I've been working on a few different hexagon quilts lately. Hexagons, to me, are the perfect in-between project. I have a stash of basted hexagons in a large cookie tin that I add to in bursts when I'm in the mood, and I've been sewing them into little flowers for perhaps a couple of years. They're such an quick and easy little block, perfect for my evenings in front of the tele, or listening to an audiobook. Now my collection of hexie flowers has grown to the point where I'm deciding what to do with them!
The First Hexagon Quilt
My first hexagon quilt is a remake of Florin, a hexie flower quilt from my Small Change Quilts Pattern. I made that pattern quickly at the beginning of lockdowns a few years ago, and this year I want to update it. I picked out a mix of flowers, chose backgrounds, top stitched the flowers to the background squares (after removing the papers), and now I nearly have a finished quilt! Here's the layout I've chosen. I LOVE it!
The Next Hexagon Quilt
After feeling so good about that quilt, it was a bit of a surprise when I laid out the rest of my hexagon flowers on the floor last week and felt….Blaa. I wish I'd taken a photo of that iteration so I could compare it with the one below that I took this morning. I've spent the week making more hexie flowers (the ones in the photo below that don't have matching petals) to fill colour and value gaps in the remaining blocks, in the hope that I could fix it.
I laid it out this morning, and even though it's improved, I still feel pretty meh about it. It's a bit busy, maybe? I keep noticing all the blocks with prints on them that I didn't fussy cut. Also, I'm not sure about the blocks made of basics. They look a bit blobby. But I like the new, scrappy ones where you can see the lines between the petals....
Mulling over these things inspired me to write a blog post on what to do if you get to this point in a project and hate it.
How to Rescue a Quilt You Hate
1. Take a breath.
First, it's really, really, really important to remember that the creative process is full of experimentation and learning. Things not working out like you hoped is going to happen. You are not guaranteed to nail it every time, nor should you expect that of yourself. You are here to play and learn and try things. So step back and take a breath. It's easy for our brains to charge right into critic mode. What were you thinking? All that work! What a waste! You have to keep going! Whack, whack, whack. Tell that poor brain of yours to just wait a minute. It's going to be ok. We're just learning. This is all part of the process. It's ok if we pause and give it time.
After that, take a photo. Perhaps you're taking a look at the photo above and thinking, what's wrong with it? I am too, honestly. The photo is still different to what I envisaged in my head, but it's really not as bad as what my eyes first saw when I laid it out (skewed heavily by my disappointment that I might not be nearly finished this quilt after-all). A photo helps you get more of a bird's eye view than standing over it. I also edited this photo a little. My living room is sunny and warm today. In the photo, I lowered the contrast and the warmth, and then felt like I could see the colours better. A photo also helps you take a few days to mull over it if you can't leave your quilt laid out.
Also, take note of your surroundings. Sometimes these play a huge role in how you feel about your quilt. Is it evening and you only have electric light? Can you leave it till morning and see how it looks? Or maybe, like me, you've laid out your quilt on a jute rug and the whole things just feels a bit yellow. Do you have a white sheet, or some wadding that could provide a more neutral background?
2. Tune in.
Once you've taken these things into account, it's time to dig a little deeper. Sometimes you don't know what you were expecting until those expectations get dashed. What were you hoping for? Articulate it. And then, how does this layout fall short? For me, I wanted something brighter. Could this be fixed by taking out the more muted or dusty-shaded blocks and replacing them?
Perhaps you could lay out your blocks in rainbow order (this works especially well for hexie flowers which have mostly one colour), and see what your spread of colour is like. Is something dominating and that's why it's not working? Once I took the flowers out for my Florin quilt, I left myself with mostly yellow, pale coral, and aqua. I wanted more balance and variety. That's why this week, I've been making more brighter and darker flowers. If that fixes the problem, great! you can keep sewing away happily.
3. Pack it away.
Sometimes the one thing that was pushing you through to sew all those rows together, was the picture you had in your head for how it would look finished. But the quilt that it's actually going to be? You're not so sure. In my experience, when I've packed the quilt away, I often get the motivation to make that quilt down the track. I just needed time to let go of my vision and embrace a new one.
Also, often I pack away quilt blocks, and then get inspiration for something completely different that could use the blocks I've made. Perhaps a baby is born, and you think, "I could use the pinks and corals to make a small play mat", or maybe you decide to make a bunch of needle-books for a local market, and these would be perfect decoration. Just because you pack the blocks away, doesn't mean you need to just wait until you have the motivation to finish the quilt. They could just act as 'orphan' blocks that work perfectly in something new.
There's also been plenty of times where that inspiration never comes, and I decide to give away or sell the blocks. And that's definitely good too. But I don't throw it away or unpick it immediately, and I rarely just push through and cross my fingers. (I used to do that every time and I felt sick, knowing I was making something I didn't love.) Instead, I put it in a box and do something else for a while.
Back to My Hexagon Quilt
In my playing and experimenting, trying to see if I could get the look I was after, I pulled out all the flowers with petals made of one print, and kept the new ones I'd made this week. Oooh yes! This is what I love! But is this what I want to make? I have no idea. But I also have no other quilts calling me while I wait to decide, so maybe I'll just keep my hexie tin out and make flowers while I mull it over!
I've done this whole process at the end of the block making because I've enjoyed making hexie flowers with no plan in mind, but usually, I lay-out and check-in several times during a quilt. That way, I can steer it before I've made all the blocks. I can check for colour and value balance, I can note things I don't love and avoid it in future blocks, and I can see things that have really worked and do it again. If, after a check in, I feel stuck, I put it away and work on something else.
I've embraced this sporadic, but focussed, way of working on quilts for several years now, and through it, I've become much better at making quilts I love, and I hit these road blocks less often. I've also grown to really trust myself. I know I've been here before and I know I can fix it. It just requires a little clever creativity, which I know I have in me. That makes the disappointing quilts not a waste of time, or fabric, but absolutely worth it.
What would you do with these hexie flowers? I'd love to know!