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Thursday, November 8, 2012

More Fabric Loves

There is a shift going on in the quilting fabric world, as quiltmakers who themselves are not hand dyeing or printing fabric are searching for that surface design look, a look I blogged about earlier in a post featuring the work of independent fabric designer Marcia Derse.

Fabric houses are reacting, and much more quickly than they have in the past, to new avenues in fabric design. On a recent fabric browse I picked up a charm pack of the new Moda collection "simple marks" by Malka Dubrawsky.

I am a big fan of bright, saturated tuquoise, and that is one of the signature colours of this fresh, earth tone oriented collection:

sample of "simple marks" by Malka Dubrawsky for Moda

Especially useful are the "cheater cloth" designs, good for quick projects, and particularly handy if you just want to do a quick sandwich on which to practice your free motion skills:

Cheater cloth, summer tones

Like Marcia's abstracts, these fabrics make a good addition to the modern quilt/art quilt stash.

I would also like to send you all over to my friend Susan's new blog, Sew Susan Sew! I met Portland Oregon's Susan Albright at the 2011 Sisters, Oregon Outdoor Quilt Show, and have shamelessly invited myself back to her home several times! Susan's quilting is beautifully informed, colour-full and as she is a prolific artist, I have had the pleasure of watching her design process over the course of several projects. Take a good look at the round robin blog postings...that round robin was my first and I was amazed at how it pushed me to really think about design, and to work creatively within what I first found to be an uncomfortably limited framework. To my surprise, it was that framework that pushed me to new design learnings; the tight structure of dealing with a work already begun, and hewing to its creative identity forced me to narrow my design focus and really concentrate on how to pull together elements that worked. It was a watershed experience, one I highly recommend.

Here, from the same round robin, is another work:

I received this piece as the third in a line of three round robin quilters. The only terms of our RR agreement were to add on between 2" and 10" per round, and to send on to the next quilter at least two of the fabrics already used in the piece. I had a personal resolve to only have each RR installment in my workroom for one month. In that time I had to figure out what to do, do it, and mail the package off to the next quilter in line.

When I opened this parcel, I was dismayed. The muted tones are not colours I was comfortable working in, and as in most round robin projects, I was unhappy with the ever expanding square within a square progression. Because you are adding on, it is very hard not to just keep adding border after border. The second quilter had made a concerted effort to bring movement and diagonal elements into the work, honouring the creative piecing in the centre. But I had a big ol' cerise square frame pushing for attention.

I debated....would I add on just to the top and bottom, to force a rectangular finished shape? How would I manage the grey sky fabric...could I make it an homage to our dark and rainy, soggy Pacific Northwest winters? How was I going to deal with that cerise border? It was usurping centre stage as the piece's design focus, and I was pretty sure the original intention was to highlight the beauty and whimsy of butterflies, along with the idea of windows onto other landscapes. And I wanted to avoid making the piece too "matchy" or twee.

I parked the piece on a design wall and gave myself permission to think about it for a few days. Meanwhile, I treated myself to a new book: Quilting Modern, by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pedersen. I was idly leafing through the pages when with a shock I realized their Supernova Quilt (p. 104) was similar in many ways to the RR I was struggling with:

Supernova quilt from "Quilting Modern" by Pedersen and Gering

Here was a novel approach...a border pieced together in such a way as to be based on a square grid, but suggesting diagonal, broken lines. Aha! And the free form shapes on the outer edges suggested butterflies. Double Aha! Here too, the designer had dealt with a strong centre element (also cerise) by using the element again (as the cerise in the outer ring). Which is one great lesson...if something in a block is taking over the visuals, you can quiet it down by repeating its elements elsewhere in the quilt. This gives you an avenue to also add balance while you strive to unify the "voice" in the quilt.

I decided to frame the piece I had with the "not frame" technique used in the supernova quilt. I tried to pick up the cerise, but that created a big problem...the dark purple elements in the butterflies and two of the tilted butterfly frames were then left as the boldest of the quilt voices and became the focal point. And they did not work well as the focal point. I switched over to electric purple fabrics, ones with lighter hits of pink and cerise in them, and tried again. It worked.

I add my first round, a wonky border based on a grid of squares!

To finish off, I auditioned many, many solid or reads as solid fabrics for the final background. I thought the yellow green would be the logical go-to fabric, but it looked underwhelming, drab. Ditto the orange and then salmon fabrics I tried. I pulled out half my stash looking for the right fabric...and realized I had already used it. The winning fabric turned out to be the reverse side of one of my purple border fabrics. I was lucky that yardage was still available locally. I pieced a second round of wonky border, and then finished quickly by composing the background out of a grid of squares, piecing on corner bits that finally ended up coming together as free form butterflies that echoed the bright colours in the central piecing.

I felt brilliant! By staying tightly focused on the original elements, listening to what they were saying, I was able to figure out a path that both amplified and enhanced what I had been sent. I liked it a lot, and I hope you do too!

Finished Round Robin top for Hirome!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fibre Love: Stash Building and One Block Wonder / Kaleidoscope Quilt Pick

My name is Janet.
And I am a fabri-holic.

Well, aren't we all? I like fabric, and I especially like stash building. I have been actively stash building over the last year and as my fabric collection has grown, so has my "eye"; that indefinable sense of colour and design that is the wind under our quilterly wings.

Today we went on a little weekend jaunt which included a nice, leisurely visit to Fourth Corner Quilts in Bellingham, WA. I have been planning my first landscape quilt, and that project requires a wide range of solids, mixers and low pattern batiks, all fabric categories I have never really collected before.

I was overjoyed to find this wonderful fabric, by Marcia Derse for Troy Corporation, from her "Line 5" collection.

Line 5 Collection, Marcia Derse

This fabric is a wonderful, offbeat mixer, a fabulous backing fabric, and will work well in my arbutus tree themed landscape quilt.

Intruiged by this designer I had never heard of before, I looked up the line. Wow.

This is one fabulous line. Any one of these prints would make a great stash addition, particularly for art quilters and landscape quilters: I would strongly advocate putting away a yard or two of each print. They look like great, timeless, "go to" fabrics. I will definitely keep an eye on Marcia's blog; can't wait to see what she comes up with next!

Always on the hunt for prints that work well in One Block Wonder (or Kaleidoscope) quilts, I found this luscious print:

French Journal in Anjou, Michael Miller Fabrics

I ran my OBW mirror over it and was delighted! This one has all the features of a great OBW fabric...large, discrete areas of colour. The white background makes for a really clean design as well, and will keep the beautiful, strong colours and shapes separate and defined. I was particularly taken with the rich russet reds of the wild roses against the buttery golds and clear, wintry blues.

This fabric would also be gorgeous as a backing, or simply stretched over a large canvas and hung on the wall as a piece of fabric art.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Colour Studies

It was easy to sign up for a Quilting 101 class. It was easy (if expensive) to acquire the tools you needed to complete the class. But as I stood in front of the shop's wall of fabrics I realized: choosing colours and patterns for my class sampler quilt...Was Not Easy.

I had arrived at age 50 with absolutely no training in the basics of colour and design. A bit of a handicap for a quilt noob! The fabric wall defeated me; I appealed to the shop owner for help in choosing a set of fabrics for my class quilt. We managed, but I have learned since that it is almost impossible, and not likely advisable, to choose all the fabrics for a project in one shop. You are all too likely to end up, like I did, "doing just okay". Your quilt will be fine, but chances are, you could have done a lot better.

Fabrics chosen for me, I launched into the class and worked hard on things like 1/4" seams (accurate 1/4" seams), half square triangles, cutting fabric properly, and all the myriad sewing skills that quilters must master. By the end of the course, I was a much better seamstress. But I was still floundering in the colour and design category.

An online shop helped me choose my fabrics for my Quilt 201 class. With a wider range of options, and by now using quilt software to preview fabric choice and placement in blocks, my second quilt turned out much better.

But I still couldn't have chosen fabrics on my own.

I realized I had to get some training in basic colour theory, and bought some books to help me along. They worked well, but it was not until I wandered into a small shop in Pacific Grove, CA whilst on holiday that I really began my colour education. On the wall was an incredible quilt, Red Sticks:

I had never seen a quilt like this! Below it were the Collaborative Quilting books by Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran. I bought them both. I carefully read and re-read them over the next few weeks, soaking up the luminous, saturated colours, the abstract designs, and the joie de vivre! I signed up for a Freddy/Gwennie course at Empty Spools Seminars and began collecting the brights and black and whites needed for these quilts, and creating my own Parts Department.

Suddenly, I was in colour country. And with no defined pattern to work from, I learned to really look at the fabrics I was working with. The education of my eye had begun in earnest, and over the course of a year I gained a degree of colour and design confidence I honestly thought was beyond my grasp.

One of the things Freddy encouraged me to do was to make small colour studies, just randomly piecing together combinations from my stash that I found pleasing. I began by just pulling out my most recent favourite fabric, and finding in my (by now enormous) stash a perfect companion. I borrowed from my books on colour theory and tried classic colour harmonies...they worked! And relied on my ever increasingly competent sense of what felt right. Once my free form pieced work got large enough, I would take my 4" square ruler and cut out a pleasing 4" square section, and make that into a coaster. Choosing the backing and binding were colour study exercises on their own.

Many of these colour studies became quilt blocks and quilts. All became coasters, on which I often practice free form hand stitched quilting in crochet cottons. These colour saturated coasters give me a real lift, and make fun little prezzies.

I encourage you to take some time for fabric play, and make some colour studies. My recipe follows:

Colour Study Coasters

Choose a fabric you adore.

Find a fabric (from your stash?) that looks fabulous with that first fabric.

Find a third fabric, either a black and white print or a third colour that also looks great.

Just felt it needed a pop of hot colour! And I chose a more vibrant yellow-green.

Take the lightest and brightest of the the three.
Cut from that fabric a small free form, roughly 2.5" in diameter.
(five sided forms work well)

Gradually add on in a wonky log cabin kind of way, mixing the colour order as you go in a way that looks dramatic but balanced and pleasing to your eye.

Cut across the piece on an angle from time to time, keeping in mind your aim:
to ignite and energize the composition.

When your composition is about 6" in diameter, lay a 4" ruler on top and rotate till you find a composition under the ruler you really, really like.

Cut out that 4" square shape.

Layer with backing and binding that add to the design. Aim for drama!

Quilt as desired.
(I like hand stitching with colourful crochet cottons)

~work in only three colours
~work in only black and white
~work in one colour plus white
~work in one colour, solid white and solid black
~work in different hues of a single colour
~work in four colours
~work from a colour harmony scheme

Cut and resewn butterfly blocks.

Post your creations here!