## Finally Some Value

Sonja gave a short presentation on Composition at the CQFA meeting on Feb. 2. Sonja is a really good artist and works very hard to get better.  In 15-20 minutes, I learned so much about composition that my head was reeling. I talked about it with a number of people that I know. I was really excited.

First she talked about 8 Common Armatures. I had no idea what this means, but she showed us examples of the different armatures, which are arrangements of art on a page. The 8 are:

• S curve
• L
• Diagonal
• Triangle
• Fulcrum
• O-Frame focal point
• O-Path around
• Horizontals and verticals
• Cruciform

Each of the above armatures can have subcategories. I talked a little bit about this in my Design Series post on Balance.

She also told us to work with intention. I took that to mean don’t just slap anything up on the quilt. She said to identify a center of interest and emphasize it, then she told us how.

Most of the class was taken up with Value. This started out to be a problem for me. For some time I have been irritated when people have said “Value does all the work and color gets all the glory.” Mostly, this saying has irritated me because nobody who said it could tell me why. I have ignored that saying since the first time I heard it.

Actually, I haven’t, but I was doing it intuitively and just using contrast. Contrast has a lot more to it than only value. You can review it in the design series episode on contrast.

First, we have to define value and contrast:

Definition of Value: Graduations of light and dark.  All colors have an inherent value.

Definition of Contrast: Difference in light and dark.  Or light vs dark. (See The Sharpened Artist).

The difference is a mind bender, but there is a difference.

Now we can get on to my epiphany.

In this presentation she talked about value patterns. She showed a diagram of 14 different examples of values in a composition. Each diagram shows 3 rectangles on a larger rectangular surface (presumably the paper or canvas or quilt). Each rectangle is either black, medium gray, light gray or white. In show different arrangements of these rectangles. Sonja showed us a page in Strengthen Your Paintings with Dynamic Composition. You can see what I am talking about a little bit in the arrangement of rectangles in the example on Jacob Bromeo’s site. You can see how the darker rectangles come forward.

There is a lot more I could say about this class. I have some books from the Library. I have some articles to read. I have some blogs posts to update.

Sonja recommended the following books. I got some of them from the library and am powering my way through them.

Resources:

Sonja does watercolors as well as make quilts. The above list is from her watercolor class, so there are things you have to ignore. The material on composition and value cross over from watercolor to quilts and are relevant.

## MQG Creative Webinar

Periodically, I am actually able to take advantage of some of the benefits of my MQG membership. Last week, I watched a webinar with Malka Dubrawsky on using prints called Creative Webinar: Printed and Patched: Designing with Patterned Fabric with Malka Dubrawsky.

My overall first impression was that there is an assumption that modern quiltmakers don’t use prints. I see a lot of MQG people buy lots of FQ collections. Wasn’t there some crazy hullabaloo over Heather Ross and some castle/princess collection a few years? Blueberry Park is pretty popular as well.

I tried to take this weird impression and set it off to the side so I could gain some knowledge from the webinar.

Malka said that prints have graphic information. There seemed to be another assumption that we are used to using small scale prints because they read as colors. She talked about using larger scale prints as graphic messaging. Dubrawsky said that using a variety, both large and small scale prints, creates interest.

She divided the presentation up into points:

• spaces
• movement
• color/color contrast
• common print
• random

I think that I may have missed one or two points, but I got some good information out of these, so the webinar was worth my time.

When Malka talked about spaces she was talking about dividing up the quilt’s surface into different spaces. She, then, talked about using prints in those spaces. You can also organize blocks as spaces or into spaces to use prints.

Movement went right past me.

She used Color / Color Contrast as a different type of organizing tool, which I thought was interesting. One example was dividing up a quilt into warm/cool.  Again the idea was about organizing fabrics on the surface of the quilt so you can use printed fabrics. I don’t find this to be necessary in my work, but I thought the concept was interesting and it might be worth trying.

She encouraged makers to create rules for ourselves to use prints so they make sense across the surface. I do this with my quilts in general.

I had no idea what Dubawsky meant by Common Print. She was referring to using different colorways of the same prints all together. I have always loved this concept. I often like having all the prints in all the colors. Remember my Half Moon Modern drama? Malka says that it allows for easier color and shape focus.

She said that using prints can produce ‘hidden treasures’ that don’t show up when you use solids. Prints create another point of interest, more to look at.

Random: hard to make work, but can work. This was difficult for the presenter to explain and I can understand why. She threw out:

“Simple shapes, colors go together, big spaces. Active background electrify prints rather than toning them down. Focus is on color rather than design.”

Overall message is that makers need to organize your fabrics and design so that they work on the surface. She said that design is really important and I was thrilled.

She encourages people to make their own FQ packs.

Yay! She uses batiks all the time. She calls them modern batiks – modern, bold, graphic designs. Malka also said that she doesn’t really like the older style, watercolor-y batiks. I got the impression that it was the motifs on the surface of the fabric rather than the batik process she didn’t like.

To start: Pick (buy or create) a fabric collection you really love – she buys entire FQ bundle- and then play around with different ways of organizing fabrics. Small/large prints or warm/cool colors. Use a simple geometric design. Challenge yourself. I also got the impression that she was saying to be brave.

Her new designs will be available on Feb 1 on her website as PDFs. Printed patterns will be available Feb 20. She is also doing kits.

A recording of this webinar is on the MQG site for your viewing pleasure, if you are a member.

## Four Low Volume Backgrounds

I have always liked to use a variety of fabrics to add interest. This means that I like scrap quilts, but I also like to use a variety of fabrics in the same colors in my quilts.

I learned this technique from Mary Mashuta. Many of you modern quiltmakers probably think she is old time and her techniques are not a useful addition to your modern arsenal. Mary is a really good teacher. She trained as a teacher and taught at SF High Schools for years before she left to become a quilt teacher. Her ideas are easily translatable to different fabrics and styles. I took a class from her about “pushed neutrals,” which had to do with making a background from a variety of neutrals rather than just using one fabric. I extrapolated that idea out to include non-neutrals as well, which evolved into using a variety of fabrics in the same colors for backgrounds. I have since used this technique for foregrounds as well.

Kay V, a longtime reader, made a comment that made me think about my low volume background for En Provence. As you know, the background is a variety of text fabrics. These are, mostly, the same fabrics I used for the Carpenter’s Wheel.

Jennifer’s Quilt is a quilt I made for my acupuncturist who really helped me get back on the road to health. When she died, I got the quilt back. Bittersweet. I would rather have her and never see the quilt again.

It is the first quilt, I think, I made using a variety of black and white fabrics for the background. Some of the pieces are a little heavy and I probably wouldn’t use them again. I also used the same technique for the foreground – the pinks, blues and limes are all a variety of fabrics in the same tones/shades. The blues have more contrast than the pinks and limes.

Flowering Snowball was primarily supposed to be a handwork project – something to take around with me when I needed a to-go project. At that point, I didn’t think as much about the background. In general this is not as successful an exercise in using different fabrics for the background. Some of the prints read grey rather than white. Others have too heavy a hand in the print department.

I got better with the Carpenter’s Wheel. I was focusing on using text prints and, thus, tried hard to make the background work. The scale of the different fabrics all vary, but the overall effect works.

From close up, the background of En Provence looks somewhat chaotic. The foreground fabrics can handle the chaos, however, because there is no bleeding of color into the background. I like the little bit of chaos as it seems to move my eye around the quilt.

As an added bonus, this technique does not require one to have a zillion yards of one fabric to use as a background. 😉

## Ta Dots & Stripes HSTs

I seem to have a lot of HSTs around. The other day I talked about the Mostly Manor HST quilt. I found the bag of Ta Dots & Stripes HSTs recently and laid them out to see what I could do with them.

First, they didn’t turn out as expected. The stripes are a lot darker than I anticipated and kind of dominate the quilt.

Second, there aren’t as many as I thought, so this will most probably be a lap quilt.

Third there aren’t enough colors of dots to make this really interesting. I don’t remember if Ta Dots come in more colors. If not, they should, but these are all the colors I have.

I laid them out anyway in order see what I could do with them. I laid them out in lines and straight HSTs.

This layout is similar to the one that my SIL did with the Mostly Manor HSTs. It concentrates the colored triangles together and makes them stand out a bit more. The stripes still fairly dominate the whole piece.

The other layout was inspired by a quilt on the Quilts and More Summer 2017 issue. It is straight HSTs in kind of a color order all pointing in the same direction. I thought it would be a possibility for this quilt.

It is ok, but the contrast is still difficult.

## Design Class: Dominance

It has been awhile since we did the last design class. There is no podcast accompaniment, but if one becomes available, I’ll come back to this post and link to it. Gradation was the last installment that I could find. You can find the entire series by clicking on the ‘Design Series’ tag in any of the relevant posts.

I want to finish the series as the unposted final classes niggle at the back of my mind like a to do list item I cannot cross off.

Dominance is related to Emphasis/Focal Point

Dominance is a Principle of Design

Definitions:

• One element plays the dominant role in a design. (Adventures in Design, pg.106)
• Medallion quilt
• Focus fabric
• “Dominance gives interest to one entity or area of a design over the others.” (Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color & Design, pg. 199)
• “Dominance gives a painting interest, counteracting confusion and monotony. Dominance can be applied to one or more of the elements to give emphasis (John Lovett)

Notes:

• The difference between focal point and dominance is subtle. An element that dominates because of size or color, etc can also be a focal point, but it is not a focal point when your attention is drawn to one spot, but then drifts away because something else is going on in the design field that could be considered as dominant or only slightly less dominant than the element that could be the focal point, if not for the other aspect of the design field. Look at page 125 of A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color & Design by Heather Thomas for an example.
• Wayne Thiebaud’s Lunch Table is also an example. The Watermelon clearly dominates, but not is a focal point because there is so much going on in the design field. The red of the soup helps to draw the eye away.

• “Both Dominance and Emphasis give interest to one entity or area over others present in a design field, however a focal point is not always formed. Giving dominance to , or emphasizing one design element or area will counteract confusion or the risk of monotony. (Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color & Design, pg. 125)

Using Dominance

• Dominance “can be achieved through the use of color, value, intensity, size and scale as well as other design elements. Emphasizing one element or letting one area dominate others sends an invitation to the viewer to come in and take a closer, longer look at the work.” (Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color & Design, pg. 125)
• The elements, line, shape, texture, form, are like the actors in a play. Not all the actors can be the star. You have to chose who will be the lead. When you choose who will be the lead in your quilt design, you are deciding which element will have dominance and you are enhancing visual unity. You can select another element to be your supporting actor and additional elements to play lesser roles to lend “visual support to your design.” (Adventures in Design, pg.106)

Resources

## Stepping Stones Progress

I spent some time over the weekend working on the Stepping Stones. I am ready to just piece without thinking. It never seems to work out, though. I always have to do some deciding or planning or math.

This past weekend required all three. As you might remember from my last update, I had some HSTs to make and was putting it off. I finally made them when I needed some easy piecing. I made a bunch so I would have some choice when I made a few more blocks to complete the top. After I made the HSTs and completed the leftover partial block, the question of the border came to mind.

I sat down to look at the EQ plan I had and found that I hadn’t completed it. I wasn’t 100% happy with the border I designed for the original Stepping Stones quilt. It is in no way terrible, but I wanted to finish off the groups of squares (red 4 patches set in groups of four, above).

I played around with EQ and came up with a new design. I am not sure it is the final for a couple of reasons:

1. I don’t know that the groups of red 4 patches in the corners add anything
2. I am not sure about the blue/green HSTs in the very corner. They add a little something, like breaking up a series of squares, but they don’t have any reference anywhere else in the quilt.

I am absolutely sure that I am happy with the red points that go into the border to finish off the scrappy lines of red that are made of HSTs throughout the quilt.

I want to get the border settled so I can start putting the whole top together via chunking. For chunking, I need to start in one of the corners.

I was out walking the other day and saw the design in the picture. It caught my eye as a possible quilt design I imagine that this design would be done in layers. I was thinking of taking a charm pack and making the bottom layer. Perhaps a couple of charm packs or charm packs with additional layers.

Either I would cut the bottom and sew in the black part or make the two parts separately and applique’ the black part on top. I wouldn’t necessarily make the top layer in black. The final color would depend on the charm pack I chose. I think a solid would probably be good.

This was a good reminder for me that design inspiration can be anywhere.

## Book Review: Fearless Design for Every Quilter

This is the year of cleaning up little details. This book has been on my list for a long time as I worked through the Design Series with Sandy. We haven’t finished the podcasting portion, but I want this book off my list. This book did not take me 4 years to read! I refused to take it off my list until, first, I finished the design series with Sandy and, second, I wrote this review.

I have taken at least one class with Lorraine Torrence. She is an excellent teacher who teaches concepts and techniques more than projects. In the classes I have taken with her, and articles & books by her I have read, the principles and elements of design infuse her work. Thus I was excited about this book when it came out. As I started my own studies into the principles and elements of design, I found this book to be a good resource and starting place. It is, however, not comprehensive.

The book comprises the creative process as well as five of the principles and elements of design. It starts with a comprehensive table of contents (pg.4) and continues with an introduction that includes a brief history of the contemporary quiltmaking movement. The introduction continues with a section from each of the two authors. Lorraine’s section talks about her long term Design Essentials class, including sketching out the content of the class allowing any shop to offer such a class. I am not sure that was the intent. Jean was a student in the class and talks about her experiences while Lorraine talks about the evolution and teaching of the class.

The introduction is followed by a short section on the goals of the books and some introduction on how to use the book. Critique and inspiration are part of using the book and are described in this part as well.

The overall message in this section is figuring out the exercises and that people learn more when the instructions are vague or do not give all the information. This is not meant to deprive the reader, but to encourage experimentation.

The above sections are followed by “Commit to Create: The Creative Process” There is an interesting discussion about how “being creative is not a mysterious process.” (pg.8), telling the reader that creativity is a process in which anyone can engage. There are comments in this section that I have said to others. This section is not all about telling the reader s/he is creative, there is also a process outlined and how to engage in each step. The process includes: Prepare, Incubate, Create, Evaluate.

I like this process because it is simple yet effective. The authors provide a lot of information, but it is concise, to the point and easily digestible.
The Creative Process is covered in the Critique Process (pg.11). The word critique is scary but this section starts by talking about vocabulary and phrasing, which helps to take some of the sting out of the process.

Throughout the book are references to other books and articles that add to or expand on the content.

Students participated in this book and they are introduced starting on pg.13. “Their work and thoughts appear as examples of design and critique.” (pg.13) “The first part of the design course focuses on the principles and elements, exploring the relationship of these components to the overall success of a quilt design” (pg.11). The principles and elements covered are Balance, Asymmetrical Composition and Value, Scale, Value and Balance, Identifying Value in Color, and Color. As I said these are a good place to start, though not comprehensive. Each of these chapters gives an exercise then goes through a critique section, using the student work as examples. There is also a section within each chapter called ‘the continuing education process’, which suggests different approaches and tools.

These chapters are all full color with many images throughout. The words making up the chapter are filled with helpful information, definitions and examples. One quote, which is a great reminder is “Doing the exercises in this chapter is simply a way to try out color ideas visually to find new combinations….” (pg.50). Replace ‘color ideas’ with other concepts and the line becomes a universal excuse for going to your studio and working.

The next major section is called “Design Sources and Inspiration” (pg.52) and focuses, not surprisingly, “on sources and inspiration” (pg.52). Some of the inspirations are Words (pg.53), Using Images from your Surroundings (pg.58), and Maintaining Unity Using Panels (pg.64). These chapters also show student work in the critique section, include a creativity exercise and suggested reading.

The section called Designing Borders and Quilting (pg.69) is put together like the others, but seems to be a section that the publisher said the authors had to include. It isn’t a comprehensive how-to quilt section; it is more about fitting the quilting to the overall design of the piece. The quilting doesn’t show up very well on some of the pieces in the critique session (pg.70-72).

There is a section on borders, which is interesting. It starts with “A good way to audition borders for a quilt is to photograph the quilt and make several paper picture frames for the photo” (pg.74). Of course, you could copy the fabric you were planning on using or you could take the idea and reproduce it in EQ or another quilt software.

Throughout the book you are encouraged to produce a ‘library’ of designs. In this section, the idea is to add to this concept with a quilting design library. This reminds me of Inspiration Odyssey by Diana Swim Wessel. You could just use her materials instead of creating your own, but creating your own makes your project personal and provides a starting place. Christa Watson has a new machine quilting book that has fill designs, etc, that would be useful. This idea isn’t bad if you have ideas of your own that differ from those published. As the authors say, it “will be a good resource for ideas.” (pg.74)

There is a tidbit in the Creativity Exercise in this section that I really like. The authors say “…do a mental check to see if you have built ‘fences’ around your ability to be creative. Sometimes we can get stuck in what we know have always done, rather than focusing on what we creatively dream” (pg.74). I really love this thought. It isn’t easy, especially when we are in ‘get ‘er done’ mode, but its important to try to remember and practice.

The chapter in this section is called “Designing and Working with Pattern,” which is all about understanding the fabric design process and using those fabrics you create (pg.75). The exercise is to design fabric and the assignment gives you ideas on how to do it such as printing on fabric and others. I immediately thought of Tsukineko inks. This creation process is followed up by using the fabrics.

The next major section is called “Working in a Series” and covers topics such as What is Series Work, Where to Start, and How Long to Work on a Series. This section ends with the reminder that quantity equals quality and is followed by student work.

The book sums up with a Section called “Summing Up” (pg.90) that tells readers where to go from this point. The suggestion is to start your own critique group and the book gives a list of things to consider when doing so (pg.91). In the “Some Final words” section there are thoughts on your inner critic, on inspiration and other things.

I am disappointed that this book does not have an index.

Goodreads is showing the ebook for this review, but I have the print version, which has a nice selection of art quilt books on the last page by such quilt luminaries as Jane Davila, Katie Pasquini-Masopust and Ruth McDowell.

View all my reviews

## More Fabric of the Year 2015 Layout

I know I just posted a few days ago and for you looking at a computer screen the changes to the piece are hard to see. I promise not to give you a patch by patch update.

Now is the time where the changes are very subtle and looking for changes in the shape of the areas of color are the best way to See the evolution. I worked quite a bit more on the red and pink areas. “Working on an area” means getting the darkest or lightest fabrics together and blending the mediums into a smooth transition between the two. Mostly it means deciding where a piece goes. As I have said that is not always easy and in this case, I am struggling with some of the off colors in each area with no way to smooth the transitions. Green is a particular problem for me this time around. Green, never a favorite, has a bunch of grey greens included this time and they don’t seem to fit in either grey or green.

That is the way of it, though, and at some point, I have to stop and say enough is a enough.

## Fabric of the Year 2015 Layout Continues

I achieved my goal of getting all of the patches onto the wall last Sunday. I was also able to start rearranging the patches into their final positions. To be honest I have about 5 patches that will not make it on to the front of the quilt. They will have to go on the back. Normally, I wouldn’t do that, and I don’t really like it, but I would have to cut about 22 additional patches in order to fit them into the quilt. I think putting 5 on the back is the lesser of two challenges. Also, the process is evolving and I am thinking of this as evolution.

As per usual, there are patches that are not in the right place. Moving the left side around gave me the advantage of putting that section into better, not perfect, but better, shape than it would be normally.

If you have ever tried to blend (gradate? Colorwash?) commercial fabrics into each, you will know it is not an easy task. It is a struggle and I am at the point where I wonder why I do it. Still, I see the value and will continue on.

## Carpenter’s Wheel Layouts #2

In between other things going on here in the Artquiltmaker Workroom, I wrote the book review of Scraps Inc. As you may have read, I was lukewarm about the book in general, but everything can provide some inspiration.

One quilt (from the related blog post) that I didn’t think should be included in the book** provided inspiration for the Carpenter’s Wheel layout, however. I don’t think I have quite enough blocks to make this layout work. I can’t really tell since the design wall isn’t large enough to give me a good sense and the proportions of this layout are off. I might try it on the living room floor since I can see it from the upstairs hallway.

My SIL suggested a regular on-point 3-2-3 layout. I tried it. This might work without the bottom two blocks, but with those two blocks, it looks crowded and odd. If I do this layout, what will I do with the bottom two blocks?

I have more work to do on this piece, so stay tuned.

**Nota bene: There is nothing wrong with the quilt and it is very modern, but it uses very few scraps, thus I didn’t think it fit the definition implied by the book. YMMV.

## Fabric of the Year 2015 Continues

I worked a lot on the piece over the weekend as well as on and off during the week. these blog posts are a little behind my actual process, so you can follow me on Instagram (check the sidebar) for more up to the minute news.

Even though I was on the fence about this year’s edition, I am enjoying the process. This is the ultimate in scrap quilts, even if the scraps were cut from yardage specifically for the process. Perhaps, more accurately, it is the ultimate in charm quilts.

I thought my first pass was really good, but as I walked around and past the design wall, I realized that the transition from dark to orange wasn’t working. I looked at FOTY 2013 and saw that I had transitioned from dark to red. That meant moving all of the pieces on the left side and reversing their positions.

Sigh.

I am trying to enjoy the process, a constant battle because the next project is always newer, fresher, more fun. Moving a few hundred pieces was not my idea of a fun day. That dreaded “it will be fine” phrase popped into my head and I knew I had to just start taking pieces off and repositioning them.

This exercise actually turned out to be a good one. I was able to restack the color groups and think about them again. I looked at the pieces in each color group in relation to each patch. I used it as a way to further refine the layout while the patches were off the wall.

I think this was valuable, as the left side looks a lot better, not only because the red is at the bottom and lighter colors more towards the top, but because the placement of patches within each color family is better.

My next goal is to get all the patches on the wall.

## Carpenter’s Wheel Layouts #1

Lots of design work going on in my workroom.

Before I allowed FOTY 2015 to take over my design wall, I did a little bit of layout design with the Carpenter’s Wheel blocks. I don’t want the layout to be a straight block layout. I am willing to piece a bunch of low volume alternate blocks if I need to (rote sewing- YAY!). I only have 10 blocks, which adds to the design challenge.

I was first thinking of designs that were similar to a donation quilt that Kathleen and I made. It was all Kathleen’s idea, but I happily went along. Donation quilts, as I have said about 12 million times, are good for trying out new ideas.

I wanted to stretch myself with these blocks. I like the linear effect of the donation quilt and wondered what I could do with the Carpenter’s Wheel blocks that would give the same effect?

I tried out different linear type layouts. Of the above, #1, #6 and #7 are my favorites. I like the idea of giving these blocks some space and all of these layouts give the blocks space. That might not be the case with alternate blocks made up of low volume prints, however. I might be able to mitigate it by not including any patches that have a large concentration of black. We’ll see. I may need to do a test block.

#1 is a bit too symmetrical and I wonder if that layout is not stepping out of my comfort zone enough?

Back to the design wall, I think.

## Flying Geese Design Thoughts

I was thinking about the design for the Flying Geese I have been getting and making for the Flying Geese swap with TFQ. We have been sending each other photos of interesting Flying Geese quilt designs.

The other day I was at In Between Stitches and I saw a version of Camille Roskelley’s Round and Round pattern. I really like the way she combined a bunch of small Friendship Stars into something fantastic. Seeing this quilt and thinking about the Flying Geese gave me an idea. Driving home from the North Coast, I sketched out an idea.

The image left is about the third draft of my design. It isn’t quite the way I want it and there are no sizes involved. Still, the Flying Geese portion is pretty much the way I want it.

I don’t want the Friendship Star blocks to be lined up the way they are in the picture above. Draft n.2 is much more asymmetrical than the picture above and more the way I would want the whole quilt.

What I don’t know yet is:

• what sizes I will make the Friendship Star blocks
• whether I will have half or quarter Friendship Star blocks along the border or only finished ones
• if I will fill in more Flying Geese around the edges

Even though I have not decided to make the Flying Geese quilt, I like this idea. I get to use the Round and Round block and the Flying Geese are not lined up. For some reason that appeals to me.

## Weird Coincidence?

During my recent trip to the East Coast, I stayed in a hotel while attending a work meeting. I saw the carpet and thought it would make a great quilt, recolored, of course.

I like the simple design.

There is interest even though the design includes just squares, using different sized squares and subtle changes in “color.”**

I can see this design with a solid background and a variety of bright colored something fabrics for the squares. Prints or solids would both work. I was thinking about it, designing this in my head and then I saw….

almost the exact same design in Modern Quilts, the Winter 2015 issue. I couldn’t believe it.

Back to the drawing board.

**Nota bene: color in this instance is generous as I consider color to be something I can actually see. 😉