Tag Archives: quilt design

The Year Long Class

In 2015 I went to a 5 day workshop at Empty Spools in Monterey, California. In 2016 I signed up for Elizabeth Barton‘s year long online master class. It is a design class; knowledge of techniques that work for you is assumed. Each month the students get an assignment, and have three items to produce: a sketch or plan, a quilt layout, and a final quilt. We get to see everyone’s work and Elizabeth’s comments.

Our January assignment was value, and we were to submit three black and white sketches, then a blocked out quilt, and finally a completed quilt. We could use a color other than black, such as blue or brown, but all the fabrics had to be in that color family.

Based on Elizabeth’s recommendation, I went with the following sketch. It’s based on a photo taken outside the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio, by my friend Judy.


JAN JMM Sketch 3I blocked my quilt out as:

JAN JMM Blocked QuiltElizabeth’s comments were that the leaf on the right needed more shading and that I needed to make sure the two leaves weren’t the same size. The space ratio needed to be more one third/two third to focus attention on the dominant leaf.

I revised to those ends, and tried to add still more shading with my quilting. From the back this piece looks like I covered almost every inch with thread.

JAN JMM FinalI’m not thrilled with the end product. It feels more like an exercise than a work of passion. It may be the still life type subject matter. However, my purpose was to learn more about design and how to realize my intentions. This may bring me to a word for the year – focus. As in, I need to create work with more of it and focus more while creating the work.

Oh, Elizabeth said it was elegant and showed “a great grasp of values.” She also said “You don’t need to have Great Big World Shattering Messages each time. Showing Beauty is enough.” Well, I’m good with that.

I’ll let you know what the coming months bring with this class. I know others have taken it, but don’t know how they felt at the end.


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, In Process

Serious Design

EBarton_Petergate“Petergate” by Elizabeth Barton

Elizabeth Barton’s “Inspired to Design” isn’t for the faint of heart.  Outside of a brief description of how to dye fabric gradients, the book contains no patterns or construction techniques. It’s filled with ways to sharpen your analytical ability to design original quilts.  Most of the book concerns everything that happens before you even bring your rotary cutter near your fabric.  Barton’s bottom line – if your design is weak, no amount of sewing/embellishing/quilting can save it.  You can follow Barton’s art quilt thoughts at her blog.

Here are some thoughts I took away from this book:

Re: using photos for design inspiration – The design shouldn’t be a direct copy, but a translation, filtered through how you see and feel something.

Re: strong designs – “…you don’t want to make a quilt that rambles along like an old house that has had bits added on over the centuries. …All the beads in the world won’t transform a poorly structured design into something elegant and meaningful.”

Re: critiquing your design sketches – first let them mature a few days on the design wall.  Intuition goes just so far; it may tell you something’s wrong but not why or how to fix it.  Principles for evaluating your designs: unity and harmony, variety and tension, balance and proportion, repetition, rhythm and movement, and economy. Barton illustrates these principles with her own work.

Re: need for tension or variety in a work – “Without some tension, a work of art is like a meal of white fish in a white sauce with white mashed potatoes and cauliflower, And white bread on the side.”  A quilt with the exact same block in the exact same colors, repeated over and over, lacks tension.

Re: quilting – “You can’t save a weak quilt top with quilting; don’t even try….The quilting should enhance the design, not try to rescue it.”

So the next time I start throwing fabric onto the wall I need to stop, step back, and force myself to design on paper first and evaluate that design.  If I follow this advice, I have a feeling that improv piecing will become an illicit thrill for me.

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Filed under Books