D is for Design
….and Disclaimer and Daunting!
This week’s blog “D is for Design” comes with a huge disclaimer…. I certainly don’t consider myself a quilt designer and found this to be a hugely daunting task. I have had such writer’s block and a hard time getting going on this.
When talking or thinking about quilt design, there is just so much to think about and so many wonderful designers, and so many ideas out there that I just got overwhelmed and had to take a break. My breaks usually looked like me picking up a bit of English Paper Piecing I’m working on for my “Little Miss April Quilt” designed by Margaret Sampson George, then I’d start thinking about the designs of the fabric I was using and realized, “AIYEE, there’s even more to this that I need to think about!!” Back to the armchair, threading the needle…. Slowly stitching…breathing….sigh. See what I’m talking about???
Well, I finally had to face my fear of writing about this topic, and get down to business. I just didn’t know where to start even thinking about design in a coherent and comprehensive fashion. I Googled and read and googled and read and googled and read. I flipped through quilting books and books and learned and learned and learned…..
I came across a website The Quilt Show that had a series of blog posts about quilt design. It was very comprehensive… almost overwhelming… but a thorough place to start. The authors note that the “elements of design include line, shape, form, texture, space, colour, and value,” and offer three tutorials, increasing in complexity, on each of these and noting the aim of design is to incorporate most or all of these elements. Each tutorial has a short explanation of what that element is, and then some practice exercises. I’ve pulled the infographics from each lesson and posted them below—just to give a hint as to what they discuss.
The tutorials online are fascinating, and even include how line evokes different feelings. Some examples include:
Vertical Lines as strength, power and dignity. This beautiful quilt, “Canopy” by Barbara Confer captures the majesty of forest trees with strong, vertical lines.
Horizontal Lines as calm and relaxed, stable or constant. How beautifully settling is “Daybreak” by Lubbesmeyer.
The tutorials on shape and form are quite fascinating. Among many items, they focus on shapes and forms that are geometric (human-made) and organic (occurring in nature). One of the examples they highlight is Gloria Loughman’s ‘Kimberly Mystique‘ (click link to preview this stunning example). This stunning piece uses diamonds (geometric) to create a shimmering sky and organic forms for the boab trees. She also uses value to create three-dimensional effects of the trees. Her website is definitely worth a look as she has a number of magnificent creations that highlight the juxtaposition of geometric and organic shapes. One more quick peek…. “Grass Trees” … I’m just so enamored with the geometric background and the organic foreground!!!
There are so many different ways to add texture to a quilt. I love how the quilting process adds texture to quilts. The impact that densely quilted areas have versus less densely quilted areas is so intriguing. It is also really fascinating to see how different hand vs machine quilting has on a piece. Texture can also be added by using a variety of threads—I love using Pearle 8 or 12 threads. Then, of course, there is use of different types of textiles to create texture. I love how Wendy Williams uses combinations of cottons, linens, felt and embroidery threads to bring so much interest and texture into her work. Her Seagull Cushion, featured below, uses different coloured felts and embroidery stitches to make the feathers ruffle and the grit of the beach sand come to life.
Lisa Mattock’s slow stitching also incorporates a variety of fabrics, embroidery and lace into her work to create stunning works. Just looking at her array of photos on her website gallery, you are just steeped in texture with the various fabrics, the overlays, the stitching…. Ooooohhhhhh just so divine.
The tutorials on space are just fascinating and focus on perspective taking. This was a great refresher on what I learned in art classes (way back when!), and includes some really advanced techniques and thinking about how to create spatial dimensions in quilt design. The highlight quilt for me in this series was another quilt by Gloria Loughman, “Rose Seidler House”. When we first moved to Australia, we became interested in the architect, Harry Seidler. We learned that the house he designed for his mother, Rose, was preserved and available for tours. Off we went. This quilt brought back all those memories of our first year here in our new home, Australia.
Colour, colour, colour, colour. Ahhhh. There is no way I can even tackle this one in this space. However, I found one of the most helpful infographics and explanations that I have come across in this tutorial!
How great is this!?!?!.
Ok… a synopsis is in order…
A HUE is the big Kahuna… The most vibrant and head of the colour family. They are “exciting, powerful and love to the extrovert” but can be overwhelming if used exclusively.
To soften a hue, add white. Tints are “delicate, springlike, clean, and youthful”
Adding black give you shade and darkens the color, making it moody, dark, nighttime, and so on.
At the end of the day, in writing this, I am so humbled by how much goes into making and designing the really great quilts and feel like I am just at the beginning of a wonderful, rewarding, and creative journey that is steeped in constantly learning more and more about this wonderful craft and the many, many women who comprise its ranks. I am also super grateful for the opportunity to write this blog as it gives me the impetus to stretch my learning with each edition!
As quilters, we have so many opportunities to jump into design and develop each of these elements at our own pace. We can start with kits or blocks of the month where our skill building is primarily around the sewing and following a design. However, once we go down the path of selecting a pattern, then our own fabrics (HOW MUCH FUN IS THAT???), we are already dipping our toes into the realm of design. When you take classes with our teachers, each one will lead you down a path, exploring aspects of each of these elements.