Thursday, April 29, 2021

Designing art quilts with line - two problems - SOLVED!

While in art quilts our main medium is shape, pieces of cloth cut into shapes, most of us usually design using line. And this can often be misleading, because our lines simply delineate the edges of the shapes! to me, this creates two difficulties...

First, we're designing one thing...but making another! So it's really hard to see what the quilt will look like finished. so many times people say to me - but I know what I want in my head, but what comes out is nothing like it!! I know we've all felt that. My answer is that if you want your quilt to be a beautiful and exciting arrangement of shapes, then DESIGN with shapes! cut out the shapes in paper - or in cloth - and arrange and rearrange on a background that resembles (in value at least, also texture) the background of your finished quilt. You don't need to glue them down...just take a photo of every arrangement you come up with and then look at the different ideas simultaneously on your'll easily see the best one.

Second, we're missing an opportunity to create a design featuring LINE itself...and these can be very beautiful and elegant. Not so easy to reproduce in fabric, you say? ACtually not so difficult as you would think...cut fairly narrow strips - as narrow as you can comfortably work with...but sew very wide seams thus reducing the width of the narrow strips considerably. As I did in this quilt below.

When considering a linear design, begin with a sketch - which obviously you'll design by drawing lines on a piece of paper! If your design is based on a photo or some similar inspiration, then, one you have your sketch, take the photo away! Just focus on the sketch. This is your blueprint. Now: are there any lines you can remove and still retain the idea that inspired you? Get rid of those first. They are surplus to purpose!

Then, see if you can extend, or add, or augment your lines. For example: drawing strong lines that go through much of the design and create a basic structure. Remember that horizontal lines suggest a peaceful scene, vertical ones strength and stability, and diagonal ones (my favorite!) are dynamic. Don't have just one kind of line, but do have a PREPONDERANCE of one kind. If you use diagonals, be sure to have a few that go in the opposite direction...otherwise you'll have all your viewers leaning to one side......!!!

Next...think about the quality of the lines: sharp pointy ones give a feeling of energy, perhaps anger! smooth undulating ones are calm, tender, loving. Short bold ones are dramatic, fine whispy ones are smokey, suggestive and tentative. What mood do you want to create? Use your lines!

Some lines should be avoided - because they are boring, or affect the balance of the design. These are lines that are exactly parallel to the edges, or lines that bisect a corner, or "cut" the design into two equal halves. You don't want your quilt to be really elevator music!

Use the fact that our eyes tend to follow a line to direct your viewer's gaze: towards a focal area...or around the piece...whatever you want!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!! I do hope you'll try some of these ideas ...let me know if they are helpful! And I love comments...and will always reply! So please..feel free! Elizabeth


Anonymous said...

Lines are one of the things that attracts me most to art pieces, and the fabulous quilter Ruth B. McDowell uses them brilliantly. She integrates the lines of her design as piecing guides, and extends them right to the edges, doing this long before modern quilters ever got there. I would love to see some of her quilts up close in real life one day:).

Michelle Eaton

Elizabeth Barton said...

I agree, Michelle...she also used commercial fabrics brilliantly in fun experimental ways...I believe she is retired now...I know Del Thomas has a wonderful collection of her work. Elizabeth

Joan said...

What a beautiful quilt, Elizabeth. Your lines are so elegant, and I love the way you’ve introduced just a touch of colour.

Vickie Wheatley said...

Thank you for your informative and thought provoking articles. This one is timely, as I'm working through a series of strip piecing exercises developed by Nancy Crow and having trouble with composition. I tend to cut my strip pieced fabrics into fairly regular slices and try to arrange them in a visually pleasing way. Usually, the individual parts have something to offer, but the entire composition does not hold together.
Your article has given me a new way of thinking as well as some guidelines for design.
Can't wait to finish up the little exercise I'm working on and try again!