Summer Play

by Christine Barnes

Gardeners pore over seed catalogs, and fashionistas wait eagerly for the Fall fashion issue of Vogue. Me? I pull out my big book of 501 block patterns because, as you may have noticed, I adore traditional blocks made in today’s fabrics. I also look for opportunities to simplify a block to make it more modern. That’s my idea of a relaxing afternoon—looking at block designs and playing with fabric.

When my good buddy Heidi (I believe you know her) gave me a half-yard of this fabulous Anna Maria Horner print called “Fibs and Fables,” I thought it would be fun to do a three-block series, with each block having a different-size center square. 

I chose “The Crayon Box” for my first mock-block.

My supporting fabrics—a red-violet Marcia Derse, a yellow-green Grunge, and a slate-blue/gray by Parson Gray. I tossed in a low-volume background fabric, “Rush Hour” by studio e fabrics. (it’s a bit difficult to see, but it’s under the yellow-green square.) I challenged myself to use the same supporting fabrics in each block.

 

With a center that’s only 3 x 3 inches (the block finishes to 9 x 9), you don’t see much of the AMH fabric. The supporting fabrics seemed to overwhelm the print and confine it.

I started to deconstruct the mock-block (one of the benefits of gluing over sewing!) and really liked the simplicity—an example of “less is more,” I thought. How about using fewer pieces of the magenta and yellow-green, with a low-volume background fabric to open up the design? The simplified version is airier, with the possibility of rotating blocks to create an original quilt plan. 

Returning to my original idea of varying the proportions of the fabrics, I brought out one of my favorite blocks, “Cypress.” This block is also 9 x 9, but the center is 4½ inches, or half the width of the block and 50 percent larger than the center of The Crayon Box. I love seeing more of the AMH print. You also see more of the magenta print, but less of the yellow-green and slate-blue/gray. The Rush Hour background keeps everything light and airy.

Next up, the block “Counterpane.” This version is 10 x 10 inches, with a 6-inch center that reveals even more of the print. Blocks like Counterpane are perfect for showcasing gorgeous, splashy prints, while the small triangles make effective accents.

 

So now you know what I do on hot summer afternoons—I “play with my blocks.” And, no surprise, some of them actually turn into quilts, like the two new projects for my Zephyr workshop.

Hoping you are staying cool. And for those of you coming to my Zephyr workshop, I hope you’re having fun poring over your stash and deciding which fabrics you want to play with!

p.s. To my students, I’ll be in touch!

A Detour, Short and Sweet

by Christine Barnes

I’m home from my teaching travels, and after so many weeks on the road, my own bed never felt so good. (Naples was wonderful—thank you Judy and Linda! I’ll write about it in my next post.) I’ve been working away on the project quilts for the retreat. One of them is based a block that is so versatile that I just had to try it with transparency.

The block is known as “Antique Modern,” which seems a bit of an oxymoron. And here’s my quilt top, which I’ve named “Aerial,” after the name of the sashing fabric. If you don’t follow my newsletter, you can click here to see the April issue and read the story behind choosing the fabrics.Every time I looked at the block, I thought, “I wonder if . . . .” So yesterday I took a quick detour from my “Crazy Anne” quilt for the retreat to play with the design.

I fell in love with this mini harlequin print when I was at Rosie’s in San Diego in April. The three pink solids you see are from the width of one ombré, which I folded to show the color and value range. I know, I’m a broken record, but ombrés have SO much potential.The result isn’t quite as transparent as I had hoped. Some ombrés aren’t that successful because they tend to be too opaque. Never mind—the center fabric carries the day for me, and the black-and-white “stripe” makes it even more modern.Then I asked myself, “What would happen if I eliminate the center square?” Instead of rectangles surrounding a center square, you see a large, open area with a whole new set of possibilities.For this version I needed three fabrics—a light parent, a dark parent, and a child. The lightest fabric is actually the lighter area of a yellow-green/olive ombré. The dark green is the wrong side of a Grunge. (Hey, all’s fair in love and quilting.) The “child,” a Loni Rossi print, looks like a combination of the two parents, as if the light and dark colors were combined but not completely blended.I layered and glued the cut pieces to “fool the eye.” The real thing, when sewn, is much more convincing because it’s flatter. (This pic was taken in the evening, so the color is off.)

The finished mock-block.

That was fun, like reading a few chapters in a novel when you should be studying for finals. Next week it’s back to my retreat projects and full speed ahead on Zephyr. As always, thanks for looking and reading. I hope your summer is off to a great start—and that it includes a little color play with fabric you love!

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