The double whammy of the recent Circular Abstractions bulls eye quilt exhibit and a quilt group program on Nancy Crow’s design methods led me to pull out all my saved solid fabric strips and sew them together. I hope this link to Pinterest gives you an idea of the exercises students do in Nancy’s workshops. She offers several multi-day classes that range from beginner to expert.
My design wall became colonized by stripey units in various stages – just stripes, units cut from stripes, units with added cross stripes… As always, it’s fascinating to see which colors enhance each other and which just stick out their tongues at each other. So far I’ve worked only from scraps, though some of the scraps are about fat quarter size. If I want to make larger units I may have to break into stash.
For now I’ll set these assemblages aside to mellow a bit and wait for further inspiration. My fellow group members had fun playing with strips. Here are some of their efforts.
You begin Nancy’s workshop with lots of strip piecing, which you then build into units, and finally you do an overall composition. Since I made my units above before our group program I didn’t exactly follow Nancy’s dictates.
I learned that Nancy takes away everyone’s ruler after a few days; that she wants you to cut towards, rather than away, from you (I find that scary); and that she wants you to backstitch at the start and finish of seams.The ruler thing is amusing as Nancy once lent her name to an acrylic ruler.
I also learned she uses the same rotary cutter blade for a long time, even up to a year. Apparently she doesn’t sharpen it. We all wondered how that was possible, given the amount of cutting involved with her method.
All that cutting is the reason I won’t be adopting Nancy’s methods in a big way. Pressing down to get through multiple fabric layers and seams doesn’t do my shoulder any good. I plan to develop some of my starts further, but after that, who knows.
Traditionally, fine paper was made from cotton rags, hence rag paper. It’s more durable and far less acidic than paper made from wood pulp. So you could say that fabric and paper have a long history together. However, my conversion of fabric to paper began quite recently.
I was intrigued by Eileen Searcy’s article in the February/March 2017 issue of Quilting Arts magazine about making a “faux torn paper” quilt. It was different, didn’t require quilting and, except for the dimensional paint, I already had the supplies. A grub through my interfacing drawer turned up some very lightweight non-fusible interfacing and I had a bolt of Wonder Under. Once I dashed into WalMart for the paint I was good to go.
To create the 2 by 22 inch fabric strips the directions called for I pulled out solid or mottled fabrics in a gray to green to blue range, with a few light beige neutrals thrown in. To speed up the strip process I cut my fabrics into 4 inch wide pieces and fused as many of them as I could fit onto my interfacing pieces. Then I cut them into 2 inch wide strips. If I had been thinking I would have cut them into 4 inch wide strips and separated them with the jagged edge cutting that simulates torn paper. Oh well.
Next, I dabbed the ragged cut edges with the dimensional paint. The idea is the white paint will give the effect of torn colored paper, which has a white core. This piece of real torn paper gives an idea of the look I was going for.
I could have painted my strips faster, but I wanted to try different ways of applying the paint and different thicknesses of the paint. The magazine instructions turned out to be on the money – paint from the front to back of the fabric and hold the brush perpendicular to the fabric, though I decided to apply a lighter coat of paint. I can always go back and add more.
Rather than use batting I decided to fuse my foundation fabric to Decor Bond for extra stability. I’ll be sewing the fabric paper strips to this and the backing fabric at the same time. My “sandwich” will be my strips, the foundation fabric, Decor Bond, and backing fabric.
After the prep work I got to my design wall and began to play. I ended up with a design that reminds me of the Great Smoky Mountains, so I emphasized earth and sky components. Of course I took some artistic license.
Here’s my version so far in black and white. I was checking my values range.
Northeast Ohio isn’t known for endless sunny days, so I love to watch the shadows when we actually get some sun. This art glass on my mantel casts rippled colored shadows, while fronds of the house plant add stripes. Somehow the right hand blue vase looks like it was drawn with colored chalk. I like the blobby circle shadows.
If it’s January there’s usually snow on the ground. My street gets occasional visits from the city snow plow, but this day in early January we got only two inches of snow so we didn’t make the cut. Maybe there’s a quilting design in those tracks as seen from my sewing room. Or maybe the plumes of my neighbor’s grasses will inspire a surface design.
My mother in law gave me this cut glass piece many years ago. She treasured it as one of the few “good” formal dining pieces she owned, along with the dark mahogany dining room table and chairs. I use it to hold small glass ornaments at Christmas, which explains why I had the dish out. I’d love to quilt the pattern somehow.
“Write what you know” is the advice often given to would be writers. Quilt what you know is the advice I’m giving myself. And what I know is what surrounds me every day in and outside my house. I’ve started to capture the quotidian bits of my life with my camera with the notion some of the results will spark a quilt idea or two.
Now I’m not talking about artfully composed photos. Instead, I’m going for photos taken of odd subjects, often at weird angles, caught on the fly.
Why? I learned a lot from the last prompt of my master class, which was to design a quilt from decidedly uninspiring photos. I find that I try to duplicate beautifully composed photos, but have no problems riding roughshod over tourist snaps. If a photo is already a work of art I can’t seem to figure out how to extract anything from it.
So, each week I plan to post an inspiration shot. Here’s the first, of our freshly shoveled driveway as seen from my sewing room. My husband is a precise shoveler. I did apply the black and white setting on my camera to bring out the pattern. I see a possible fabric design in it.
This month’s master class assignment was to make a quilt using one of three photos supplied by Elizabeth as inspiration. Here are the two I used for my sketches. They are truly snapshots with no attempt at composition.
Here’s what I sent in: Sketch 1 incorporates elements from the Skye photo in a somewhat symmetrical 4 patch design. The curved lines near the center are meant to echo the umbrellas in the source photo. I see this as a pieced design, possibly in mostly solids.
Sketches 2 and 2a are the same except that one is bookended while the other repeats the first design. They are based on the Christo photo. I cropped that photo and then traced the trees in broad strokes. I see putting oranges in the background, which could be a challenge as that color tends to leap forward.
Sketch 3 is also from the Christo photo. I cropped that photo to feature one of the large trees, traced it, stylized it, and then flipped it to create an arch. It comes across to me as art nouveau.
All my designs are symmetrical, possibly because I’ve been browsing a book on Notan.
Elizabeth’s response: I like the straight line part of the design very much…but the circle in the middle bother me…my eyes keep going to it wondering why it’s there – what does it mean? it’s always difficult to have some totally not related to anything else….take a look at the sketch without that element and see what you think. It would be an applique after the fact anyway…so you could build the bottom portion and then audition the swoops – but I think I’d advocate leaving them out.
The view through the trees is fun! l like the idea..and the depth you can get but I’m not sure about the symmetry or about the severe cropping at the top – in a way the repeated pattern (whether all facing to the left, or all facing out) looks more like a wallpaper frieze than a design in and of its own self. so it doesn’t really feel complete. the little tree shapes are nice…but we want more than just feeling that they are circling around us…have a think on’t!!
You’re right this does have very art nouveau feel to it – unless you really like the total symmetry, I think I’d just crop a bit off one side or the other to shift that central element slightly off center.
I think it will work really well…I wouldn’t push the symmetry by using the same colors though, or even the same values…I think it would be more interesting to let the viewer gradually discover the symmetry for themselves.
I think with a few small adjustments you’ve got two got possibilities with sketches 1 and 3.
November is our last new assignment. December will be devoted to finishing up our projects. Stayed tuned to see which design I chose.