Have you ever taken part in a challenge? How did you feel about your work? Would you do it again?
In the long-ago days of my bead shop (Beads Indeed!), I issued a challenge to my customers, The 23 (BAD) Bead Challenge, and had about 40 entries, most of them highly creative. A few years later I judged a Challenge sponsored by the Minnesota Bead Society, again with many surprisingly wonderful "out-of-the-box" entries. But, until recently I'd never had an opportunity to be a participant in a challenge.
Never... until last year at Quilt Camp, which is an annual event sponsored by our local quilt group. For 4 days, about 35 of us gather at Camp Orkila on Orcas Island (NW Washington) to quilt, sew, finish things and socialize. Every year the organizers offer the participants a challenge for the following year.
Last year each of us drew from two different baskets. One had letters in it; the other various quilting techniques (red work, paper piecing, hand quilting, etc.) The challenge was to make a quilt using the drawn technique and to include at least one block starting with the drawn letter.
I drew the letter "N" and the technique "embellishment." There was a big whoo-haaa-ha about that one. The word "cheating" was mentioned, as embellishing is certainly right up my alley. However, since quilting is rather new for me, I figured I'd have enough of a challenge making anything at all and figuring out what to do with the letter "N."
In a flash it came to me... Nine patch, Northern lights, Nice! I figured I'd make a jacket, a fancy quilted jacket, an aurora borealis jacket... all embellished with beads, with shimmering, dancing beads... and it would have a mini nine patch border. If you've ever seen the magic of the northern lights, you can probably imagine how delightful such a jacket would be to wear. I was thrilled with my idea.
Over the next 10 months or so, I dreamed about this jacket, envisioned it, considered many different approaches to constructing it. In short, it was a huge creative challenge. And in long, I just didn't do it. Thinking about it was way fun, but I couldn't take the first step toward getting started. Maybe the idea was bigger than me. Maybe making garments just isn't my thing. I don't know.
Three close quilting buddies and I get together every Tuesday, have ourselves a pot-luck lunch, and spend the remainder of the afternoon stitching. It's a lovely thing... a subject for another post... to have this continuity of creative support! For the past couple of months, the three of them have been working on their challenge entries.
One Tuesday we had a discussion about it. Basically they got on my case a little about not making something for the challenge. They suggested I make something simple, a pot holder maybe... anything. I remember one of them mentioned how important it is to participate and belong to the group, and how disappointed I'd feel when all the challenge entries were displayed but not one by me. Yes, they had a point... I already felt left out as they hustled to finish their entries. But time was short, and what to do? I fretted about it.
Less than three weeks before this year's camp (the challenge due date), inspiration finally came to me. At a friend's house, I noticed a little hanging basket she had made, hand-pieced from silk. Instantly I could picture making something like that, embellished with beads and of course with a nine patch or two. It took me a week of intense work. But here it is!
The fabric is silk, except for the organza I used to make the little windows and to line the whole vessel. Little treasures are sandwiched and hand quilted between the layers of organza.
My quilting buddies were right! It felt grand to be making this, grand to put it on the table next to the other entries, and grand to have created something totally new!
Below are two other entries. The teapot quilt is by one of the Tuesday lunch bunch, Lunette. She drew the letter "T" (yup, T is for teapot). Machine-quilting is the technique she drew. She got the top done in time for the challenge, and it's pinned ready to quilt.
Here's a detail of one of the teapots... cute use of doilies, don't you think?
Everyone at the camp gets to vote for their favorite challenge entry. Here is the winner. It's a doll quilt by Linda Coleman. She drew the letter "E" (eight-point star) and the technique of "foundation paper piecing." It's a beautiful example of excellent workmanship... so tiny, and yet every point is perfect!
I believe all of us who met the challenge felt good about doing it. In a sense, we are ALL WINNERS - we all stepped up to the challenge, saying, YES, I can do this!