Creative Inspiration, Fabric Scraps Obsession

Creative Inspiration: Recycled Textiles

I thought I’d share a little about my love for recycled textiles as part of my ongoing series of posts on my sources of Creative Inspiration.

Unlikely Materials for Quilt Making: Recycled Textiles

Nearly 2 years ago (March 2016) I did a post on “Unlikely Materials” as part of the Blog Tour for my friends Wendy Hill and Pat Pease’s new book,  Creative Quilt Challenges (C&T Publishing, 2016), and shared the story of how I transitioned from only using quilting cotton fabrics to experimenting with using recycled textiles in my quilt creations.

Since 2012 I have experimented with recycled textiles such as recycled clothing (not suitable for clothing donation) and recycled garment and home decor fabric samples – all items that were likely headed to the landfill. I feel a great sense of joy when I create art with those items that would have been discarded.

Recently I pulled out my entire collection of recycled textiles to work on my piece for our annual Central Oregon SAQA art quilting group exhibit which opens at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Shop in July. This year’s theme is “The Threads That Bind” and the piece like previous years, must meet the dimensions of 18″ x 40″.

For the past couple years I have made 18″ x 40″ pieces, based on the selected annual theme, from recycled materials such as “Recycled Door” (the theme was “Doors”) and “The Recycled Road” (the theme was “Pathways”):

If you would like to read about the development of these pieces, just search their names in the search box on my blog. You can also check out these pieces on my art quilting blog, Improvisational Textiles.

For this year’s piece I am again working with recycled textiles, but this time using different recycled textiles since I used up most of the recycled clothing in the above pieces.

My piece is in progress (it was one of the two art quilts with deadlines I mentioned in my post Art & Fear, etc., that I had yet to start) and it is called Recycled Love.

I am not ready to reveal my current piece while it is in progress, it feels private right now.

Interestingly in the book Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (1993) by David Bayles and Ted Orland, they discuss that the artist needs time to work on their work in private without feedback from the world.

(See the Postscript section for more on this book and the post Art & Fear, etc..)

Creative Inspiration From Playing with My Recycled Textiles

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I’ve pulled out my entire collection of recycled textiles while I work on my new piece, Recycled Love. Just having my entire collection laid out before me was a huge source of Creative Inspiration!

They were a little too huge a source of creative inspiration and I ended up designing in my mind 5 – 10 future art quilts until I finally calmed down and made my mind just focus on the art quilt with the deadline!

So I thought I would give you a peek into my recycled textiles collection, most of which were donated/given to me by others.

Recycled Wool

My collection of recycled wool includes manufacturing scraps from wool suit making and Pendleton blanket manufacturing scraps. It also include some felted wool scraps and  various crafting wool scraps from other crafters’ projects.

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Recycled Denim

This collection includes our old jeans and old denim shirts; jeans given to me by friends; and an old denim duvet cover. I also keep my denim scraps from previous projects using recycled denim (as long as they are bigger than 3″ x 3″).

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Home Decor Samples

These were given to me by a couple who did remodeling work on our home. A client of theirs gave them a large box of home decorating upholstery samples and they shared the box with me! Some of the fabrics seem hideous for a sofa or chair but they would be awesome in an art quilt!

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Dyed Silk Scraps

A friend gave me these scraps as samples from a hand dyed silk class she took years ago.

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I took them out of the sample book there were in and discovered if I gently ironed them and then sewed them onto muslin I could use them in an art quilt! Below is an example as I have used them in my piece in progress, Recycled Love:

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Couture Fabric Scraps (Silk, Linen and Wool)

These are my post precious scraps and to read the story behind these couture fabric samples and scraps from New York City Fashion District Circa 1990s, see this page on my Improvisational Textiles website: Quilting Meets Couture.

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The photo does not do the fabrics justice. You can see on the Quilting Meets Couture page the many art quilts made with these beautiful recycled fabrics (all of which were scheduled for destruction by the manufacturer had they not been rescued).

Below is an image of some of my art quilts that I made with these recycled couture fabrics which are in the book 1000 Quilting Inspirations: Colorful and Creative Designs for Traditional, Modern and Art Quilts by Sandra Sider (2015). They are all quilted by Guadalupe Designs.

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Postscript

I was going to do a follow up on the post Art & Fear, etc. that I mentioned in this post, and share/discuss some additional quotes/passages from the book that really resonated with me.

However, on further thought, I decided that this is a book you should experience on your own and read first hand the brilliant insights on the nature of creating art and dealing with the inherent fear and sense of vulnerability and risk that comes with putting your art “out there”.

So instead I will share one more quote from the book and then return to talking about recycled textiles:

“In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot — and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice.”

― David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

A Crafter's Life, Farm Girl Vintage Blocks

Art & Fear, etc.

I am feeling stuck. I have two looming deadlines for art quilts for two upcoming shows and I have not started either pieces.

I am dealing with feeling stuck in two ways: 1) reading an inspirational book; and 2) sewing some traditional blocks.

Inspirational Book

At the January meeting of the art quilting group I belong to (Central Oregon SAQA) our group leader shared that she was reading Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (1993) by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

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Image credit: Amazon.com

After the meeting, I immediately reserved the book at my public library and just picked in up from the library on Friday. Diving into this awesome book I discovered a couple great quotes about the reality of creating/making art:

“Making art is dangerous and revealing. Making art precipitates self-doubt, stirring deep waters that lay between what you know you should be, and what you fear you might be.”

“…fears arise in those entirely appropriate (and frequently occurring) moments when vision races ahead of execution. Consider the story of a young student…who began piano studies with a Master. After a few months’ practice (the student) lamented to his teacher ‘but I can hear the music so much better in my head than I can get out of my fingers’. To which the Master replied, ‘What makes you think that ever changes?'”

“The materials of art…seduce us with their potential.”  

(This last quote made me think of stumbling upon that incredible textile that you know will be perfect in a future piece)

I am only on page 20 and so far there are many gems in this book. Currently I highly recommend it if you are struggling with creating art or moving forward on your artistic journey.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned I have not started two art quilts with looming deadlines. I have actually designed and mapped out both pieces on paper but have not begun to the process of transferring my vision to fabric. That is where I am stuck (likely because of fear).

Stitching Myself Unstuck

I knew I needed to do something to become “unstuck” but I could not force myself to start working on either art quilt when I am not feeling inspired. I could however get myself in a creating mood by sewing something.

So I pulled out my bag of scraps from working on Farm Girl Vintage blocks (see series of posts Farm Girl Vintage Blocks)

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and made a couple more blocks:

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These blocks are about as far as you can get from art quilting but they got me sewing again and it was fun to try to be limited by what was in the scrap bag (from Farm Girl Vintage blocks already made).

I will likely make a couple more blocks and then I will do a post showing all my completed Farm Girl Vintage blocks to date.

I will continue reading the Art & Fear book and look at starting my art quilts.

Have you ever felt creatively stuck and what do you do to get “unstuck”?


Postscript

A follow up to my previous post Spinning the Homespuns with TTQH, Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH) has moved into my sewing studio to work on his piece.

We have decided to sell his Baby Lock sewing machine and he is going to use my Bernina. I can better support him on technical issues if he is using the same brand of machine (I can trouble shoot my Bernina in my sleep).

Plus he likes working in my sewing area, it has a better set up with my latest room rearrangement.

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Mike the Mini Schnauzer: “Now he will sew in here all the time?!?!?”
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TTQH enjoying the small design wall on the closet door right behind the sewing area
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TTQH working on his piece

Featured image: Dave Dyet, free images.com