Textiles & Fabric

Spoonflower Fabrics

I just voted over at Spoonflower for my favorite fabrics in this week’s contest: rain.  I also had fun looking at their Project Selvage contestants.  For those of you who haven’t known about Spoonflower, it’s a print-on-demand studio, with weekly contests usually arranged around a theme.  Sometimes I have time to vote, sometimes I don’t, but it’s always fun to look and see what new designers are coming up with.  Next week’s contest is Alphabet.  Given my craze for all things text on textiles, I’ll be looking, and voting, on that one too.


Spring Quilt

After working on the bold colors and patterns of Come A-Round, I have to say that this was a big change, fabric-wise.  As I mentioned, I’m using the line Sunkissed, and it is predominantly soft soft soft in both coloration and value.  What pulled me in was all the text that revolves around gardens and planting and Spring Life.  (Ooh!  Is that a title edging its way into existence?  We’ll see.)  A bit of the green fabric, above.

Here’s the stack of blocks, ready to sew. This quilt goes together very quickly.  The center block is cut 4 1/2″ square to yield a 4″-center when sewn.  The first strip is cut 2″ by 4 1/2″ that sews down to 1 1/2″ finished width, and the second and third “logs” are the same size: cut 2″ by 6″.  The block finishes up at 7 1/2″ tall by 5 1/2″ wide, and when sewn into the quilt–7 by 5.  I used a 10 by 10 grid because I like my lap quilts a little on the long side so I can tuck them under my feet when I’m watching something like Downtown Abbey or Doc Martin (BBC-TV).

I threw them up on the pin wall, then fussed at them for a couple of days, moving a few here and a few there.  The centers of my blocks look the same, but in one fabric the writing is grey and in the other fabric, the writing is green–a little variation that I tried to spread throughout the quilt.

I still have my featherweight machine out.  I think it looks like a little toy.  I love it.

While I pieced the blocks together while listening to our church’s conference, I sewed the quilt together while listening to The Tiger’s Wife, by Tea Obreht. I’m glad I have more sewing today, because this is one intriguing novel–can hardly wait to see how it all comes out.  My mother’s listening to it as well (although she’s ahead of me and almost done), and then we compare notes and talk about the novel.  This is our fifth novel to do this way.  Others we’ve listening to and enjoyed are What About The Daughter, The Help, All Things Fall Apart, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.

It’s up on the pinwall–all done.  I like to drape my quilts over the stairwell and look at them there, as well:

And a close-up, for their starlet portfolio:


Whose Design Is It Anyway?

I wrote yesterday about my Spring Quilt, but in the writing, I realized I had another post about how we come up with our designs, and the tangled strands of the World Wide Web.  This post is about the whole story of design, as I see it. After I had purchased my fabric, for several days, I trolled the web, my quilt magazines and books looking for ideas.

One of my early quilts was a log cabin, and certainly that is the base for many modern quilts: a center square and strips sewn around. I hadn’t sewn one in years, and I thought it would be a good idea.  But how to change it up?  The idea came to me: what if I skewed the strips, wonky-like, like in some quilts?  I sketched out some ideas, but wasn’t quite happy with them.  Since I’m still working on the applique on the wild dotty circle quilt, I hoping for something a little more ordered.  Then I saw another one that had left off one side of the “cabin.”  This one I liked.  I opened up my Quilt Program (since I have a Mac, I use Quilt Pro) and drew my own version.  It doesn’t really have this much white in my vision–I just got tired of clicking to color the strips.

I called it Fractured Log Cabin.  Here is the block on the left, mock-up of the quilt on the right:

I kept surfing through the web after I finished up, and found an almost identical quilt on Red Pepper’s quilt site.  She calls it something different, but I did notice she has a pattern for sale if you don’t have quilt software, or don’t want to draw your own pattern.  I hesitate to draw attention to this, as it could be said the process worked differently–that I may have seen her quilt and copied her pattern.  What I did take away from hers was to move the top strip to the bottom.  It threw the quilt off a little bit–didn’t make it quite so ordered.  I liked that.  But then I thought, what if I re-drew the block to accommodate that design shift, and sewed it like that?  My new block is on the left, the new quilt sketched on the right.

This is where it gets tricky.  When I first started quilting it was a a given that what you were doing was a derivation of what you had seen before.  Only occasionally did quilters make up their own patterns, instead drawing on the rich heritage that was ours, was given to us.  In those early days, some quilters would attempt to call patterns their own.  We didn’t mind.

But I’ve noticed that this idea–this is my design, my pattern–has just exploded, and that now, even if we feel like it’s our own–or mostly our own–there seems to be someone, somewhere who has already done the same design.  Only now they’ve copyrighted it, made a pattern for it, and are making their living off it.  I try to be sensitive to this new reality.  The internet has given us a much wider market in which to sell our goods, and many talented people should be compensated for their work. I am not a fan of those who plagiarize another’s work with the intent to defraud, in one way or another.  That’s why I buy books, magazines, and patterns–not only for ideas, but to pay for the quilter’s work.

But where is the open space for those of us who are long-time quilters with our own digital quilt software, who pull their own ideas from their history, their travels, and have their own ideas, only to find that the zeitgeist has delivered the same idea to someone else? Or that we may–as I have done here, borrowed a detail or a shifting?  Is that okay?  I don’t have answers, but I do try to be transparent about my own creative process.  When I was going to grad school, this was talked about a lot, but in terms of authors borrowing from each other.  Some quilt designers have a “look” just as some authors have a writing style.  Anyone would be nuts to take an idea from Piece O’ Cake designs and call it their own, as their style is so unique and so distinctive.  But I have always been fascinated at parallel evolving in the case of Ruth McDowell and Cynthia England.

They both use a freezer-paper fracturing approach to their quiltmaking, and while the look can be different as in this example (England on the left, McDowell on the right), the end result of cutting fabrics into shards and shapes and reassembling them is mighty similar.  Should only one woman be using this approach to pictoral quiltmaking?  And here’s the bigger question: isn’t there room enough in our quilting universe for two such quilters and methods?

I would be just as flattered if you credit me with the brains to look at a quilter’s site first and to draw on their blog offerings, just as the Old Masters learned from one another by copying each other’s paintings.  And just as authors have always done, and just like this sign that the street artist Banksy, appropriated from Pablo Picasso’s words:

I’m just as happy to have you imitate steal borrow from me, and would be thrilled if we had the same idea at the same time and executed it and blogged about it, thereby adding to the rich offerings of quilts on the web.


Spring Quilt

So I was just minding my business when my car turned into the local quilt shop’s parking lot on the way home from school (Calico Horse, in Redlands, California).  It had been a bad day, and all I needed was a small fat quarter.  However, this fabric group, right by the door (of course) seemed so fresh, so lovely, and their quilt sample–a cute modern pattern with lots of light colors–seemed so spring, that the next thing I knew I had hauled all the bolts in this line to the cutting table.

They are all from Sunkissed by Sweetwater for Moda.  It’s less pink that this shows–more of beiges, soft mossy green and a toned pink.  I was also drawn to it because of all the text.  I’m a sucker for text on textiles.  Plus–isn’t that name a reference to a famous citrus distributor?  How nice that I was buying citrus-referenced quilt fabric in the heart of Redlands, California–where they’ve grown citrus from their earliest history.

Twice a year our church hosts a General Conference, which is available via the internet.  I like to keep my hands busy while I listen to the talks, and I usually put together a quilt top while I listen.  Spring Conference=Spring Quilt.

But the first thing I like to do is pull from the stash–adding and augmenting the line.  If you’re like me, you can’t do enough of this.  (We all know that stashes multiply in wild, secret quilting bees while we are sleeping or surfing the internet.)  Besides that, if your stash is like mine, it adds a vintage touch as I still have scraps from my first quilt made some years ago.

My stash scraps are on top and on the right side; the Sunkissed line is on the lower row.  This quilt has another purpose.  We have a thin matelisse coverlet on our bed, and since I get colder in the night than does my husband, I lay a smaller quilt on my side of the bed. In spring and fall, I throw on a regular cotton quilt, which always fall off during the night.  But during the winter I have a cozy double-flannel quilt, which never falls off.  The flannel “sticks” to the coverlet.

This past week I took Leisa to Michael Levine’s fabric shop in Los Angeles (we were celebrating her birthday).  Levine’s has a huge quilt section, and I picked up some lovely green and white flannel for the back of this quilt, so it won’t fall off in the night.

More on the design in the next post.  And an observation or two about design.