My oldest is starting kindergarten in a few weeks. As you would expect, she is a bit nervous and a bit excited. She has been spending the last few weeks getting ready for school –playing “kindergarten teacher” with her younger brother and sister; practicing her writing on a dry eraser board; reading “extra books…just to get ready.” All on her own. I have had nothing to do with this kindergarten prep. 🙂
I think she is trying to get ready for THE BIG DAY in her own way. She must imagine that some of these things will make her more ready to start the biggest independent journey of her young life. Will they? I don’t know. Maybe these activities will help get her get in the mindset of school. But maybe the first day of kindergarten will be hard for her regardless. Either way, I don’t stop her. I am a big believer in preparation. Both in real life scenarios and in art/sewing.
Whenever I design a new project or want to try a new technique, I make lots of what I call samples and swatches. Practice samples help me improve my art quilting, in particular. I am not a “just wing it” kind of person. I have learned the hard way that, for me, just winging it often leads to disappointment with the end product. Right now, I am working on an art quilt of two of my kids holding umbrellas. I want to make sure I capture as much detail as I can with thread and fabric. It is tricky business ~ trying to capture human expression with only thread, so I have been practicing and making sample after sample to find the best way to sketch their faces.
I am in good company with my focus on samples and practice swatches. Across many creative mediums, people often do practice rounds first. In sewing, seamstresses create muslins to tweak the fit and design of clothing before cutting into the good fabric. Graphic designers often do mock ups of their work, and fine painters frequently do color or value studies before embarking on a large painting.
So, why? At first, it seems like that just takes a lot more time, maybe even seems a waste of time. But in reality, even more time is lost after working hard on a finished piece and then having it end in disaster, or a least in a way you did not intend. Making samples gives you time to think through a technique or figure out a way to translate what you want onto fabric. Very rarely do I stitch something the first time as a sample and think it is perfect just as it is. In fact, has that ever happened? When I was working on my Spring Landing quilt (finished quilt below), I stitched a number of sample daffodils before I found the combination of stitching and applique that I wanted. I used more samples to worked through how I wanted to add the birds to my piece, as well. I knew I wanted to use both paint and thread for the details. Making these samples helped me end up with finished birds that I loved.
Practice Samples also can help improve your piece. As you make a sample, you have a chance to better understand how the design, color, texture or technique will look on your finished quilt. Sometimes, this leads you to exploring other avenues in your design. It wasn’t until I made samples of the border quilting that I realized I needed more detail and interest to frame the piece.
Now, none of these samples need to be finished pieces or made with great attention to detail. The goal is to get a feel for the technique you are going to use and to make sure it will convey what you see in your mind. Sometimes quickly getting your idea down on fabric is all you need to decide if a technique or color is going to work. Often, some practice and forethought can save you a lot of time in the end. And just like practicing for the start of kindergarten, sometimes a little preparation is all you need to make everything work out smoothly.
Spring Landing – 2014