This blog is a result of time I spent playing with design in a quilt program called Electric Quilt. I had started redrawing block designs during the ten lesson sampler quilt class which got me totally hooked on making quilts, but that early design work, like all previous designing for other craft work, was all done on paper.
I bought Electric Quilt 5 after trying two other programs designed for quilters. First problem was making time to learn the program. I found that I learned best by trying to draw quilts I saw in magazines, at quilt shows, and even some of those pencil sketches I had made on scraps of paper.
With some practice drawing pieced blocks was easy enough, but I love applique. Learning to draw applique with pencils and paper was hard enough, so there was a lot of practice required to learn to draw in Electric Quilt … particularly back with EQ5. Part of the learning process was to learn to sit and play with the program as often as possible. Too long between play sessions and I had to start all over again.
One thing I had to my advantage was I always asked myself one question over and over again.
What if … ?
What if I delete some lines in a pieced block. What if I made an applique shape short and fat instead of long and skinny? Then add an extra line or two in a pieced block, or more shapes to the applique? What if I add one corner of a Four Patch block to the solid corners of a Nine Patch block. (Note to self … must make some time to play with that idea again!)
When adding colour to the shapes I keep wanting to see what would happen if I swapped the dark and light contrasts around, or add some spot of colour contrast outside the colour combination I started with. I do the same when playing with the blocks in a quilt design. Swap Block A with Block B, then add another block to the equation.
Over time I got to the point that I could stop thinking about how to make the changes, which meant I could spend more time changing block designs, or starting new ones , and then more time playing with block placement and colour combinations in quilt designs.
The better I got at using the program the more times I asked myself that question … What if … ?
Over the years, and progressing from Electric Quilt 5 through Electric Quilt 6 and Electric Quilt 7 I put together a huge collection of quilt designs. I also had a huge collection of blocks. When I started using Electric Quilt 8 I asked myself that question …
What if … ?
What if I sorted out my block collection? Crossing designs, nine patch, formal florals, four patch, pieced and applique houses and fans, some named, most not. Where to start?
The pieced blocks were basically in their categories according to the grid they were drafted on. I do save blocks to My Library often, but my library was pretty chaotic, to say the least. Sorting pieced blocks took a while, but wasn’t too much of a head ache, though my math skills were tested at times trying to make sure all of the more complicated blocks were in the right category.
Applique blocks were saved wherever I thought I would find them tomorrow, and that wasn’t a perfect system even for tomorrow! The day after tomorrow I had no hope of finding the block I was looking for, and as I would draw a block in whatever project file I was playing with at any given moment the applique designs were all over the place.
During the clean and tidy up I had a thought … there were a lot of crossed floral designs , what if I put them all together. I sorted them and then added them all to one project file. I had nearly 200. What if I tried to get it up to 200 exactly? I did, but when I did the recount I had nearly 250. It seems that they were breeding. Another month or two and I thought it would be an ideal time to answer another what if … ?
I had a vague thought that some of the Floral Cross Collection would make reasonable wreath blocks if I removed the cross centre and added a wreath form. Too easy, and the first cross which lost it’s centre made a lovely wreath even before I added a narrow circle to hold it together. That first was followed by more just with variations of the flower from that first modified crossing design.
(The next ‘what if …’ will be put on memory bank for the future … what if I make the wreath blocks I have drawn into crossed designs?)
Each time I wandered around the garden I would come inside with another idea of a new flower to add to the collection, or new leaves. Some of the leaves suited quite a few different flowers! I also collected leaves from a variety of floral applique designs.
Many of the crossed designs were manipulated to make the flowers wider or narrower, shorter or longer, and most worked both ways. I set out to find out just how many ways were feasible with one flower, and settled on 12 reasonably versatile variations to try sometime soon. Next step is to test out the system on more flowers.
By now I had doubled the number of Floral Crosses I had to play with, from 250 to 500, and they are still coming.
I asked that question again.
What if … I could encourage others to use Electric Quilt more often, and see if they can find their own answers to that question, and build their own collection of crossed designs, Nine Patch, and even Log Cabin variations? I know a lot of people who own Electric Quilt who are almost afraid of the program, and it would be great to know that at least some of those would give my challenges a go.
So … on the first weekend of each month from now on I hope to be able to challenge you to play with Electric Quilt, trying to learn more about the program, so that sometime in the future you will know how to use the program well enough to just play with designs rather than have to try to work out how do do each step. Some challenges will be aimed at those who have little experience, others will be aimed for those who are more experienced.
I am not going to give you many instructions. Part of each challenge is to find the information you need, not what I think you need. Some of us learn better by muddling through by ourselves, but there are manuals, and written lessons and videos available on the Electric Quilt Company website, and I will list some sites worth visiting for more tutorials.
I am also thinking that a private Facebook group might be a handy way of sharing results of the challenge.
The first challenge will be issued next weekend, so I hope you will set aside some time to play.
Please note … You do not have to make the blocks or quilts you design in this series of challenges. The challenge is to learn to use Electric Quilt for any kind of project you may want to do now, or in the future.
Be aware … You may become addicted to playing with quilt designs!
But then, other people are addicted to cross word puzzles, solitaire or games on their computer or phone. I like creating things from all sorts of materials, including quilt fabric, and much prefer making up my own designs rather than using patterns by somebody else.