February 18, 2014: 1. When is a creation complete or finished? 2. Hand quilting again!


All artists face the question of when a piece being created is “complete” or “done.”  How does one know when to stop, when “tweaking” is required, or when significant additions or changes are needed?  This question is important to writers, composers, painters, and includes those of us working with textiles.   The answer for each piece says something about  the individual artist’s vision, purpose, and style and is probably to some degree intuitive.  Recent decisions about how to proceed with my “Spirit of Japan” quilt relate to this issue.

In my last post, I talked about trying to decide whether to put anything at the corners where 4 blocks come together in Spirit of Japan and, if so, what.  And I mentioned embroidery embellishment for the blocks.   I settled on making hexagon stars from authentic indigo fabrics for the corners and since that post completed all 9 of them.  Here they are pinned to their spots on the design wall (double click on pictures for good closeups) :

21814 SOJ #1


A somewhat closer view:

21814 SOJ#2


These do change the overall look of the piece, but I feel they add interest and have decided to keep them.  While studying this quilt as I added the stars, I made a decision not to add embroidery stitches around the inner and outer portion of each wheel.  I realized that my major purpose here is to showcase these authentic Japanese fabrics in an aesthetically pleasing way and that adding more lines of color in embroidery thread could actually be distracting rather than adding further interest.  I may add some embroidery stitches in a few places, perhaps on and around the stars, but will not cover all the wheel edges.  So, to go back to my opening topic, this means the quilt top center design is complete and I can sew these pieces together!!!

However, I need to decide what to do about a border.  I love borders and I can’t think of a quilt I’ve made that doesn’t have one; this quilt needs one.  My next major decision is whether to add borders to the top and bottom (making it a rectangle) or to add borders all around (keeping it a square).  I already feel the border should be indigo in color, should probably “read” as a solid if not be a solid, and am thinking I may do some embroidery on it.  It shouldn’t be too busy and shouldn’t detract from the center.  Should I include some simple applique?…

Meanwhile, I finally got Spring Sonata back from being basted last weekend and have started the hand quilting!  I haven’t done any hand quilting since quilting the little doll quilts last fall and haven’t been hand quilting a major piece since finishing the Baltimore Album last July so this feels good!  I decided to keep the quilting in the center for all the palm leaf blocks very simple so as not to detract from the very pleasing graphic nature of the design.

21814 SS#1

21814 SS#2

21814 SS#3


I am simply outlining each piece and quilting a line through the center of each piece.  I plan to do something more elaborate for the borders – some type of leaves I think.   I thought I would share some of my favorite quilting tools:

21814 SS#4 tools


I tend to use John James Between needles, size 11 (occasionally the Hemmings or Roxanne’s needles), I love my Roxanne thimble with the great dimples for guiding the needle through the fabric, I use a rubber “office” grabber on my rt. index finger to grab the needle and pull it through, and I use the Clover needle holder so that I can thread 10 needles at a time and keep them stored without threads hanging off a pin cushion.

21814 SS#5 thread


Over the years, I have often quilted with #50 Mettler thread.  Some may feel this is not strong enough but I don’t wash my quilts or abuse them and this thread has held up for me in my quilts for up to 20 years without breaking and is a pleasure to quilt with.  Even better, though, is Gutterman Silk thread (on the left in the picture above) which really glides through the fabric easily and is very strong!!   The only problem with this thread – which I buy at my local JoAnn’s – is that it doesn’t come in that many colors.  I use it now, though, as my preferred thread whenever I can for hand quilting.

21814 SS#6 Bohin


And I use a Bohin white marker for most of my marking since it comes off so easily.  I mark and erase as I go.  For Spring Sonata I am simply making a few “dashes” on the fabric instead of drawing the entire line.  It’s enough to help me keep the direction of my needle straight.

And finally, here is how my doll quilt is looking:

21814 Hexstar


All 5 hexagon stars are sewn together and I have decided on the background fabric to which they will be sewn and the border fabric.  I looked at a number of different backgrounds – gold, brown, black, etc. and the above looked best to me.

After I had been thinking about the topic that opens this post for a couple of days, last night I looked at a newly discovered art blog (excellent!) by Charley Parker called “Lines and Colors” and he says, “In many ways, all art is about SELECTION.”  In other words, what to add/subtract/leave out, what form to choose, what to emphasize, what to allow to fade into the background, etc. etc.  So deciding when a piece is “done” is a just part of the whole idea of “selecting.”  And the selection process every step along the way is what makes a piece unique and a representation of the soul of the artist.

One final humorous thought on this topic of “being done”!  In the NY Times yesterday there was an article about the writer Lorrie Moore who has a new book of stories coming out.  She says, “…novel writing is a “form of insanity” that forces a writer to keep endless company with characters she has made up.  How a novel finishes is there’s a moment when you know it has problems and you don’t know how to fix them.  That’s when you’re done.”

I imagine that most of us quilters have had quilts that ended like that!  For me, Oriental Meditation #6: Evolution was like that. (You can visit my web site to see it.)  I struggled mightily intermittently for years to make that quilt into something special and it just wasn’t happening so I decided to finish it as it and stop struggling!  Moving on is the best option sometimes!

Thanks for stopping by!!



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