At the last meeting, we started the Demo Series that Rhonda is organizing.

  • Design (June 2012 meeting)
  • Piecing (August 2012 meeting)
  • Quilting (September 2012 meeting)
  • Binding (November 2012 meeting)

The first demo was more of a lecture. Jaye gave us a Design Overview. She told us why we should care about design principles and elements. Notes below.

Design Class Overview (BAMQG June 2, 2012)

Several months ago, Sandy, of Quilting for the Rest of Us podcast,   asked Jaye if she would considering talking with Sandy and her listeners about design. Jaye said she was reluctant. She doesn’t consider herself to be an expert, but Sandy is pretty good at convincing people to do stuff and Jaye said she is good at research. It has taken Jaye some time to find the time, coalesce her thoughts and start to do the research. So, ready to go, back in September, Sandy and Jaye recorded a podcast where they started to talk about design. 

The first podcast we recorded was an overviewof design. Jaye and Sandy discussed the principles and elements of design. They talked about what the principles and elements are in design and some examples of how to use them. Thanks to Rhonda, this is what Jaye talked to BAMQG about on Saturday.

Design is a problem solving activity within all the arts, placing or creating subject matter so it is of visual significance and interesting to the artist. (The Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg.xi)
Design is to plan or organize. It is the opposite of change. The result is visual organization (Pentak & Lauer, pg.4)
“Principles of design are the laws of designing anything! In other words, to have a good design, you should consider these principles for the best design possible. Elements of design on the other hand are things that are involved within making a design. The major difference between principles and elements is that principles are rules you have to follow and elements are things that will help you complete those rules for the best project outcome.” (
Elements of Design:
The elements form the ‘vocabulary‘ of the design (Wikipedia, design elements and principles).
The elements are components or parts which can be isolated and defined in any visual design or work of art. They are the structure of the work…” ( 
Principles of Design
Emphasis/Focal Point
The principles constitute the broader structural aspects of the design’s composition (Wikipedia, design elements and principles).
The Principles are concepts used to organize or arrange the structural elements of design. (
Again, the way in which these principles are applied affects the expressive content, or the message of the work (

Some more of my thoughts…
In the research I have done, I have found that there is no Design Guru. Everyone has a different take on design and even what the principles and elements are. When working with these concepts, you have to be flexible.

Knowing about design principles and elements helps refine your innate skill. Everyone has innate design skills.


Concept: I use patterns why do I need to know about design?
  • Color is an element of design. To make beautiful quilts, you need to know about color. If you buy a kit, there may be one color you do not like and by knowing about design, you will be able to replace it successfully.
  • Balance is a principle of design. If your eye sees an element of the quilt as being unbalanced, then knowing about design will help you adjust it.
  • Borders: the way you add borders to a quilt can make the design of the quilt look finished or chopped off. : does slapping on 4 lengths of fabric work with the design you have chosen or would a bit of piecing enhance your excellent quilt top?
Concept: I am not an art quiltmaker, why do I need to know about design principles and elements?
  • “Some designs lack that indefinable life – or spark – that lifts them out of the mundane, the predictable, the commonplace …. learning about design elements and principles helps you train your vision and refine your subconscious decision making.” (Fearless Design for Every Quilter by Lorraine Torrence, pg.57)
  • Negative space in fabric: “When choosing prints for a patchwork, think about how they’ll look when cut up. Does that small print have so much negative (empty) space that the actual print part won’t show up on half of the pieces? Is that large print so big that the pieces cut from it will look like they’re from entirely different pieces of fabric?
  • Books: when looking at books and evaluating whether you want to spend money on it, you can evaluate the various elements and principles of  design included in the patterns of the book.
Concept: I only use Jelly Rolls and Layer Cakes to make my quilts, why do I need to know about design?
·        Jelly Rolls, Layer cakes and the other “Bake Shop items” are great places to start in quiltmaking, but they do not always lead you to the best possible design. Not only do you need to look at the colors in the fabrics, but you also need to look at the scale and variety of the motifs.
o   We buy a lot of medium colored fabrics and fabric companies are in business to sell fabrics, thus many of the layer cakes and jelly rolls have predominantly medium fabrics.
o   We also use a lot of medium scale prints, thus many of the layer cakes and jelly rolls have predominantly medium scale prints.
o   In general, it is a good design practice to remove approximately 20% of the  fabrics in a layer cakes or jelly roll and replace them with other fabrics, so that you get the variety that you need. This practice also makes the quilt your own.
More Thoughts:
A good design supports or changes how we live” – John E. B. Dubus blog post Sept 23, 2010.
 Many quiltmakers, though not formally trained in art (e.g. an MFA in fine art), have intuitive art sensibilities. (Fearless Design for Every Quilter by Lorraine Torrence, pg.5) If you are a creative person you have intuitive design sensibilities. Knowing about design helps you refine your work and hone those innate sensibilities.
Judy Martin wrote in her May 2012 newsletter ” My basic philosophy boils down to this: I try to do what’s right for the quilt, not what’s right for me. It might be easier to slap a plain border on and be done with it, but if the quilt looks better with a pieced border, that’s what I do. It might be easier to make it out of 5 fabrics, but if it looks better in scraps, that’s what I do. If it looks more refined with 1-inch logs rather than 2-inch, that’s what I do. If it looks more interesting as a queen rather than a 36-inch square wall quilt, that’s what I do.”
 This is a pretty high level overview. If you want more information, please follow along with the Design Series on the Quilting…for the Rest of Us podcast. 
  • Design Basics, 5th, c.1999, David A. Lauer, Stephen Pentak
  • Fearless Design for Every Quilter by Lorraine Torrence
  • A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color and Design by Heather Thomas
  • The Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d by Ann Johnston
 Please leave a comment or email Jaye. 
You can find more information at:
Artquiltmaker Blog
Artquiltmaker Design Series
Quilting… for the Rest of Us Podcast