Wednesday, October 28, 2015


So think your quilt is looking like wallpaper?
(and there are an awful lot of them out there, believe me!!)
I love showing poorly designed quilts in my workshops ....but daren't get away with it online!!
(apart from my own...I have a lot of "dogs", there's no doubt!!!  (apologies to any canines reading this blog...but do please comment!).

What can you do to improve the design?
Here are three tips to avoid producing any more wallpaper!

 Think about adding a focal point...I like to think of a quilt design as being like an opera... there is the lead singer, the star - the Tenor...He stands out, he's towards the center of the stage (unless he's singing mightily while dying of suffocation in a tomb of course!!), he's bigger, bolder, louder and spotlit!
Sometimes there are one or two or even three other singers engaged with him in varying melodic patterns i.e. interesting and varied auditory arrangements...and we can create the same thing visually.

With no focal point - no center of interest - then everything is equally interesting, or equally boring!
I was ill in bed a lot as a child with little energy and I remember I looked and looked and looked at all the wallpaper in my room - a basket pattern, I wanted to find the one basket that had some different flowers in it! (never did).  As human beings we are hard wired to find the novel elements in our surroundings and investigate them.  They may be good to eat.....or good to run away from!

So create a focal point by having something a bit different in that area: different shape, different line quality, different size, different color etc.   And make it fairly easy for the viewer to find it by having it towards the center of the design. Furthermore, make it  obvious by its contrast with the areas around it which is how we normally see things  - whatever we are looking at is clear, sharp, focussed...that which is in our peripheral vision is softer, blurrier...

Another thing that will make your quilt more interesting is to increase the value range.
If you have any photo - imaging software on your computer, then simply scan in your sketch ...or a photo of your quilt, and increase the contrast in value.  In PSE you can find this feature under "Enhance"...  Making the darks darker and the lights lighter will make the whole idea bolder and richer.  You don't have any darks to make darker? or lights to make lighter?  well...that's probably why it's boring!   Create some!!  You ARE allowed!

Add variety, something different, something unexpected and edgy.  Imagine one of those Thomas Kinkaid snow covered cute cottages with the lights on inside...and there's a little figure climbing out of the window!!  Makes you lean forward and take what is happening there..I didn't expect to see that!!  There's lots of different ways to make things unexpected...Tracy Emin the British artist who makes blankets appliqu├ęd with text.  She uses not only  strong personal language ...but she also exploits her dyslexia with strange bad spellings.  Not your usual bad spelling...but something that makes us have to take a moment to figure out the text.

And of course, if you really want to make wallpaper...please do!  It can be very soothing..just don't hang it above the bed of a bored sick child!

And now for a nice cuppa tea I think, cogitation can make you thirsty...
if you have been, thanks for reading!



elle said...

wall paper! Ha! I've calling them mattress pads! wall paper is better! :)

Rayna said...

Ha ha - wallpaper. Decades ago, somebody told me my piece looked like a bulletin board. She didn't mean it as a compliment but I was pleased because that was exactly the effect I was aiming for.

As far as value, I urge my students to look at what is on their design wall through their iPhones or iPads, where they can turn them into black and white without even photographing them. Helps tremendously to see the work that way in process. My iPad is one of my best teaching tools, for just that reason.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hey Rayna! Thanks for the comment. I was just in Green Bay where they're expecting you next year - great folks! you'll have a good time.
I've got an iPad on my wish list!! onward and upward..

Phillips Vietnam Adventure 2009 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sharon said...

Thank you!!!! I'm working on a project for my niece and couldn't put my finger on what I didn't like. Took a break, read your blog post, and voila! Now I know - back to the design wall!

Cool Lizzie said...

I do love your blog in general, and this post is priceless! Perfect term - I've made a few of those types of quilts myself and am always dissatisfied. I will hold your comments in my mind as I go about my sewing business - thanks!!


Sharon Robinson said...

This is something I have given a lot of consideration to. Wallpaper's a good term. I tend to think of it as "texture." I wrote a long, musing blog post about this last year - When does "really cool texture" become art. I posted quite a few pieces that I consider art but that also are generally an overall texture. If you have a chance, I'd love to hear what you (or any readers) think!

Unknown said...

Very nice post, impressive. its quite different from other posts. Thanks for sharing.

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