Tuesday 9 September 2014


I haven't always considered myself a creative person.  Even now, I feel pretty uncomfortable saying I'm a creative person.  It's kind of ridiculous.  But, I am!

I've been thinking about creativity quite a bit lately.  I blamecredit my friend Anne from Play Crafts.  Earlier this year, she started creating a quilt design every day, as a personal challenge to herself.  Soon after, she started the Quilt Design a Day group on Facebook and it has since grown into a thriving creative community.

One of my two QDAD designs

In August, Anne did a webinar for the Modern Quilt Guild.  Unfortunately, you can only view it if you are a MQG member, but if you are a MQG member, I highly highly recommend you watch it (find it here).  It's all about discovering and developing your creativity.  In her talk, Anne pulled together a number of creativity related threads that I haven't seen connected in quite the same way before.

The things I took away from Anne's talk were:
  • you ARE creative (even if you think you're not)
  • the way to become more creative is by doing something creative regularly
  • regularity is important because:
    • it gives you room to fail (today's creative endeavour doesn't have to be perfect - there's always tomorrow to try again)
    • it's hard to deny that you're creative if you're doing something creative every day
    • there's no perfect time to start being creative, so you might as well start now
  • working with constraints can help you overcome the difficulties of a blank canvas, and push you to be more creative
  • there's nothing wrong with doing things that have been done before - just make sure you put your own spin on it
  • community is important - you'll get great ideas from others in your community, and more importantly, it makes things fun!
These are some of the things I had read or watched before I watched Anne's talk, and I think elements of all of them appear in her talk at some point - Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk on Your Elusive Creative Genius, Phil Hansen's TED talk on Embrace the Shake, Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist talk and the book Steal Like an Artist, Brick by Brick by Stephen McCranie (Anne introduced me to this one), and this comic by The Oatmeal (quite sweary, in case that kind of thing offends you).

I haven't been a regular Quilt Design a Day participant, but back in July I took on my own creative challenge, and made a quilt-as-you-go block every day for the whole month.  At the end of July, it was kind of a relief not to have to make more blocks, but after a week or two I started missing the process.  At that stage I started joining the blocks together, and I finished the quilt (you can see it here) a couple of weeks ago.  I'm really pleased with my finished quilt, not so much for aesthetic reasons (although I'm pretty happy with it from that perspective as well), but because it represents a certain amount of commitment to the process of making a quilt, and a month's worth of memories, in quilt form.

#blockadayjuly quilt
My #blockadayjuly quilt

However, my #blockadayjuly quilt was just a warm up to the main event, to see whether I thought I had the stickability for a bigger undertaking - making a block every single day for a year.  Since I enjoyed making a block every day in July, I've decided to take on the larger challenge, starting next week on my 29th birthday.  Since this quilt will be made over the course of my 30th year, I'm calling it the Year 30 quilt.  Of course, this is not an original idea (you can read about my inspiration here), but I'm putting my own spin on it.

I've been thinking about how to get the most creative benefit out of the year long challenge, and specifically how to incorporate some of those key points from Anne's talk into the process.

The other one of my QDAD designs

Obviously, I've got regularity down!  I am going to stick with my original plan of making a block every single day.  That regularity is important, and for me, this is also the kind of project I don't want to get "behind" on.  A small block every day is manageable.  Having to catch up on a week's worth of missed blocks every weekend is not (or it doesn't sound fun, anyway).

Giving myself room to fail has proved a little bit trickier.  I thought about not including every single block I make in my final quilt, or putting some on the back, but I decided against those ideas.  Instead, I'm going to use the same concept that allows me to accept imperfection in my other quilts, and that is the idea that my quilts are a record of my skill level at the point in time at which I make them.  It means that I strive to do my best work, but accept that my quilts won't be perfect, and look forward to the time when I will have improved enough to look back on my current work and see how much better I've got.  In this way, I'm hoping that my Year 30 quilt will show a progression between the first block and the last block.

I'm also planning to bring constraints into the mix.  I can't quite imagine having to decide what block to make, every day for a year, without anything to guide my decision making.  I'm planning to set myself regular week-long challenges, where all the blocks made in that week must incorporate some common element (for example, curved piecing, triangles, improv piecing, appliqué, embellishment, etc).  I might also ask other people to set challenges for me from time to time, because I'm sure they'll come up with things I'd never think of.  That said, I'm giving myself permission to do the easiest possible version of the challenge if I need to - life happens, after all.

Constraints - seem bad, actually good (from xkcd).

I'm going to change things up a bit as well.  I'd like a finished quilt that's actually usable, not 13 yards long, so I'm going to make 4 1/2" square blocks, and not quilt them as I go.  If I assemble my blocks in a 19 by 20 layout, I'll only need to make 15 extra to fill in the gaps at the end, and I'll end up with a quilt that's large, but definitely usable (about 76" by 80").

Finally, community.  If this is the kind of thing you think you'd like to do, why don't we do it together?  I'll share my weekly challenges on the blog (I probably won't do one every single week, but maybe every second week), and host a weekly link-up for people who would like to play along, so we can keep an eye on each other's progress and provide encouragement, support, and creative ideas.

Last time, when I did the block a day July challenge, a few people wanted to know what the rules were.  There are no rules!  I am setting my own rules for myself, and if you want to follow them too, you're more than welcome to.  But if you want to set your own rules for yourself, please do!  If you want to make a block every week, instead of a block every day, do it.  If you want to make a quilt following a pattern (Dear Jane or Farmer's Wife spring to mind), do that.  If you want to use a colour palette that you choose at the start, do that.  If you want to go completely random and scrappy, go for it.  All options are on the table, so you can set your own constraints.

In case you're wondering (and I know someone will ask the question if I don't say), I don't think I'll use a set colour palette, and I'll probably do the same thing I did with my #blockadayjuly quilt, which was to work from my scrap bins most of the time, and deliberately add in bits of black and white here and there to create something vaguely cohesive.  But I still have a week or so to decide, so I might change my mind!

So, what do you reckon?  Are you in?  Also, can you think of a better name for this challenge generally?  Year 30 quilt only really works for me, and I'm rubbish at thinking of challenge names - I always want to put in far too many words!

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craftykat said...

Cannot wait to watch your progress on this! Anne's talk was very inspiring and has certainly made me not afraid to call myself creative! I am aiming for 1 creative thing a day for my 35th year (maybe my failed blockadayjuly blocks will reappear!)

Leanne said...

It sounds like a great project, I am going to enjoy watching you. You could make a bag of EPP options to take along if you are travelling for some of those days.

Yvonne @ Quilting Jetgirl said...

Wow, this is going to be amazing! In terms of names, how about full circle or orbit since it represents one transit of the earth around the sun? Kind of silly, but maybe it will work for others who play along!

Ella said...

I like the idea. Just turned 40 this year.

Erica Jackman said...

I have never considered myself a creative person either, I was always more of a math and science nerd, and I really agree that the way to become more creative is to do something creative regularly. When I first started quilting I hated having to combine fabrics for a quilt, but now I know that that is obviously the best part of the process :) I am looking forward to seeing your quilt progress!

Anne said...

Eeeee I'm so excited about this, you have no idea!! :D :D
How about for the name: Quilting BAD (block a day, get it?) and kind of a nod to Breaking Bad. Which admittedly I didn't watch past the first season. Or something else with BAD in it. :) Although you shouldn't ask me, I came up with QDAD which is the most ridiculous acronym ever. If I had known other people were going to do it, and I was going to be doing it 6+ months later, I would have spent more than 5 seconds naming it!

Hettie's Mum said...

Aah I so love your blog! And this post is fab. So many stimulating thoughts. I completely agree about setting a constraint to boost and stimulate creativity. I recently did that with my modest little plus quilt (thanks for your flika comment on it by the way - it means a lot to me!). I started with a $3 discounted bundle of 3.5" squares and a plan to find a quilt pattern to match and to work only from my stash. It was such fun! So many options unfurled and I'm pleased with what I've created.
Now back to your blog - thanks heaps for the links to others talks and the face book design a block a day page - this is an exciting discovery. I love seeing what other people create. I think you are so right about creativity benefitting from community. Others ideas, experiences and tastes open my horizon and help me discover what I like and some times I find out I like now what I never used to like! I know that sounds kind of backwards! But I can see things differently.
I'm up for joining in on your challenge in a way that is manageable for me. It's my 50th birthday on Sept 29. I reckon I'm up for dedicating my 51st year to a block a week challenge - I'm keen as to experiment and learn more. I'm sure it will point out some of the limits of my skills but I know that's a good thing - it impossible to learn some thing new with out trying! I'm going to put some thought into the 'rules' that will help me develop. Anyway enough yapping. Thanks so much for your thoughts, and challenges. You are very generous! Now back to sewing :-)

Wendy @ Wendysquiltsandmore said...

I admire your commitment, but I will watch from the sidelines. Funnily enough, on my next birthday (which is only 5 weeks away) I will turn 49. Therefore I have every reason to join in, but I'm still not going to. I'm worried I'd spend all year making blocks and then not like the result. (although I really like your July quilt)

sarah elizabeth :: {no} hats said...

Adrianne I absolutely 100% love this post! Of course there's our mutual love and adoration for Anne, but I am so inspired by your yearlong quest to create a quilt, one block/day at a time. Count me in :i). Though selfishly I have to say I wish I'd read this two months ago so that I wasn't already behind on my own Year 30 quilt, but I'm sure I can remedy that with a little twist (my year 30 and 3 months, perhaps?) :o)

Ginny said...

I love this post. So many great topics and thoughts here. I loved Anne's presentation and agree I know I am creative but feel weird when others point that out or put labels on it. I think everyone has it - but uses it in different ways. I loved your block a day in July and look forward to this project! Very tempting to do Farmer's Wife this way- since it appears to be such a challenge.

Wonky Patchwork said...

What a great idea, and I so much agree with you on your views on creativity. I love the idea of creating a quilt over the year, but I'm not sure a block a day would work for me personally, either in terms of the commitment to it or in the kind of quilt I'd like to end up with at the end. But you've now got me thinking about how I could adapt the concept to something that would work for me, thank you!

Leonie said...

Great idea and really exciting! Would love to join but will happily watch from the sidelines this time! Very inspiring!

Camilla said...

Thanks for this great post! I just enjoyed watching the webinar and now I "just" need to put it into practice! What a great way to celebrate 3decades and I think the idea of accepting imperfection is fantastic-can think of all sorts of parallels with ageing gracefully. I look forward to seeing this quilt unfold here and maybe I will decide to take up your gentle prompting, or use it to set my own?! A friend and I plan to make a collaborative project with sand as the inspiration starter idea' so maybe I can incorporate that with some of your and Anne's ideas...

Rachel said...

I loved Anne's presentation, it was very inspiring! I've been thinking about how I could join in with you, I love the idea, but I'm a little intimidated at the thought of it! Maybe one block a week would work better for me :) What's the start date? ;)

amanda m said...

What a fantastic idea! A big undertaking but it's going to be amazing! I'm tempted to get in on the fun but I'm not sure a block a day is doable for me... Maybe I'll try a block a week and see how that goes :)