How Can Beginner Quilters Make The Transition From Traditional Blocks To Contemporary Quilts?

The majority of people in this group are just starting out with quilting and make traditional patchwork blocks.

How can we make the leap from those traditional blocks to your quilts, which are, in comparison, very modern in appearance?

Ricky: You must have the willingness to give it a shot. Also, no one should ever feel the need to transition from one genre to another, especially if they are content in their current position and are engaged in activities that they enjoy. There is only one reason for someone to make that change, and that is if they are inspired to make it.

This is a challenging question to answer because it concerns the path that they would take in the future. Technique is a separate topic. People have thoughts pop up in their heads. They have an idea for a quilt that they want to make, but they are unsure of how to make it.

If you only know how to sew squares together, or maybe how to sew half-square triangles together, then you are limited to two things for every quilt you will make. If you only know how to sew squares together, then maybe you know how to sew half-square triangles together. You will be able to at least add some appliqué on top of those squares or half-square triangles if you learn how to do appliqué later on.

My point is that the more skills you acquire and the more you learn how to combine a variety of elements, the better equipped you will be to realize any idea that pops into your head because you will have the knowledge and experience necessary to make it a reality.

This is a blessing that has come my way. You attended the seminar that I gave. I will instruct you in various techniques. They are not going to learn how to draw anything from me. I’m going to give them some basic guidelines on how to make a patchwork out of it.

Many of the students who attended a seminar have thanked me for teaching them these techniques and guiding them through the process of applying these principles. For at least five years, I’ve been mulling over an idea that’s been floating around in my head. Now that I know I can do it, I can go home and draw it up and get it done. I have finally figured out how to make it happen. In the end, it all comes down to acquiring the skills you’ll require in order to make this a reality.

Drawing is all that is required to acquire the necessary design skills. People frequently state that they are unable to draw. I don’t either. When I say that, people chuckle and make derisive comments.

If you were to put me in front of a piece of paper and tell me, “Ricky, let’s draw a picture of a little boy walking a dog,” the end result would be less impressive than the work of a first grader. It’s possible that after a couple of days of fiddling with it, I can get it to look acceptable. On the other hand, I am able to comprehend curved lines, simple abstracts, and flowing lines.

Every student in the Rhapsody design class that I teach uses two different exercises to design their appliqués. I teach this class. The first one involves making a drawing of a motif similar to a fleur-de-lis based on what you see. They are not tracing it; rather, they are drawing it and modifying it so that it fits into the shape they are attempting to use. They will fuss with that for twenty or thirty minutes until it is just right.

The following step in the process is to give them an atypical form. Within the confines of that shape, they fashion an appliqué out of thin air. They carry out a drill in which they draw it from something. After that, they wipe the palette clean and begin the drawing process anew, this time beginning with a blank slate.

Never in the history of my teaching career have I had a student who could not produce a pattern that was suitable for use on a quilt. It’s as one-of-a-kind as their signature or handwriting. Observing how each of them develops their own unique personality is one of my favorite things to do.

Penny: Have you witnessed the transformation of any of them into quilts?

Ricky: Absolutely. The final chapter of the brand-new Rhapsody book is dedicated entirely to displaying a gallery of quilts that were all created by students, and each one features one of their very own unique designs. It’s a very thrilling experience.

I started sneaking into the grocery store to look at the magazine rack while I was working on those traditional blocks for my first quilt. I decided to start collecting various quilting magazines. What quilting was doing in 1991 to become very contemporary and artistic was very enlightening to me, and I gained a lot of insight as a result.

Because of my background in music, both art and music have always played an important role in my life. I wasn’t much of a painter or a drawer, but I always had an appreciation for the arts. What actually transpired was that I became motivated simply by looking at those pictures. Then, as I continued to read those magazines, I became aware that there was a tool known as a rotary cutter, which was something I had no prior knowledge of.

I was blown away the first time I used my new mat, rotary cutter, and ruler that I had recently purchased. I envisioned myself creating a landscape with undulating hills and sinuous curves as I worked. When I tried to cut flowing curves with scissors, it was impossible, but when I used the rotary cutter, it seemed perfectly logical.

I put these landscaped-typed quilts together that were not fancy by any standards. I didn’t use seams that were any wider than a quarter of an inch, and I was breaking every rule without even realizing it. If there was something that wasn’t completely flat, I would press on it very hard until it was flat.

I always tell people that ignorance is one of the most beautiful things that has ever existed. If you are ignorant, you are not going to berate yourself for failing to perform a task in the appropriate manner. Because I didn’t really know what the rules were, I didn’t have any restrictions on what I could do, and I wasn’t afraid to experiment with anything.

If you check out my work on my website, you will see that I have a gallery of quilts that is both older and more recent. When you look at those old quilts that were made within the first year, you’ll notice that some of them have a very contemporary artistic style. These quilts just happened to be created that way because I had it in me to create them.

With contributions from Ricky Tims and Penny Halgren of the website

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