Colour Post: X, Transparency & Space

Everyone’s Got an X features transparency, with translucent “white” stripes overlaid on a coloured bar on a darker background. First up, a couple of definitions and then we’ll get to how we can achieve this effect in our own versions!

  • Transparent: allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen.
  • Translucent: allowing light, but not detailed shapes, to pass through; semitransparent.

Translucency is a degree: 100% translucent is transparent. Any degree of translucency is semi-transparent (not fully transparent).

Everyone’s Got An X is composed of three layers:

  1. A background layer (Fabric A)
  2. An opaque coloured bar crossing from left to right/top to bottom (Fabric C)
  3. Four translucent white stripes crossing on top of the other two layers (Fabrics B and D)

This effect is achieved with just four different fabrics! The first version used a dark grey background layer (A) and a pink bar (C). The transparent white stripes are, in fact, not at all white! They are made with a lighter grey (B) and a pale pink (D).

Photo by Emma Poliquin.

The same reasoning was applied to this earthen tone version above. You may be able to see that the “white” stripes are a bit stronger —meaning they are more opaque and less transparent. This means that they are quite pale in tone, with a starker contrast from the colours “behind” them.

Pieced, quilted and bound by Anja Clyke. Photo by Emma Poliquin.

How about using prints? Here’s how I approached the fabric selection for the baby version above:

  • I determined the background fabric first.
  • Secondly, I picked a print from the same collection that contrasts the background. It reads as a blender (or “near-solid”).
  • Lastly, I picked solids for the stripes — one that looked white stripes obscuring the background and bar. 
Pieced and bound by Brenda Harvey. Photo by Emma Poliquin.

This green one — it looks straightforward enough, right? A monochromatic version. But look closely here: What is going on with the layers? If you think about it as we have with the other examples — background, then bar and then stripes — it doesn’t work. However reordering the layers makes the colours make sense: The base layer is the dark teal, then the transparent white stripes are placed on top of that and lastly a translucent green bar lays on the very top. Josef Albers book Interaction of Color talks about this as “space” — even though we are only working in two dimensions.

From Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color.

Playing with the dominance of one colour over the other, the blue looks like it’s on the top layer (top image) vs under the green (bottom image).
From Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color.

In the next post, I tackle coloured stripes in lieu of white stripes using digital tools to mock them up!

In Search of Botanical

If you ask anybody who knows me even a little bit, they’ll tell you, “Andrea doesn’t do floral.” I don’t wear flowers. I don’t plant or grow flowers because they always die on me. I don’t have any floral prints in any of my home decor. I don’t draw flowers unless I can’t think of anything to draw. But when you put a challenge in front of me, my response will usually be, “Challenge Accepted.”

This quilt is titled In Search of Botanical and marks the beginning of my quest to find my own version of floral. It’s my entry into QuiltCon 2019’s Two-Color Quilt Challenge. It hasn’t been accepted yet, but whether or not that happens is irrelevant to the work itself!

So back to flowers: Don’t get me wrong, I like flowers. Like a bouquet of flowers. And I appreciate flowers — I see their beauty and their appeal. But I don’t often find floral prints that really feel like “me.” There are artists that do work that really appeals to me — Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co., Leah Duncan, Brie Harrison and Arounna Khounnoraj of Bookhou. Many other artists can also be found in Uppercase’s Encyclopedia of Inspiration “Botanica”. And so I set out to find my own style.

Many people say that copying is a form of flattery. Others consider it an infringement of copyright. To me, it’s a way of learning. From a cultural perspective, I’ve had a glimpse at how a Chinese art teacher approaches learning versus how we learn art in a Canadian public school. (Disclaimer: Times have changed, so I’m sure that both have evolved substantially since my experience.) A Western mindset prizes freedom of expression and creativity so a class’ works will look very different across the board. A Chinese approach focuses on technique first then expression later so a class might have works that look very similar to start. I tend towards the latter in my own practice — give me the tools to express myself so that when I have something to say, I can say it accurately and eloquently.

So I started with these inspirational artists and looked at motifs that I liked. I drew them to figure out if I could “make them mine.” As I went along, I continued to layer inspiration and constraints that influenced the design:

  • QuiltCon’s Two-Color Quilt Challenge: Prints may be used as long as they consist of ONLY two colors. Thread color and binding needs to match the two colors in the quilt. Backing can be any color. The deadline for submissions is November 30, 2018. 
  • I was also inspired by an article on gilded artwork and illuminated manuscripts in Uppercase Magazine Issue #38 and went in search of gold metallic fabric and finally found some at The Quilted Castle. It’s from a holiday collection by Windham Fabrics from a few years back.
  • I had a couple of Riley Blake fat quarters in my studio with white and gold metallic and put them into the mix.
  • Learning a new skill. I wanted to try my hand at needle-turn applique since Carolyn Friedlander/Leah Duncan’s Wildabon quilt was a large influence.

A test block based on Suzy Quilt’s Aria quilt pattern.

Let’s talk timeline. (Laughs out loud).

  • July: I was inspired and got my fabrics.
  • August: I tried my hand at needle-turn appliqué and tested a block based on Suzy Quilts’ free pattern Aria.
  • Beginning of October: I whipped up the design in Adobe Illustrator in a couple of hours one evening in August or September.r
  • Mid-October: Started it  on a day trip to Lunenburg for the CCF conference. I got… 3 petals done.

  • November 18: Watched two CreativeBug classes by Carolyn Friedlander on how to do needle-turn applique.
  • November 21: Packed it up and travelled to Montreal/Ottawa for some teaching.
  • November 22-28: Plane rides, train rides, hotel rooms – needle-turning and hand stitching.
  • November 29: Basted, quilted, bound.
  • November 30: Photographed and submitted to QuiltCon.

I really like the medium contrast of these two colours. I like that they’re both “neutral”-“ish”. The gold fabric is basically a cotton completely covered in gold metallic ink. It’s heavy and stiff and feels almost like plastic. It was nice in that the edges didn’t fray as I was turning them under but it was a bit hard jabbing my needle in.

So my final verdict? I loved the process of making this quilt top, but I really dislike the quilting that I did with gold thread. Overall, I am so happy that I made this quilt on a weird timeline and will certainly be doing more needle-turn appliqué in the future. We’ll see what the jury has to say, I guess!

***UPDATE*** This quilt did not get accepted to QuiltCon 2019, but I am nevertheless glad that I ventured into the world of needle-turn appliqué.

The back of the quilt top before the basting stitches were removed.

Front of the quilt top before the basting stitches were removed.

Our Song II – A Collaborative Quilt

As the crowdfunding campaign for Our Song, Your Reflection was unfolding in May and June of this year, I asked a few quilting friends — new and old! — to each make a star block. It could be paper pieced from the original pattern, their own star invention, or a traditional block. With each block, I asked them to share what community means to them. While there was wonderful diversity in their star blocks, it was clear that all of them greatly valued their communities as vital to their quilting practice. Support, inclusion, encouragement, and connection were key words that came up again and again.

Our Song II – a collaborative quilt.

Read about each individual block in “What Does Community Mean to You?” Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

Everyone sent their blocks to me and I had a great pile of happy mail to open from across Canada, the United States, Switzerland, and Australia. And there was one more block to add before I embarked on putting them altogether into one quilt – mine. I chose a traditional friendship star – such simplicity and expression in this little block. The friendship star ended up “leading” the swan in the final design.

I had given the participants a small range of colours to choose from and the subtle variety in colour was a wonderful challenge to assemble into a cohesive whole. I was pretty scared at first, but I finally had to jump in and learned that the only scary thing about this project was the jumping in! I found my process was the most painterly experience I’ve had in my quilting life. (I felt a bit like Neil Buchanan from Art Attack! Remember that show?) As you can see, I used a wide variety of solid scraps to blend the colours together. There was a modularity to the grid of the design – the blocks measured 2″ x 6″ or 6″ x 6″ finished, which allowed me to use standard 2 1/2″ strips to do some filling in.

What was important to the creation of this quilt was laying it out on the floor instead of on a design wall. This gave me the option to casually drop a crumpled mess of fabric to fade the colours into one another. I found this to be a really creative and invigorating process after a loss in “sewjo” over the summer.

The inclusion of a swan was an obvious reference to the original Our Song, Your Reflection quilt, but without the lone star behind it. I’m happy announce that I will be releasing this 20″ swan block as a separate pattern – one that is less daunting than the whole Our Song pattern. It will be released on Oct. 11, 2018 as the “Our Song Swan”! Stay tuned.

For the water that the swan sat on, I used triangular scraps from the first #oursongquilt to signify the otherwise calm water being disturbed by the swan’s presence. These little bits also helped the colours transition from blue to yellow-green.

Straight-line quilting was all I had the time for and I took a bit of a risk — I used a 28wt Aurifil thread in a peachy colour (2315). It’s a heavier weight of thread than I’m comfortable using so I crossed my fingers that it would look OK and not be too obvious.

I used the same type of blending method for the binding. A handful of colours to continue the design of the quilt right to the edge rather than to frame it.

The backing was a bit of an unconventional choice – Carolyn Friedlander’s Snake in Ash from her Gleaned collection. There was no clear connection colour-wise to the front of the quilt, but the design spoke “feathers” to me (rather than snake!) so I found it to be fitting.

I’d like to thank the following people for lending their time and energy to this project. What a joy you were to work with!
Alyce Blyth of Blossom Heart Quilts
Mathew Boudreaux, Mister Domestic
Shannon Fraser of Shannon Fraser Designs
Krista Henneberry of Poppyprint
Lisa Hoffman-Maurer of Sew What You Love
Adrienne Klenck of Seam Work
HollyAnne Knight of String & Story
Stacey O’Malley of SLOstudio
Kim Soper of Leland Ave Studios
Silvia Sutters, A Stranger View
Julia Wentzell of Briar Hill Designs
Kitty Wilkin, Night Quilter
Your Reflection, by Meaghan Smith from the Our Song, Your Reflection project. Keep an eye out for Our Song II at the end!

Canned Pineapples: 2019 Quilter’s Planner Blog Hop

Welcome to the 2019 Quilter’s Planner Blog Hop! If you’re new to 3rd Story Workshop, I’m Andrea Tsang Jackson – a designer, artist, quilt maker, and probably some other things. Today, at the beginning of a summer long weekend here in Canada, I get to introduce you to my design, “Canned Pineapples.” A combination of small paper-pieced pineapple blocks and embroidery, this hoop quilt uses a small handful of scraps to produce a glowing group of fireflies.

Photo taken by Kitty Wilkin (Night Quilter) for The Quilter’s Planner 2019

Do you remember being a young adult? Maybe you are one! That feeling of freedom to do whatever you wanted to do? No adults (or kids) dictating what you could or could not do… because you were the adult in charge? Eating supper in front of the television. Staying up late just because you could. Eating cake for breakfast. Taking off for a weekend with your friends to see a concert.

Photo taken by Kitty Wilkin (Night Quilter) for The Quilter’s Planner 2019

That’s what my friends did every summer. We would go on a camping trip to Saratoga Springs, NY to see a Dave Matthews concert because often that was the closest venue to us on the band’s tour. We drove for a few hours, crossed the border, set up our tents, set off for the Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center, danced in the rain while enjoying our favourite band. One post-concert night, we stayed up watching fireflies under the stars which shone so brightly in the black night. It was magical.*

Of my paper pieced animal patterns, I have a land animal (Sleepy Fox) and a sea animal (Narwhals #1 and #2). I wanted to round out the collection with an air animal. Fireflies (or as I have learned, “lightning bugs” in the south) were the perfect inspiration.

I have seen a lot of beautiful pineapple blocks lately, both large and small (Karen LewisMelanie TuazonGiuseppe Ribaudo). “Canned Pineapples” uses the block’s radiating geometry to create a glowing effect with a gradient from bright yellow to navy. They aren’t too too tiny, so they’re very achievable. And with only three in the design you could put this together relatively quickly.

I am no embroidery expert, but I have done some in my crafty past. I liked exploring these different stitches to add some smaller fireflies to the composition.

Photo taken by Kitty Wilkin (Night Quilter) for The Quilter’s Planner 2019

A project of this scale is so satisfying and I am thrilled to share it with you in the 2019 Quilter’s Planner. You can pre-order your 2019 Quilter’s Planner here (U.S. customers), and your pre-order comes with some extraordinary goodies. Canadian pre-orders can order through Clinton Modern or Mad About Patchwork. Another U.S. and international option is Fat Quarter Shop.

*My future husband was there with me. I just didn’t know it.

There are plenty of amazing patterns in the 2019 Quilter’s Planner. Follow along on the blog hop and see what’s in there:

Monday, July 23: Cheryl Brickey Meadow Mist Designs @meadowmistdesigns
Wednesday, July 25: Kitty Wilkin Night Quilter @nightquilter
Friday, July 27: Karie Jewell Two Kwik Quilters @karie_twokwikquilters
Monday, July 30: Mandy Leins Mandalei Quilts @mandaleiquilts
Wednesday, August 1: Megan Fisher @ayragon
YOU ARE HERE –> Friday, August 3: Andrea Tsang Jackson 3rd Story Workshop @3rdstoryworkshop
Monday, August 6: Trinia  Braughton Penguin Feats @penquinfeats
Wednesday, August 8: Lee Monroe May Chappell @maychappell
Friday, August 10: Karen Lewis Karen Lewis Textiles @karenlewistextiles
Monday, August 13: Isabelle Selak South Bay Bella Studio @southbaybella
Wednesday, August 15: Sylvia Schaefer Flying Parrot Quilts @flyingparrotquilts
Friday, August 17: Yvonne Fuchs Quilting Jetgirl @quiltingjetgirl
Monday, August 20: Kate Colleran Seams Like a Dream @seamslikeadreamquilts
Wednesday, August 22: Shannon Fraser Shannon Fraser Designs @shannonfraserdesigns
Friday, August 24: Kerry Goulder Kid Giddy @kidgiddy
Monday, August 27: Kitty Wilkin Night Quilter @nightquilter

Photo taken by Kitty Wilkin (Night Quilter) for The Quilter’s Planner 2019

Sleepy Fox Quilt: Thoughts on the Client Relationship

Sometimes you come across a dream client: Someone who lets you explore as an artist, someone who wants you to succeed, someone who wants what’s best for them and what’s best for you. These people are hard to come by. This happened to me in early spring 2017, with the commission of the Sleepy Fox quilt.

A previous customer was now pregnant with her first baby and wanted a gender neutral quilt for her baby’s woodland nursery. She was following my work closely. She loved Elizabeth Hartman’s Fancy Fox and how I had paired it with improv birch trees. (tutorial here). And she loved wood grain free motion quilting. She wanted an original fox design in my own geometric style and — here’s the kicker — wanted me to design it so that I could sell the pattern later. She wanted the perfect keepsake quilt for her baby, and she wanted me to get the most out of the process.

Here’s how I have been approaching commissioned work, as of late:

  1. We discuss what the client wants: Design, colours, dimensions, rough timeline.
  2. I decide on a price for my labour (read some thoughts below), and I estimate the price of materials. The client pays for the materials separately.
  3. I specify the process: I will provide two preliminary designs. The client will pick one and we will refine that design with up to two revisions (different colours, design tweaks, slightly different layout, etc.). It is not an eternal back-and-forth.
  4. I state that I require a 50% deposit before I begin the work.
  5. I give an estimated date for completion of the work based on what else is going on in my work life and personal life.
  6. If the client agrees, then we proceed. I then give some intermediate dates – when I will send the preliminary designs, when to expect the finished piece with a shipping deadline.

How I price labour: I estimate how much time it’s going to take me to design and then execute a project. I charge a higher rate for design time and a lower rate for execution. There are a few factors that play into this decision. [Disclaimer: I have in no way, shape or form, figured out pricing, but here are my thoughts on pricing design vs. execution.]

Design work takes a certain skill set that is developed through specialized training and experience. I happen to have both formal training and experience in this realm. Also, I’ve gotten relatively fast at it, and I pay for software to allow me to do it efficiently and well. And there is no reason that I should be penalized for my speed, which comes from experience. Therefore I charge a higher rate.

Execution I charge less for. To be honest, I am not that experienced in piecing, basting, quilting and binding. I’ve only been seriously doing it for about 18 months. My workmanship is not top-notch, and as a result, my results are not top-of-the-line. I’m might also be slower at it than a more experience person and I make more mistakes that I have to fix. So why should my client be penalized for my slowness? Therefore I charge a lower rate.

The client and I shopped for fabric together at Patch and found the perfect combination of colours and a Dear Stella Pine Grove backing. I also had some hand-printed Keephouse scraps in black and white to add to the improv birch trees. The sky colour is Essex Yarn-dyed Linen; I love the texture of these linens, both visually and in a tactile sense.

Here is what I used:

  • Fox: Free Spirit Solids Apricot, Tango, White, Raven; Kona Solids in Paprika
  • Trees: Free Spirit Solids White, Raven; Keephouse Studio hand-printed linen in “Rows”
  • Ground: Free Spirit Solids in Silver
  • Sky: Essex Yarn-Dyed in Aqua
  • Binding: Free Spirit Solids in Malachite, White
  • Backing: Pine Grove – Fox, Deer, Owls by Dear Stella

It took me longer than I had estimated originally, but I had such a good time putting it together that it didn’t bug me, as it sometimes does. And also, I considered it part of the upfront time that pattern design takes.

The Sleepy Fox paper piecing pattern is available as a PDF download here.

A satisfied heart that was full of gratitude. That’s what I came away with. Lucky me.

Have You Met… Rhya Tamašauskas?

Quilting hit me like an unexpected delicious pie to the face…I’m in love with it. it feels cozy and warm, just like coming home. — Rhya Tamašauskas


Rhya Tamašauskas is a Toronto-based designer and co-founder of the plush toy company Monster Factory. As a design instructor at a Design Exchange summer camp in 2008, I crossed paths with Rhya while on a field trip to the Monster Factory studio, which closed at the end of 2016. Unbeknownst to either of us, we would each find ourselves drawn into the quilting world and cross paths for a second time almost eight-and-a-half years later on Instagram. Rhya’s paper-pieced designs are a combination of whimsy and quirk; one could never imagine doe-eyed root vegetables and frolicking kittens the way she has. Her work tells stories through textiles.

What kind of stories do you like to tell and why?

My stories come from my memories and experiences, and are then mixed with magic and of course seasoned with humor. Oh, and they are always bursting with wild characters. I am a passionate daydreamer and for as long as I can remember I’ve always loved the idea of magical realism, where our ordinary world can be heightened with wonder and enchantment. For example a regular old city street can be teeming with strange and endearing creatures or a root vegetable can come to life and join you for a picnic in the park.

Quilting allows me to capture tiny snapshots of these stories in a block, and then combine them all together to create a larger tale and world created from stitches and seams.

What are three words that describe your design and/or quilting style?

Modern, Folksy, Charming. 

And I think it would be fair to say that my work is both salty and sweet all at once, if that makes sense.

What drew you into quilting and why do you love it?

Quilting hit me like an unexpected delicious pie to the face.  My story begins with an invitation to create a couple blocks for a community quilt that would be gifted to the lovely Jacqueline Sava of Soak Wash. I was excited to contribute but wasn’t even sure where to start? My grandmother has always been an incredible quilter and I’ve admired her work since I was a little girl, but I had honestly never considered quilting as vehicle for my stories and designs until I faced this project. So I did as I always do, dove straight in, drafting up a design and then sewing away.

Let’s just say I was hooked immediately and that my stitch ripper got a real work out on that project! I finished those two blocks and I haven’t looked back since. Since then I’ve just been designing and designing. I’ve been reading and studying up like crazy about different techniques and tips and tricks. And I’ve also found a brilliant and supportive community of makers online. It’s been so wonderful getting to learn about this art, where it started and the incredible makers from past to present who make up this beautiful world of patchwork and piecing.

I love quilting and block design because it allows me to tell stories through stitches and textiles. And I love how the properties and challenges of drawing with fabric inform my design and the final product. I’ve been experimenting intensively over the last year with patchwork and paper piecing, trying to find just the right balance and shape of seams to make my work resonate with excitement and character.

I feel a little ridiculous saying this, but I feel obsessed. I wake up in the morning with ideas and can’t wait to see them come to life on my sewing machine. It’s enriching and fulfilling and my creative spirit feels like it is spinning with potential! And I can’t wait to see where this journey will take me next!

What other media do you enjoy working with?

I love illustration, specifically drawing with pen and ink and painting with gouache or watercolor. Before discovering quilting I was deep into experimenting with surface design, creating oodles of repeat patterns teeming with strange stories and funny critters. In fact, I feel as though my quilt designs are minimal and graphic version of my illustrations. And of course I think surface design and quilt design can go hand in hand. It’s impossible to not consider how a fabric design might heighten a quilt pattern I’m making, and how I could design the perfect one! For example if I’m creating a character who might be sporting a sweater or pants, I could see designing a repeat pattern to use for the clothing pieces. It would be a great opportunity to incorporate my illustration into the blocks and also another avenue to add more story and dimension.

And last but not least I still adore toy making. I’m currently tinkering with a doll design right now. A line I’m hoping to create using Spoonflower and potentially release as a pattern for others to download and make.But ultimately at this moment in time, my heart has found a home in a world full of dazzling geometric patterns and stories. I’m in love with quilting.  It feels cozy and warm, just like coming home.

Find Rhya on Instagram @rhya.