Sketching with Fabric
I recently picked up my sketchbook again. It’s been a bit of a rough re-entry. I had a consistent daily practice going for about six months, but it fell apart with our move here. Things do that.
But, I’ve missed it. When I get it right, sitting with my sketchbook is a meditative, exploratory practice. Something about it opens me up. Tendrils of insight creep into all areas of my creativity. So, I’ve carved out a tiny corner of time to begin again.
My heart and my spirit feel lighter already. It feels good to be pushing paint around on paper. But, I want to be clear about this: it doesn’t look good. It’s messy and tight and flat. I’m not creating anything to get excited about. But, I am creating, and that’s exciting.
All of this works perfectly well on paper. It don’t have any qualms about using paper and paint to create something I don’t particularly like and will serve no practical purpose. I can see its usefulness merely as an exercise.
Where I really struggle, is in attempting to transfer this practice to fabric. I know that I need to have a space to explore with fabric. I need to try out ideas for quilts and create muslins for clothing patterns. I know there needs to be space for experimenting. But, it feels like waste to me.
Maybe it’s because the fabric feels more precious. It’s almost all entirely impossible to replace a particular kind of fabric. Also, I’m also more keenly aware of the environmental and human cost of producing the fabric. So, I stay stuck. I’m unwilling to commit a great deal of precious fabric to a full project. But, I’m simultaneously hesitant to use a small amount of fabric to explore. I arrive at a creative dead end. I can either create nothing at all or a safe, stifled version of what I envision. It’s awfully difficult to do good work within those constraints.
This past week, I broke through all that resistance to “sketchbook” a bit with fabric. I still struggled—not wanting to use any fabric I really, really love. Of course, the result is that I’m less than excited about the results. Partly this is because I was trying out techniques, and some of them worked while others did not. I learned so much from these little fabric experiments. They changed entirely the direction that I’m taking with my bed quilt. I feel far more confident in my design direction. I’m thrilled with the process.
Only, here’s the rub. I still feel this obligation to use them, to turn them into a useable item. But, I don’t love them. It’s bizarre, really. I don’t operate under any illusion that every page in my sketchbook needs to be displayed on my walls. So, why do I demand that every piece of fabric I sew to another becomes an object in my home? That probably isn’t a sustainable solution. Nor is creating without experimentation.
I find myself, then, at a conflict of values. On the one hand, it’s important to me to stymie our waste stream. I hate the idea of creating to no end. On the other hand, I become increasingly convinced about the necessity of keeping only things that I love in my home. I don’t want to create an environment where my creations can hold me hostage. I don’t know how to balance these two desires.
When I began, I had in mind what these experiments would become. For some time I’ve wanted to create little quilts backed with a few old towels to use as mats for drying dishes. But, now that the tops are completed, I can’t decide if I like them enough to look at them on my counter. I could rework them and see if I can make of them something I like better. Some part of me thinks that may be throwing good money after bad.
I’m, no doubt, overthinking this. I may well need to just put them aside for a while until I can look at them with fresh eyes.
Thoughts? How do you approach experimenting with fabric?