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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Part Two - Exciting results with limited choices

I promised fantastic examples of blocks using limited colors of thread and fabric...  If you are not familiar with Sharon Boggon's fabulous "I dropped the button box crazy quilt" , then you should be.  I was lucky enough to go to CT in 2011 and spend 4 days with Sharon and one of the highlights was seeing this quilt up close... and if I didn't get a photo of each block, it isn't because I didn't try... The blocks in this quilt are a wealth of inspiration and everyone should go and look through the blocks...  These are just a few of my favorites.  These blocks speak for themselves and as you look at them focus on the limited palette Sharon has drawn from the color in the blocks.

I said limiting your palette wasn't going to be boring...  Look at all the blocks again and now focus of all the trims, stitching, buttons, etc. which add interest to each block and again drawn from this limited palette . 3 is the magic number.. There are 100 of these blocks and each is a masterpiece....Also I probably have dozens photos of her tumbling block quilt which is equally remarkable...
Listening to her talk about this quilt and pointing out details was a thrill.

If you haven't taken her Encrusted Crazy Quilting class I urge you to get on the waiting list for the next class.
Again all these blocks are from Sharon Boggon's fabulous "I dropped the button box crazy quilt" and are available for you to study at will... You can also follow along with Sharon on http://pintangle.com/

Monday, October 29, 2012

Color Comfort - Tricks and Guidelines - Part 1

Picking your feathers.....is there a bird here that reflects your color comfort zone? Most people are fairly secure with their color comfort zone but I can tell from work I see that there are a lot who struggle with color.  If you have or  are starting a inspiration file pay special attention to recurrent colors that have attracted you..  PICK NO MORE THAN THREE.  That is the place to start...  Now here I am talking about a successful block for yourself.... The key in the beginning is limit, limit and limit... It is so easy to be overwhelmed by a pile of fabric stash and go a little crazy... It doesn't matter if the colors are intense or subdued... just pick three of your favorite.

In this case I have chosen three muted shades of pink, green and beige.(my personal comfort zone). Gathering your color choices as threads and fabric is the first step... The fabrics can vary in texture but keep any patterns VERY small or muted. I can't emphasize that enough at this stage. Patterns can be very distracting for beginning exercises.. Make a block!

Now start laying your threads on the block matching the colors as close as possible. If you want to use ribbons or braids add them with the same guideline.  Match as closely as possible. Using all the same color of thread and trims may seem boring but I guarantee that you will end with a block you will love. Carefully pick your threads and STICK TO YOUR choices... Do not start bringing in other colors later... There are lots of ways to add more interest with buttons, lace and motifs, etc... But stick to your original choice of colors and your block will have (my favorite word) harmony.... The next post will show some fantastic examples of just this technique of limited color.

But when you know your own comfort zone what happens when you  want to stretch a bit or get wild and crazy?  There are tricks for that also that I'll cover  in another post.

And then what happens when you join a round robin and get a block of colors that make you gasp?  This person has picked  those colors because they loved them and you are part of a team who all want this RR to be a success.  Again there are some tricks to do this and I will share.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Creativity begets creativity

 I have a huge backlog of posts I want to put on this blog but this one has to be addressed first. 

The greatest forms of creativity are often sparked by  the creativity of others.  Art doesn't  exist in a vacuum and everything around us affects us if we are receptive.

I guarantee your work will improve just being exposed to the work of others and this is one of 

the reasons I urge everyone, new and experienced, to join round robins... 

As long as you stay isolated the slower your progression as it is so easy to stay in your comfort zone.

Few people can afford going to retreats or classes and joining a round robin actually brings a class to your doorstep...But if you're not ready to join a round robin then search out as many CQ blogs you can find to follow.. They are a poor substitute for holding the work of others but it is better than nothing.  

Then start an inspiration file of anything that gives you a "little shiver, tingle or spark" when you look at it...

• This is one of the most common brainstorm techniques for most artists,and if you aren’t already doing this you should. It’s easy to do and even easier to maintain. All you need to start is some place to keep images that inspire you.
• It can be a moleskin sketch book, an accordion file or a file on your computer. Every time you find something that inspires you or intrigues you throw it in your inspiration file.
• When you’re getting ready to brainstorm new ideas, pull out your artistic inspiration file and go to town. Reorganize it based on different criteria, such as color, or content or style.

I found this great article which should be of help....

8 Tips for Starting an Idea File


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Claudia's lovely surface embroidery...

One of the treasures I've been following are the CQJP blocks of Claudia W. in Austria.. They have come to my attention because of the extraordinary surface embroidery that adds such texture and depth to her blocks... Obviously she is doing an sea theme but it's this surface texture that captures the movement of currents in the sea beautifully...

My favorite patches on this block are the two on the left...each treated differently but contribute greatly to the overall efect of the block. Notice the creatures lower left echo the seam treatment upper left...

  Also notice on the 3 patches on the right she has used a simple running stitch to create texture.. The central focal point has another treatment altogether and all patches work in harmony...

Claudia is also doing the TAST stitches so you will find them in all her CQJP blocks.  Along with all the surface work on this block you'll notice she made extravagant use of beads and I love the way she used stitches to create patterns on her sea creature.  The variation of a  blanket stitch on the   upper right seam is echoed in the seam treatment lower left.

She has used a very limited color palette of two complementary colors....blue and orange.

Even though the center patch is delightful, do not miss the cleverly stitched fish upper left... The way she has used stitches to create patterns could be used in many ways...

If you keep a file of great blocks then you should definitely keep these in it... So many times when there is an empty spot on a block, we rush to plop a motif on it... there are a wealth of alternatives here in Claudia's work to add interest to a patch...

Do take the time to visit Claudia's blog and see her other work as well.  And I thank her for giving me permission to use her work here on Block Talk with Gerry.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Big thanks to Kathy Shaw and Rengin's blog

First I have been meaning to do this forever and sorry that I have put it off for so long....  A huge thank you to Kathy Shaw for starting the CQJP and to all the people who have been supporting her.  This project appeals to all levels of CQ and for someone like myself who is on a quest for great blocks, it's a goldmine of diversity and talent...  If you haven't joined in this year, I hope you are following the blog....  And I hope even more people join in next year...

Also I was remiss the other day in not giving you a link to Rengin's blog  and she has a wonderful etsy site where she sells oyas....true Turkish delights for CQers..... Check it out..

Also Diane gave me her second choice...for the moment at least... It's a big decision if it is going to be a wall hanging and you have to look at it every day.. This is a very dark brown..

I have several things for Block Talk that I'm eager to get posted... Keep watching.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Choices. choices, choices............for Diane M.

For her CQJP Diane M. is using ties to make fan blocks.... lots of fan blocks and they are just gorgeous.  At the retreat she was lamenting the difficulty of picking out a background color.  She wants to use it as a wall hanging... Even with a design wall you still need a large area and lots of fabric to see the entire project.

So I offered to put them in photoshop and try out some different colors for her background... I wasn't concerned with the arrangement of the blocks.  She'll have to give that some more thought after a decision is made on the background...

I used the color picker feature.  You hover the pointer over colors in the image and it gives you an exact color match... I love this feature and use it a lot.  Personally I liked the blue backgrounds the best and I'm not a blue person...  As a wall hanging I like the lighter, mood-elevating combination below...and I think the lighter background with fancy quilting in the empty triangles would make the blocks appear larger... They are truely gorgeous...

Or maybe play with inner borders? A bit busy....

Now let's hear from Diane...

My "two cents" for Lisa A.

 A note from Lisa A. "I was wondering if you would look at what I did on Rengin’s block that could have been better and where I am lacking and what needs work. I take criticism very well and look at it as a way to learn and improve my skills."  

I'm always hesitant to critique a block for fear of hurting someone's feelings.... but if they ask, you can be sure I always have an opinion.... But keep in mind it's only my opinion....someone else might see things entirely different.

There are a LOT of really nice things going on with this block... But the theme is Victorian Ladies and there is a lovely image that fits the theme, it is completely overwhelmed by the lace lady on the left.. It is much bigger and stronger and your eye just goes back and  forth between  the lace lady and dark flower center... Not that the lace lady couldn't be the perfect touch for another block....but not this one...

What do you have if you remove the lace figure.... a very lovely block indeed...  The block itself if monochromatic with just a dash of muted rose... a clue. There are three very strong angles on the right.... why not balance that with the only angle on the left...

The ribbon work in the triangle is lovely and the seam across the bottom is delightful and anchors the block perfectly...  I don't think the  sequin flower is needed where it is.  I would move it to the center of the flower cluster on the right.

Now about that angle...  I just used some snippets of the lace lady's skirt to create the fan shape to fill the angle and added some of Lisa's ribbon work to the other side of the image frame.... which is ruched ribbon and I do love.  You can see I put the sequin flower in place of the dark rose..

Now the  image is the main focus.... So I really only made one dramatic change.... the lace lady removal... other than that Lisa was on the right track.

Here are the two blocks together and you can form your own opinion..  and thank you Lisa for offering your block for me to discuss.

And once again that's   

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rengin "blazes a gothic trail!"

Rengin's work on Hideko's block has me so excited. Again this block is from the new RR "Victorian Ladies".

One of the things I feel strongly about is teamwork in RRs and just because this is a DYOB (do your own block) in my mind that does not translate to "do your own thing". There is a theme and the blocks are sent out as a unit and when finished should still work as a unified body of work.

So being first and setting a path for others in the RR to follow is especially  important...  Well Rengin has not only just set a path she has "blazed a dramatic trail"  If I were following this block, at this moment I would have every black piece of lace I owned spread out on the table.

Hideko chose all black and white images for her Victorian ladies and requested a "gothic" look...  The black laces Rengin chose are so reminiscent of the black iron fences, railings and balconies of that era and are the perfect mood setter for Hideko's block...

Hideko's blocks had not only black and white images, the other patches were of a very neutral hue except for one very delicate subdued print... Rengin handled this print with great finesse and did not overwhelm it with heavy pink roses...  The tiny pink flower beads repeat the small flowers in the prints and pick up the colored patch to the right and carry it across the block...  Rengin carried the black from her laces into every seam... The image is framed beautifully with the black laces and the tiny Victorian charms are a perfect addition.

Since I talked about balance yesterday I want you to notice how Rengin put the fan lower left... This patch needed something to balance the block but not overpower the delicate patch..  This neutral fan does it nicely.

I love how bold and dramatic the black lace is juxtaposed  with the delicate stitching and print ..A job well done and these blocks have the potential of being a spectacular set when  all are finished...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Achieving balance

I dropped out of this RR because of overload at home so I am watching closely as it progresses and wishing I was stitching along....  This is Hideko's work on Cathy's block and CQ doesn't get more luscious and elegant than this...  I love the flatwork ribbon technique she used for the frame and the eye movement around the block is easy and direct...The ties on the fans are beautifully used to lead the eye to the image.

And it is the perfect  example of achieving balance.  Balance, unlike other elements of design, is easier to recognize because it can be related to your physical being..  Try standing on one foot very long and you immediately grasp the concept of balance.  Everything you add to a block has "density" or "weight"  Dark colors are denser than light colors, many smaller elements balance out a larger one, etc. If you squint your eyes or stand back from your work, you can learn to see the weightier areas...

In this block Hideko added a very dense (weighty) floral element to the bottom corner of the frame... To balance this she added the the delicate fly stitch spray upper right..  Even though it is more delicate, the color is deeper and stronger.

Look at what happens to this block if the darker floral spray is removed. Even adding something lighter but heavier helps some but not as much as the solution Hideko used..

It is really evident how important that delicate spray is when you see the two examples together.

 Cathy made some superb choices for her images as they are all Victorian women engaged in some meaningful activity...  If you keep a file of extraordinary blocks, you must add this one...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lorraine's dilemma

Well it's been a very busy six months but I'm back.... It's not that I'm not thinking about blocks all the time because I do.... They're like puzzles to me and I just can't help thinking "what if?'  The other day Lorraine posted a "recovery" on her CQJP project and  to quote her...   "It is far too heavily stitched but I really had no choice if I wanted to save the block. "     And she's right about too much stitching... There's no place for the eye to rest and even though the stitching is perfection all the parts are not in harmony...  But I wish I had caught her attention BEFORE she started to save it..

At the beginning she stenciled some leaves along a seam and some branches leading gracefully into the block..  She decided to experiment with some fabric paint and a couple of stencils  and thought it sounded  like a good idea but once she started stitching found the branches looked too thick and wanted  to cover up the  permanent stenciling!  Since the leaves were along a seams they were going to be easier to conceal but the branches went across most of the block and 4 patches...

Well I must confess that I think her idea was inspirational (branches not leaves.) and her problem was not how to hide the branches but how to save the branches.

By over-stitching along the branches with several shades of brown they look entirely different.. If you try to cover the branches with a satin stitch they would still look too thick... but by loosely following their path the stitching defines the branches and the stenciling almost becomes shadow like.

Then if she came in and delicately added blossoms to the branches the problem would be solved... What parts of the branches did peek through would have added strong direction and interest to the design of the block... and she would have had room for her lovely butterfly to show up..

Now can you see the difference?  The floral motif adds direction and does not compete with the fabulous seam treatment hiding the leaves.

Lorraine has just opened an Etsy shop which is filled with luscious hand-dyed threads...  Check it out..

Fun to be back at BlockTalk and as always these are just my opinions and my