I LOVE talking about blocks, studying blocks, and playing with them in Photoshop... I am always on a quest for great blocks and trying to figure out what makes them so great ... So I started this companion blog that will be devoted to this quest. But also check out my regular blog at http://olderrose.blogspot.com

Monday, October 31, 2011

From my list of the "Best of the Best"

 "Crazy Quilting = Harmony... a pleasing arrangement of parts to their whole and to each other..."

I am a self-taught crazy quilter and worked for years in isolation using books, but a whole new world opened up when I found CQI and the internet... By far I was most dazzled and inspired by Jo Newsham from NZ and sadly she no longer does any CQ at all...

It was her seam work that was most extraordinary.  She never fell into a habit of using a variation of a limited number of stitches..  All of her seams  were unique and I especially loved the ones that incorporated  ribbon work as you see here.  This DYOB block was part of  Fab Fans RR. 

Do click on it to enlarge and study the detail.

Most everyone, and especially myself, used conventional fans but not Jo.. Hers were all very creative and not a machine-made lace fan motif to be seen.. 

Most noteable was the focal fan of this block... a paddle fan..   She could have used just a piece of lace with a handle but she took it a step further by putting a circle offset in a circle... much more interesting. Doing it white on the light center patch makes it stand out on the block while the darker work on the darker lower right patch recedes and makes a perfect balance

This was the other piece of Jo's I had in my collection of great blocks...  But first I must share that Jo is color blind. To compensate she most often stuck to a very limited color palette or a monochromatic selection of threads and fabrics.  These techniques defined her style and should be a great inspiration to anyone struggling with color theory. . You can see here she chose only lavender and soft green.. This limited palette gave her work a  simplicity that ensured all the parts of the needlework would complement each other.

My favorite on this block is the elaborate seam running diagonally up the block.  It is  a seam treatment but is much more as it creates the path that takes your eye around this block... It is so creative.  Look closely at it and don't overlook the little white needlewoven leaves. There is so much movement in this short section of thread, beads and buttons that it almost seems alive.

And of course her  ribbon embroidery work is second to none... Please take note also that there are very few "doodads" on Jo's work...it is all about needlework and superb needlework at that.

As I mentioned she doesn't do any CQ work anymore but much of her work is still archived on her blog under "round robins" label and you can also see what she is doing now...   I often think her tidbits of sage advice and wicked humor... I do miss her.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why can a RR block go wrong and does it matter anyway!!!!

This post is in response to an email I received yesterday... Not every block goes out and returns the block of your dreams... and here are some of the reasons why..

What the block owner has written in the booklet is too little and too vague...  She has forgotten to mention she hates orange, anything plastic and abhors any spiders on anything....  Her team (I always like to think of us as working together as a team) immediately feels adrift on the block and would love a little more direction... It would have been more helpful if she had added she loves lace, roses and all butterflies..
I have been guilty of being too vague and when the block comes back and I'm not happy with it I have myself to blame... If you are in this situation why not ask the owner a few questions?

What the block owner has written in the booklet is too specific and restrictive...  I have been guilty of this also.  Once I asked for colors to be limited to what was in the fabric...  And everyone did that and what a boring bunch of blocks that was...  If you are in this situation, toss your ideas out... Could be the block creator will love it..

Also by being too restrictive you may be putting out demands unable to be met by someone on your team... someone who may be unsure of bullion roses or expanded seams for example and if that is all you want than you might be disappointed and the team member will be frustrated.  Be flexible.

Also by being too restrictive you might be stifling some creative additions...  Encourage people on your team to contact you if they want to do something other than you asked and be open minded.  I have a a favorite block of mine that is a perfect example...

This block went out and Leslie did all the whimsical lace and bead work by the silkie and added a cluster of buttons above the silkie...  Then the block went to Ati who wanted to put a cluster of roses above the roses and move the buttons elsewhere.

Ati wrote to me as block owner AND to Leslie as the previous stitcher about her thoughts and we both told her go for it...and she did.

But as is the case in EVERY RR,  the block is never complete until it is home and the block owner has her go at it...  In this case I decided I didn't want a trail of buttons and wanted a trail of hearts instead.  So the all the buttons (except the big red one) went into my button box and I added my trail of hearts.  Obviously the point being is communication and the exchange of ideas..but the owner has the last say about everything on the block....

But sometimes things go awry because not everyone can work as a team...  The block arrives home out of sync the owner has every right to move, change, or edit the block to her satisfaction...and indeed she should because we don't want blocks languishing in drawers unloved...  Sometimes the creator of a block sees it in an entirely different light when it arrives home.... There are very, very few blocks that have arrived home to me that I have not modified..  Team members should not be offended in anyway... They did their part and the block moved on.. 

As I have said many times before what really matters is NOT the block but everyone being challenged, learning along the way and making friends..... You cannot grow in a vacuum and working with others is always stimulating.   I've been reworking an old RR block for Kerry (beaded dragonflies)  and one corner just wasn't speaking to me. At the retreat someone walked by, leaned over my shoulder and whispered "You should put put a frog there!"  I could have jumped up and hugged her.  I would have sat there forever and NEVER thought of that... I can hardly wait and what an impish frog it will be!!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Let's Talk Block

In Sharon Boggon's class last April she felt the key to what makes a successful block was contrast and we discussed it at length.  I had to think about that for a very long time and while contrast is vitally important, there is one more thing more important in my opinion....  "Harmony... a pleasing arrangement of parts to their whole and to each other..." After searching through the many blocks this summer I am even more convinced of this and you will hear it often from me and this block by Sharon Boggon is a perfect example.  Here are some of the reasons I chose it to be among the best of the best...
Look at all the parts of this block and how they relate to each other and how they combine to one complete whole... Nothing stands alone in this block... Every part is unique but complements every other part...

 Now about these parts!  The first thing that attracted my eye was the fabulous seam treatment upper left.. It alone is a work of art... Basically it is quite simple... chain scallops with stacked sequins and beads but the colors echo every single color in the block.. This simple seam adds immeasurably to this block.  Look at the block without it... The block feels incomplete without it... If you ever had any doubts about the importance of seams and what you can achieve with them...here it is..

Next is the rich surface texture of the flowers.  It also incorporates all the block's colors but for me the drama is in the size of it.  It anchors the block and frames the silkie.. It wouldn't be nearly as stunning if it were any smaller...

And of course there are all the  elements placed strategically  for your eye move smoothly around the block...

And finally one of the least  talked about design elements  in crazy quilting...quiet spots for the eye to pause.  There are three kinds in this block..  First is upper right.. It is not just a patch with a button stuck in the middle...  The buttons are complements to the seam but the patch is small but quiet.  The second  quiet spot is lower left..  Even though it is heavily embellished with a lace motif and beads, the dark color recedes and does not draw your eye at all...  The third and loveliest is the pink patch that is unembellished except for the seams..  The upper left seams and the flower treatment would all mesh together if it were not for that quiet pink patch between them... There is also the quiet but gorgeous beaded diagonal seam  lower left...  Lesson.... Not every thing has to stand up and shout to be an important part of the design of a block.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Two Cents Worth for Wendy

"Hi Gerry,
I am sending a pic of my Gypsy Treasure RR block......I would like for you to  give me some ideas on it.....one thing I know I want to change is the white lace as to me it does not belong. Also should I remove the silkie and start over with something different? This block really needs some help and I am stumped as what to do with it.....my favorite thing on the block is the gypsy torso that Lauri made for me......I really appreciate your looking at this for me....feel free to use it on your blog if you would like to."

So I emailed Wendy right away and told her  she could take that silkie off but don't touch the white lace...  The lonely little buttons could go also...

She's right about the gypsy girl Lauri did and it deserves a fantastic block...  The first thing this block has going for it is all the lovely seam work... But since we're going over the top with this I'd go in and give all those seams another pass or two and LOAD them up with sequins and beads... how appropriate for a gypsy girl....bling, bling and more bling...

I wanted Wendy to leave the white lace because if she removed it there would be that white patch all by itself...  AND it's the white patch that I'll address first...  Find a wide blue ribbon and a narrower pink one  and a fancy braid and run them down the center of the white patch until the white left showing echos the width of the white lace..... clever yeah?

Now the white lace seam is a long one so break it up with some bright, fabulous embroidered flowers in abundance..... And how about a tambourine replete with colorful ribbons...  I have made them using leather from an old glove covering some card stock... Of course a trip to Michaels or Joanns to find a cabochon suitable for a crystal ball and a palm for fortune telling.... then finish it off with some old coins...

Are those enough ideas?  I want to see this when you finish Wendy....

And that's my
I'll be taking a break from blogging while I'm preparing for the Victorian Stitching Retreat in Wichita where I finally get  to meet Carole Samples....

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Two Cents Worth for Angela.....

"Hi Gerry.

I look forward to each of your block talk posts and thought I'd take a shot to see if you might evaluate my block for your blog. I took part in Nicki Lee's HGTV CQ Challenge.I fell in love with the swirly focus fabric that was provided as well as the ribbons and charms we were given to use. I suspect that the floral spray in the upper right could use some more work.

I tried to extend the green to the left after taking a step back from it, but I'm going to dig through my stuff and see if I don't have any of the original green ribbon left, because I'm not sure the embroidery really worked. 

I'd love any feedback you have!"

Well I emailed Angela right away and told her that I also loved the swirly fabric and don't bother looking for the green ribbon as that part all contributed to the tropical theme of the block....Acapulco!!! 

The real problem in my opinion (and we know I have one..) is the whole patch upper left,..  With all the lines it has a very strong impact and since it occupies as much or more visual space than the lovely swirly fabric, it overpowers the block...  It doesn't relate to the tropics theme or to anything else on the block... 

Once you look at that patch your eye continually keeps going back to it... Can you see when it is blocked out how all of a sudden what is left is working... So it has to go and since Angela has lace lower right I   covered  upper left with lace with a little help from photoshop.

If even nothing else but the lace is added, the block is gorgeous.... But I wanted to go a step further..  I have to admit that I've never been to Acapulco so I went to good old Google and started looking at posters and pottery from Acapulco.

Of course I found a lot of palm trees but I immediately was drawn to the plate in the middle as the flowers looked like the flowers on Angela's block.  But I loved the little bird also and saw these blue stylized birds on lots of pottery plates and mugs.

So I added some palm trees to the upper left... bending in to bring the eye around... and a little blue bird of happiness at the bottom right... Remember when I said I loved the quiet space by the image in Wilma's block...?  Look here is one again next to the heart...  Need those quiet spots....  Now for a lounge chair and something fruity and frosty to drink... 

Sometime taking something OUT makes all the difference..... and that's

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Two Cents for Jacqui A.

Jacqui is not very far along with this CQ "bib" and sent it along for some input and she had a VERY important question....  The photo was large enough but not well focused and was quite grainy and I felt I wasn't seeing it all... But you even though you can't make out the detail such as her crystals you can see the overall progress...

There are two things about this piece to keep in mind..  First it is not very large so you want to take advantage of every opportunity for lavish embellishment.  Second it is going to be worn around someone's neck so it will really be seen up close.

The very first thing I'd do if I were working on this is really expand  the seams embellishment...  There only two seams of any length so go all out....use trim, lace, beads and stitching all at once on both.. Make them opulent...  Here are some examples... Obviously I'm not recommending these colors....only the lavishness... We certainly don't want wimpy seam treatments....ever!!!

The next thing I'd address is the lace motif on the right..It is large and  naked... In order for it to become part of the piece itself it needs to be again lavishly beaded and maybe even some metallic threads included..

 Jacqui added " I am such a symmetrical person, this is all very hard for me but I love CQ and want to do much more."  Symmetry is not nearly important in CQ as balance is but the principal is similar...  So you have this large bold motif on the right side of the block and I'd balance it with something such as the floral spray I put on the bottom left...

The last suggestion is different buttons..  The idea of the buttons on the lace is great but two are quite ordinary buttons... Go to the button department at a fabric store and get some absolutely star-quality buttons...

Now for Jacqui's very important question.... "The bottom left is already so bright and shiny with the gold lame woven into it what on earth can I do to decorate it?" Well with this one you're lucky as it is only shiny and glitzy, and so just work right over it with aplomb!!!   But think of whatever is in any patch as "wallpaper" and it's suppose to showcase whatever you put on it...  No matter how beautiful the wallpaper is in a room we still use it to furnish the room..."   Keeping in mind that if you run into a patch that is insanely wild and colorful, have no qualms with covering it up with lace, paint or anything else.
It's the needlework, not the patch, that's important...  As always these are just my opinions and I'm sure anyone else looking at it would see things differently...  But that's 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What makes your day!!

I don't know what makes your day but getting a "You're awesome" from Susan Elliot made my day yesterday.  She posted about the butterfly on her Audrey block and asked for opinions on the size of her butterfly.... And you know as always I had an opinion... not on the size though so sent the following email and this photoshop editing:

"I think the size of the butterfly is fine a little larger or smaller..and the pink is delightful... It is with the orientation that I have a suggestion...  It is starting to look like everything will be converging  on her head.  How about orienting the butterfly to the lettering and leave the lovely quiet spot on the left of her head since the right is busy... Since it's a Tiffany pin, attaching it to the sign "Tiffany" seems appropriate"  And it seems to anchor that corner.  Just a thought.  Gerry"

She agreed but wanted to see how it looked with flowers to the left of Audrey's head as that had been another suggestion so I put that into photo shop!

So after a little more photoshop tinkering and a bunch of emails she wrote:

"You're awesome!  OK...I agree...through the head doesn't work...I totally like them over on the left and it does help unify the piece.  YAY!.........................   
P.S.  You can use the whole thing on your block talk if you'd like...I mean...you already did all the photoshop work and somebody might learn something...Thanks again!"

She is so close to finishing and is now making more flowers to go by the butterfly...  We're all waiting with baited breath to see the final version.... 

If you don't have someone to talk about some decisions...  put your work up on a wall and think and study it a bit or photograph it and put it up on the computer screen... Things really pop out then...  But the most fun is having a friend to talk things through... but then you can always send it to "Block Talk" also...