Samples: Eyes

December 30th, 2019

I don’t normally make new works to a theme, but one current call for entry has intrigued me to the point that I am considering I might even make it a kind of theme for all my quilt art this year – a really new approach for me. So, lots of thinking researching and, as always when I am in this frame of mind, sample making in my favourite go-to technique, improvisational piecing.

Cutting through 3 fabrics at the same time, rearranging then sewing (only 2 sewn)

I frequently work cutting and piecing 2+ layers of fabric at the one time, rearranging them so that each unit has at least some of each colour. However, for this particular project I’m looking for a different effect, thinking more more individual eyes, “people” as against graphic icons. Even at this stage expressions seem to be emerging, so this is something I might explore further. Certainly I have realised real individuality will come when they are cut and pieced one at a time:

Several possible expressions in this one sinister?

While doing this I

  • create lists of relevant words and perhaps quotations, which help point me to a title eventually
  • think about additional surface design techniques – including of course the manner of the quilting itself.

This all has to sort of ‘gel’ in a mental picture before I’m ready to start making a new work, and though I give myself permission to change that image as I proceed, I need to start with something in my mind. For me it’s not ok to just throw fabric up on the design wall and see what happens. I’ve too often heard improvisational quilting described in this way, and I’ve seen too many ghastly mish-mash results from people who believe that this is designing intuitively, and therefore artistic.

New Bed Quilt 5

December 10th, 2019

Just a short time ago I completed the piecing, joining both halves of this 2.5m quilt for our own bed. Spreading the top over the bed just now gives an idea how it will look when quilted:

At last I can see the effect and when quilted it will be very pleasing.

I am talking with a couple of contract long arm quilters whose work I like, and hope to get into agreement and get this on its way to one of them very soon. Just doing the centre seam joining the pieced halves was a matter of serious manoeuvring, and the unquilted top is already quite heavy. My modest domestic sewing machine, my work table, (even cleared of everything) and my back and arms are not equal to the task of quilting this one 🙂

Planning Colour Schemes

December 10th, 2019

No matter what style of quilt someone is making, traditional, experimental, art or Modern, to produce one requires hours of work and patience. Fabrics may be recycled or new, but every maker wants the end product to look good when it’s all finished.

Knowledge of how colour works can be intuitive, but it also can be learned. Some people’s choices are very appealing to many of us – we say they are ‘good with colour’. Other people’s ideas are less so, or they have simply no idea (but not all of these people actually know that!) It is always worth taking time to focus on colour in our work – but if you don’t want to spend years and years reading up on the theory of colour, there are several good ways to come up with a colour scheme that pleases, and I don’t use the same approach every time.

I have often claimed that in the world of art quilts (including those who teach in it) there is not nearly enough emphasis on design and color compared to the myriad of technical demonstrations and tutorials in magazines, dvds, books, tv, online and real time courses and classes.  Many quilt makers have high skill levels in all the construction techniques required to make wonderful quilts, but can lack ability and/or confidence developing colour schemes for their own original projects.  

Collections of new fabrics appear several times a year in coordinated prints and solids to make copying a project from a magazine possible, but without basic knowledge of just how different colours work together, a quilter assembling her own individual color scheme may not even realize when a quilt shop assistant has helped her make a ‘less good’ or even a ‘wrong’ fabric selection.

Detail of “La Cueva” (cave) and my photo of the ceiling of an underground cave which inspired the colour scheme and the lines and shapes of the quilt.

How colours work together, “colour theory”, is a large area of study by many artists over several centuries, and it’s a bit daunting for those who find pages of terms and definitions wherever they look for information on working with color.  To help fill this knowledge and confidence gap, I teach a one day, non-sewing workshop called “Colour Confidence For the Theory Challenged Quilter”.  Using several  different visual sources, including their own photo and a found natural object, students experience several very practical methods of devising a colour scheme that really works. Without knowing any technical terms, all students successfully devise viable, interesting and personal color schemes; and for most this is a real eye opener and confidence builder. As these results are reviewed towards the end of the workshop, basic colour terminology is introduced; colour/hue/tint/shade,  and monochromatic/complementary/triadic etc. with reference to a color wheel. For some this is enough, and for others it is a starting point for further study.

I recommend getting a colour wheel from an art supply store, and learning about the different kinds of colours schemes, the role of neutrals, and which colours added to a group will give a zing, if you want it – basic colour theory. Knowing the basics and how colour works can enable you for example to express deeper meaning into your art – colours ‘speak’ to us, and can be interpreted as symbols revealing our inner thoughts. Hmmm …

You can certainly find some wonderful colour schemes on Pinterest and (here you can search a particular colour like ‘turquoise’)

New Bed Quilt, 4

November 26th, 2019

Having reached the target number of squares, 169, plus a few spares, for the new quilt for our bed, I’m now starting to put it together! But with workmen in several places around the house at the moment, progress has been slow this week.

I started with a basic block theme as per the square in the upper left of this sketch, but from time to time as a new variation came to mind, I added some of those. Overall it’s more varied than I expected than when I began this project.

Variations on a theme – the upper left block is close to what I started with, though that had straight lines. By adding and subtracting lines and seams, making them curved or straight,

I’m pleased with the livelier colours now that more citrusy and warmer greens have been added.

Sewing up the first 7 x 6 group of blocks, ie 122cm x 142cm, 56″x 48″ finished, another 7 x 6 blocks, then a 7x 7 group and a 6 x 6 set will give the right number to the total top.

Colour distribution is extremely important, so I sorted the blocks into heaps of squares in broad colour groups, like citrus, strong yellow, aqua, strong blue, light greeny blues and green, although this is only ‘helpful’, not absolute. By taking a square from each pile to place in every row, and making sure it is not next to the same colour anywhere, I think the result will be evenly distributed colours as in this first quarter.

I’ve found that it matters not one jot which way the squares are oriented, because their differences have become apparent and interesting, and there are lines pointing in every direction 🙂

The spare blocks might come into play at the end if something stands out as ‘wrong’ where it is, as one can be substituted by just undoing the seams around it and sewing in the replacement, though I hope that doesn’t happen too many times. If none of the spares are ‘suitable’, I have enough of the two browns and most other fabrics to make something particular if needed.

Update – I found when I got to the last group there were too many strong greens. so made and substituted a couple using the lighter, geeny citrus.

New Bed Quilt, 3

October 25th, 2019

About 1/3 of the number required are now done. As you just can’t tell until there’s a mass of them whether something that stands out as problematic early on is still annoying in the very large number the final number 180 will include a few extras.

In this first very early pinup version, the arrows on the top row point the opposite way to those on the next, row, and so on. This is one possibility, but there are other layout alternatives pictured below, with comments.

As more colours are added in, still all on the citrus-to-strong blues spectrum, the colour scheme becomes richer and more interesting. Colours are echoed in hand dyes and prints, and I’m loving it. The next two pics are layout alternatives, auditions if you like. So far the first, above, is still my preferred choice.

Layout alternative 2 – Four blocks grouped with arrows all meeting in the centre…. and this is great, until you consider the next group, which is inevitable if this layout is chosen:

Layout alternative 3 – I’d have to lay out lots of these to see if they work well in a large number. A consequence of every pair of blocks being cut freehand is that, as they’re all different, where they meet can look a bit jarring just now. But maybe that won’t matter in the grand scheme, so I’m cool and flexible at this stage!

Other possibilities exist, such as this next one. A couple of simpler but related blocks were made and added in. What I have only just noticed in writing this post is that in the lower left hand corner another possibility suggests itself, and I need to test that with a bunch of blocks –

One thing I could do, with or without either of the above alternatives, is to make some different blocks on the same theme and insert them here and there for variety. I did only 2 which is why they’re the same (See basic construction notes on cutting shapes to fit.)

Another possibility is that blocks could be grouped with triangle shapes in the middle and the blocks bordered and sashed – hmmmm.

Border each group of 4 with the background fabric. I’m not suggesting sashing would actually be this wide – I’m just using offcuts to get the idea of the effect. As I might be running a bit short of background at the end, I’m not keen to cut more than I have to just to play! I’m keeping ALL offcuts, just in case I need to cobble together a few shapes from small scraps!

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