I’m a sucker for quilt challenges and exchanges. They provide me with guidelines and deadlines – two things that I don’t have when I quilt for myself. They also tend to be more open to experimentation than other things such as a Block of the Month. My quilt guild has offered a grab bag challenge for the past few years. Our guidelines don’t specify size or shape (or if they did at one point, everyone seemed to ignore them.) The idea is to fill a gallon-sized plastic bag with some fabrics and notions and bring them to the designated guild meeting. Your bag goes to someone else, you get a bag put together by someone else; you don’t know whose bag you have or who has yours. You then make a quilt that goes to the original bag-owner.
The challenging part of the grab bag isn’t so much the deadline, although the deadline is definitely a motivator. The challenge comes in taking someone else’s fabrics and colors and making them, somehow, work for me. A few years ago one of the members peeked at the bag and stated that she simply couldn’t work with these fabrics and pulled out another bag instead. (We do seem to ignore the rules.) There were two people left to choose – the original bag owner and me. So I got the “I can’t work with these fabrics” bag. I was thrilled (really) to get a bag of beiges, browns, and pinks. Not my colors! And I really liked the quilt that I made, even though it was not my colors.
This year I did get my colors. And I was nervous because the way the fabric was packed into the bag told me whose bag it was. I had the bag of someone who does exquisite work. Her handwork and applique are superb. Her color sense is amazing. I was intimidated, but I made the quilt. The size was determined, not by the rules (I really don’t think we have rules anymore since no one follows them,) but by the width of the yellow striped fabric that screamed “wallpaper.” At least I heard it screaming wallpaper. The quilt design came from the flowers I bought for my Passover table and my favorite purple vase. The binding was binding she included in the bag – just the right amount for the quilt I made. I loved this challenge quilt. She loved it too. It fit perfectly on a wall in her kitchen next to a collection of amethyst glassware. I didn’t know her house or the colors or the size of the wall. I just made the quilt that called to me and, mysteriously, it was just the right quilt.