Friday, April 24, 2015

Gimmicks for making an abstract quilt

I have mainly made representational quilts. Some have ended up being abstract. 

Between the Shadows from my master class last March. This was a lesson about line. My inspiration for this was one of my landscape quilt with a lot of trees. So trees turned into something abstract. While our buyers had our house inspected their realtor was here. He was really taken with this quilt. Of all the quilts I have hanging on my walls this was his favorite. It is only 16 in by 20 in. Size was dictated by time constraints for the class as well as the amounts of fabrics that I had. I would love to do this in a much larger version. I think it would make a real statement on a wall.




Nothing is Ever As It Seems from my master class last November. My tumbling block quilt that used a photo of Christos' NYC gates as the inspiration. Currently hanging on my daughter's wall in Boston.







Neither of these started out to be an abstract quilt. I guess you could say they were abstract by accident. But what if you want to make an abstract quilt on purpose? What can you do to create something abstract? I am currently taking EB abstract class at Academy of Quilting. I thought it would be something to do while dealing with all of the stress of selling our house. I know, Sheila, I am a glutton for punishment!

So in our first lesson we posted links to abstract art and quilts that we liked. This is typical for an EB class. I posted a link to Ann Harwell’s astronomy quilts.

Our second lesson involved cutting paper into shapes and arranging the shapes in a good design. Now I must say that it was fun to arrange the black shapes on a white background, but I rarely came up with a good design. The ones with the “chunky” pieces were not pleasing at all. I liked the thinner and more graceful pieces. The only one I really liked was this one…..

E liked it,too. She liked the arrangement and the balance and suggested that I try some areas with the values reversed. So into Photoshop I went and came up with the ideas below which she liked. Of course she also liked the outlines that you get around some of the shapes and said to include them in a quilt made from these ideas. That was also the case with Between the Shadows shown at the top of this blog. The outlines around the shapes of the “trees” makes a big difference. I think that would be the case here as well.








So is this a gimmick to come up with ideas for an abstract quilt? I guess it is a way to come up with ideas when faced with a blank sheet of white paper. I guess it is no more of a gimmick than using trees or a photograph as inspiration for something abstract. I think I like starting with an inspiration to see where it leads more than cutting out shapes. I guess that could be because I am more of a representational art quilter.

valuestudy Lesson three involved sketching following some guidelines (rules)  to come up with something abstract. Another gimmick? I did this lesson and E liked what I did with some suggestions for improvement. I did not notice the inverted V in the top left. Why is it you don’t notice things in your own sketch?  I guess since it is different it becomes a focal point and you don’t want your focal point in the upper left corner.  She suggested moving it down and closer to the center. Other suggestions were to use gradations and lost and found edges. Lots to think about here. I think I am going to have to work this one out in EQ. In fact I am going to do that for the one above as well. That is easier than trying to sketch it manually.



Thanks for reading. Do you do abstract quilting? How do you come up with your ideas?

Linking to Nina-Marie.



  1. I had already seen and liked Nothing is Ever as it Seems, but I like your tree inspired piece as well and agree it would make a striking large quilt. I guess inspiration can take lots of forms and these exercises have certainly produced some interesting designs.

  2. I've often wondered about designing abstracts, and struggled with it, particularly compositions (most of my stuff is representational). I think the way you guys were working makes a lot of sense. I mean you have to start somewhere, and its hard to get going from the blank wall or paper or design board. Are you going to make either of your two sets of designs in fabric?

  3. Yes you are a glutton, Chris! ;-) But I am already seeing good things coming from this. And I would say don't choose between the 3 variations you've done; instead, add a 4th and combine all 4 into one quilt. I am so taken with the three of them together in the start of a 4-patch - for me this is one of the essences of abstract - that repeat repeat with variations. It will make it such an interesting piece.

    The exercise reminds me a lot of my traditional roots background, which if you are working with pieced blocks sometimes is the same process - rearranging smaller parts until you have an interesting combination, switching out values - it's all abstract art. If you are more used to doing representation work, I can see why it would feel foreign to you.

    Not as excited about the last one and questioning E's suggestion to move the v down. Surprised she didn't say to get rid of it altogether. If your concern is gimmicky, this last one strikes me as more so. But ideas have to come from somewhere and I don't think it's necessarily a gimmick to work this way. I like working with both representational and abstract and probably feel more at home with the abstract, working with odd pieces or repeating geometric shapes until I find an arrangement I'm happy with.

  4. Interesting techniques. Perhaps one day I'll try to be more creative in my quilting. Don't hold your breath though. I love seeing the process you take to get to your finished art. I take it you didn't sell the piece the realtor liked?


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