Wednesday, March 19, 2014

On retreat 4 -- surface design

One of the people in my retreat group was getting ready to teach a class in simple surface design techniques, and was making a few more samples.  Although our house was nicely set up for quilters, it didn't have any facilities for wet work, so Pat just used Dye-Na-Flow (actually a fabric paint, not a dye, thus requiring no rinse-out or washing) in some shallow pans.

The next day we helped her brainstorm about what I call the classic dilemma of surface design: how to use the beautiful fabrics you have made.  You don't want to just make them into a whole-cloth quilt or hanging -- they usually need something more to transform them from yardage into art -- but on the other hand, you don't want to cut them up into small pieces or do anything elaborate on top of them that would obscure your beautiful shibori or other patterning.

Pat had a lot of ideas of how to use fancy fabrics in representational quilts, but hadn't worked much with abstract designs.  On the other hand, I spent a lot of time several years ago experimenting with dye, paint and discharge, and ended up with boxes full of beautiful fabrics that I tried hard to use in abstract quilts.

So I showed her a couple of my favorite semi-traditional blocks that work well with hand-dyed and patterned fabrics.  The pieces are big enough to showcase the beautiful fabrics, but the piecing gives some complexity and added interest.

Both of these blocks are riffs on the traditional Rail Fence block, which coincidentally is the subject of that book I've been trying to finish, so it took very little thinking on my part to whip out a couple of samples for her to take to her class.


  1. Perhaps some of the modern look quilts would also be a way to showcase fabrics like this.

  2. I love the simple elegance of these blocks.