This month, the Island Batik challenge was secondary pattern play. So, of course, I made it Island Batik Modern Pattern Play!
I returned to one of my favorite techniques–improvisational curved blocks that I call Parisian Curves. (Pattern and detailed tutorial is in my book, Madly Modern Quilts available online and at local quilt shops). This post is a tutorial showing one way that I approach improvisational design. It’s an improvisational design process that I teach in my workshops to help students move away from the layout that I provide.
Island Batik Fabrics
[Fabrics used in the project were provided to me by Island Batik–the sponsor for the Island Batik 2018 Ambassadors.)
I used these Island Batik fabrics for the quilt:
Short Tutorial: Playing with an Improvisational Layout
This will give you a glimpse into one way I plan an improvisational design.
First, I made some overall design decisions–these were the elements that I was hoping to incorporate. I did NOT make any type of sketch for this quilt. Instead I used the design wall as my sketch pad, taking lots of photos along the way. I also know that I might abandon one of these ideas or add a new one.
Here was my very general plan:
- My plan was to make a curved path by connecting colors from block to block. I wanted the paths to connect up in different ways. These paths would be my secondary patterns.
- I wanted the overall layout to be very asymmetrical
- I wanted to use a high percentage of negative space in and around the blocks.
- I wanted to incorporate a few straight line blocks with the curves.
- I wanted to use a limited palette–one focus print, a couple of contrasting near solids and a negative space color.
Two tools for Design
A vertical design wall and your camera phone are critical for improvisation. It is very difficult to see the design if the quilt is too close to you. My room is small so I take lots of photos to see the overall quilt design better. You definitely need a vertical design wall –looking at it on the floor is acutely distorted and throws off your sense of the proportions. There are lots of tutorials online on making temporary or more permanent design walls.
A look at my Improvisational Process
To start, I made several curved blocks and then cut some of them almost in half so that I had a rectangular slice (like a strata) and a skinny curved block. I did this so that I would have more interesting shapes in the path. Then I started playing with the layout to test out different ways to connect and break the paths. Negative space also played a major design role.
Island Batik Modern Pattern Play–Finished Version
Here’s the final quilt. It measures 42 x 46 inches and has a faced binding.
The curved pieced blocks measure a variety of sizes but none are more than 9 inches on any side. As I worked on the layout, I occasionally adjusted the size of each of the blocks by slicing off an edge. How did I decide? I kept looking at the design until the proportions looked and felt right. In this process, you must trust your well-informed intuition. As a quilter, you have been filling your brain with successful quilt designs. It’s part of your knowledge base. Our intuition isn’t some magical mysterious process–you create it by studying and making quilts. And, I also study a lot of other types of modern art in library books, online and in museums and galleries–something that I highly recommend.
I had it quilted with an edge to edge quilt pattern that complements the design. I am still deciding which orientation I like best. (quilting done by a professional)
I think I accomplished all of my original goals for Island Batik modern pattern play–asymmetry, use of negative space, incorporating straight line blocks (rectangular blocks). I am pleased with the way I used color and shape to create connecting pathways that result in a secondary pattern. And, I like the way the pathways are interrupted–that makes it a more modern design. So I call this another successful exploration of using batiks to make modern quilts.