fabric, Marcus, quilt desgin, quilting

Learning the Language

We learn many languages throughout our lives:

Our native language – whatever that might be, this is often accompanied by particular dialects that gives clues as to where we’re from

A secondary language – if we’re able and taught (I know bits and pieces of Spanish & French).  If this is a family language this might have a dialect, giving clues to where our family originated.  There’s a quilter who comes into the shop who speaks French who is willing to tutor me and I can work with her on her quilts…I’m thinking this is good deal.

Math – we learn this in school, is a quite intricate that ranges from quite simple to immensely complex – this language that crosses a lot of boundaries and includes the language of lines and shapes.  Quilters use this language in most of what we do.  This particular language frequently instills fear in quilters as we try to figure out the complexities shapes in our quilts.  Math helps us determine the size of our quilts, the sizes of the blocks and borders, how many we need and their placement.  If we’re making our own pattern or adjusting our pattern Math is essential to determining what changes to make and how to make them.  If we’re really lucky the gals working in the quilt shop will understand enough of the language of Math to help us determine the changes, how to make them and how much yardage is necessary.

What further complicates the language of Math is that there are two systems Meters & Yards.  I’m probably one of a few people who wished we switched over to the Metric system years ago.  The Metric system is base 10, like our monetary system and so much easier to figure out without a calculator.  In Yards everything is divisible by 36 or 44 (keeping it quilterly) – oh yeah, when figuring from the width of the fabric the number changes to 40 or 42 depending on what you’re doing.

Art – this language, like Math, ranges from quite simple to immensely complex, it’s range.  On May 2 Jane Davila presented Surface Design Essentials.  As she talked & presented the slides and quilts illustrating the basic principles of design – Line, Shape, Direction, Size, Texture, Color & Value – I realized something important We as quilters practice these every day in our quilt making.  As this realization hit me I realized that because even in a simple quilt we’re employing the basic principles of art and further our heart is all involved in the matter this is frequently where we get hung up trying to make sure that the quilt is working and just right.

Whether you are an “art quilt maker” or not I’d like to suggest that getting either one of Jane’s books would be helpful, no essential in learning the principles for understanding the language of art that we use in quilt making.  I think that understanding why something is working in our quilts will help us relax into the quilt making process.  Part of the realization the other night is that as a quilt maker I’ve been using these principles for years without understanding the language.  I still have a lot to learn however Jane’s lecture has added to my confidence level as an instructor for beginner quilters and quilt makers in general as now I have a basic understanding of the  language of Art to aid in guiding the process.

While listening to Jane talk the other night I realized why Wild Style works so well, the line of the quilt draws the eye around the surface of the quilt (on the diagonal) creating a bit of tension without making the viewer uneasy.

It’s exciting without being unsettling or nauseating.  This makes the quilt inviting.  Had I used red, in the tan/cream spaces this would still be an exciting quilt but much more unsettling.

Had I used black in the tan spaces the movement would be lost and the quilt would be less interesting.

I can think a lot about this quilt however, I leave you to enjoy this beautiful Mothers Day!

Happy Mothers Day!

Happy Quilting!


5 thoughts on “Learning the Language”

  1. Great thoughts! I agree that we should have switched to metric last century! In medicine we use metric amounts all the time, but have to “switch” to “English” when instructing parents who think “cc” is a foreign language!

  2. That all makes sense. That explains that gut feeling that nothing is right with the world, much less the quilt you’re selecting fabric for. And then, you switch out one with a new one from the bottom of the bottom box in your stash…and the quilting sun comes out. Quiterly peace.

    And since there are 36 inches in a yard, wouldn’t it make more sense to sell fabric and give yardage requirements by the 1/2, 1/3rd, 1/4th, 1/9th and 1/12th of a yard? Easier, anyway, to figure out how many inches you need.

  3. I completely agree with the switch over thing. Should have happened years (centuries ago).

    This new language I’m learning is like music to my ears. Thank you for being one of my teachers.

Leave a Reply