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Books as Inspiration vs. Prescription

Guest post by Christine Vinh, StitchesnQuilts

I pondered this “Inspiration vs. Prescription” idea one day when browsing through the new books at Artistic Artifacts. As artists — name your media — we probably use books for both inspiration and prescription.

  • Some books are just eye candy and must-haves for that reason alone.
  • Others teach new techniques and skills to add to our “tool box.”
  • There are those who select a book for the instructions to make a project just like the one the artist author shows in the book.
  • And then there are those books that make you wonder, “what if?”…

Kaffe Fassett's Brilliant Little Patchwork Cushions and Pillows

For me, one of the books that falls into the last category is Kaffe Fassett’s brilliant little patchwork cushions and pillows. With a subtitle of “20 patchwok projects using Kaffe Fassett fabrics,” my first thought was, since Artistic Artifacts doesn’t carry his fabrics, why carry the book?

But as I leafed through the pages, I was quickly inspired by the possibilities. Rather than recreate the patterns and fabric choices used in the many projects in the book, I started dreaming about how some of new fabrics in the shop would look instead.

I had already been playing with ideas for the She Sells designs from Frond Design Studios. Looking though the book, I decided that the “chrysanthemum cushion” might work well, as it uses a huge patterned fabric.

Selecting a stripes pattern was a no brainer — the Woodstock 1969 colorway of the Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik was perfect with the She Sells: Aqua I wanted to use. Add two of the Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik Fruit Sours patterns, in Tangerine and Blue Raspberry, and I had a match made in heaven!

I also decided I wanted to make a table runner, rather than the pillow called for in the book. I estimated my fabric requirements using the fabric guidelines in the book. I wanted to use the Blue Raspberry Fruit Sours batik as the back and binding, so I went with one yard there, and ½ yards of the other three fabrics.

Christine Vinh begins piecing a table runner, inspired by a Kaffe Fassett project

Using the cushion pattern as guidelines, I cut the fabrics. When sewing the shell and ombre stripes together, I added stripes at each end to extend the center panel to the desired length, then added the border. I machine quilted my runner with a variegated thread and finished it off with the binding. A fun and easy project completed in a few hours!

Variegated thread used to machine quilt Christine Vinh's table runner sewn from Frond Design Studios fabric and Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik

In the detail photo above, you can see how the variegated thread coordinated with the fabrics — I loved how it turned out.

Christine Vinh's table runner and the Kaffe Fassett project that inspired it

Above, a view of my completed runner and the inspiration pillow project from Kaffe’s book.

This project was so fun and easy to sew that now I’m imagining doing another one, with another She Sells colorway paired with one of the new Barnboard colorways, also from Frond Design Studios. Below, She Sells: Sand and Barnboard: Violet.

She Sells: Sand and Barnboard: Violet fabrics from Frond Design Studios, sold by Artistic Artifacts

Or perhaps She Sells: Ultramarine and Barnboard: Summer, below…

She Sells: Ultramarine and Barnboard: Summer fabrics from Frond Design Studios, sold by Artistic Artifacts

The Malachite pillow from Kaffe Fassestt’s brilliant little patchwork cushions and pillowsBack to Kaffe’s book, I also liked the pattern design used in the “malachite cushion” (pictured right). Kaffe noted that he wanted to play with the swirling lines and color variations of his Jupiter fabric by further cutting the fabric into triangles and piecing it back together.

As soon as I saw the recent addition to our Australian Aboriginal fabrics, River Dreaming by Barbara Egan, I loved the movement! I thought it would be interesting to see how the pattern changed by cutting and piecing it according to Kaffe’s instructions.

I selected the River Dreaming Black for the top and decided on Plum Seeds Red by Kathleen Pitjara as binding. I followed the instructions in the book — again, a quick and easy project. But while I love the finished pillow top (pictured below flat, without the pillow form), because of the overall swirls of the fabric, it is hard to see the quilt pattern.

River Dreaming Black fabric pieced into pillow by Christine Vinh, StitchesnQuilts

So. lesson learned! Next I tried using the River Dreaming White with the Black version, and played with my fabric choices and placement to get the look I wanted. Pictured below, this work in progress using the same pattern has a better ‘bang for the buck’ with the black and white triangles alternated.

River Dreaming Black and River Dreaming white fabrics pieced into pillow top by Christine Vinh, StitchesnQuilts

Both because I wasn’t afraid to ask the question, “what if…?” and because I gave myself permission to play and experiment, I’ll end up with another great graphic pillow.

Take some time and browse through the books for sale at Artistic Artifacts, or on your own book shelf, but with the focus of using the ideas of the author as a springboard for your own imagination. This is a good exercise to do with some of the earlier books you may have, where the fabric used for the samples is outdated. Visualize how the designs and techniques could be brought to life with some of the new and fun fabrics available today: swapping out calicos with modern cottons, for example.

In addition to the books in the shop, check out the book recommendations from members of Judy’s Altered Minds (JAMs). Each fall we devote one meeting to sharing thoughts on favorite fiber and mixed media titles, both new publications and favorities from our past. Our ongoing list is a downloadable PDF published on our website.

And remember, we have a new Facebook group, Artistic Artifacts’ Creative Minds, a virtual extension of JAMs. On Facebook group members from all over— art quilters, collage artists, art journal keepers, surface design enthusiasts, paper crafters, assemblage & art doll artists, and more — have a place to share ideas and projects with one another. Come join us there and share your own projects and thoughts on Inspiration vs. Prescription!

To sum up:

  • Don’t be afraid to mix and match fabric lines and colors and textures.
  • Give yourself permission to play.
  • By giving yourself permission to ask “what if” and play, you will learn along the way… and most likely will be very pleased with your results!
Posted in Fiber, JAMs, Judy's Altered Minds, New Products, Quilts | Tagged , , , | Leave a reply

About Judy

I am a fiber person. I have been involved in fiber art since elementary school. After graduating college with majors in Fashion Design and Business Marketing, I have since learned to weave, sew, dye, stamp, quilt, bead. All those experiences and contacts have bought me to fiber art and mixed media through art quilts and my fiber jewelry. And I inherited the collector gene too - I enjoy hunting and gathering really cool stuff which the casual observer would think has outlived it's usefullness and use it in my art.

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