Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Who is a Designer?

I read somewhere, but don't remember where, that a designer is a problem solver.  Interesting concept.  I mentioned it my daughter and she noted that designers in all fields are simply problem solvers:  computer techs, architects, landscapers, painters, business people, etc.  Notice to all quilters:   know that you are designers!  Those who sew patterns created by others are designers in the their choice of fabrics and in solving the complications that almost always arise from stitching, fitting, poorly written directions, and on and on.  Isn't that so cool?

I must confess that the mundane tasks that have kept me busy the last two weeks have nothing to do with progress, but everything to do with designing the direction of my seam ripper.  "Again?" you say.  Yes, again.  I thought I was finished quilting, but looked at the fires I was so excited about.  Stepping back I saw what looked like several isolated campfires out on the Sahara desert, unattached, no interconnection.  Besides where did they get the wood?  It made my beautiful Phoenix bird look like he was stuck in space instead of arising from anything.  For two weeks I practiced my ripping skills and took out every stitch of thread-painted flame and McTavishing in the area beneath the bird.  Urgggggh!  I broke one seam ripper that fell on the floor sharp side down and snapped the point off.  The other one came loose from its handle.  Fortunately, all I had to do was twist it back in so it wasn't ruined and I was able to continue my destruction.

I try to test all my designs before sewing, and thought that I had created a workable, beautiful plan.  It failed.  Now I am on my third and last attempt.  I can't rip anymore or the fabric will disintegrate.  Part of designing is figuring out what went wrong so I have analyzed my shortcomings in depth.  The fault lies mainly in the fact that my brain works within a box and I am drawn to photorealism and symmetry.  I have a husband and daughter who wouldn't recognize a brain box if it hit them on the head (called learning disabilities).  As a result they tend to the abstract form of creative thinking.  I never could figure out "abstract."  So, I left my realistic flames and went back to the original drawing where fire is only suggested, not defined.  I cut and spread a few pieces of fire-suggestive fabric on the quilt before I did the ripping and decided that I finally had the final solution.  This is not easy for me, but it is happening.

TIP:  By all means test ideas.  They are more likely to lead to success although there are occasional failures.  Planning is beneficial, but the designer must allow some flexibility in case things don't work out as planned.

After unsewing, it was clear that I had a lot of fabric easing to do so I pinned the affected part of the quilt on a styrofoam board as if blocking it.  I stuck lots of pins in the areas where the fabric resisted flattening.  Then I sprayed it to death with water two or three times, and could almost watch it shrink.  Finally, I took the hair dryer to it in the hope of heat-shrinking it further down to a workable amount of ease.  That did a pretty good job of it, but I decided to nail it down by quilting a grid, black on black.  My wonderful dual feed foot slurps up loose fabric like a desert traveller drinking soup and settled it down ready for the next step.  Now I will fuse and appliqué bits of fabric on top and McTavish the whole thing with red swirlies, going over the grid as well where it shows.  The new pieces of fabric on top will strengthen the weakened areas where I had to rip.

Dual feed foot on a tester scrap showing grid quilting and a tiny bit of fused "flame"
(the red piece is not the fabric I will be using to suggest fire but it will do for testing)
TIP: Heat and moisture work well to get rid of excess fabric.  In those few places that threatened to pleat I used a stylus right in front of the presser foot to force the fabric into submission.  Be careful not to run over the stylus!

Talk about designing.  All that took a lot of problem solving.  The new design has to work because I don't know what else I can do at this point.  At least I won't be quilting until I get the bits of flame-suggesting fabric laid out to my satisfaction.  No more ripping!!!!!

Enjoy designing this week.  I am certainly enjoying it more than reverse sewing.


  1. What an interesting read, I felt your pain when the second seam ripper broke and was relieved for you when you were able to fix it! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you that it'll be third time lucky and the little look I got at your project looks exciting, loving the stitching. Thanks so much for linking up at Sew Cute Tuesday today - Chris (guest host) @madebyChrissieD :D

  2. GREAT tips and sure, we all have disappointments - keep in mind that you know how it works and can use the tests as just a reminder. Your stitch work is beautifully executed and little failures are always great for placemats or coasters and tote bags...appreciate your sage advice!