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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Button Dumps vs. Button Trails or Clusters

Note: This is a repeat of a April 2011 post but the advice is still pertinent:

They're often referred to as "button clusters" but most often look like "button dumps". A pile of buttons plopped on to fill a space and most often without much interest . Even worse they are contributing nothing to the design of the block... I really cringe when I see this missed opportunity...

Using buttons is something that Sharon Boggon excels at and on the left are 3 examples I photographed at her workshop... Look closely at them... Notice contrast, contrast and contrast... She has used great variety in size, texture, shape, color, support details AND direction... These are buttons that are making a fabulous contribution to the block they are on...

Also noticed how she has added various sizes and colors of beads to add contrast and give the arrangement direction.. On the middle example she has added bits of lace as well. The beads and lace both act as support elements for the buttons adding excitement and shape. In addition if you have buttons with larger shanks the beads can be used to hold the buttons in position.

Each arrangement of buttons has a direction.

Just after I got home I heard from my friend, Susie W. who sent me the following photo of her Hearts to Sendai block... She had never been too enamored of button clusters and she was doing her very first one to fill the upper right hand corner... Being an artist herself she instinctively knew it wasn't working... It was too much the shape of the SRE on the left and she felt the rose button was just too much..

So she sent me a photo and we had a chat about it.... I told her forget "cluster" and think "trail" and also add contrast in all elements and add beads.... Also I personally loved the rose button and felt it was the button above (see arrow) that needed to go...

Well she reworked it and look at it now..

She did indeed think trail, added beads, lots of contrast and variety... It just "sings."

I just love what she did and now the button trail has a direction and leads the eye right down into the center of the block...becoming a critical part of the design of the whole block....

Here is a picture of the entire block which is spectacular... Susie is a stitcher "extraordinaire". Check out all the lovely motifs and seams... I am willing to bet she uses many more button "trails" in her work now... And Heaven knows we all have lots of buttons.....

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Don't overlook black!

When you're laying out colors for a project it is easy to overlook black as your accent color.  I was reminded of that again today when Sharon Boggon posted her new CQJP project.  Not only is there black in the focus fabric in the center, the black and pink braid is a stunning addition... I can hardly wait to see this stitched.

I post about Sharon often so you've probably already looked at her famous "I dropped the button box" quilt.. I know I urged you recently to check out her colors combinations but now go again and see how often she uses black as an accent color... especially  with gold , beige , and brown.

The crazy quilter who, in my opinion, uses black most effectively and with great drama is Maureen Greeson.
She also does the most elegant ribbon work.. You must browse her blog just to see her ribbon flowers.

Maureen's work

Maureen's work.  There is great simplicity and elegance in everything Maureen does..

This is lovely block of black and pink is by Pam Kellogg... Pam is starting a new series of online classes where you pay by the class,  She posted her schedule on her blog today. She is a master at intricate and unique seams and has her own method of using waste canvas to do them.

And don't think that it's only with  pink where black is fun.... it can be dramatic with any color... This a RR block done years ago by Jo Newsham and the beautiful seam work was done by Leslie Ehrlich.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It can be easy being green

 You may  have a problem getting 3-4 shades of green to blend well together but you can't go wrong using 12-15 shades of green...  I'm repeating a 2010 post because it addresses this problem and directly relates to the [previous post.

(2010): Cheryl A. brought this green block to show me when we were in CT for the CQ Adventure... It is from a tone-on-tone RR and was made by Cathy L. It will be a great exercise in using contrast without depending on color. After she showed it to me and then we weren't able to connect again to discuss it . That night at dinner Cathy K, Diane M and I began discussing green plants, animals, etc. to use as a focal point... Sharon had had a fantastic Brazilian grasshopper which would be great and we thought of alligators, frogs, turtles, lizards and various bugs....I thought maybe even a John Deere tractor.

But if it were me doing a the block I immediately think of birds and a parrot or parakeets would be at the top of my list. When I start looking at images to do a bird I am especially looking for birds that are "doing" something or in an interesting position such as both of these photos..The bird eating is a photo from the archives at this site.. a fantastic site for anyone loving birds...do visit it... I'd probably do the bird in embroidery on a hoop or it could be printed and appliqued on... but another great option is a method Alison Aller is using a lot and would work here beautifully. She would print the parrot on fabric, add fusible interfacing, cut it out, and iron it on the block. So now we have added our first contrast... size! The parrot immediately changes the perspective of the piece... Then I would begin finishing the seams in as many ways I could think of using stitches of vines and leaves wandering here and there on the block... starting to work on another contrast...texture! Then I'd add branches using a heavy perle such as a 3....bringing the parrot to the foreground... Another contrast... dimension!

To further these steps I'd add the largest leaves using heavier threads, ribbons and textured threads such as velour with maybe even weaving some leaves attached only at the branch. As the final steps why not including a dragonfly with green organza wings and a jeweled body...and maybe a hide a lovely tree frog and even a salamander...  So to sum it up we have used all greens but have added variety and interest with contrasts in dimension, size, and texture...

Addendum:  Later I was able to see Cheryl's solution which was very clever indeed... a green man tree... I went looking for a photo of it this morning with no luck...  I'm hoping if Cathy L. or Cheryl read this post they will send me a picture of her block..

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Part Four - Second No-Fail Approach to Color

Remember I started these posts for stitchers who were unsure about choosing colors... I said there were two "NO FAIL" approaches...  The first was limit your color choices.  

Well the second  "NO FAIL"  approach is just the opposite.... USE EVERY COLOR!!!!  This block is an excellent example and was stitched by Cathy LaBath... She adores color but has written me repeatedly that she is horrible at picking out colors...

Yet to appease her thirst for bright colors she uses them with abandon  making dozens of these scrappy quilts..  They work because of the multitude of colors at random... You cannot fail making one of these quilts and the same approach is true applied to crazy quilting...

She's not comfortable choosing and controlling color but she doesn't let that stop her.. Cathy has her colorful scrappy quilts on her blog.

There are some people who have a joyous sense of color gone wild and are able to choose and control it.  I posted awhile back about two such people Lauri Burgesser and Allison Aller.  I keep a special drawer of  intense colors just to use on Lauri's blocks. I admire everything done by them... Their love of color and their use of vibrant colors add energy to everything they create.

 Two other stitchers who consistently make wonderful use of vibrant colors are Lorraine Stobie and Nikki Lee Seavy...  Not only are they skilled stitchers, both have Esty shops where they sell supplies  ablaze with color. Nikki Lee Seavey sells hand dyed laces  and Lorraine sells hand dyed threads. 

One of the newer members of CQI whom I have been watching is Pamela Pincha-Wagener   who picked these colors for her blocks in the Goldwork 3 RR... She wrote that she has never made a pastel block...  I've asked her  if I can work on her last block in this RR just because the colors are so yummy and would be a real challenge for me...

Probably the most famous crazy quilter for using "Color Gone Wild' is Martha Greene of Oklahoma. She refers to herself as using the "roadside carnival" approach..  She has participated in many exhibitions and won numerous awards and has been an Artist-in-residence at Oklahoma State University for 15 years.  I met and watched her work in Colorado a year ago.. She started with a pile of brilliantly-colored scraps and picked them and stitched them completely at random... She often teaches workshops around the country.. Unfortunately I could not find a website nor web address for her...

So if you love color and have been hesitant to plunge ahead, you might want to experiment with this approach... A word of caution would be to start with solid colors or use prints with a very tiny pattern.  This ensures that your fancy stitching will show up.  Then once you have your colorful block sewn, get out your stash of threads and start pulling  lots and lots colors...

If  making a block of every color and working with thread of every color is too much for you on your first color adventure, try using threads of every color on  black blocks. Here is a RR block stitched several years back by Jo Newsham of NZ using lots of intense color on a black background.

Cathy Kizerian's CQJP project is going to be spectacular.  She is using the intense colors in a piece of vintage needlepoint and using them for fancy stitching on black crazy quilted blocks.. It is unassembled at this point and pinned to her wall. She   has just a few more to go...

If these people had a neighborhood, it should look like this!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Part Three - Meeting a RR color challenge...

I can guarantee that if you join in round robins you will eventually have a block arrive with colors that will make you gasp... I will share  a few with you..  I know my comfort zone.. pastels and muted colors... and I wrap these colors like a quilt right up to my ears... Bright intense color makes me edgy and I find it difficult to work on.  But once I do get them and finish them, they have often become my most favorite blocks...  This one especially.

So you can imagine how I felt as a "pastel pansy" when I got this block in the mail for a seams only RR.

So Tip #1...  Stick to the colors in the block...  Someone loved these colors enough to make this block... You want to send something that will make them happy...  You just can't go wrong if you stick to their colors... I started gathering threads.. I stuck a green in there because you can usually stick green in anywhere...but not here!

Luckily I found the paisley braid with orange in it and a few other shades of color to draw on.....  First I added all the purple trims I could find... There were two awkward little patches - upper right (tiny triangle) to which I added a wide purple ribbon in order to make the patch seem larger..(see arrow) There is the lower left. patch (long and narrow) which I hope will disappear when I add the seam.  I also added a wide orange ribbon to orange patch to make it appear bigger.  Using matching ribbons is a nice trick for modifying the size and shape of a patch.  And then I commenced to stitch and stitch and stitch.

I used stitching to make the long narrow patch lower left disappear and by stitching over the purple ribbon that tiny corner patch upper right seems bigger.  I ignored the wild and crazy print altogether..

If I had lived to 110 I would have never attempted this combination of intense colors but I loved this block when I finished..

Another RR had a theme of famous artists...  I never expected someone to pick someone like Paul Klee with   the bright and intense colors. This was the last block in this series for me and I pondered the whole RR how I was going to handle it... I had no idea how I was going to pull these colors together so I didn't even try..

Tip # 2... Use as many colors from the block for fancy seams but transfer your main focus to the theme and treat patches as a backdrop.  Keep your focus theme oriented but as bold as possible so it doesn't compete with  the background..

Luckily Klee had done this painting of a bird and I used it as the main focus on this block 

Another example.. This blue block is so intense that it swallows up everything....certainly not a color in my stash. You have to look close to see all the fancy stitching I did.. But by using a bold focal point I tamed the blue... The theme for this RR was faces so the motif fit the theme.  Except for the red headdress I kept all the colors neutral so as not to compete with the blue in the block.. I see a lot of clever motifs so small they get lost on a block...  Big and bold has a place also...

If the block has an image on it already, enhanced it... Tip #3  Enhance an existing image either by framing it or working into it mostly using just the colors of the block.  Again use colors from the block and you can't go wrong...  A frame does not need to be right up against the image...I devoted four posts to framing starting 6/12/11.

Luckily the lovely red patch was here for me to draw on and bring the red into the block and create a path around the tiny image. Again these are not colors I would have ever chosen to work with. but the RR brought them to me and I believe I'm a better stitcher for attempting to meet these challenges. (but I'm not always successful)

So I will end this post with a reminder that you are always safe if you stick to the colors in the block.  And you will never expand your skills as rapidly as you will by joining RRs and being challenged. I repeat often on both blogs..." The most important thing about round robins are not the pieces you get back but the pieces you send out.."

But a far bigger challenge than color out of your comfort zone is receiving blocks with bold prints... I did not address that subject here because I have covered it in an earlier post... Now join a round robin or exchange. Learn from and share your work with others..

The next post will deal with how to be successful using LOTS of color...