Monday, December 19, 2005

Episode II: Projects I'm Halfway Through With

Episode II: Projects I'm Halfway Through With
DATE: 12/19/2005 10:05:23 PM

From the original "Friendster" version of State of the Craft.

I actually do intend to keep this blog up. It's just been a tough month, which brings up the whole quilting/mental health connection, and the Story of Why I Started Quilting in the First Place. But let's leave that for a later date.

Last week was quilt guild, and I showed the "log cabin" quilt -- the one with the concentric copper and blue-green diamonds -- at the show and tell session that ends the meeting. It received some hushed exclamations and a round of applause.... but then all of the show and tell quilts get hushed exclamations and a round of applause. And there's this funny phenomenon where my piece looks outrageously fabulous in my house, or if I am showing it to friends who don't know a lot about quilts, but, when it's surrounded by other quilts made by competent quilters, it suddenly looks like a glorified beach towel. Some of the show and tell quilts were so absolutely stunning that I felt embarassed to be showing mine. (But, to be fair, some of the others were at about the same level of fabulousness as mine.)

When I sat back down, one of the woman at my table helpfully commented that it would be a more impressive quilt if I had made more of a value contrast between my two colors. More about value in a moment, but remember: this was a quilt I had lived with and worked on for five years. A critique of my color choices, the very first decision upon which the whole quilt was built, wasn't the first thing I wanted to hear from my fellow guild member. To my credit, I did not punch her in the face, and was on the whole quite gracious about the remark, I thought.

The idea of value refers to intensity of color. The difference between a brilliant royal blue, a sky blue, and a powdery white with a slight bluish tint is a difference of value -- same blue, different intensity. Most quilters will tell you that, although color is fun, you have to base your design on value if you want it to "jump out" and make a strong impression. And they are right! I know this, because I taught cartography back in the day. You have to use value in data presentation, because it is what registers on the eye the strongest -- this ultimately has to do with the "rods" and "cones" in the eyes, and all of that good stuff. But I digress.

Here is one of the quilts I am halfway done with. Its name is Winter Quilt. Notice how those stars leap out in the center? That's value at work. I used a dark ("saturated") fabric on a light background, so that they would be very clearly defined. Sure, it sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people might go after the exact same design, but use fabrics all of the same value. If you do that, it gets muddy.

I know, because this happens to be the only quilt I've ever made from a published pattern. I made it for a class, so I got to see what a bunch of different people would do, color-wise, given the same layout to work with. Classes are a big fixture of quilt culture, and every quilt shop of any size whatsoever offers classes pretty much every day of the week. In this case, the class was at the very excellent shop the Pine Needle in Lake Oswego. It was called "Learn to Quilt," which required some humility on my part after eleven years of quilting, but I wanted to brush up on my fundamentals. It worked beyond my wildest expectations, and I learned as much on each of the six nights of the class as I would in a full year of going it alone.

The poofy white edges are the batting sticking out. I'm still working on the quilting on this one, and until that's done the batting will just hang out like that. Once it's all quilted, the very last step will be to cut the batting back and apply a binding, the outside edge all around the finished quilt. Bindings require a lot of hand sewing, the only hand sewing many quilters do, so they are kind of tedious. But, it's exciting to be working on a binding, since it means you are almost done with something.

Here's a small piece I am about halfway done with. It is a variation of a classic pattern called Around the World that I like; if you've ever been in my dining room, the one in there is a full Around the World. This one uses a progression of blue and gold batik prints that I picked out at In the Begining, another fine shop that's on Lake City Way in Seattle. For now, the face is finished, but I haven't attached a back and batting to it, let alone started the quilting. In fact, it's possible that I will even add a border -- some kind of fabric framing around the main piece shown here -- but I doubt it. I think it will be sharpest with a thin black binding. All three of the pieces I'm writing about today are unusual in that I plan to keep them instead of giving them away. This one will hang in our bedroom.

This third one is kind of a departure for me. Again, it's a selection of batik fabrics, these ones just from a chain store. They are kind of more vivid that I usually go, which feels good. I like the way that the triangles combine to give the illusion of circles, and the way the circles interlock. It's got kind of a hippie/stained glass/mosque floor thing going on.

On this one, the face isn't even finished yet. Mostly just the square blocks, the square pieces that go together to make the design, are put together so far, and I've just laid them next to each other on the floor. Can you see the blocks? The whole thing is a 5 x 5 grid of them. Each block is comprised of the same shapes, in this case, only the colors are different. Thirteen of them have one set of colors, and the other twelve have another. Cool, no?

OK, that's enough out of me. Thanks for reading.

AUTHOR: Charlie
DATE: 12/27/2005 08:35:02 AM
Very interesting analysis of what makes quilts good. I think my mom would really get into this, that is, if she wasn't completely computer illiterate, if their computer worked, and if she had a friendster account so she could comment on value and rods and cones...

My sister did put some of my mom's new quilts on a web page for her. If interested, go to