Tag Archives: Visual weight

New Work, Subject to Change

The point of blogging and the point of quilting, for me, is enjoyment. And self-expression. And moving things around until I get them “right.” I just finished reading a blog post by Austin Kleon, author/artist/poet who wrote Keep Going, among other books.

In his blog post, Kleon calls blogging a “forgiving medium,” because even after a piece is published, the author can edit easily. Usually no one is the wiser, and if they are, usually they are kind about it.

Quilting is like that, to a point. I’ve changed quilt tops in small ways and large, at all stages of construction. Of course, once quilted, it’s harder to make changes. Even then, though, there are opportunities to embellish, add stitching, or judiciously change colors with markers or paints. My friend Joanna Mack The Snarky Quilter changes finished quilts regularly, to positive effect.

I have a new project, and as with almost every project, it already isn’t what I expected. I started with this:

It’s a basic star-in-a-star featuring a large flower from a showy print. The outer corners, if you aren’t sure, are very dark navy, not black. They do rather disappear into the background. In fact, they disappear so much, they are the first thing I changed, substituting white corner triangles.

After modifying the block, I considered how to frame it. Now imagine me, chin on hand, eyes directed upward, much like a cat that isn’t really looking at anything. (We call that cat “Stuart,” even though he hasn’t lived with us for thirty years.) Pondering, pondering… And it came to me, I should frame it with the same showy print that inspired the center.

The showy print is one I bought, if I remember correctly, in Taos in 2014. And again I don’t know for sure, but it might be an Alexander Henry piece. Long ago and far away… But it’s BIG! and SHOWY! and DIRECTIONAL! And it has one more challenge: I’ve fussy cut chunks out of it a few times.

When I decided to use it, I also decided to set the center block on point. I had enough of the big print for setting triangles, if I cut very carefully.

Yeah, you can guess what happened. I cut two big squares and cut them each on the diagonal to make setting triangles. But because the print is directional, I needed to cut one square from northwest to southeast, and the other from southwest to northeast. And I didn’t. ugh. Luckily I could cut another square almost big enough and piece over a missing section.

It worked. I framed the center block with a very fine yellow line, and then set it in the showy print. Because of the visual weight, I needed to balance that with a weighty border. After rifling through stash, I had a nice array of pinks, oranges, blues, and greens.

Along with white, they became hourglass blocks to surround the magenta spacer strip.

I’m not sure what’s next. That’s okay. I can take my time, ponder the possibilities a la Stuart. I can make and unmake, do surgery to remove or transplant parts. There is nothing precious, even a piece of fabric purchased long ago and far away.

Dizzy

Recently I’ve shown you a few illustrations drawn in EQ7. (See pictures here and here.) One of them was to become a sample for my upcoming medallion design class, and the others will be used to illustrate various ideas for the students. Here is one of two that I started with.

Consensus in comments was that the design was too busy and didn’t look maker-friendly. I simplified it by removing the piecing from the spacer blocks — see the connecting blocks between stars in the final border and between pinwheels in the middle border. I also changed two of the patterned borders to plain white.

I liked the simplified version, so I made it.

Dizzy. 60″ x 60″. September 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Even if I design a quilt prior to making, it almost always gets changed in the translation. Fabric simply doesn’t look the same as pixels. On this one, I found that the density of color and pattern in the center (visual weight) was too much as compared to the middle and outer borders. It was unbalanced. To fix the balance, I replaced the white in the illustration’s outer narrow border with green. As soon as I did that, I was happier with it. The binding of the strong blue adds punctuation.

I quilted it with a double teardrop design. The quilting is pretty dense, making the quilt less cuddly and soft than I prefer, but I like this look. The second photo is of the underside while it was still on the frame. 

The quilt is named “Dizzy.” Between the spinning pinwheels and all the stars, as well as its overall brightness, it reminded me of the lightheaded feeling of standing up too quickly. “Dizzy” sounds better than “Lightheaded” though. ūüôā

Just to round things out, here is “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe.

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.

Finding Balance with Visual Weight

I’m working on that UFO. More accurately, I’ve stalled working on that UFO, because of balance problems.

Last time I showed you a couple of ideas for finishing the 6-pointed star with borders. Both were good ideas, and I kept playing in EQ7 to refine them. This was the winner:

Pretty, huh? I liked the airy way the chains of 4-patches wrapped around the center. After arriving home over the weekend, I set to work making 40 double-4-patches to construct the borders. They finished well, and I was excited to lay them out around the center. But I don’t like the look at all. They definitely look better in the drawing than they do in real life.

The balance is all wrong. The visual weight of the center (everything in the center so far, including the 4-patches on point and the 1″ dark pink border outside of them) is too heavy, relative to the weight of the chains. The difference is so stark, the border chain blocks seem completely disconnected from the center, as if they are from different quilts.

Unity: the design principle that all the elements and components of a design look like they belong, that they are unified, or one.

Balance: the design principle that elements and components of a design have equal distribution of visual weight.

My chains are not well balanced with the center, and in fact, are so badly balanced as to look like they don’t belong.

Sigh…¬†

So it was back to the literal drawing board of EQ7. I have a tentative plan, but you might understand that I’m shy about showing it right now. First I’ll see if it works.

How is your week going? Are you making good progress, or are you in steps-forward and steps-back mode, like I am?

Three Comments on Balance

In the last post I showed you the quilt I’m working on now. It’s intended as a donation for our local VA hospital, to warm a vet with the love stitched into it. You can see the blocks below.

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I talked about choosing the layout, and how using an even number of blocks across, when there are alternate blocks, can lead to an unbalanced layout. My EQ7 isn’t working properly right now, or I would show you a picture I create. Instead I’ll show you from Roberta Horton’s book Scrap Quilts: The Art of Making Do.

20161006_220601

From Roberta Horton’s book Scrap Quilts: The Art of Making Do, page 19.

Notice that there are three star blocks on the left and two on the right, making it asymmetrical. If there were another row across, giving three and three, the arrangement still wouldn’t have¬†left-right symmetry. The lack of symmetry makes it feel unbalanced.

In my quilt above, I have a similar layout, but use half-square triangle blocks rather than plain alternate blocks. To my eye, it is balanced. What’s the difference?¬†The¬†strong diagonal line created by the HST takes the emphasis off the horizontal (or vertical) row arrangement. The visual weight isn’t in the shoofly blocks; it’s in the HST, which creates diagonal lines that are symmetrical. (For more about visual weight, see my posts on proportion, parts 1, 2, and 3.)


For the last couple of years, I’ve had the goal to be sturdy and flexible. It’s an easy motto to say: “Sturdy and flexible — that’s the goal!” I apply it to both my physical and mental health. To be sturdy, I need good balance. But in August I hurt my left knee, and it’s astonishing how quickly everything else fell apart! My right leg wants to work much harder than my left leg does. My upper body feels a lot more competent than my lower body does. I am all out of balance, and I don’t feel at all sturdy, and my legs especially are not flexible. (Mentally things seem to be going fine, thank you.)

If you’re a quilter you know how physical our making can be. I get up and down off the floor once a piece is too big for my design wall. I walk up and down stairs, 15 steps each time, to get to my studio. I stand for long stretches when quilting at the longarm. And even sitting at the domestic machine requires good core strength to keep from hurting my back. I need this all to be easier again!

I decided it was time to ask for professional help. I’ve started working with a personal trainer at a local gym. So far we’ve assessed the problem (and she agrees with my evaluation, but in much more specific terms.) And she’s begun showing me the type of work I’ll do to get back on track. I’m looking forward to improving my strength, flexibility, and¬†endurance, and to getting my balance back.


I’m also pondering how to set myself up to finish the year well. The key to doing what I want is knowing what I want.¬†That sounds simple, but you know as well as I that sorting priorities isn’t always easy.

Here is something I wrote to a friend in email two years ago:

… your power is in what you DO, not in what you DID. For me, I can only DO effectively when I am doing the right things, really spending my time and energy on my true priorities. There are a lot of different layers to that, right? Bills have to be paid, dishes have to be washed, etc. …

I finally figured out my magic formula, this funny 3-legged stool …¬†I have to identify my priorities correctly so I can balance my resources right. And I have to get my balance right to maximize my power.

Being sturdy and flexible is about being powerful, able to create and to endure. Identifying priorities is about being powerful, in just the same way.

Identifying priorities. That is the task I’m working on now. I’ll talk more about that another time.