Friday, February 27, 2009

Stripes Rule!

In my personal design book, stripes have a lot of ZING! I love their energy and I want to harness it to work for me in my fabric and quilt designs. My Dream Garden fabric line though seemingly demure avails itself joyously of this energy.

This week I had the pleasure of talking about these pert little creatures of the fabric world with one of my favorite fabric reps on the planet. We were bemoaning the fact that quilter's in general seem to be wary of striped fabrics. She had a brilliant idea of how to use them. I've invited her to share her idea through this blog as an "Urban Amish" guest designer. Hoping that will be coming soon.

Meanwhile, here in Urban Amish land we are busy preparing the next lesson that will deal directly with the elemental power that is represented by the stripe. We want the lesson to be really well-crafted so we won't release it until we've had a chance to work all the details through properly. And I'm actually wanting my star pupil to have a bit of time to sew up a really wonderful design she came up with after her experiences with Lesson 2. It is thrilling to see her design come alive on the flannel wall.

In the meantime I thought I'd share these stripey thoughts.

This fabric pouch is my idea travel folder. It's an idea corral. It keeps my notebook, favorite mechanical pencil and postcards, index card notes and bits and pieces of paper that accumulate on my travels. And it folds down quite small so I can slip it into my shoulder bag if I want to.

It has two compartments.
This "Personal Idea Courier Pouch" gives my organizational loving soul quite a thrill.

I didn't set out to make such a thing. I was simply testing out an idea I had for a quilt pattern and had this pieced chunk of fabric lying around the studio. I kept playing with it until finally I figured out what I could use it for. If you want the template I used for the wedge, click here and it will download.

Best of all I got the chance to use at least one of the fabulous wooden buttons I got at The Wooly Lamb in Pennington, N.J.

Love to see where the use of this template leads you. There are no instructions accompanying the template but I can bet there's plenty of you who don't really need me to tell you what to do with it. (Please send me pictures of whatever you do do and they will be posted.)

And I have a contest! It's a Guess Which Block Will Be the Next Urban Amish Block contest.

There are clues in several of the pictures in this blog post as to which block this might be. The winner will be the one who guesses first and will get to pick her/his very own Urban Amish shirt as a prize.

Go here if you want see all the t-shirt styles that are available.

(Contest not open to the Urban Amish elves that actually KNOW what the next lesson is and are not guessing at all! You know who you are.)

And look how nicely stripes behave in a fan configuration using some more Dream Garden fabric. As if they were born to it.

So make those fabrics work for you. You will end up loving them and wondering what took you so long to become friends with the stripey types.

Zebra courtesy of John Storr via Wikipedia Commons.

Last minute addition: More Stripely Zing.

Just came across this on my computer and had to add it to the post.
Here's a closeup of a block in the quilt designed by my friend, Barbara Campbell, that will appear in the Quilter's Newsletter publication Traditions with a Twist. (On the newstands starting late May.)  I don't think stripes intimidate Barbara, do you? What a nice weaving effect she has achieved.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

UrbanAmish Lesson 1 • Indian Hatchet

Email subscribers: to view the full blog just click on the Urban Amish title above blog entry.

Ruby Short McKim in her book One Hundred and One Patchwork Patterns published in 1931 in Independence, Missouri writes of the Indian Hatchet Block:

"Warlike and treacherous as the name may sound, we guarantee this to be one of the most peacefully simple blocks to put together of all the old-time patterns. Many a little girl has learned to sew on Indian Hatchet blocks, although a mother perhaps supervised the cutting."
It seemed fitting that in 2009, ( 78 years later) we begin our exploration of Urban Amish design principles with this block, one that was already considered old then.

Pamela Zave, my partner in this enterprise is an art quilter. Here is one of her Color Wheel Quilts called Sunlight, Citron, Saffron, Ochre. You can visit her website which is listed in the sidebar of this blog.

I'm a professional fabric designer and license my designs to Blank Quilting. I have also co-authored two books with quilter Barbara Campbell, Fuse It and Be Done and Holiday Quilts.

Pamela has been an art quilter since she took up quilting in 2003. She has stated to me in our myriad conversations about quilt designs not to have a deep love for traditional blocks. I, on the other hand, have an intense love for them.

Since embarking on these lessons, she has developed an affection for particular blocks. All the actual blocks that are pictured in the lessons are hers. The fabrics used are from her own stash. Her stash has quite a few of my own fabrics since she raids my storage area whenever she wants. Above all, though, she has an incredible collection of today's contemporary fabrics all beautifully categorized by color family.

Her enthusiasm for the lessons in fact is so great that she is often, if not always, the instigator for the next Urban Amish lesson. (She has also been heard to exclaim: "Urban Amish! Not for the squamish!" I've threatened to make her a tee shirt with those very words.)

Our method for the lessons is as follows:
  1. I give Pamela a set of templates for the block we are exploring. All our units are 16" finished size, much larger than the great majority of traditional blocks. Click here to download your own set of templates for Lesson 1.
  2. Along with the templates I give her an Urban Amish fabric formula. Click here to download the formula and your own visual guide to Lesson 1.
  3. She goes to her stash and tries to come up with a successful Urban Amish block that is pleasing to her eye while at the same time complying with the fabric guidelines.
  4. She gets graded for her efforts and receives a "report card" with comments.
We want the Urban Amish lessons to help you accomplish several things.
  • Give you a way to be comfortable and successful using today's larger scale contemporary fabrics. Traditional blocks date back to a time when quilting was done with scraps. The pieces in the blocks are usually small. Small-scale prints or tonals such as batiks work fine within this context. Since the resurgence of interest in quilting in the late 1970's, more and more fabric designers are working exclusively for the quilting industry. Fabric designers naturally don't have the scale constriction and design fabrics larger in scale driven simply by love for the fabric itself. However this natural inclination of the fabric designer sets up a dilemma for the quilter. Quilters also respond to the beauty of these bolder fabric designs and find themselves bringing them home. At times, however, these fabrics languish in the stash because traditional blocks at traditional sizes don't quite accommodate the design of the fabrics. Our simple solution is to think big, i.e., change the scale.
  • Give you a way to make beautiful, contemporary quilts with a lot of graphic impact and appeal in a lot less time. This is a natural outcome of the shift in block scale. The downloadable lesson will give you many variations on using the Indian Hatchet blog in effective quilt designs.
  • Give beginning quilters an easy and practically foolproof introduction to quilt design.
  • Give quilters who buy my fabrics an insight into the way I design my fabric lines and suggestions how to be creative with them. In Lesson 1, I use my new fabric line, Sketchbook, by Blank Quilting for Spring 2009 to put the Indian Hatchet block virtually through its paces.
Even though each lesson only requires Pamela to produce one 16 1/2" block design she frequently produces two or three because they are so much fun.
We end this post with some eye candy. Here are the two blocks units that Pamela ended up with. (A block unit is made up of 4 Indian Hatchet blocks.) Be sure to download the full lesson so you can get the Urban Amish fabric formula she followed.

I hope this first lesson is helpful and above all as fun as it is for Pamela and I to put together for you. Please send us your own Urban Amish experiments. We would love to see them. Remember: Urban Amish! Not for the squamish!

Sketchbook, my new fabric line from Blank Quilting will be available in Spring 2009.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It has begun...really!

I live with a fabulous art quilter. Some of you know I'm a textile designer in my better moments.
As I design my fabrics on my computer I'm constantly designing virtual quilts to test them.
For more than two years I've been talking about a way of looking at both fabric and quilting design as Urban Amish. Well, Pamela...the art quilter I live with... finally put the thumbscrews on and forced me to make it real and teach her the principles of this way of looking. So we've promised ourselves a set of twelve Urban Amish lessons that upon completion would have explained as clearly as possible the thoughts underlying Urban Amish. Here's the block that is a result of lesson four. And as a result of it we have a working cover.

We will start posting lessons and results of the lessons in the following weeks. I'm hoping for active participation in this from interested readers.

(Always remember, clicking on an image will make it bigger.)