Designing Picture Quilts, Artistic Considerations

Quilting a scene is a freeing leap from sewing normal quilt patterns. But turning a photo or idea into a picture quilt demands artistic and compositional decisions which can seem overwhelming.

Sue Van Wassenhove will show quilters how she turned her Everglades photos into fascinating appliqued wildlife quilts. As a former art teacher, she'll bring into the discussion design concepts that will help turn quilters' steps away from the traditional into works of art. Her practical how-to approach will provide design tools quilters can use many times in the future.

A write-up summarizing the design ideas will be provided at the end of the presentation.

Working from photos
Sketches, thumbnails and value studies
Creating and using a gray scale
Focal point and image placement
Style decisions and their impact
Sharp, contrasting and lost edges
Background choices
Five areas of color considerations
Border development
Useful materials
Do's and Don't's

Please contact Sue for a more detailed topic description. See Links and Contacts.

The Book’s Quilts

The Seldom-Ever-Shady Glade’s 19 quilted illustrations had a humble beginning as an unsatisfactory watercolor painting of a green heron. Sue’s focus kept returning to her favorite photo of the bird, contemplating how to better represent it, until a few dreams (yes, dreams!) suggested the bold fabric in quilts might better show off the bird’s colors. The result was the heron quilt (Bungee Neck Stretching, p. 14) and soon, Gator Jowls (p. 10) of a yawning alligator.

Her children’s critique group pointed out the strong connection between her quilting projects and her growing group of Everglades poetry. With their help on how to make a book dummy, she sent out her poetry manuscript, photos of the two quilts and sketches of 17 more projected quilts. Soon Boyds Mills Press’s imprint, Wordsong, accepted the proposal, and Sue started 3 years of quilting.

The book’s 19 quilts are all both hand and machine pieced, hand appliqued and hand quilted. All the designs are based on Sue and her husband, Joe’s photos taken of the wildlife in the Everglades.

Sometimes watercolors expanded these small photos and developed the color palate for a particular quilt. After value sketches, all the quilts were designed to scale on a large white table in pencil. Then tissue paper tracings of the birds were useful both to reposition and fine-tune the sketches and to select the most perfectly shaded pieces of the fabric to cut out.

Borders around each quilt are based on traditional Seminole patchwork patterns and are machine sewn. Present day Miccosukee Indians of South Florida still use these designs.

The largest quilt is 5’ wide and took 3 months to prepare (three tricolor herons in The Flapping Spry Try, 66 ½ x 28 ½”, pp. 24-25). The smallest is only 15 x 18” (a green heron, Patient Waiting, p. 15). The quickest any quilts were whipped together, 10 days, were the Great Heron Cousins (34 ½ x 15 ¼”, pp. 6-7) and Circling, Hiding, Perching, Let’s Watch! (35 ¼ x 16 ¼”), completed as her deadline approached.

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