Tag Archives: Contrast

The Kitty Economy Block Quilt

More than four years ago, I published a post on making an economy block. One aspect of quilting many struggle with is the math. The linked post outlines all the math in steps, and also provides a cheat sheet for a number of block sizes.

To show the steps, I fussy-cut a kitty from a bit of fabric and surrounded her with corners of a lively pink and yellow print. Those were set again with a bright pink and white gingham.

This block measures 7″ finished! Just as I wanted.

Cute block, huh? But with the quilts I make, not very easy to use. After all, the finished size is only 7″. For a block quilt, I’d need a lot more blocks (in pinks! or other pastels!) to make it useful. For a medallion quilt, 7″ is pretty small for a center.

When I started prepping for my February retreat, I dug through my drawer with orphan blocks and other parts. This block called to me, so I pulled it out and considered how to use it. By framing it with the yellow floral print, I enlarged the center, and the striped border extended it visually even more.

As I said in the linked retreat post, “One thing I enjoyed while cutting these pieces is completely finishing a few of these fabrics, aside from small scraps. That amazing stripe? That’s all there is of it. And the dainty but whimsical floral on yellow background? Gone. I’ve loved having them and using them, but as mentioned, I don’t make many quilts in pastels and twee prints. It won’t hurt to use them up.”

And use them up I did. Here is the finished quilt.

A Kitty for Charlotte. 39″ x 39″. Finished April 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

From a design standpoint, the small center block is okay, given the size of the quilt. One reason it works is because the 4-patches with pink gingham point at the center, directing the eye there. Also, there is not a lot of other “design” to distract from it.

Using the powder blue frames and other blue patches helps moderate the warmth (and monotony) of the pinks and yellows. The dark pink gingham repeats the dark pink in the kitty’s dress and bonnet. Also it provides some value contrast to the paler pastels. Spreading the gingham out across the quilt, and binding it with the same, helps provide balance.

Jim and I have friends with a baby girl named Charlotte, whom we have not yet met. The family lives just around the corner from us. This quilt seems like a good way to welcome Charlotte to the neighborhood.


The Six-Pointed Star UFO Is Still a UFO

but it’s a lot farther along than it was!

Remember where I started with six star points and no real plan? Then I figured out how to set the points in their background fabric and made more borders.

I played with EQ7 to try some ideas for finishing. (Oh yes, in case you wonder, there were many more versions drawn!)

I started on the third of these, making 40 chain (double 4-patch) blocks and cutting the alternate blocks. The chain blocks didn’t have enough visual weight to balance with the center, so I switched gears.

This is the result so far, after a fair amount of unstitching and restitching.

As often, it is too big to take one decent picture of it on the floor. I simply don’t have enough head room above it to get the camera high enough.

Those are dark brown triangles in the corners. They look just right in real life, though in the photos they don’t thrill me. The triangles, along with the diagonal lines of 4-patches, provide the weight in the corners I was missing before. The diagonal lines there and throughout the chains give movement. And the value changes from light background through dark triangles provide the contrast I like.

The small 6-pointed stars centering the borders repeat the star shape in the quilt center. I wondered if they would look too small and fussy, but overall I’m happy with the effect. They were kind of a pain to make. I might post again about making them.

Right now it is about 70″ square. I’ll add another 1″ border, as well as a wider outer border to finish. I don’t have those fabrics in my stash, so will need to shop for the right thing. There are too many other things to do right now, so that will wait, and the UFO will stay a UFO for a while longer.


EXPERIMENT. My focus word of 2014.

It’s tempting to think of experimentation as an improvisational creative process. Just try it! See what happens! In fact, no, in both hard science and social sciences, experiments are set up with great care and planning. Scientists define the question, determine what variables might impact the outcome, decide which variables to control and which to change, and carefully observe the outcomes.

In quilting an easy example is creating a number of sample pieces of free-motion quilting. Start with the same backing and top fabric, the same batting, and the same stitching design. Then try different threads. Observe the different looks of the stitching you’ve done.

Another example: in EQ7 or another design program, you might draw several variations of a border, using the same center design and color scheme. Changing just the border piecing, you are experimenting with the final look of the quilt.

For artists, working in series gives similar benefits as more structured scientific experimentation. Though I didn’t intend it as an experiment, I guess that’s what I’m doing with all the medallion quilts. It’s true that each one I do teaches me more about the format and how to design for it. For instance, one Medallion Sew-Along sample I’m working on now began with a center block of three main colors. Peach, red, and teal.

Backed myself into a corner on this one!

Though the peach and red both have more colors in their prints, the three colors dominate. Besides that, they are similar in value, as the peach reads as a medium rather than a light. I really constrained myself with that center block and needed to find ways to bring more color and more contrast into the quilt. Though I’m happy with its direction now, (after experimenting with different solutions,) in the future I’ll try to vary medallion centers more, to give myself more options.

Working in series is one way to experiment. Practice is another. Practice for the sake of improvement is simply experimenting with different technique or position or supplies. You test over and over, seeing what works best for you. And once you’ve found it, you try to repeat it, to verify and solidify the results.

That said, I also like the more casual notion of experimenting. Just try it! See what happens! And here is where I sometimes let fear stop me. At my best, I go ahead. After all, what’s the worst that would happen? Quilting isn’t brain surgery. No one will die if I mess up.

Still, I’m a structured gal. I know for me, I’ll do best with a list. What do I want to try? Why?

Here are a few things on that list, not particularly well-defined and in no particular order:

  • multi-size block quilt
  • using Shiva Paintstiks to transform fabric
  • long-arm quilting designs — practice/experiment
  • art quilt of shapes (Matisse inspired?)
  • art quilt featuring words (EAT/hunger-related)
  • landscape quilt of Irish rowhouses along river
  • landscape quilt of cityscape
  • quilt portraying boulder
  • quilt portraying snake

Looks like most of my intentions to experiment are to change the way I use shapes on fabric, breaking out of pure geometric formats. Even making a block quilt from many sizes of blocks breaks the linear boundary, beyond what I’ve done in the past.

What do I need to break free from? What constraints keep me confined to the linear, symmetrical structure? Nothing needs to. More to ponder…

Design Process — Irish Inspiration

Color, shape, line, value, texture. Unity/harmony, variety, balance/proportion, repetition/rhythm. Elements of design.

We can find inspiration by how the elements are used all around us. Engage ALL of your senses to detect them. When you eat a wonderful meal, you use taste, smell, touch, hearing, sight. You note the textures of the food and how they contrast. You see the items on the dish, how they are arrayed and relate to each other. The scents and tastes of each bite contrast and complement each other. You may note too much of one flavor — it is out of balance.

When you look for quilting inspiration, you might use a wonderful meal. See the beautiful photography on my friend Angie’s blog, The Novice Gardener. Who wouldn’t be inspired by the appearance and descriptions of her creations?

Or you might use a vacation. I was “thumbing” through some photos of a trip Jim and I took in 2011 to Ireland. Here’s a little inspiration from that trip. All photos by Jim Ruebush.

Where do you find inspiration? I’d love to hear about it.