It was the first day of first grade and I was ready. I had my Big Chief writing tablet and a pristine box of 16 beautiful Crayola crayons. I could hardly wait to break it open. As we were given our seat assignments, I noticed that some of the other kids had much larger boxes. Then I spot the biggest box of all containing about a zillion crayons plus a built-in sharpener sitting right in front of my friend Chris. I wanted zillions of colors too! (Okay, so I wasn’t so good at counting yet.)
At the end of that day, after patiently listening to my sob story, my dad took me aside to show me how to use my crayons to create new colors by blending and shading. Having 16 crayons wasn’t as terrible as I thought. I learned some amazing things about color that day. (I also learned that good friends share. Chris would take pity on me and let me use her periwinkle every once in a while, and I showed her how I could blend my colors.)
Fast forward to the early 90s. That was when I was learning to quilt, and I was less than thrilled with the variety of cotton fabrics. It was mostly calicos and solids back then. The colors were often dark and muddy. It was like having a box of 16 crayons all over again. As my quilting skills progressed, I began finding more fabric that appealed to me and more ways to combine colors in my quilts. When I found bright, bold fabric I liked, I didn’t hesitate to buy it–often in large quantities, and usually without a plan for its use.
My early quilts were mostly traditional–Rail Fences, Log Cabins, Irish Chains, etc. These patterns were fine, but I didn’t want my quilts looking exactly like the pattern picture or anybody else’s. That’s when I began thinking outside the box, or should I say “outside the blocks”.
In 2005, I signed up for a color and design class with Heather Thomas author of A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color & Design (Landauer Publishing). The quilts made for this 13-month course had to be original designs. I thought the easiest way to do this was to use traditional designs in new ways. With the help of my Electric Quilt software, I started working on new layouts, new block or color combinations, new twists. It was fun learning so much about color and value. Here are 3 of my projects from that class.
Kismet, my quilt published by Quilter’s Newsletter in April/May 2008, is based on a traditional Carpenter’s Wheel and Sawtooth Star blocks. I strategically used blacks, grays and white with values of red to create the quilt’s 3-dimensional illusion.
This 3-D tumbling block design was created in a class taught by Karen Combs in 2008. I love the optical illusion.
My Great Ball of Fire design (Sept/Oct ’09) uses an off-center Pineapple block.
I skewed a 16-Patch block in my Aqua Marina design (Nov/Dec ’10), but playing with the colors and values was more fun.
Sparkling Bubbles (July/Aug ’13) was influenced by Mariner’s Compass and New York Beauty blocks. This was a pretty bold color combination for me.
In addition to Karen Combs’s work (karencombs.com), I am in awe of quilts designed and made by Jacqueline de Jong (becolourful.com) and George Siciliano (georgesiciliano.com). I could look at them for hours. Check out their websites to see why.
In case you haven’t noticed, my designs are mostly foundation-pieced with batiks. Here are a couple of my designs from Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks.
I still love the challenge of giving traditional designs a new look. Isn’t it wonderful to have so many fun fabric choices these days? It’s especially difficult for me to pass by displays of colorful batiks. To fill my fabric stash, I just need a zillion more!