Thursday, May 12, 2016

Workshop Fun

As I said earlier this week, I taught for the Maye River Quilters Guild in Bluffton, SC.  They are an enthused new guild that has leapt from 29 to 88 members in 18 months!  I was their first visiting teacher and lead 26 members through two Value and Spontaneity Workshops.
I've shared some about this valuable exercise last summer HERE and how I set it up.  Once everyone arrives the trading and stirring begins.  This gal was so beautifully organized it was a shame to make her mess them up!
The trading is done in sets of 10 triangles with 5 other participants.  That means that 25% of the triangles used are from someone else's fabrics -- so participants get a few colors they would not have included or large prints or stripes, etc.  Shakes things up a bit!!
And then everything is thrown into a bag and stirred up good!!  I loved Cindy's idea to hang her bag from her nametag so both hands were free.
So did Nancy!  They had fun moving through the exercise side-by-side!
Sometimes it took two to keep everything on the temporary design walls.  Just minutes after I took this picture, the piece on the left slide down in a crumple on the floor -- ahhhhhhh!
She reacted very calmly!
Once everyone had their version laid out, I directed everyone to decide what they like about theirs before we began to survey the room and refine the layouts.  This to me is the most valuable part of the workshop!
The fabric arrangement is random -- two triangles are pulled out of a bag, decide which is light and which is dark and put them into the correct position working across one row at a time.  At the end, after some reflection, small changes are made to refine the piece before the stitching begins.
To retain the spontaneity of the piece, it's important not to over correct.  Some imbalance here and there improves the visual interest of a piece and holds a viewer's attention longer.  Everyone was surprised by the ability of medium value prints to switch from light to dark depending on the value of the second triangle in the pair.
 During the Saturday workshop, one of the gals reminded us that we had a great value finder tool in our pockets -- our phones!  Soon phones and tablets were out and everyone was exploring how to set it up for black & white pictures.  It certainly makes it easy to evaluate areas that need some tweaking! You can quickly switch a couple mediums and darks to break up an awkward area to give it more definition and clearer lines of contrast.
This is one I made several years ago -- the pieces always reflect the taste of the maker -- I have lots of florals, so there are lots of medium value prints in this piece.  In general, the more colors, the busier the print, the more likely that it functions as a medium value fabric.  It's an easy donation quilt to make plus I learn more about value manipulation each time I make one.  I cut scraps into the right size triangles and drop them in a box until it is full enough to make another one.
The arrangement above is the class project but there are lots of other layouts for this exercise.  Each time, I enjoy auditioning for the border since there always are several possibilities that would work and which one I use depends larger on my mindset that day.
For those of us focused on traditional quiltmaking, value is the element of fabric selection that makes a design work or fail so this exercise goes a long way at building understanding and confidence.
The spontaneity element of the exercise is designed to learn how to make fabric decisions with less effort and have more fun doing it!!
I never tire of teaching this exercise and love all the variation and excitement of it.  Of course everyone loves everyone else's and is disappointed with their own, but doing it in a group helps everyone recognize the gaps in their fabric stash and that's valuable. 
The challenge is to go beyond deciding you "like it" or you "don't like it".  One also needs to get specific about the "whys" so you can learn to control your choices in the future.
So get together a group of friends and try this out for yourself!!
And I can't finish today without a nature picture -- rose-breasted grosbeak (male) in my backyard!!
Mary Huey




  1. Excellent post, Mary. So much to learn from those photos. Thanks!

  2. Mary, I REALLY enjoyed this post. It was a great education about the meaning of value (thank you) and it made me want to start cutting my scraps into triangles. What size triangles are you using here?

  3. I enjoyed reading this post! It's really exciting how the colour of a fabric is not really known until it is actually playing up beside it's neighbour!

  4. Maye River Quilters loved having you!

    1. I second that! It was a great workshop and I learned lots!