Sunday, March 5, 2017

Quilt Designs: Fabs, Failures & Why

The Best of Three
Navy Nine Patch

Most people will tell you there is no such thing as an ugly quilt. Let me bite my lip and rephrase it. (Let's be honest. We know this down deep.) There is something redeeming in every quilt made, but not all quilts 'work.' Most of the time we feel it when we're putting things together, but we know it when it's assembled. A color, a pattern, a border width, etc., just don't make the cut. We have a couple of choices. Rip it out and fix it if it's valuable, or live with it and learn. I chose the second option this week.

I volunteer at a Connections Thrift Store twice a month, and this is still a new prospect for me. I am most definitely still working with a learning curve. My job is very simple. Work through the precut bins of 4", 5", or 6" squares, and lay out comforter designs. There are traditional designs that work, but I've been trying some new ideas.

Green, but not Irish.
The first quilt I put on the design wall.
Squint so you can see the chain. 
It's there, but weak. 

Why didn't it work? I would say it has to do with low contrast between some of the green tones and the background. I chose my fabrics as low volume for the background, and saturated greens for the chain. What is necessary to explain is you are at the mercy of what it in the bin. There just weren't that many saturated kelly greens so I gravitated toward blue-greens. Patterns with lots of white space like plaids further reduced the contrast. Patterns or prints with other colors in them did not seem to be as much of a problem. 

Substituting the fabrics might have worked, but I had already invested quite a lot of time in it already. It was not a loss, but not what I would have liked. A darker color for the chain would be better next time.

That was when I created the Nine Patch at the top. It was a far simpler pattern to lay up, and the was a great way to use up lots of smaller numbers of pieces left over in the bins. The contrast was easy to keep within just one block instead of the whole top also. The background also created a subtle shadowing or secondary patterning. See the darker cluster in the center left area when you squint? Or here.

Nearly any filter on your photo editing will give you good information about contrast. One thought was playing up the center with darker backgrounds the next time for an interesting effect.

Here you can see a close up of that area. The actual navy blues and backgrounds are fairly bold prints themselves.

Trial by Four Patch

Once again I was an unhappy camper through the progression of the lay out. My mission was still to use up some pesky prints that only had 2 or so left in the bin. A four patch sounded easier than the nine patch as that had been successful. The low volume backgrounds, navy blues, and greens were still out, and I added some more blues and violets. 

Halfway through we were all tilting our heads trying to figure out how to save it. The further it went the better it got, but still not one you would say, "Make it again." 

I realize this may be a boring post to many of you, but talking about why things don't work well as well as why they do is a good way to learn design. You can train your eye to look for things below the surface, and later transfer that to your own work. I am not a trained designer myself, but a quilter like you looking to learn all I can. Summarizing a comment that came via email last week, "Isn't it nice when we're all willing to share information, and learn from each other. You teach me, and I'll teach you!" I agree completely.

And now I'm off to my first Modern Quilt Guild meeting in Pittsburgh. It's a hike so I'm off hours early. Cheers to you all, and I hope you find something quilty to do today, too!

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


Iris said...

Hi Julie,
I love the idea of your post, posting about the proces behind the quilt making. However I have to say that I think you are being very hard on yourself. Out of the three designs I love the top one the best.....To me it feels the freshest and the cheeriest. Maybe a factor to consider is who the quilt is for? I do hope you will post more of these kinds of posts.
kind regards,

Linda @ kokaquilts said...

Interesting reading, and I do love a nine patch! It must be fun working through the pre-cut bin of scraps and playing wth different layouts!

Julie said...

Hi Iris. The top comforter is my favorite, too. It was also my favorite to lay out, and the easiest and quickest of all the designs. I didn't mean to come across as being hard on myself. I love doing this, but it's not quite as easy as I'd thought to keep the layouts fresh each time. I think that critiquing the work is not so much to be harsh, but more to learn as much as I can. Working through each design helps me analyze the process, and makes it easier to plan what I'll work on the next week. As in "this one works while this one doesn't" thing. While this is just my own way of learning--I do it with everything, there are many others who do the same thing. Coming up with basic formulas that work and can be shared makes it much more enjoyable! The one patch design is the standard charity quilt around here because it makes good use of donated fabric, and anything I can do to make it easier for myself or others is the goal in talking about it.

I should say again that the comforters are made for selling in store, but if they don't sell in a reasonable time they are donated to be delivered overseas to those in need. So we never know where they'll actually wind up. I want all of them to be lovely (and my best) no matter where they end up, and of course to bring cheer and color to someone's life.

It's so nice to hear from you! Thank you for stopping in today.


audrey said...

Such an interesting post to read through. I know what you mean about the quilts that don't seem to 'click'. In order to truly grow as a quilter, it's very helpful to consider things that work well and things that should work well but just don't. We all have our biases and elements/colors etc. we instinctively gravitate towards. The people who seemingly always turn out gorgeous quilts no matter how simple the pattern--NOT a happy accident!

Kate said...

A very useful post. There is a difference between designing without the fabric and then designing with what you have. Both happen if you make a lot of quilts. But it's nice to have a few rules of thumb you've developed to get the best quilt in both circumstances.