define that part of the composition.
  • they liked the fussy cut images from The Ghastlies in the "windows."
  • one of my fabric clients, with whom I shared an in-progress photo, keyed in on all the small scraps in the HST units. She identified with using stash fabrics and leftovers during the pandemic. This is exactly what I did! (I believe many of us quilters and makers were alone together doing the same thing!)
With this feedback, I feel my quilt was successful in meeting the Challenge parameters and also was a good composition in itself.

First Place ribbon, Guild Challenge 2020-2021.

Details about the design and piecing phases for making this quilt and the quilting and binding including the quilt stats, are in these previous blog posts. Thanks for reading!

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