Practical Thread Magic

When I come to teach to a group, there's always a frantic rush of questions and concerns. I don't play with the same toys other quilters do. Though I talk about that at length in class, I thought it would be helpful to have that information available in a blog. So here we're going to discuss the nuts and bolts of the kind of thread work I love and teach. We'll discuss products, choices, threads, fabrics, tools, stabilizers and all the things that make my work work for me, and will help your work work for you.

If you have an upcoming class with me, you should know I bring almost all of the things I use for your needs. If you want to try something you've got, absolutely bring it. But if you're having trouble finding it, please don't stress. I'll have it there for you.

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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Would You Like To Have A Class With Ellen?

Ellen would be delighted to have a class with you or your group! You can check out her classes at She also offers independent studio time in her studio in Indiana. Talk to Ellen about classes at 219-921-0885, or contact her scheduler Melida at 405-735-3703 .to set a date
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Designing Ways: Dancing in the Grid

Back to fabric design. We've all watched Dancing with the Stars. Once we're done with that and Steve Goodman, how about Dancing with Butterflies? Remember the Arther Mury patterns on the floor? Basically they were just moving in squares. 
Just as an exercise in design, I took a butterfly drawing, colored it and went dancing with it in squares.
 As I was playing with the placement, it wasn't long before I recognized that it was just like playing with a triangle quilt design.
Angling the butterflies as triangles and making them different sizes turned them into instant quilt squares. Who knew? Designing fabric is really designing quilts.
I did this in Illustrator, partially because I'm trying to learn the program and it was as good an exercise as any. But it would be so much easier in something like Electric Quilt 7. I flipped them, shrunk them, turned them, and made them dance. 

Then I added a curlicue.
Fabric design is rhythmic pattern across a surface. It dances as it repeats itself, in the same patterns or in patterns that reflect or flip the original shape. 
Like all dancing, it's endless, built for improvisation, but always in place with it's on rhythms. Am I there yet? I don't think so. I need to practice with Arthur Murry, just a bit more.Want to dance?
Wrapping it up: Designing both quilts and fabric is about rhythmic patterns in and out of a grid.
Find more information about designing fabric on Spoonflower.
Find really cool design software at 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Designing Ways: Gravity Meets Geometry

What makes a shape move? We acknowledged that graphically on paper, things move strictly in our head. After years of things falling down around us, we can look at shapes at certain angles and say, "Yep. That's falling." We observe that it should be moving, and our mind makes it do that.
So what makes a shape itself mobile(moving) or static(staying still)?

In the same way angles make things move, symmetry makes things stay in place. A square is the ultimate stable shape. Nothing about it suggests movement. Because it's even sides it doesn't even move the eye from the center.
That changes a bit when we draw it in three dimensions. The third dimension adds an angle just in the drawing, and we see it move a bit.
If we elongate the square into rectangles, the shape is much more mobile. As we go further from equal sides and symmetry, our shapes are more mobile.

But when we put them in a line and change the size the movement is in place and active. The eye connects them into a shape with one side much longer than the other, making things move.

Of course if we put them in at extreme angles, they tumble across the surface.

How does this translate to quilts that never have a square in them? All shapes are geometric shapes we manipulate into organic shapes. But the shape of the quilt itself, is the strongest one. A quilt designed with an elongated outline is in motion from it's inception.

Wrapping it up:
Symmetrical object are stable. They do not move unless you put them at an angle or unless you use them to create a shape that is longer on one side than another.
Non-symmetrical shapes aways have the suggestion of movement built in to their form.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Designing Ways: Gravity and Motion, Movement in Design

We talk about designs moving. But in reality, unless you're dealing with a series of images, they can't. A two-dimensional image is stuck in one place forever. What moves is not the image. It's our imagination of what happens next to the image. We imagine the movements that must, in our experience happen after where the image is now.

We have a life long experience of  gravity. We know when things are going to fall. We also can see from that same life experience when something appears balanced and stable. Our life experience supplies the suggestion that something is moving. The picture itself stays stable.What is the defining element? The angle of the object.
Our tree moves here because she's off balance. Her yellow background is at an angle against hers and the feeling is that she's in extreme motion.
Our tree here is reaching up at a slight angle. But she's not really moving because she's stable against her background.

This tree is completely rooted and solid where she is. Her angle is straight and vertical to the sides of the work. She's 
not going anywhere.

  1. Summing it up, all movement in design is an illusion formed from our memory and experience of gravity.
  2. If we recreate the feeling of falling or motion in a design, the design will appear to move.
  3. All movement is created in the angles we apply to our designs.
Next, Moving in on and around a grid.


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