Monday, April 25, 2011

Aged White

For the last year I've wanted to make some quilts based on the color pallet of the local old barns. I just couldn't find the right fabric to accurately represent the colors I see. Some areas are painted different from other areas. Paint peels away in this section, but not as much in that. And many areas are stained by organic matter or altered by the grain of the wood showing through.

A true solid wouldn't fit the bill, and mono-colored fabrics with a mottled look just weren't right either. Finally I found the perfect fabric at my local fabric shop, which turned out to be Moda's Grunge series. I'd seen it on some of the on-line shops, but it wasn't until I saw it in person that I knew it was what I had been searching for.

These fabrics, which at first read as a solid, actually have bits of color though out, similar to streaks of paint in some areas or peeling/faded paint in others.

Can you see bits of spotted areas in the finished quilt above? I know it's hard, as the neutrals are truly neutral, with very subtle bits of grey and cream added to the white, and subtle bits of grey and white added to the cream.... but they are there!

For this first attempt at using old barn colors as inspiration, I decided to also let the vertical and horizontal lines of the old barn siding also be a source of inspiration.

Currently I'm working on another piece inspired by some colors found in old red barns. I'll show that next post. Till then have a great week! xo

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Beautiful Day

Yesterday was a beautiful day! Actually it was the second beautiful day of the week, and today makes the third. After months of mostly cold days and grey skies, followed by weeks of rain, I can't adequately express how good the warm sun feels on the skin, and wonderful blue skies look to the eyes.

It was the perfect day for Hubby and me to head out to our favorite worn and weathered barn, and have a little photo shoot of this newest "non-pattern" quilt. (The results of the photo shoot also provided great incentive to give the blog a new look, starting with a new header!)

The process for creating this quilt, titled "Spring Fling", was basically just like the one I outlined in my last post, however this time, my main base for each block was a square shape, (instead of a rectangle).

I used nine squares, each cut the same way into 5 separate pieces and stitched back together with 4 different fabrics, (instead of three as I previously did). The blocks were then stitched together randomly, so some blocks are upside down, or laid on their side.

When my one daughter saw the finished quilt, she described it as "organized chaos", which I thought was a perfect description. The process of working this way is basically organized, yet the finished results yield a quilt full of energy and movement. There's a whole lot going on in this relatively small quilt, but an underling order exists. (My own little "chaos theory" wrapped up in a quilt!)

The five fabrics in this quilt were pulled from my stash and consist of a coral-red Kona solid, (used for the base squares), along with a red Kona solid, an aqua Kona solid, and two japanese flowered prints.

One of the things that I noticed during the photo shoot was how some of the lines and shapes of the quilt were similar to some of the lines and shapes of the patched barn. I like knowing that what we love, has a way of seeping into our work, even when we aren't consciously trying.

More rain is in the forecast for tomorrow, so it will be the perfect day to stay indoors and sew...

but while I'm stitching, I'll be thinking sunny thoughts of lazy warm days, blue skies and whitewashed old barns. xo

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