Welcome to Fuller by Design, where we explore what it means to lead a creative life. Because the truth is this - life is what you make of it. So let's make, every day. For life.

When Making Drives You Crazy

FabricPile There are plenty of times that being a maker of things drives me absolutely crazy. Projects and photos and supplies and preferences and deadlines, they all pile up. And my kids love to hassle me about it.

“Mom, if you don’t finish that you’re going to be late again and get kicked out of the group!” they not-so-delicately remind me.

In dozens of online projects and swaps I’ve participated in, I was late exactly once (and being late is a big deal, you’re suspended from the next round and you might get the online reputation of being a flake). The only time I was ever late I’d had a rough miscarriage a few days before. Though technically I should have been kicked out, I wasn’t (thank goodness reason and compassion prevail, even on the internet).

One of the benefits of being a member of the Modern Quilt Guild is taking part in national challenges, where fabric manufacturers supply each chapter with free fabric to pass along to the members.  The catch is that if you take the fabric, you have to make something with it (within certain guidelines) and post a photo of the finished project in a group pool.  You get about 3 months to do it, so easy enough, right?

Yeah, right.

It’s amazing how many in-process photos were posted the night before the challenge was due.

Glad I was in good company.

This project had me stumped. I liked the fabric enough, but wasn’t inspired to make any particular project out of it. The fact I could make anything at all from it was even worse. Believe me, creative limits are a good thing.

I’ve made plenty of things I wasn’t really inspired about, but they were my swap partner’s tastes. But even when making something that isn’t quite my style, I’ve used the project as a chance to learn a new technique or try a new pattern.  The last time that happened was in November and I was learning Cathedral Windows quilting on the eve of my due date.  I delivered a beautiful baby boy and a beautiful Christmas pillow in short order.  Win-win.

So although the fabric stack sat on my work table for a few months, it’s not like I ignored it. I waited (and waited and waited and w a i t e d ) for it to tell me what it should be made into.

The fabric did not speak.

Aster was getting more worked up about the whole thing  than I was. I knew it would happen, all in good time.  But time was running out.

So when she prompted me yet again a few days before the deadline, hassling me (in a good natured way) about getting it done, in a fit of frustration I said “Fine!  If you like the fabric so much, you take it.  Take it and draw me a pattern and I’ll make it for you. It’s yours. Take it and go!”

And go she did.

The next day she came to me with her sketched pattern. And it was awesome.


We talked and schemed and calculated. We nailed down dimensions and proportions and measurements and orientations.  We were off to the races.

The next day I constructed it and it went together like a dream. The next step was quilting. I’m usually not that creative of a quilter, I usually stick to either a meandering stipple, or a horizontal and vertical grid that echoes the design.  But something about this project screamed parallel diagonals to me.

Not having done that before and having to submit my work to a national site had me suitably freaked out.

I didn’t trust my own ability to quilt super-straight lines, nor did I want to risk marking the front with chalk or erasable pen, much of the front was black and it wouldn’t show up anyway and the thought of marking on stark white fabric, eeek - I am sooo not that brave!

Then I remembered that a lot of quilters use what’s called a hera marker – rather than making colored marks on their work, the hera marker puts temporary creases in the fabric and you just sew along those, and they disappear.

Now of course I don’t own a hera marker and I wasn’t about to drive 45 minutes round trip to buy one.

But cue the trusty bone folder, frequently used during my obsession with paper arts. Yes, the bone folder, that’ll work, I thought.  Basically the same thing (I hoped!).

So I gingerly tested it out on a scrap of fabric and it was no worse for the wear. Onto the big leagues.

Using Doug’s giant metal t-square, plus my longest quilting ruler, plus my 12” square ruler plus my 4.5” square ruler (Ruler obsession? Not me!) very carefully, ever so carefully, I marked the quilting lines with my bone folder posing as a hera marker.


And it worked!  The lines were easy to follow and the lines came out perfectly straight, just how I wanted them.

Aster hit a home run with the pattern design and I learned a fabulous new technique, while repurposing an old unused tool at the same time.

So about those uninspired, love-it-but-hate-it, get it done just under the wire projects that are a thorn in your side the whole time?

Sometimes those are the best ones.


Stitching and Sharing at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

Silent Sunday