The Gathered Treasures art quilt – an artistic representation of some of the people and things important to my Brother-in-law…a collection of sorts, of the things and people he has surrounded himself with over the span of 50 years(gathered treasures) ! Yes, that’s right….this is a 50th birthday present!
So naturally, I couldn’t choose just any project! It had to be something special. Though this project was on the cards , it wasn’t something I had thought to do for another couple of years ! It was too intimidating! Too big! Not a first attempt kind of project!
But then again … I couldn’t stop dreaming about it! I watched video after video on making art quilts, then watched them again and again, and when I ran out of videos, I read up articles, without reading/registering the words…for it was the pictures of the quilts that captured me. All the while, I told myself I was doing this for time-pass…until I decide what I want to make for my BIL’s 50th birthday! I did this until there was just a month left for the birthday… and realised that my plan to take time and plan a project had failed phenomenally , and worse, all my browsing activities had elevated the status of the art quilt project from just an urge to a burning desire! There was basically no room for any other idea anymore.
So, I took my first bold step, and pitched the idea to my Daughter and my Husband (referred to as HD henceforth). One said “uhhhh..” and the other looked for more polite ways to say the same. And more. It was a very ambitious project after all….and nothing like anything I had made before. So I can’t really blame them for not having the confidence in me …after all, even I had none! Neither confidence, nor ability! Just a gut feeling that I can pull it off. But, I was outnumbered…so, naturally, their reaction shook me. I took a couple of days more trying to figure out whether I was doing the right thing. And while I was doing that, I was also planning how to do it, of course! Hey, clearly I was conflicted, confused, etc. And I decided if I do make it, it has to be in blue/green. I didn’t want to do the skin tone Colours …not a big fan of beige, I confess. And the overall effect of a beige face is too plain ..I wanted it to be artsy. Red would make it too dark and angry, yellow…nah, pink…bah, somehow blue/green seemed the obvious choices.
So the next bold step was announcing that not only would I be making the faces(at this point, that was all it was to HD….faces), but that I would most likely make it in BLUE. D tried to dissuade me instantly. Even tried giving me a couple of other ideas…H tried to be polite and supportive while not so subtly pointing out that I had less than a month now to pull it off. So, naturally, I ran to the fabric store.
The problem there, was finding fabrics of the right Colours, and the right value. Being a novice in the field of Colours, value was a concept that was unheard of! Anyway, this article by Susan Carlson did help a lot! She’s an amazing artist, isn’t she! So I tried my best to find fabrics ….I was lucky to find enough fabrics to select among blue/green fabrics. I was also referring to a video of another artist, Tammie Bowser on Sewing with Nancy…that’s the one I intended to follow …while I liked the look of a Susan Carlson quilt more, it was also very intimidating to try it for my first project. And so , I returned home with my first batch of fabrics.
I made my pattern on a tracing sheet the way Susan Carlson does. Then scrapped it all up, and did the same on an ipad. It was much easier to get it enlarged, and then print. Then I traced it up on the fabric, made my design wall and mounted it, and I was ready to start. I cannot tell you how I struggled here to get a good starting point. Every feature(except the eyes, and smile, of course)seemed easy until I picked it up…then I had no clue of what to put where. I don’t have a lot of photos of that process, but here’s one that shows a pathetic attempt. 🙄
And, along the way, I realised I needed fabric of different values( I was beginning to get the hang of it now😅) and went and got more. I went again a couple more times , but we won’t talk about that 😬
Also, my attempts were failing as I had way too much detail in some places and way less detail in others. So, I scrapped the whole thing. Went back to the ipad, and made a new pattern, the way Tammie Bowser does, only difference – mine was hand drawn , instead of being computer generated. Started afresh. Made my board again. And though it was still hard to start off, my failed attempts had given me a sense of what to expect. So when I cut a piece that looked suspiciously like a mermaid’s tail, I wasn’t nearly as intimidated or skeptical of it as I should’ve been! 😳 of course, that didn’t mean I had any more confidence in myself than when I had started… HD kept coming in at intervals to see the progress , and to give them credit, they didn’t use the term “mermaid tail” even once! D tried a couple of times to politely tell me the blue faces are not a good idea. But I was too far off the reservation ….
There comes a point in every project…any project, not just art…when you realise that things are working as per your expectations. Some lucky fellas get beyond expectations.. but we are not there yet. With projects like this, where the expectations of success are pretty non-existent, confidence is pretty low, and it is basically surviving on gut-feel, this realisation – that things are working – is a very big high! It’s exhilarating! Like a topsy-turvy roller coaster ride where you are screaming “whoooooooooo” all the while! Well, this was the point where I had that feeling … I finally got one facial feature done …the nose. And some part of the smile.
This was also the point where H crossed over to my side! 😀 all skepticism thrown aside. It was his brother’s nose, his brother’s smile…easily recognisable inspite of the blue colour…yes, it needed much, much, more work, but it was doable! 💃🏻 he now started asking me about timelines …coming in everyday to inspect the progress. More often then not, there wasn’t anything discernible to his eye…but he was able to detect progress and some flaws too. I would get stuck on some parts …and it would take an awfully long time to get out of that situation. Time was of the essence, and I ended up wasting daytime and bright daylight being stuck on one problem or another, and working at night in bad lighting, using additional spotlights on the board …hey, inspiration chooses odd times to strike! What can I do! I was the one now working late in the night, not him! How the tables have turned!
I also realised somewhere half way along the project, that though I was trying to go the Tammie Bowser way of doing an art quilt( not because it’s easy, but it intimidated me far lesser), I had subconsciously started doing it in the Susan Carlson way. Which is what I had really, really wanted to do! 😍 what an unexpected bonus!
It wasn’t until my co-sister’s eye fell into place that D actually started warming up to the project. There were a range of noises in varied tones, from the initial “uhhhh….” to the “ummmm…” of now, that strangely actually encouraged me 😂…told me in its own monosyllabic way that I was headed in the right direction !
But the skepticism returned from both HD when I tried to personalise this further. And this time it wasnt the polite skepticism…it was a blatant ” don’t do this, you’ll ruin it” ! You see, I wanted to put in the names of people who have been close to my BIL over the last 50 years. Agreed, my co-Sister is the most important person in his life, the love of his life, and all that, and that’s why I chose this photo…but this quilt was to be a collection of sorts of all the things he holds dear to him. I also wanted to put in a reference to the fun he looks forward to having every weekend when they play Cricket and fight like children….and also their house…things like that. I had to tell them to trust in me, that I won’t put in these things in such a manner as to take away from the overall look of the quilt. I dare say it all turned out to HD’s satisfaction! 😃
After all that was done, I added the background, and then off to quilting. I had planned to do free motion quilting …but I have to say, it is not as easy as the videos make it out to be! I found out I’m actually bad at it! So change of plan …I used one of the large embroidery stitches to do the quilting. Quilting was done in invisible thread , so that the thread doesn’t mar the artwork. All done in time for it to be gifted! Literally in time ….I finished it the day we had to catch the flight to go to the party! 😅
If you’ve managed to read so far, please indulge me a little more and check out my video on the making of the Gathered Treasures quilt .
Thanks for visiting! Please drop in your comments….would love to hear from you!