by Kathy Schmidt

I absolutely love a good challenge! And so does my small group!

High Flight by Mary Beth Donovan

Creative Seasons is a small art quilt club that grew from the Guild and has been active for many years. We all work at being textile artists and almost all of us have a background in traditional quilting. Obeying the rules is always optional for us, even when we set our own rules in a group challenge!

And why would a group of free wheeling artists ever want to have a challenge anyway? Challenges are fantastic for self-improvement of skills, a way to refresh  knowledge of good design principles and a chance to apply your imagination to a specific theme. You are forced to work with random, limited materials and meet a deadline. We routinely have challenges to learn and explore new techniques or expand on a great design. The Creative Seasons group initiates challenges within our group for all those great intellectual reasons, as well as the most important one—it’s lots of fun!

The GAAQG quilt show affords us an excellent opportunity to use one of our challenges for a special exhibit. It’s so interesting to see each creation as interpreted by the artist within the challenge guidelines. I’ll share a few of our creations here, and you can see the whole wonderful group at the quilt show!

For this show, we chose a Batik Half and Half Again challenge, and we got to apply our criteria in a couple of different ways. With the way our in-person meetings worked out, we ended up with two groups. Let me give you the basics of the challenge and then I’ll explain how our different groups worked.

Each participant brings 1 yard of the batik fabric of their choice, no color or pattern suggestions or limitations. Stand in a circle (or sit around a table) and fold that yard of fabric in half, snip it, and rip it! Keep one half for yourself and pass the other half to the person on your right. Continue to snip, rip and pass each piece you receive. Each piece becomes smaller and smaller as it passes. Continue until everyone in the group has a piece of each fabric.

Fabric choices in my current challenge.

This set becomes the fabric palette for your challenge. The other “rules” of this challenge are very simple. Make a completed project that uses each of the fabrics received. You do not need to use all of each fabric. One additional fabric, in any quantity, may be added. There are no restrictions on embellishments or size.

We had to make some adjustments because the first group ended up with 11 participants and the second group had only 4. With 11, each person had a larger variety of fabrics, even though many pieces were small. With only 4 in a group, the pieces were larger but more variety was really necessary, so they were allowed to add 2 additional fabrics to their palette.


Each “player” then had to design and stitch an art quilt with a palette that they did not choose, sizes they did not plan and random colors that they may have never selected. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful challenge? Aren’t you eager to try it in your small group?

One of the advantages of taking part in a challenge is that we learn from it and that we push ourselves artistically. It is extremely difficult to work with a group of disparate fabrics, but I think we managed to do it very well. Designing is never easy, and random adds a whole new level of difficult.

It can be difficult to keep multiple fabrics in the correct order.

We also found that this particular challenge works best with 6 to 8 partcipants. More than that makes the pieces end up a bit too small and difficult to coordinate in a single project. The group with 4 had too few choices, so really needed to add more. Also with this one, you really must go slowly. It’s too easy to get backed up, turned around or skipped if you are not methodical.

Another group with which I have done this challenge has suggested one more little variation. The fabric I brought to that group was not one that I particularly loved. In the process we used with the Creative Seasons challenge, the first piece that you keep is a half yard of the fabric you brought. That also is your largest piece. A more adventurous way to begin would be to bring your fabric in a bag and start with a random pick. More random to add to the adventure!

Straighten Up and Fly Right by Kathryn Schmidt

Not every group is interested in challenges. The purpose of your group may not fit that idea at all. Your group may want to try one to see if you like it. Our group loves the fun of creating to a set of rules—which we often also happily ignore. This batik challenge is only one suggestion. Google something like quilt guild design challenges and explore what other groups have tried. You may have ideas of your own already, waiting for your group to hear about and try. Never forget, though, that the major attraction of any good challenge is to make it fun!