I met a lovely group of very accomplished traditional quilters this week. We spent a great morning together eating cake, swapping stories and sharing our work. It was a pleasure to see such beautifully made quilts. It always makes me smile, but the world over, quilters always seem to ask the same questions...
'How long did it take to make?'; 'Where do you get you ideas?' and 'How do you turn the ideas into quilts' being the top three that seem to get asked most often.
A quick Google search brings up lots of videos, online courses, tutorials, books, and tips for those who would like to make the transition to designing and making their own work. If you want to get technical you can get into the detail of good design and like many other quilters I have written a book about it. One of the main things to do is to stop wondering about it and take the plunge. Try something small and don't worry if it doesn't work out. But that still doesn't answer the question, does it?
So, here is one quick and easy technique to at least get started, and once you have started it will all seem a lot easier!
Find something that you like. It might be a picture, a cushion, your auntie's old tea towel, or maybe a quilt that has particularly caught your eye. It can be anything. You aren't going to make a copy of it - so no need to fret about copyright. (However it might be polite to ask the permission of the original maker if you think it appropriate.) This is going to be your inspiration and you are going to look at it carefully and ask......... 'what if ?'
To demonstrate what I mean, here are several quilts made using the quilt 'City of Roses' (a quilt I made several years ago) as the starting point and the 'What if ?' questions that I asked.
What if................ I changed the colours?
This is a pretty straightforward and not terribly original, but it is a good place to start this explanation.
(note: if you are only changing the colours of a quilt then you really do need to ask the permission of the original maker, as it is a copy). So, instead of green and pink I chose blue & purple and peach & pink. Already it is starting to look different. (I will be teaching this quilt and many options for altering it at Midsomer Quilting on 3rd July)
What if.............................. I modified the shape of the flower motifs?
In my sketchbook I tried several different ideas for the rose shapes. There are lots of different variations that could be made. I stuck with roses, but I could have easily changed the type of flower to something like a daisy for a really different look.
I decided to change the way I cut the spiral. Instead of a simple straight edged spiral I made the edge bumpy.
What if ....... I changed the way I put the flowers onto the quilt top?
Instead of using raw edge applique I thought about how else could I put flowers onto the fabric. I made a lino cut stamp and also experimented with Derwent Inktense pencils and mono printing
What if............. I add some leaves?
Just a few little green leaves add enough contrast to help define the rose shapes on the busy background. They act as visual cues to say 'we are flowers' and stop the rose spirals from appearing as a big scramble.
What if....................... I changed the background?
As you can see from the quilt below I made quite a few changes to the background. You can read more detail about how I made this quilt in an earlier blog post by clicking here, but basically I cut the quilt into 3 and inserted panels of white fabric in between. On the white fabric I wrote a message with dye to tell the story I wanted to convey.
At a glance this quilt looks quite different from the original, but if you look more closely you will see it shares many similarities with 'City of Roses'. There are changes to the size, colour, overall shape of the quilt, as well as a slight change to the flower motifs and the method of adding the flowers. All this has contributed to making this a new and unique design.
What if...................... I simplify the quilt?
Instead of having 3 central panels - how about making it smaller and just having just one? Alternatively how about making it larger and having 5?
What if ................. I change the colour of the text?
Rather than have black and grey, what would it look like if I had black and rose coloured text?
The answer turned out to be YUK!! Oh well, sometimes these things happen and when they do you get to try another 'what if ?' to solve the problem.....
What if ................. I change the colour of the white outer fabric?
To quieten down that bright pink writing that was now shouting out I tried painting some weak blue and green dyes onto the fabric. It calmed it down a lot and I like the new look.
What if .................. I change the position of the band of appliqued roses?
To be honest, this happened by accident, but is nevertheless another good example of a 'what if !' When I fused on the flowers I did not notice I had the quilt upside down, but rather than pull them all off I stood back and looked at the quilt to see whether I liked it or not. I liked the new position - so they stayed and were stitched down.
Do you notice that the central panel isn't completely square in this one? That would be another good avenue to explore -perhaps trying a parallellogram or trapezium shape instead of the square.
What if............... I added a big extra border?
The blue outer border made me wonder whether another border might look good - giving a much more traditional look to the quilt.
Looking at it now I am thinking what if I extend the flowers across the blue border? I might lay a few on to see how it looks.
What if.............. I took the text away and replaced it with some quilting lines instead?
For this one I free motion quilted thorny rose stems and leaves and then added a little colour with Derwent Inktense pencils. It has given a light and delicate look which I like very much.
What if................ I change the quilting pattern?
Instead of the straight line quilting I used a micro stipple to fill the gaps between the leaves. I think this one might be my favourite!
That pretty much explains how I approach the whole 'What if' idea, and it has yielded some interesting results.
Thanks for reading.