Lines in Quilts--Supplemental Post to Episode 63 of Quilting...for the Rest of Us

In this week's QFTRU podcast episode, Jaye and I spoke about line as a design element. These pictures of my mom's and my quilts will help illustrate some of the things we talked about it. (By the way, that's Jaye of artquiltmaker fame. The link takes you to her blog which has additional information on this topic.)

First is a picture of Mom's Irish Chain (actually, technically, a Triple Irish Chain, I believe, as it's three rows of squares in a column). Clearly the blocks themselves create strong lines here--including the darks and the mediums in the squares themselves creating several visual lines in tandem. This photo was evidently taken before it was finished--whatever quilting she ended up doing on it (I don't remember and one of my sisters has this quilt) would have created another set of lines that either emphasized or complemented the strong diagonals. Dig those crazy 80s colors.

Here is one of my early quilts, "Bugs in the Cabin." The basic log cabin is extremely versatile and a fantastic example of how blocks themselves create lines and understanding how those lines work are important in understanding design. Here I liked having the stair-step feel because this quilt was originally intended for a impending baby who would have been attracted by the repetition of high contrast. (This quilt was made using the Eleanor Burns quilt-in-a-day method, btw, one of my earliest quilts, probably circa 2000-ish. I later quilted it with invisible thread and made a huge mess and finally consigned it to the basement for my kids to use while watching TV. Too bad. It was a cute quilt. Said baby was probably about 6 or 7 years old by the time I finally sat down to try to fix my original mistakes and ultimately gave up. Fortunately, said baby's mother never knew I'd been working on a quilt and was quite happy with the set of onesies she got instead.)

The log cabin block is one of my faves because of it's versatility. Here's another one I made a year or so after the one above--probably somewhere around 2002 or so.This one turned out much more nicely! Note that it's the same block as the image above. But a different setting creates an entirely different feel. In this case, you have a couple of different sets of lines--the light and dark "barn-raising" setting, plus the more zig-zaggy lines of the fabrics themselves: the heavy blue that appears as cross-shaped outlines, and the directional floral print also create lines of its own.

You can't see it in the picture but after consulting with Mom, she suggested that I could quilt each "log" down the center to make each individual piece of fabric look like two pieced together--very strongly emphasizing the lines of the blocks. And boy, did that make it look even more impressive! Loved that effect. Took for-freakin'-ever, but turned out nicely. This wasn't anyone's pattern--just a standard, traditional log cabin quilt I made for an extended family member. I miss it. Someday I'll make myself one with these exact colors, sigh.

Mom also made me a quilt with the log cabin that, using variable width and length "logs" (fabric strips) creates a circular line. Very cool. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have any pictures of it. I'll try to remember to take pics of that one later.

Back to Mom's quilts for an example of how line can become evident through settings. Here's a sampler quilt with sampler blocks alternated with an Irish Chain variant block to create strong diagonals.

I don't know anything about this quilt--found it after Mom had passed away. Has the look of a block-of-the-month to me, and it's clearly a more recent quilt based on the fabrics, but Mom wasn't particularly consistent about labeling. If anyone recognizes the pattern and can identify it for me, let me know! (I kept this one--it's so cheery!)

Here's another example out of Mom's lifetime compilation of quilt-work. I'm guessing 80s, again, based on colors and fabrics. No idea about the pattern or designer--anyone recognize it?

In any case, here the line is created by block, color, and quilting lines. Notice how the quilting lines in some places echo the general hexagonal shape of the overall design, whereas in other places it emphasizes the individual lines of the blocks themselves.

Keep this quilt in mind whenever we do start talking about balance. It's also a good example of radial symmetry. Gotta love a two-fer.

Now we're going to get even more funky. How many lines does this design have in it? And how many types of lines?

Lots of wonderful eye-travel going on in this one--your eye follows the diamond around the center and then swirls through the fan shapes that are both diagonal and curvy at the same time. Very cool.

Another of Mom's quilts--it had been completed except for the binding when she passed away (although I think the top was several years old at that point), so I finished off the binding. This became a wedding gift for a close family friend that Mom would have most certainly given a quilt to had she still been with us.

Again, no idea on pattern or designer. If someone recognizes it, let me know. (Mom did design some quilts herself but not usually in this style.)

Sorry about the bad picture--I think I might have taken this one on my cell phone. Mom did this one sometime in the late 90's, I think. Again, this is someone's pattern/design that I can't identify and (sigh) Mom didn't label it. Now you know why I'm such a label evangelist on my podcast.

Would you normally look at a design like this one and think "line?" Why or why not? What basic lines do you find here? How do the blocks work together to create those lines?

Does it help is allow your eyes to blur just a little bit so you're seeing shapes more than individual pieces? You'll get more of a sense of line  that way.

And finally, for a wild-and-crazy line. We're finishing with one of my favorite of Mom's quilts. And this one I can identify as a pattern by designer Karen K. Stone. I seriously dig it. It always reminds me of a story Mom told about another New York Beauty-esque quilt she'd made: Dad, who was normally extremely supportive of her quilting, had said he'd never sleep under that quilt because it looked "too sharp and pointy." So think about that design question next time you're making a quilt for a bed. Is it too sharp and pointy for comfortable snoozing? Tee hee.

In any case, what does this quilt tell you about line? (I did eventually get a binding on that one and it went to one of my very funky nieces.)

That's it for this week, podquilters!