Saturday, December 15, 2018

It started as a challenge

I love a good challenge. Working within limits can really bust us out of our comfort zone, but this one was kicking my butt. One of my fiber groups issued a challenge. The project was to be architectural, something man made like a building, it must include a square, circle, triangle and rectangle. And, finally, it needed to be attached to a 12" square framed canvas.

So, okay, that's not too hard, except for the architectural part. I don't do buildings. I don't like straight lines! But okay, maybe I can do a fence or a bird house on a post and build a garden around it. That could work.

At the same time, our guild, The Evergreen Quilters Guild of Green Bay, was hosting Kim Lapacek for a lecture and workshop. I'm now the program chair for the guild, so I'm automatically first in line for the workshops. Kim is a delightful speaker, we all enjoyed her wonderful sense of humor and her unique perspective in her quilts. For her workshop we chose her adorable Dresden Neighborhood. I swiped this photo from her web page. Google Dresden Neighborhood to see all of the fantastic variations on her design. (Kim is not only an excellent speaker, her workshop was one of the best we've had this year. Hire her, right away, do it.)

But here's the rub. I have always struggled mightily with copying, even when I'm supposed to copy so I can learn a technique. There's something in my nature that just recoils at the idea of repeating something that has already been done. So, as much as I looked forward to the workshop, I had a real battle going on in my head. I just didn't want to do what every one else was doing. (Now here's where I tell you how dumb that is, because every student's neighborhood was as individual and creative as its maker and we all had a blast.)

And then it occurred to me that I might be able to bend that Dresden Neighborhood into my challenge quilt. It's buildings, right? Maybe I'd just do a quarter of the circle. Maybe I could do larger wedges. Perhaps leave blank spaces for trees, or a garden or something. All the while, I'm concerned that I might become *that* student, the one that sucks up all of the teacher's time, is completely off task and becomes a problem child. No teacher wants to do that to another teacher.

When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. My hammer is applique, I love to applique. Love it. So I tossed a package of Wash Away Applique Sheets, a glue stick and a magic wand in with the rest of my class supplies and went off to class without a real plan.

Not every teacher would be a gracious as Kim was about my deviation from the topic of the day, but she was almost as excited as I was to see how it would all shake out.

I kept the Dresden wedge shape and angles for the house and out house. I used the Dresden ruler to draw the basic shapes onto my template paper, keeping the wonky, stretched perspective of the wedge. The smoke is made up of circles, the top of the chimney is a rectangle. The roof lines form triangles. Because of the distortion of the shapes, I didn't have a true square anywhere, so I added in the square/triangle bead "flowers" on the out house hill. Adding hand embroidery to my machine applique technique is giving me so much joy. The hardest part was knowing when to stop.

I'm even happy with the back. I didn't want raw edges showing, even on the back, so I cut the backing fabric a bit bigger than the front, folded it over to encase the raw edge and finished with a top stitch. It gave a perfect, secure edge for stapling. I haven't decided yet if it needs a frame or will hang as is.

Being stretched and challenged can be uncomfortable, but, just like growing pains, it's worth the effort. My next challenge is designing a new block of the month for 2019. I'm still considering the possible themes, but I'm thinking winter, I have all of the other seasons covered and I'd love to do a two color quilt. What do you think?


  1. Ok had to check out your page. This is just so cute. And yes, something wintery...

  2. Hi, Beth! Love your project! I have a great problem following instructions to the letter, so I love this house!! Adding embroidery to my quilts has become a passion - not crazy quilts, but lovely quilts with applique and embroidery. It helps to pass the time and ease emotional pain. I would love to have a winter BOM! Definitely!

  3. Anonymous1:14 AM

    Hi Beth- love this! It’s so “you” without being like anything else you’ve done before! Miss your blog- hope you come back to it soon. Sandie Mackintosh