Monday, September 3, 2012

On Working With Solids

Just what are my thoughts, on working with solids anyway??  Good question..........for me, as with most aspects of quilting, it's a process.

I've had a love affair with colour and pattern since childhood. But, the availability of colour and pattern was much more limited when I made my very first the early seventies. Little country florals, gingham checks and poly cotton broad cloth in pastels or primary colours was about the size of it. Yup, red, yellow and blue. The kids wore the thing threadbare, but I never could get that excited, about the  fabric.

Now the seventies were full of amazing graphic type prints...just think retro, all of you younger quilters, but they weren't available in quilters cottons. And the solids were very limited....the thought of finding 100 different shades of solid colours was something of a dream. Now I imagine there were quilters, out there, dyeing their own array, of hand dyed cottons, but I was unaware of them. 

Those were pre-internet days. I didn't get a copy of Nancy Crow's Quilts and Influences into my hot little hands,  until the early nineties. What I saw, blew me away, but finding the kinds of fabrics I wanted wasn't that easy. 

I would see work by Kaffe Fassett and wonder...... where will I ever find such brilliant fabrics. Neons were all the rage in the eighties but that is not what I meant by brilliant fabrics. Kaffe Fassett's book Passionate Patchwork was first published in 2001. 

I would see those shot cottons or striped wovens and literally drool with envy.  About ten years ago a I stumbled upon some of them, in my local quilt shop for half price....I believe that's the first time the words "I'll take whatever is left on the bolt" came out of my mouth. No, actually that's not true....I worked in a large fabric store for about five years in the late eighties. That's when the addiction to fabric really started.

I'm starting to get a little off topic as I ponder my process, of getting where I am today. I really should hunt through hidden cupboards and old photos and put together a chronological photo album of my projects...that could be interesting.

My point is, with the increased availability of solid or solid like fabrics, my thinking, on what I can do with them, has changed. 

In the past, I thought of solids as secondary, to the printed fabric. How many times have you heard the advice, to choose one print you really love and pick solids, from that fabric to coordinate or dare I say, to match? This same advice is given in the home decor world....a jumping off point or focal fabric.

In the last little while, I'm finding my stash of solids growing and my desire, to have them be the focus, rather than the prints, growing as well. The fact that I can go online and order every possible shade, of solid fabric, isn't hurting my cause one bit.

For me, something interesting happens, when the ratio of solid to printed fabric increases.....I have to create interest with the solids themselves. It's like I'm creating my own printed fabric, using solid fabric. My solids are like tubes of paint, to do with what I will. To add even more interest, there are many, many, available texture type prints as well. 

Creating interest, with solids and a little bit of texture and print thrown in.

A collage of Bee Blocks made for me, by all the talented quilters in the Free Bee

It's almost like we are painting and telling a story, with our fabric. The only prints are texture types.

A much more graphic design is created here, again, using mostly solids....I've added another layer of texture using applique. So it's not only fabric we have at our disposal, but different techniques as well. Just as a painter uses different brush strokes, we have many ways to incorporate our fabrics into a quilt.

Here is the back, of the above quilt, minus the appliqued strips....again we are only limited by our imaginations. We can make our own designs as minimal or intricate as we desire.

I made this quilt a few years back, using the traditional drunkard path block....but I still have some stripes going on. I love using those gradient type solids...they seem to glow. Using solids, does seem to give it a more modern and graphic feel.

My biggest challenge working with solids came, when Lynne asked, if I would be willing to make a quilt using the fabulous Oakshott Cottons. Not that the fabrics are challenging to work with, far from it , but this being, my first quilt made up entirely of solids....including the back and the binding. jumping off point, no focus fabric and no print to "pull it all together".

I started by throwing the fabrics haphazardly, on the design wall....the little sample rectangles included. I had seen a small painting, of a circle with a few lines running through it, in a gallery window, as I just started painting with my fabric. One block at a time, I built the quilt.....quilting each block along the way. No sketches, no real plan each step in response to the last.

I felt like I was riding a bicycle, without my training wheels.....look Ma, no hands prints. An exhilarating ride indeed.

I have to admit, I enjoy working with fabrics that are not quite solid, such as shot cottons,  fabrics that have an almost painterly quality or gradient type fabrics. 

And last of all, solids come in handy when one wants to make use of negative space....something I still need to tackle, I have a tendency of getting so carried away, that my negative space disappears. Oh's a process.


  1. Love this post and your thoughts on solids and LOVE your quilts as always!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I'm rephrasing my comment because I used a poor choice of words previously. But I've not seen anyone use solids in a magical way that you have, Marianne. Absolutely nothing boring about your art work with solids and everything inspirational about it!

  3. This is a fantastic and inspiring post, Marianne. Thank you!

  4. Loved to read this post Marianne! Great reflections!

  5. All these quilts are beautiful. I really want to try the shot cottons.

  6. Wonderful post, so much information. When I did Creative Textiles at Art College we had to colour all our own fabrics, starting from white, so now I'm loving using the marvellous prints available now! Your work with Oakshott is amazingly beautiful.

  7. I love how you use the solids almost as if they were paint, your quilts are just stunning, each one of them. Such an inspiring post, thank you for sharing.

  8. What a great post! I can just feel the ideas and creativity pouring out of you - and then of course I can see the stunning results.

  9. Thank you so much for the peek into your process. My first impression of your work was... "omg it's art! It's not patchwork, it's ART!" So your insight into painting with fabric, and you getting inspired by seeing art... well it does me good! Thanks for the post! I needed some light at the end of the tunnel after making over 400 Dresden Plate blades! LOL

  10. Great thought provoking post for me. I too have come to the way of solids and have even made a couple of all solid quilts now. I will always have a strong affinity for Kaffe's overload of pattern. His early books were what really turned around my quilting and continue to influence today. But now solids are just as big of an influence. Your work is truly truly art. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Have always steered away from solids - but I think you have just changed my mind - they are stunning!

    1. I still love my prints...but working with solids is wonderful as well.

  12. Fun and thoughtful post you have here!! I NEVER had any solids in my stash until I started quilting a few years back. I still don't have the quantity I would like but I feel it will be an ongoing process. That is, whenever I stop rebelling about the fabric prices and start buying fabric again. It was 20 months yesterday!

    As ususual, your work is always inspiring!!!

  13. Lovely post. Anyone who knows me knows i love solids! I dream of having a bolt of every single Kona solid out there! The bright, saturated, vibrant colors especially. Inspiration for me comes in the form of how colors interact with each other. And I like simplicity. That's why I use prints sparingly.
    Love to read about your process.

  14. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I would love your opinion as to what thread to use when quilting my oakshott quilt. I blogged about it today... My query took me to searching on Flickr which s how I've found you (again!).

    I would appreciate your thoughtsn if you would be so kind!

  15. This was very interesting to read and see your work again in a new perspective. Thank you fro sharing it.

  16. This will be on my list of experimentation...thanks for sharing


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