Inspiration

I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration today. I have had too many things going on outside of the house to sew any this week, but am about to bust with all the ideas that are screaming in my head. Why does that happen?

It seems that the less time I have to make things, the more ideas I have. Some of them are good, some will never see the light of day. That’s okay, I think. Having lots of ideas seems to lead to lots more ideas.

I never really know where all the inspiration comes from, but I think I’m something of a hunter-gatherer when it comes to ideas. I start with a pot (or in this case, my thoughts) and throw something in it and turn on the heat. I’ll add a little bit of something else. Maybe a lot of something completely different. Toss in a little seasoning. Let it cook. And cook. Pretty soon I have stew, or the beginnings of a project. My work method is pretty much the same whether I’m sewing or writing. Gather the stuff, throw it together, let it cook, and work with the result.

So how does it work? Sometimes I’ll have just the kernel of an idea and will go to Pinterest and see if anyone else has done something similar. I don’t want to copy someone else’s work, I just want to see what they did with an idea. (We all know about Pinterest, right? Go there with one idea and come away with 1,000 more, many of which have nothing whatsoever to do with what you went looking for. But I digress.) I’ll also read blogs of quiltmakers whose work I enjoy. One I particularly like is The Root Connection, by Sujata Shah. I love Sujata’s way with color!

Quilt by Sujata Shah, shown in her recently released book, Cultural Fusion Quilts
Quilt by Sujata Shah, shown in her recently released book, Cultural Fusion Quilts

I also often look at the books I have that contain images of antique quilts. My state quilt documentation library is pretty hefty so not only is there plenty of reading to do, but there are thousands of images of antique pieces that set the wheels in my brain in motion. The Quilt Index is also a great place to search for images.

The Quilt Index is a great source for visual inspiration (see this ca. 1880 Virginia Star and more on the Index)
The Quilt Index is a great source for visual inspiration (see this ca. 1880 Virginia Star and more on the Index)

Fabric can be a major source of inspiration for me. Some I’m liking lately are these:

http://blog.modafabrics.com
Part of Moda’s Passport line, Spring 2015. You can read more about it on the Moda blog.
Elementary by Sweetwater for Moda, seen at Missouri Star Quilt Company
Elementary by Sweetwater for Moda, seen at Missouri Star Quilt Company
You are Here, from Art Gallery Fabrics, available at http://pileofabric.com/collections/fabric/products/you-are-here
You are Here, from Art Gallery Fabrics, available at Pile o’ Fabric

Looking at patterns can be helpful too. For whatever reason, I am not crazy about using patterns, maybe because I don’t want to make somebody else’s quilt. I can certainly use them for inspiration, though. Sometimes I’ll note a particular color combination that I like, or the way a certain pattern is set.

Rarely do I commit an idea to paper before I start it. I usually just jump in. Sometimes this works, sometimes I have to rethink it as I go. The biggest problem with this way of working is that when I find a project I was working on, months later, I often have no idea where I was headed with it. That just means I have to jump in again and see where it goes. That’s not always a bad thing.

A lot of my friends draft quilts out on graph paper with colored pencil. I’ve tried this and it feels tedious. Other friends swear by EQ7. In some ways I can understand why it’s a useful tool, but for me, once I see what the quilt will look like, the magic is gone. Does that mean it was a bad design? Not always. It’s just that, for me, the most fun is seeing an idea come to life under my fingers, in the cloth, so to speak.

The answer to this is, of course, to make all of the quilts that I can dream up. As if. I can’t possibly make them all. I usually end up just jumping in to the one that is clamoring loudest and see where it takes me. Again, sometimes it works, sometimes not.

I suppose my methods seem pretty haphazard to most quiltmakers. That’s okay. I suspect that we all have different favorite ways of working and things we like to look at. What’s your favorite source of inspiration?