Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Better Letters

Creativity is a funny thing. There is always a bit of a letdown after the completion of a big project. Most creative people already know what project they'll work on next, but starting can be a bit difficult. We -know- we should be doing it, but we tend to procrastinate. We do other things, like clean the studio, but mostly we putter around, avoiding the thing we know we should be doing.

One of my bosses put his finger on it years ago when he asked me "Have you started that new drawing yet? I think you have to get going. When you're not drawing you get snarky."  I liked this guy, and he had verbalized something I hadn't been aware of. I was happiest when I was creating.

I'm not happy with the low contrast letters and have to drag myself into the studio to work on them. When I do work on them, I don't work consistently or well. I putter. I dilly-dally.

I knew I was getting into that snarky place when even the lovely weather we had on Sunday didn't make me feel good. Another big clue was when I found myself rewriting a section of my book in my head as I was driving to work the other morning.

So last night I did NOT go into the sewing studio. Instead I collected my nicely printed pages, sat down in the big recliner (so Millie could sit next to me), and started editing. Since I finished the first draft, I read William Zinsser's book On Writing Well. Now I am putting his advice to work, striking out excessive words, many useless adjectives and adverbs. (See that crossed out "many"? Zinsser says it's unnecessary, and he's right.)

I woke up this morning much happier and in a better mood.  I'm actually feeling almost gleeful!

P.S. Thank you Mr Zinsser, and you too, Mr King.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


When I was in Art School I spent a lot of time in the art section of the library pulling one book after another off the shelves, discovering artists. In this way I discovered Frank Stella. He's an American painter, born in New England in 1936. When I discovered him around 1974, I was entranced. If you do a Google images search on Stella, you will be presented with hundreds of images of his work. You can see some other images here, here, here, here, and here.

This painting, which is ten feet in diameter (3.048 m) now hangs in my local art museum, the Currier Museum of Art.
As soon as I found out it was there, (or more to the point, here),

I went over to check it out in person. I was not disappointed. 

So what does this have to do with quiltmaking, aside from the fact that I'm always harping on you to get out to your local art museum regularly and look around?

Go on over to the sidebar and read the "About Me" section. Notice how I write "I love working with abstract shapes and color," and "I love the graphic quality of quilts." Now go back and look at Sinjerli, Variation 1 (the painting).


Because I am always interested in how we get from A to B, I wondered if what it is I like best about quilts was directly influenced by Frank Stella's paintings, since I didn't start making quilts until 1977.

That's a very interesting idea. I am going to have to think about it.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Almost There

I was watching the finale of Project Runway Season 11, so I wasn't sewing as busily as I might have been otherwise. I need to replace that "I" in "IN" and I have to make an X, but I already know what fabrics I will use for that.

Yeah, these fabrics don't sing for me, but it's always a good idea to step out of your "comfort zone" and experiment. You never know what'll happen. Sometimes something good will come of it.

Hey, if I hadn't stepped out of my comfort zone and started a blog for my cat Millie, I wouldn't be here.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Low Contrast Doesn't Have to Mean Boring

I'm not against low-contrast quilts. Julie has put together a lovely low-contrast flimsy she's called Beach Grass. You can see it here.

The center panel of this chessboard is relatively low-contrast. These two soft greens provide enough contrast for this checkerboard. The chessboard is livened up by the pink inner border. Without it, the piece would be less interesting.
Monochromatic quilts are by definition low-contrast. The Sunshine yellow quilt I made for my son has at least a dozen fabrics, with a few darker and lighter to liven up the surface and make it interesting.

Even the Red Sticks is a (relatively) low-contrast quilt. It's high "chroma" or "intensity" because red in an intense color, but check out the border - true low contrast.

My sister made this all-pink quilt for a little girl. Sure there are greens, purples and blues in it, but it's predominantly PINK and quite charming.

Here's another monochromatic quilt, in all blues. Nothing boring here. (My son said the quilt was heavy to hold up like that and I should HURRY UP and take the picture. That's why he doesn't look happy).

I keep using this word "interesting." It's because the eye likes contrast, and is attracted to areas of contrast - which define things. If it's all the same, the eye moves to something else. If it's got contrast, the eye stops to look around.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Low Volume, Low Key, Low Interest

For me most "low volume" quilts are so laid-back they're comatose.  There. I said it.  If you don't like it, I say (as the French do) "Tant pis."

To each his own poison. If it works for you, fine, but working with my "low volume" (or as I prefer to call them "low key") letters bores me to tears. In fact, they bore me so much, I'm not even going to fix that "a" in "Crayons."

(I sewed these two letters on the wrong seam and got "NO" instead of "ON". Sigh)

What I AM GOING TO DO, however, is have some fun with this.  I deliberately selected these fabrics because I wanted a snoozefest (Now there's a contradiction in terms!) The next version will be slightly snappier. The version after that will be somewhat more energetic, and so on, until the last version will be a real riot of over the top noise.


I can't wait!

(Have I ever told you I think all artists are subversive by nature?)

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Black Box, finito.

The Black Box is finished, and hanging at Quilted Threads in Henniker NH, and it looks great. Here, finally, is a good picture of it. You should be able to enlarge this photo to see the details. This quilt is completely original, designed and sewn by me, Lynne Tyler. It is completely free pieced, made without patterns, templates or paper piecing.

Like all my quilts, this one is best seen in real life. Pictures don't do it justice. At QT it's hung on a wall so you can stand right in front of it and check it out. Chris did a terrific job quilting it. You can see more of her photos of the quilt here.

I'll be teaching classes on free pieced letters and free pieced houses at Quilted Threads this summer.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

More Ideas

We visited Annmarie Gardens last week, and in the Art Room was this mosaic.

If you look closely you'll see it was made from recycled materials.
Yes, bottle caps, jar caps, yogurt covers and tin can lids.
Here's another view.
I liked the use of old paint cans as storage bins too.

It wasn't the only use of recycled materials that attracted my attention. I love these table parts.  These are definitely examples of out-of-the-box thinking.

Friday, April 19, 2013


As some of you know, I spent the last week in Maryland, visiting family.
I live in New Hampshire, and usually travel to Maryland on Amtrak. I board the Amtrak train in Boston.

I heard about the tragic events at the Boston Marathon as they happened and followed the news closely over the last few days. I did worry about getting home as I had to travel through Boston.

I am safely home, back in New Hampshire.

I traveled back on Thursday, and the large police presence when I got off the train at the Amtrak station in Boston last night would have aroused my curiosity had I not been so utterly exhausted and eager to get home. (By the time I got off the train photographs of the two "suspects" had been released.)  At any rate, today Amtrak service between New York and Boston has been temporarily suspended. Had I been trying to get home today I would have been stranded.

So for all of you who have been wondering, I am home, and I am fine.

And no, I didn't see Bonnie Hunter speaking locally last night.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Sometimes, it's just the color that hits you.  This is a dark blue-violet with violet, lime-y green, aqua and sort of a cerulean blue with red. There isn't a color scheme program on the planet that's going to select these colors because they aren't based on some "rule."  But it's a terrific color combination that can have a lot of sizzle.

Then again, now that I think of it, the colors remind me of this.

funny how that works.

Monday, April 15, 2013


I love checkerboards, so when I saw this building, I had to take a picture of it. I like the rhythm of the window and non-window areas.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


This is from the notebook of a ten-year old boy. I know I keep harping on you to look for inspiration everywhere, and this is a great example. I just love this border of squares and triangles.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Low-Key in Reverse

Looking at a lot of these "Low Volume" quilts reminds me they are very "low key" which is low intensity in terms of brightness, but the other thing that struck me was that the fabrics in these quilts all had white or cream backgrounds.  I made a quilt years ago from fabrics with all black backgrounds. It was great fun. I used about 32 different fabrics, and included lots of novelties. It's kind of a low-volume quilt in reverse.
The quilt is made from 2-1/2" squares, 4-1/2" squares and 2-1/2" x 4-1/2" and 4-1/2" x 6-1/2" rectangles arranged arbitrarily.

I wanted the colors to dance across the surface. I wanted it to look abstract, and then I wanted the viewer to discover all the different fabrics.

You can read about how I made it here.

Monday, April 8, 2013

More Low-Key

I went fabric shopping and bought these to add to my low-key Crayons project.
I also selected this lovely Asian print as the  backing. I'll use that cinnamon-y red over on the right as an accent fabric.

I'm liking this more and more, but I am also thinking this is an idea that will be explored more than once. So, yes, there may be a high-key version of this quilt at some point in time.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Black Box

These really aren't great pictures. The room has really crappy light, and the camera didn't flash, but it's finished, and here it is hanging in my bedroom, which is the only wall in the house big enough for it. I'll get some other photos later.

If you want to see the quilt in person, you'll have to visit Quilted Threads in Henniker NH, where it will be on display from April 6 until April 19, or you will have to attend The Quintessential Quilt 2013 in St Louis MO, where I will be teaching a workshop on Saturday October 5 and speaking Sunday October 6, 2013.

Of course, Kathy will get a private showing when she visits me later this year. Kathy visited last summer while I was working on it.

Btw, for anybody who does not know, this quilt is completely original, designed by me, Lynne Tyler. It is totally free pieced, which means it was made without patterns or templates. It was most definitely NOT paper-pieced.

The quilt was quilted by the remarkable Chris Ballard, who does the most extraordinary free-motion quilting. If you can believe it, I just tell Chris to do whatever she wants. Actually, this time I told Chris she could do whatever she wanted as long as she could guarantee me that when I revealed the quilt at QQ2013 later this year, that 200 ladies would fall off their chairs in astonishment! Did we have a good laugh about that!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Magic Fingers

I'm always asked why I do my finish binding on the FRONT of the quilt instead of the back.

Simple answer: I think it looks better. Above, is a photo of a corner of my quilt, all sewn down, by hand, on the front of the quilt. Can you see any stitches? You cannot.

Here is the corner on the back
I don't like the pucker that happens in the corners where the bulk of the fabric pivots. I like my way better, where the fabric appears to be just lying on the top of the edge.

And then there's the ego thing.

When I was in my twenties, (you know, like 30-plus years ago) I was part of an artists-in-the-park day at a local museum. It was hot as hell and I took refuge in the shade. (Everybody else took refuge at the beach.) I was hand quilting a quilt. A little old lady came by and looked at my quilts. She was looking very closely, turning the edges over and over in her hands, looking at the binding both back and the front.

"Which side of the quilt do you sew the finish binding on?" she asked.

"Oh, I do it on the back, so it doesn't show."

"I can't see any stitches. I can't see them on either side."

I reached for a quilt, flipped it over, and pulled the binding apart from the backing slightly, revealing my stitches. "See?"

She examined the quilt again.  "Can you show me how you do it?"

I didn't have anything that needed binding, and my needle was threaded with stiff white quilting thread.  "Well here, let's do this." I folded an edge of my quilt over to the back, and using my quilting thread, demonstrated my blindstitching. (If you want to know how I do it, I have instructions here.)

The quilt was dark blue. I was using stiff white thread. When I was done sewing, neither one of us could see the stitches.  The woman looked at me and smiled. "You have magic fingers."

As she walked away, I looked at my quilts. Why was I hiding my invisible stitches on the back, where they didn't make any difference? If they were truly invisible, I should show them off, on the front.

I've done it that way ever since.

And I've never forgotten the gift she gave me, "You have magic fingers."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Binding the Box

Long ago I discovered an easy way to hand sew binding on a big quilt. You need a table with a straight side, a rolling office chair and a good light. After I pin the binding, I pull it slightly off the table, so it's easy for me to hold. Then I just roll the chair along as I sew. In this way I don't have to worry about moving the quilt or getting stabbed with pins.

The Black Box Quilt will be on display at Quilted Threads for two weeks starting this Saturday, April 6th, so I've got to get the binding sewn down by the end of the week. I worked it out that I need to sew 69" an evening. Got that and a bit more done last night.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Scariest Thing

The scariest thing about finishing up a quilt is trimming the excess backing and binding away, and making the quilt "square." What I mean by "square" is four 90-degree corners and perfectly straight sides. Since the longest straightedge I have is half the length of my quilt, I have had to resort to more devious means of getting a perfectly straight edge.

I use a piece of string. I tape it down to the floor, or table, line up the quilt, set out my 16" and 12" right triangles and pull the string taut.Then I cut along the line.  Yes it's tricky, but there's nothing worse than a wobbly edge, or a crooked one.

I was pleased with this one. I had worked very hard to make sure it was square and the two opposing sides were the same length before I sent it to Chris to be quilted. And when it came back, it was very close to "true" so it didn't need any fiddling.

I've added the binding to the back of the quilt, now all ("all!") I have to do is hand sew it down to the front.

Oh, do you want another picture of the front?

and here's another one.

This little imperfection bugs me, but damn if that wasn't the hardest thing to get right. The quilt was extremely complicated to put it all together and get it right. So much tiny stuff to line up. In the end it was more important to get the quilt to lie perfectly flat.  I figured there would be so much going on in this quilt few people would notice unless I pointed it out.  Oh well. However, it does remind me that it's important to leave the evidence of you hand in a quilt, so nobody will think it was made by a machine.  It's not perfect, but it's perfect.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sneaky Sneak Peek Four

 You really didn't think I was going to show you the whole quilt, did you?