Monday, July 22, 2013

Designing: Autograph Quilt Block

There is probably an autograph quilt class, and perhaps a presentation, in my future and, while I will likely want to do some traditional autograph blocks, I'd also like to try my hand at some new designs.   Working through it will (hopefully) illustrate one of the processes I use for designing--so those quilters who tell me they aren't creative or designers can see that it's not a mysterious process, or one that requires a Rembrandt sort of brain. If I can do it, anyone can--it's a matter of confidence, a bit of quilting experience in order to know what might be easier to piece and, frankly, a whole lot of luck and trial-and-error!

So, let's see what we can do about designing an autograph quilt block.  In a previous post I shared what I look for in a signature/autograph block, but to review (because we'll keep referring to it
1) Bounded area for people to sign; we don't want them to have to know about leaving us a quarter-inch seam; even quilters forget.  :-)
2) As close to a rectangular shape for signing as possible.  Diamonds seem to be difficult, for example.
3) Large enough area to sign, so people don't feel intimidated, or worry about making a mistake because they aren't sure they'll be able to fit it in the space.
4) Symmetrical enough (at least unilaterally) that there isn't a "right side up" and "wrong side up. (All right, I added this one after I wrote the previous post.)
5) Easy enough to piece that the quilter won't lose her mind making many of them. (Yes, I added this one, too, after I started thinking about making 120 of the things.)
6) Stabilized signing area, so the fabric doesn't "squirrel" around on them when they're trying to sign.

So, let's get started.  (I'm using EQ6 to do the designing; couldn't live without it; thanks, Electric Quilt!)

Here's the basic setup I'm going to use:  it's designed to get started with basic criteria:  bounded signing area, symmetrical enough that it doesn’t matter if they sign it one way or the other, large enough area to sign, rectangular, easy enough to piece so that I can make a lot of them without losing my mind…So far, so good.  On we go!. (BTW, this is an 8" square I'm working with here, but it could be adjusted, if 1" doesn't seem large enough for signing.)

Continuing with the strip sort of design that the setup lines create, here's a block (with the center left plain, for signature). 

 It's all right as a design, and put into a quilt it has a certain graphic quality to it:

But can you imagine matching all those seams?  Ugh.   You could press seams on the top row one direction, and those on the bottom the other direction, but how can you ensure that someone won’t sign it “upside down”?  (You could strip-piece the rows, but those seams…!)  Still, maybe.. if you could figure out a way to make them sign “right side up.”

Let's go back to our basic starting point to adapt the theme a bit, so we don’t have to worry about matching seams. 

Adding a long strip means fewer seams to worry about matching; it's still symmetrical enough that someone can sign one way or the other, and we could do some strip piecing so it would still be pretty easy to crank out a lot of them.

As a quilt it's OK, but let's keep playing with it a bit.

I think it might be better if alternate blocks are rotated—assuming you’re okay with some signatures running up and down; I think it’s all right, but others may not like it.  

There’s a bit of a pinwheel design where the block corners meet.  So, we might consider doing all the corners in the same fabric or color—distinct from others in the quilt—so those pinwheels stand out as a secondary design.

Here that is, with corner pieces in black, and a black border to help pull that all together.  I kind of like that.  This is a maybe. (Sometimes designs grow on me, especially after I see them in fabric, instead of just “on paper.”  There’s just something about fabric, isn't there?)

So, that’s a possibility.  But back to playing.   What if it were more of an alternating long and short—a log cabin sort of effect?

This really isn't what I had in mind.  It looks only vaguely log cabin-y doesn’t it??  Sort of,  if you squint just right.   But it’s not entirely bad.  It actually would give us three places for people to sign, but one is twice is “tall” as the others. Maybe with some changes in strip widths, and possibly changing to 9” block, this might work.

Doesn’t do much for me, laid out in quilt, but at least the signatures would be the stars of the quilt!

It's better with alternate blocks rotated but, again, only if you're okay with half the signatures running up and down.

Here, also, you could do the corner strips in the same fabric, to accentuate the secondary pinwheel effect.

Sigh.  I like that one enough that I’m going to have to go back and work on adjusting the proportions  so the signature areas are at least the same height, if not the same length.  Or, I may be okay with it this way.  Actually, I kind of like it just as a modern sort of quilt.  Hmmm. Stay tuned for a pattern, probably!

  But first, another stab at making it more log-cabiny, with the proportions of this original block.

Not much of a change here; We’ll see if it makes enough difference in the quilt to make it worth piecing that one extra little square. (And, there is now just one spot for signatures.)

And in a quilt layout:

All right, well, not a real “wow” here; maybe if we rotate alternate blocks…

Not bad, and it could be a way to use up some scraps, especially those pesky 1-1/2” strips I’ve been cutting when I’ve had strips left over from previous projects.  If I want to make this as a scrap quilt, I could increase the block size so that the strips are a bit wider;  if they were cut at 2”, finish at 1-1/2” this would be a 12” block.

This could work; I like it.

But I’m still thinking about a version with 3 strips for signing—it would give us a bigger bang for our buck, at least where a signature block is concerned. So, back to the drawing board to design that so the signature spaces are the same height.  Wish me luck!  Diving back in....

And here it is, this time a 14” block.  That seems large for a signature block but you get three signatures per block, so I think that’s reasonable.. 

  I like this better as a signature block, but I think that if I were planning just a quilt (not for signatures) I might like the uneven sizes of the light spaces in the previous blocks.

Let’s test it against the criteria for a signature/autograph block: 

1) Bounded area for signing?  Check.
2) Rectangular(ish) shape for signatures?  Check.
3) Large enough area to sign?  Check.
4) Symmetrical, so there is no "upside down" when signing the block?  I guess you'd want all three signing  a block to sign in the same direction; maybe 3/4 Check, because there's at least one in every crowd?
5) Easy to piece, so many blocks can be made without driving the quilter crazy?  Check.

Looks good to me!  Now, down to the studio for the real test.  I'll report on that later. Do yo have suggestions for changes to the block to make it even better?

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