Friday, April 1, 2011

"Non-Pattern" Pattern: A Creative Exercise in Quilt Construction

Many thanks to all of you for the wonderful back support, (pun intended!) that you gave me. I'm still a wee bit stiff, but moving around much better, and I am so happy to be back with this post!


Okay, picking up where we last left off a few weeks ago, (see here if need be) I was discussing the idea of "non-pattern" patterns... techniques that can be used to create a certain design look over and over, but open-ended enough to allow for complete individuality every time, and loads of variation possibilities.

Here below, is a really easy exercise, (with lots of different examples) of just one way this "non-pattern" pattern concept can be achieved. The method was one of several that popped in my head, and I decided to give it a go, as it seemed so basic and uncomplicated. I had never before constructed a quilt using this method, (nor have I ever seen anyone else do so, but let me know if I'm wrong) and I have to say I had a blast playing around with this method! The very last piece shown sealed the deal for me that this is something I want to keep exploring. So, follow along and give it a try yourself!

I used the following steps in creating each finished piece shown below. The variations in look and design come from the choices in fabric and the improvised way the pieces are constructed. (Just to note, the following photos were taken over a span of days, with lots of different daylight conditions... some good, some not so good. My apologies for the not so good!)

~ Start by selecting 4 fabrics that work well together...


Pick one of the fabrics to act as the main base, or background. From this fabric you will cut a rectangle. (For the following pieces I cut rectangles ranging in size from approximately 8" x 11" to 11" x 16", but since this method is suppose to encourage individual creativity, try whatever size you want. Don't be afraid to explore!)

~ The next step is to cut two horizontal lines across the fabric rectangle...


I eyeballed all of these cuts and used scissors instead of a ruler and rotary cutter, as I wanted the lines to vary, and be imperfect. Beginning at the top I made the first cut approximately 1/3 of the way down, and the second cut near the center, but slightly off. This left me with three sections, where the bottom was the widest, the middle was the narrowest and the top slightly wider then the middle.

~ Next step is to make vertical cuts in each of the three sections...


Starting with the bottom section, make a cut about a 1/3 of the way in on the left hand side, creating a vertical rectangle piece. For the middle section, move to the right hand side and make a vertical cut to create a square shape. On the top section, make a vertical cut close to the center, but slightly off to one side, creating two horizontal rectangles, one just slightly longer then the other.

Now move on to the other 3 colored fabrics that you have selected...


You will be cutting strips from these fabrics, which you will sew together to form wider strips of fabric. These will then be used to rejoin the 6 sections that you just cut from the base/background fabric. Again, I choose to cut with scissors so that the cut edges would be imperfect... this helps to create some variation in line and width, adding interest to the finished piece. (The strips were cut in widths ranging from 3/4" to 2".)

When joining the pieces together, start by joining the 2 separate sections in each strip. You will probably find that sometimes at least one of the re-constructed strips turns out to be shorter or longer then the others. Add or subtract fabric to remedy this, then join the 3 completed strips together.

Now here is what I made using this process:


My first selection of fabrics were an unbleached, feedsack-weight, cotton weave, (which I used as my base fabric) along with a red, woven japanese ikat, a blue crossweave, and a red, white and blue flowered vintage feedsack print.


I made three small quilts, which as you can see are similar and obviously look like they go together, yet each one has its own unique characteristics.


Above, you can see how fabric was added to the edges of both the top and bottom strips, in order to make them even in length to the middle strip, (which had become wider because the width of the pieces used to join its 2 sections back together were wider then those used in the other sections). Appliqued patches were also added to the top left and bottom right sections.


For this one, the two base sections in the middle strip were switched after cutting, so that the square section is now on the left side. Extra fabric was added to the top and middle strips to make them equal in lenght to the finished bottom strip, and appliqued patches were again added.


For the final piece, the two base sections in the top strip were switched after cutting, (the reason for doing this is sometimes it just makes for a better design) and extra fabric strips were added to the outer edges of both the top and bottom sections. Again, appliqued patches were added to two of the base sections.


The 3 pieces were finished by machine quilting in the ditch, along with hand quilted/embroidered stitching.

For the next group of quilts, I decided to go in the complete opposite direction with my fabric selection...


This time I went with colorful, shiny and some what iridescent dupioni silk!


Notice on this piece that one of the dark blue horizontal strips of fabric stops midway across. That's an easy to achieve effect by simply joining a strip of the base fabric to it, which creates a visual break. Along with fabric strips added to the edges of all 3 sections, a piece was also added along the upper top. (It's little intuitive and improvised decisions like that which make this "non-pattern" pattern process so individual!)


Okay, you getting the hang of how this works now? Pretty fun, huh?!


And you can see... by working this way, it's easy to get results that allow you to easily build a coherent series, yet because each piece still gets worked in an improv way, personal choices and creative decision making are consistently getting to be exercised.

And now, for my favorite and final example... I choose 4 richly dyed fabrics... a dusty blue, a yellow ochre, an earthy green and a deep maroon red...


Each of these colors got a chance to act as both a base/background and as the joining strips...


I made 4 individual quilt tops, one with a red background, one with a blue background, and so on and so forth. But instead of quilting them up separately, as in the previous examples,


I decided to join them to create one nice sized wall quilt...


So there you have it... one simple example of what a "non-pattern" pattern can be, and lots of examples of what can be done.


The thing that I liked best about working this way was the dependability and consistency that I could have in creating similar pieces, the flexibility to adapt the process to create different looks and that the whole process was fun. Let me know if you decide to give it a try, and what you think. I'd love to see what you create!


As for me, I'm going to dig deeper and try to expand on this idea. From just this one exploration process, I no longer think that the best way to share my concept of a "non-pattern" pattern would be in a standard packaged pattern format. However, I do think it would be great for teaching face to face, and also think that once I develop other "non-pattern" patterns, that together they would possibly make for a good book proposal... but that is a long way off, if at all. I just throw that out there to ask that this concept of "non-pattern" pattern quilt development, (based on this particular method of beginning with a base/background fabric, which is cut apart in a particular pattern and reconstructing in the manner described above, etc.) be respected as my intellectual property. This is something that I would really like to develop and expand upon. Thanks so much for understanding, and being such a wonderful part of the process. That's why I want to share with you what I have, and please know that your continued encouragement means the world to me. xo

57 comments:

Venus de Hilo said...

I am so in love with what you have created here! More and more as I read down the page (oh, that duipioni!). And oh my, reading this post, at this moment, may have solved a creative dilemma for me: some completed blocks have defied setting, and now I see that the best thing that could happen to them might be an encounter with a free-wheeling pair of scissors...

Nifty Quilts said...

You've got a great concept! People can make improvisational quilts, but still follow directions, which will help some feel more secure. I always love your design and color sense. Definitely, write that book!

BijouxBaby said...

I Love this idea. It's improvisation with a structure and a concept. If it weren't midnight, I'd go whack up some fabric and try it. How about a bit of an improvised quilt along?

I'd totally buy a book that helped me improvise with an underlying structure.

Angela said...

I think that you have a great idea here. Good for you for staking your claim, intellectually speaking. It's tricky to share an idea and also want to be the one to expand on it.

Linda said...

Your final wall quilt is just amazing! Thanks for sharing this process. It is very interesting.

stitchinglife2 said...

I think you have a great idea for a book here. I find it fascinating that you can use this one technique and get totally different looks just by changing the colours and textures of the fabric. Brilliant.

Ethne said...

Oh, lovely.
I have some silk upstairs, maybe a little light over dyeing and there could be some play time to be scheduled in soon.

XUE said...

Hey! You are supposed to be resting & not coming up with yet another amazing spectacular piece!

Anna said...

This is wonderful, thank you! Fascinating to see the different end pieces. I love the look of improv piecing but find it scary to jump in - this exercise really helps. Nthing the encouragement on extending to an improv book, too! (Especially with lovely colour photos of your beautiful pieces.) With the recent flurry of new "modern" quilting books there have been some that touch on improv piecing briefly (I'm thinking of Malka Dubrawsky's book specifically) but nothing that really makes that the focus and gently leads the quilter who has some experience but is shy about going "off the map" so to speak. Looking forward to seeing where you go with this.

Dawn S. said...

I love your finished products! Thank you so much for explaining the process step by step. It is a big help for a beginner like me!

Lisa ONeill said...

I love your favorite as well - the blue in that quilt is so illuminating! It would be interesting to see how changing up the quilting in each of the pieces might change their appearance. There is a book - out of date now - Quilting Makes the Quilt. The author made the same quilt 5 times (bless her) and then quilted each version differently - the results were amazing. Your pieces would make a great template for experimenting with the quilting. Beautiful work!

Stephanie said...

I think method, process and inspiration are every bit as valid and helpful as traditional pattern. I'd love taking a class from you.

two hippos said...

I love the final wall hanging!

Nancy said...

Thanks for walking us through your process... look forward to the next steps you mentioned of expanding on this concept. All of the quilts are beautiful, simple, striking.

pklaw said...

Thank you so much for this post! My mind is reeling with possibilities! Your work, as always, is an inspiration!

Patty S. said...

I've been re-reading some of my Gees Bend books lately and looking at their improvisational work, especially those based on housetops. Your work alongside theirs is pushing me to play more creatively. Thanks for the tutorial and, yes, you need to be on the teaching circuit. Or just set up camp and we'll come to you!

brand-eye said...

gorgeous job!!
this is probably a really stupied quesitons, but i've been wondering how you go about hanging quitls on walls. do you just pin them? add tags to the back to pin?

Amy said...

very nice. I have to try one soon.Amy

Penny Schine Gold said...

I love the idea of a book made up of a collection of non-pattern patterns like this. I would buy it immediately!

Victoria said...

Thanks to each of you for the positive feedback!

brand-eye... that's a good question! Generally, to hang a wall quilt you sew a "hanging sleeve" on the upper backside of the quilt. This is like a long folded tube of fabric, several inches wide, and a few of inches shorter then width of the quilt. A thin, but sturdy metal bar or wooden dowel rod, (usually just a inch or so shorter then the width of the quilt) is then inserted through the tube. Two nails are hammered in the wall, (just slightly less then the length of the rod) and the ends of the rod are rest on top of them. (Generally, I have hanging sleeves attached to the quilts that I sell.)

Now... I don't go hammering nails into my walls for a photo shoot! In cases where the quilt is going to hang temporarily, I have several tricks. If the quilt is small, I just use rolled up painters tape, or acid free drafters tape stuck to the back of the work. In the case with a heavier quilt such as the one above, I take a strip of foam board several inches wide and just a bit shorter the the width of the quilt. Using small headed straight pins, I slip pins along the back side of the upper top edge of the quilt, and into the side of the foam board. Then, using rolled up pieces of painters tape, I attach the foam board to the wall. This method allows me to shoot my photos, remove the quilt, and leave the wall intact!

Of course their are lots of other ways to hang a quilt, including pins, hanging clips, suspended wires... whatever does the job and pleases the person! But, as said before, hanging sleeves are the general, professionally preferred method. :0)

Why Not Sew? said...

Hi Vic, Glad your back is getting better. I think your patternless pattern would be fun to try. I really love the rich colors of the last group. They look great together as a larger wall piece. Hope to talk to ya soon! ♥ Erin

Jackie Russell said...

Love these quilts! If I wasn't at work I would be at home cutting up some fabric to try this out. A book would be great! I'm ready to pre-order one! Thanks for sharing this with us. Glad to here you are feeling better too.

Jackie Russell said...

Will you be adding these quilts to your Flickr account? I like to favorite them so I can find your posts again.

Darcy said...

This is SO GREAT! I just my machine tuned up and I am SO trying this! Thanks for the inspiration!

Kim said...

Welcome back......this is a really nice tutorial without using a pattern and teaching freestyle.

I agree with "Nifty" you could write a great book.

Happy Sewing

Jane Moxey said...

Super! I too see a lovely book -- -- pictures and captions just like this terrific blog post! Go for it. You're not throwing tons of design principles and wretched "artspeak" in here and that's what makes it so appealing and unique!

Nova said...

thanks for sharing your process & thoughts. really love this approach, can't wait to see as your ideas on this develop :) x

Diane J. Evans said...

As always, a really wonderful tutorial, Victoria -- full of inspiration and COLOR! Love the quilts.

Glad you're on the mend, too.

Diane

Allie said...

This is the way I would love to work - I would love to see you teach classes in this, and come to MY area, lol! Love that last piece especially.

Mel said...

My brain has just exploded with the possibilities of this! Thank you so much for such a detailed explanation. Bloody marvellous!

Teresa said...

Love, love, love this!!!!! You really struck a cord with me!!! Thank you!!!!!!!!

Kathryn said...

Wow, you've been busy! These ALL look wonderful. And I love hearing how you've been inspired. Isn't it funny how we have these lows in creativity followed by intense highs? I actually like having a low since I know a high is coming soon!

Fer said...

Soooo stunning! and very very inspiring, especially your beautiful machine stipling/meander stitch. ♥

jp said...

Love it. And the outcomes. Awesome work, and a lot of it. I owuld love to see more backs of you projects. Particularly how your hand stitching appears on the flip side. thanks!!

Corinnea said...

I think you're genius. Thank you for sharing your beginning of what I think is an awesome way to help people create! If I didn't have things I HAD to sew right now I would be doing this today.... Start a flickr group so you can see what people are doing with your instruction! I love the dupioni I'd not have thought of that, I have some and if I just got a couple more colors....

Julia said...

Thank you for sharing your construction method. I want to try this soon.

deemallon said...

FANTASTIC!!! What a great idea - to teach the process instead of a particular pattern -- not so much because that's not an acceptable way to share ideas, but because it wasn't interesting enough TO YOU as a creator to grab you up. Clearly you are grabbed up now. Can't wait to see what's next.

sally in st. paul said...

Love it. I went to my LQS today and bought 6 fq's to give it a try.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful idea.
sally in st. paul

Sewhappy said...

Well done, I love your creations. I am itching to have some fun with this, I have to make one now and I will let you see a pic and let you know how I found it. I will play with it a bit...can't help myself but the idea will be there. Thank you for sharing this very appreciated.

Laura said...

What a great idea! I can't wait to try my own variation on your idea! I love how yours turned out!

Sarah said...

Wow, Victoria! Thanks for such a fantastic post! I really enjoyed learning about your techniques. I love the fabrics you use, the variation in textures and colours is so creative. Thanks again!

Bec Clarke said...

This is great, I am a great pattern follower but seem to fall apart at the seams (pardon the pun) when I want to improvise. I will have to try this and hopefully it will loosen me up a bit for the future.
THANK YOU!!!

Mary said...

wow wow and WOW again. What a fantastic look at no patterns. Just a bit of structure for those who need assistance in breaking out.
Take care of that back.

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much for this. I can't wait to try it. The final wall quilt is so absolutely stunning. I love it.

You could definitely do a series of these types of non-pattern diving boards into quilt art.

Perhaps there is a book in your future?

(I'd buy it for the pictures alone)

Septiembre said...

Victoria, son geniales, geniales.
Gracias.

Hey Harriet said...

Wow! You're amazing! Such an inspiration to all the quilters out there. You should run some classes as they'd sure be popular! And a few people mentioned the idea of a book, which I think you should certainly look into! So glad you're feeling a bit better now :)

Candied Fabrics said...

Love love LOVE! The idea, the process, the finished products, they are all glorious! I think you're on the right path and I see that this idea could be an AWESOME book!

On my list of things to try this summer is to work through your explanation and see what I come up with! Hold me to that... in JUNE! ;-)

Jovita said...

Fantastic and inspiring work! I've been using dupioni for a while too .. but stick mostly to "traditional" patterns with a twist.

Monica said...

inspiring as usual... I might even get my quilting mojo back!

(how do you hang your quilt?)

Victoria said...

Thanks again to each of you!

Monica, when I am hanging a quilt that will remain on the wall for sometime, I generally use a hanging sleeve sewn on the back and a thin metal rod. (For smaller pieces I may do the same, or sew fabric triangles to the two upper back corners, which can hold a small dowel rod.) However, for a temporary photo shoot I have several methods to avoid putting nail holes in the wall. The one I used here was attaching a long piece of foam board to the backside, (I used straight pins going through the back of the quilt and down into the foam board) then I fasten the back of the foam board to the wall using rolled up pieces of painters tape.

Pippa said...

This is SO wonderful! Thank you for the technique! It's also such marvelous insight into how you work. The shiny duponi is gorgeous, too!

Jennifer said...

I used your piecing technique and it was so much fun. Thank you!

Jenny McH said...

I had kept your post so that I could come back and really soak in your technique of a 'non-pattern' pattern. For someone like me that would love to branch out and try modern as opposed to traditional patterns, it gives some guidlines & encouragement,whilst allowing our own input. Thanks so much for sharing. A book sounds wonderful, sooner than later I say!

karen said...

wow Victoria, you have been busy!! I love all this work but especially the pieces that start in the 6th image down. I don't get to visit very often but I always wish you the best and I hope you and yours are all well xxx

liz said...

Please add me to the list of folks who think you are a genius. I've long been inspired by your blog and I will try this fun and beautiful technique. Totally a modern look I really enjoy.

So not only are you a genius, you are a generous genius for sharing your talents with the world via your blog. Thank you!

pegcollins said...

Hi Victoria,
Lynn, who follows your blog, brought your technique to our little group today. great outcome! Thanks for this great idea!

beth lehman said...

Just did this yesterday for my mom's birthday! I had a great time doing it. Thanks for you post and inspiration!! http://www.flickr.com/photos/15798936@N00/5730659025/in/photostream