As part of my attempt to try new techniques, I joined an online challenge group a couple of months ago. This group posts a challenge the third Thursday of each month and finished projects are supposedly due in a week. Some people actually make the deadline, but there are usually stragglers. I had not had time to fully participate in one yet, but just reading the explanation of the challenges and looking at the websites sited for further information has been well worth my time.
The December challenge (right before Christmas, for Pete's sake) was intriguing: look at the colors used in product packaging (food, cosmetics, toys, anything) and make a quilt using those colors. But there is more: create a still life composition that contains a plant (nature is the theme for the year). In between wrapping packages and planning meals, I began noticing the boxes and cans on my kitchen shelves. One morning as I looked at the box of Numi tea (one of my favorites) I was pulling a bag out of, I realized that the rich warm brown that bordered the front panel was just the color I had been trying for when I was dyeing this summer and I thought I still had some left. Soon I was pawing through my other hand-dyes looking for other matches. I had assumed, for example, that the lettering was white, but it was not; it was a very pale yellow. I came up with reasonable matches and decided that I could cheat a little and use the teal from the teacup on the top panel as well. The color combination, very different from my usual strong reds and purples, was enticing--but it was Christmas . . .
After New Year's, when the last of the family units were on their way home, I treated myself to some quilting time, and the pile of challenge fabric caught my eye. But what to do with it? My quilts tend to be abstract rather than representational so the still life/plant requirement slowed me down a bit until I decided on abstract simple shapes--a trapezoid for a pot, rectangles for what it's sitting on, and some ovalish shapes in yellow to pull the eye into the piece--with perhaps leaves as contrast. I played with the composition a bit and came up with what to me is a very restful piece--like sitting down for a cup of tea.
Deciding on the quilting probably took the most time of the whole project. Every quilting pattern I tried complicated it, made it busy, or distracted from the composition until I came round to where I had begun--simple shapes with little quilting. I have started to face more of my quilts instead of bind them and I tried a slightly different method of facing on this quilt, which turned out so well that it has become my preferred method.
I posted a picture of my piece--it's about 17" x 22"-- and the box of tea on the challenge blog, where other members of the group may critique it. I saw four comments--and then I left for a visit to Massachusetts, and when I came back three days later there were more, all quite positive--and an e-mail message from one of the members, who wanted to buy my quilt!
I was very pleased with this little quilt, and so it took me a while to decide to sell it, but it will soon be on its way to its new owner.