As my friend Melanie recently pointed out, travel can inspire creativity. We just got back from a loooong drive across the country to New Mexico and back, and I took a few pictures of things that inspired me.First, we saw literally thousands of these wind generators across the flat, windy, high plains of West Texas and Oklahoma. The complex shape of the blades is quite an engineering feat by itself, even before the rest of the contraption is considered. It was great to see renewable energy in action, and these are attractive additions to the landscape in my opinion. (No, we never saw any dead birds near them, despite looking. Research in Europe suggests this is mostly an urban myth.)
In New Mexico, I looked for the details that said “Southwest”. These design elements are a kind of shorthand for “you are here” and I thought that idea would be useful in designing quilts (or anything else). Here are a couple.
Stucco walls, turquoise trim, tile roof
Courtyard enclosed by a stucco wall with a wooden gate; tile accent along roof edge; flat roof
Now, I’m off to learn to organize my photos in Photoshop so I can find the rest of the pictures from the Southwest 😀
It all started with this beautiful batik that was ON SALE…And I have quite a collection of batik scraps from other projects, so I decided to make a scrap quilt with colors that would go with the sale fabric. Initially, I made the blocks really scrappy:
Then I made a few that were more controlled and liked them better:
This is just up on the design wall, not sewn, and I’m thinking of taking out the really scrappy ones. They kind of jar my nerves.But, what do you think? It’s good to have opinions from quilty friends!
This pile of blocks barely made a dent in the pile of shirts!
And here is some of the quilt up on the design wall:
The holes are because I unaccountably made too few double 4-patch blocks. Luckily, that was one of the easier blocks in this quilt, so it the error won’t be difficult to fix!
As you can see, both the red and the orange made good accents. The interesting thing to me about this quilt is that those little accent blocks save the day. There is WAY too much variety in the quilt for it to be a good design without those diagonal orange and red lines created by the tiny blocks. They pull the whole thing together by giving it structure.
I’ll update you when I get the holes plugged 😀
I recently took a class at the annual North Carolina Quilt Symposium, which this year was held in Asheville, relatively close to where I live. The class was taught by Rosalie Dace, an art quilter who lives in South Africa. The focus was on techniques for putting lines into quilts. Since she is an art quilter, there were many techniques that wouldn’t be used in utility quilts, but it was fun to try them out anyway.
Here are a couple of Rosalie’s quilts that were on display at NCQS.
Here and Now, by Rosalie Dace
African Blues, by Rosalie Dace
You can see more on her website.
And here are the items I made in class with her. The first is not intended to be a finished piece; it was just made to try out various techniques.
I doubt this next block will be part of a quilt any time soon, but it was fun to make.
Later on I’ll have pictures of quilts made by some of the other teachers. When I saw them, I wished I had been able to take more than one class!
Remember this fabric I was thrilled by?
I thought about how to use it for several weeks and finally decided on Turning Twenty Again. It’s an old pattern, but I’ve seen it made up in many different fabrics and it’s almost always spectacular and modern-looking. The fabric I bought was 8 fat quarters, and Turning Twenty Again is a pattern developed for efficient use of fat quarters, so it seemed a good match.
I needed a little more fabric and found this dot in my stash–it had the same appearance of linen texture as the original fabric and I thought it went perfectly with the others.
The next question was what else to add. After auditioning several options, I decided on this cat fabric. The eyes are sort of of dots, too, and the color coordinated well. I made the blocks and put them on the design wall, and…Eek! Is it too busy? And when I see it overall, I do not like the tan fabric I added, even though it is similar to the beige-green that came with the fat quarter set!
I’ve had it on the design wall for a week trying to decide what to do. One option is to put the squares together with sashing and a border to kind of calm things down. I auditioned a dark blue fabric and a turquoise fabric for that–both are Moda grunge, so they have the same linen-look texture.
Another option is to take the blocks apart in order to add these birds from the same collection, giving a greater variety of prints. I think if I take it apart, I will remove the tan fabric I don’t like, so the birds could add variety AND get rid of the tan!
From there we go into the wild options. They are legion, and include the possibility of cutting the blocks randomly and inserting solid strips. Or I could replace some pieces with the birds and some with the turquoise grunge.
And of course there is the perennial option of putting it away for a month and then looking at it again to see what comes to mind.
This is part of my occasional series on guild programs, with the hope that it will help others who need to come up with program ideas.
Our modern guild has no money to hire speakers, so we are taking turns sharing our talents. One of our members recently volunteered to teach us block printing on fabric, and she furnished all the materials herself!
Suzanne brought a beautiful print she had made as an example
A few of us had done block printing in the past, but these blocks were much easier to carve. Apparently the block medium is now made of soft rubber rather than linoleum–a big improvement for the hands and wrists.
Some people carved abstract designs, using the whole block
Everyone got a square of rubber to carve. Some people carved a design on the square using the entire thing. Some carved an object and then cut out around the object so that it could be glued to a board backing for easier handling.
It was fun to see what everyone did.
Then we were given ink and encouraged to mix the colors, either to produce a variegated print or to produce a secondary color.
The prints were amazing and fun.
I didn’t get a picture of the block used for these fish, but they were very successful.
Our challenge for next month is to use the printed fabric in a project. Can’t wait to see what everyone does!
One of my online friends, Chela, reminded me that nature is a great inspiration for quilts (as well as other art). So here are some of my favorite nature pix.
I love plants and flowers of (almost) all kinds, so they are a frequent subject:
Can you see the bee?
It’s a Jack-in-the-Pulpit right beside my back steps!
Kenilworth Ivy is a favorite, and I like the pattern against the rock wall
The forest floor on one of our hikes
Any nature picture is improved by adding a grandchild!
Like most folks, I take pictures when we travel, some for the colors, some for the general scenery.
The colors are monochromatic, indicating how this little guy survives in the Canadian Rockies (when he isn’t begging from tourists)
One of these days I’ll use this picture, made on the Blue Ridge Parkway, as inspiration for a landscape quilt
The colors in New Mexico are always fascinating, and the sky so big
The one thing I don’t do, and don’t intend to do, is print my photos on fabric and put them in quilts that way. I use them for shapes, colors, arrangement of forms…but for the purpose of interpretation, not direct copies.
How do you use your photos in your quilts?
I’ve been thinking about what inspires my quilt designs, and the first thing that came to mind was the beautiful or fun or amazing quilts I see at shows, guild meetings, retreats, wherever. Here are a few of my favorite quilts for inspiration.
I love the variety of bright colors and the tiny pieces in this one:
Quilt made by Jerri from TINY pieces of Liberty of London fabric
And this is a favorite because of the bright colors and eccentric design:
Cinco de Mayo, made by Renny Jaeger; pattern by Karen K Stone
This unusual design appeals to me:
Rena was given a circle cutter at the last retreat, and she went wild!
Pamela Wiley’s excellent workmanship and eye-popping designs make her quilts among my favorites:
Outside In by Pamela Wiley
I like the use of color in this next one, as well as the movement generated by the curved piecing and curved quilting:
In the Marsh #2, by Carol Bryer Fallert-Gentry
And this one reminds me of Maine, where we lived for a while:
Coves and Islands by Carol Anne Grotian
What inspires your designs?
In case you haven’t been reading my blog long enough to know about the condom quilt, here is a brief summary:
- A couple of years ago I wanted to make a quilt from a QR code in such a way that the entire quilt top could be scanned to open the target website. Since I was going to be putting in a lot of effort, I wanted a QR code that had some meaning for me.
- At that time I was working in public health, spending much of each day helping patients cope with various problems that might have been prevented by appropriate use of condoms.
- When I looked for a condom-related QR code, I found that Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands (PPGNW) had developed a QR code to be placed on their condom packages. Scanning the code linked to PPGNW’s “Where Did You Wear It?” site. The goal was to encourage safer sex through condom use.
The Original Code
My colorized version of the code
PPGNW graciously agreed to let me use their QR code in my design. I colorized their code and made my quilt, checking after construction of each section to be sure the whole thing still scanned correctly.
This is the finished quilt. That tiny embedded QR code leads to my blog.
I showed the quilt anywhere I could. (It isn’t just younger people who need safer sex.) That included guilds, quilt shows, and the folks in my office. After a year of showing it to anybody who would listen, I donated the quilt to PPGNW to be used in any way they wish.
I was very pleased recently to receive this picture of the PPGNW management staff with the quilt. That funny looking guy is their condom mascot.
The folks at PPGNW report that the quilt has sparked discussion, especially about the interaction of traditional crafts and technology. I enjoyed this quilt from start to finish and I’m glad it is now in its home.
One of the things I love about blogging is hearing from people who comment and share their ideas. Here are a couple of ideas that I thought you might enjoy, too.
When I blogged about some household items that are useful for quilting, Peggy commented that she cuts up her old calendars and uses the numbers to label her blocks and rows.
It was the perfect time of year for that handy hint, so I promptly cut up an old calendar. The numbers worked great for labeling pieces for a complex project. I clipped them to groups of fabric for the various sections of the quilt using binder clips–an idea I got from Judy Niemeyer’s class years ago.
Another friend, Claire, responded to my post on making single-color slabs by asking what I do with fabric that is a mixture such that no one color predominates. I had been cutting out sections based on the predominant color, and that seemed to work. But…
When I came to this piece, I realized I had NO desire to cut out chunks small enough to be mainly one color. Then I started looking and saw that I had a number of prints from which I would NEVER be able to cut single-color pieces of any size.
So I made a block of multi-color pieces. It is pretty wild, but so were some of the fabrics that went into it. I’ll see how it looks with the single-color blocks when I assemble a quilt. What do you think? Make more of these or give up on the truly multicolored fabrics for slabs?