Travel Inspires

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 😀

Another Fun Guild Program

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!

block printing quilt fabric

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.

block printing

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.

block printing fabricOur challenge for next month is to use the printed fabric in a project.  Can’t wait to see what everyone does!

Find Your Inner Designer – Part 1

Some of my readers have asked about how I design quilts, so I’ve decided to do a monthly series of posts to lead you to design your own original quilts. I know there are several courses and lectures out there on “principles” of modern quilt design, but this series is about a practical approach.  So here is Part 1: Start by tweaking a design you already like.

Start with a traditional-style pattern you want to make.  By traditional-style, I mean one with multiple similar blocks, probably arranged in a grid.  Here’s my example, which really is more of a modern design because the blocks are improvisationally cut, but it has the blocks in a grid

modern pieced quilt

I saw this quilt at the house where we have retreats

Now experiment, tweaking this pattern (or a similar one) 3 different ways:

1. Change the size of the blocks. A quilt made up of 20 blocks each 10″x 10″ will look quite different from a quilt of the same size made up of 80 blocks 5″ x 5″.

You can go up or down in size, but change the size of the blocks. If the math gives you trouble, either get help from a friend who LOVED algebra in high school, or use a computer program like Electric Quilt to re-draw the blocks in the size you want and give you instructions for cutting them. If you want to make the blocks very small, consider paper piecing: Just draw your paper base and you don’t need any math because the pieces you use to construct the block on the paper base aren’t cut exactly to size.

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2. Change the size of just one (or a few) block(s):

modern quilt design

Substitute one large block for 4 of the small ones!

Either replace one block with 4 little blocks 1/4 the size of the usual, or replace 4 regular blocks with one big one. Either tweak makes the overall quilt design more interesting.

Pieced quilt

Substitute 4 little blocks for one large one–or for several large ones!

3. Add (or subtract) a little: Instead of making the usual grid of blocks, add a strip or a row of blocks to each row to make some of the grid offset. I like to put the insert at a different place in each row.

modern quilt design

Insets make the blocks move out of line in some places, adding interest

Another option is to remove the sashing and/or border(s) from a quilt, or to insert an extra border.

You don’t have to sew any of your designs unless you want to; just draw them out on graph paper (or your computer program), and color them if you like. The drawing counts as a design! And don’t worry that modifying somebody else’s design isn’t “original”. You have to start somewhere, just like the designer of your pattern did!

Now, go try some of this! I like to make baby quilts to try out new designs or techniques—not too much commitment in time and materials, but I learn a lot. And watch for the next post in this series; I’m going to do a design post the first Sunday of each month for a while.