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Inspiring Quilting: Elly's blog to boost your creative IQ

Archive for the ‘Flowers’ Category

Simply Flowers

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

There were dozens of dazzling, grand-scale arrangements at the Philadelphia Flower Show this year:

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Of course the aromas and the views of these wow’ems from all sides add a whole lot to the horticultural spectacle…sometimes to the point of stimuli overload.

Maybe that’s what makes me gravitate to the small, simple designs. Call me a minimalist, but I defy you not to fall in love with the following charmers. Just one type of flower–and fairly common, affordable ones at that:



Add just one more floral element, twigs, a leaf…



This next one’s gigantic, but it’s only roses and pussy willow, inspired by a future installation at Storm King Arts Center:


A pairing of two common houseplants…but a closer look  reveals a very uncommon placement of buds at the base of the philodendron (?) leaf. Can anyone id either of these plants for me?


By now, you’ve got me pegged as a sucker for singular simplicity. It’s always been that way, I think, even guiding the choices of quilt designs I’ve put into my books.  My “Ttableleaf-rev (2)able Leaf,” from Skinny Quilts & Table Runners, shows how just one  leaf can be quite striking.








In Skinny Quilts & Table Runners II, check out how Jane Davila’s appliqued “Las Hojas” or  Frieda Anderson’s pieced “Blushing Aspens” make one type of leaf in multiple dance across the background.


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Or how about a single type of flower, like “Wisteria Lane,” by Melinda Bula, or “The Dahlia is a Diva,” by Julie Popa of Sunflower Hill ?

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After working for months on a big, spectacular, multi-block queen size bed quilt or tour-de-force wall hanging, who wouldn’t want the simplicity of a skinny slice of a project, one with just a fewer patterns, ease of assembly, a chance to just dip into a playful, new technique. But what is it about simplicity that makes a design, whether with florals or fabrics, cause our emotions to burst into bloom?

Tell me your thoughts about simplicity or florals in quilts or whatever this blog post inspires you to write in the comment box below. You could be the lucky winner of autographed copies of both Skinny Quilts & Table Runners and Skinny Quilts & Table Runners II!  The Philadelphia Flower Show runs thru Sunday, March 10, and I’ll choose a winner from among the comments at the end of that day.








Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Horticulture inspired by the arts–that’s the theme of  the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show.


Picture frames invite you to see the floral designs as art forms.


At its most exciting (for me), the floral arrangements immediately call to mind the work of specific celebrated artists. For example, spheres of blooms may appear as  Seuss-ical celestial systems. But step directly in front of the frame, and Wassily Kandinsky is in the room.



Bet you can guess whose work inspired the following vignettes…

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For some reason, I’m not quite sure why, the priceless fine art masterpieces cannot be exhibited alongside the arty horticulture. I do think that showing printed images of signature artworks would help folks make the parallels, give this show many teachable moments, and make fine art accessible to a new crop of viewers! After all, you might go Mmmm at these compositions, but the satisfaction is so much greater if you are familiar with Mondrian, Monet, Matisse, and Magritte.

So how great is it when the actual painting that inspired the floral design can be and IS exhibited alongside it. Paintings by students at PAFA–the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts have mood and color palettes picked up by the floral designer. Sooo cool.



As always, I loved being at the Philadelphia Flower Show–especially just after yet another snowfall and with wind chill temperatures dipping down to the ridiculous.

In a future blog post, I hope to point up with my pics how floral designers in this show successfully use the elements of art: color, texture, line, rhythm, balance, unity, and so on.

But I can’t sign off ’til I touch on quilting! Don’t wanna get into that timeworn debate of quilts as art vs. craft. Except to opine that taking a traditional craft form and infusing it with all the elements of art takes it to a different realm. Whether your palette is paint, or flowers, or fabric, all you need is inspiration!

Do add your comment! I’d love to hear how ART is at the heART of what you do, and if you draw on fine art as inspiration for your quilting.


Let us all praise purple

Friday, December 6th, 2013

On last night’s Project Runway All Stars, the challenge was to give Marge Simpson a new dress—for the very first time!—to wear on a date night out with Homer. The purple color of the winning dress was the perfect complement to blue hair and yellow skin. And the designer, Irina Shabayeva recognized Marge’s cute figure and comfort level in featuring a strapless dress that showed some leg and could be belted or left to fully swirl.

I adore purple for the way it partners with yellow, chartreuse, and yes, even orange. Purple represents royalty, piety, the pathway for bridging Republican Red and Democratic Blue. The Purple Heart is given for courage. And purple grapes can ferment so deliciously. The Beatles have their White Album. Here’s my Paean to Purple:

News flash! The fashion and decorating color experts just announced ORCHID as the color for 2014. Close enough.

Leave a comment, telling me how you prize The Color Purple in your quilting. I’ll award a bag of scintillating scraps from my stash of purple fabrics to the one whose comment most captures my imagination or tickles my fancy. Friday the 13th at 12 noon (EST) is your thriller-diller deadline. Don’t think pink. Think purple.

PS–I just put together the purple prize. Some pieces are indeed large scraps, but others are 2 yards. Total is more than 8 yards. Worth winning, wouldn’t you say?

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Earth Day Dabbling

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Went wOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAalking with the husband yesterday, snapping pics of all the early spring flowers.

In our ‘hood, even humble plant pairings in clay pots looked spectacular.

Doncha love pansies that combine unlikely colors? Gives you the feeling that such a color palette might also succeed in a quilt…

Walked to work in celebration of Earth Day today. OK, truth is, I always walk to work–as my office and sewing studio is in my house. But before I get down to the nitty gritty, I’m auditioning my photo faves as art quilt subjects. Oh, and playing around with basic photo editing.  Jasc Photo Album lets me brighten and add vibrancy…or use special effects to radically invert the color palette…





Flowering trees–Japanese cherry trees, crepe myrtles, magnolias, and more gave otherwise gritty alleyways a blushing gracefulness. Please leave a comment if you can identify this tree for me!

A “solarizing” effect gave a softer, other-worldly glow that has, for me, a calming effect…perhaps the lack of contrast, and the cool blues and greens.


We strolled through the ritzy Society Hill neighborhoods, where folks spend gobs of moolah on abundant plantings, no doubt professionally designed and installed.



A special effects called Glass Blocks let me turn this into a beautiful abstraction. If you’re intoxicated with color, you might even envision a Drunkard’s Path quilt or a granny motif afghan for a different sort of flower bed. In any case, do enjoy wending your way along your own path, letting Mother Nature and Tanta Technology inspire creativity!


A Flower Show is rather like a Quilt Show…

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013


The Philadelphia Flower Show is rather like a royal banquet: a feast for the eyes…and nose, for that matter. I’m not so green, having been to a few even in the years before my husband and I transplanted ourselves to within walking distance of the Convention Center.  So I can say with some ability to judge by comparison that this year is as sumptuous and exciting as any. Worry not that the theme of Great Britain provides the horticultural parallel to bland English food. Rather, the title: “Brilliant!” inspired exhibitors to bring on the riches and inspiration by the barrel.


The Flower Show is rather like an art exhibit. As I constantly snapped pics–like everyone else holding up an Iphone, cell phone, Ipad, or humongous big box camera with telescoping lens–I realized that  the same elements that make art well, art, make for a successful floral arrangement or garden bed: color, contrast, value, line, texture, pattern play, composition, balance, rhythm, repetition.

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A flower show is rather like a collection of stories.  And storytelling is where the Philadelphia Flower Show exhibits are bloomin’ awesome.  The Commonwealth (of England, that is, not Pennsylvania) provides lots of inspiration for conjuring up romantic idylls—cottage gardens, rustic hideaways, Mary Poppins and Peter Pan roof-tops. There is more than a nod to literature, i.e., Beatrix Potter, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen.

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Some of the very best scenes were inspired by Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, and Harry Potter, though my flashbulb dispelled the magic of the dark spaces of  laboratories, back alleys and narrow passageways,  underground subway stations and ancient crypts.

Surely, the graphic jolt and nostalgic sentiments of books and text heightens the take-away of a flower show:

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Pop culture played loud and clear as well, with too many yellow submarines to count, and a Peter Max-like review of musicians playing on the Big Ben clockface screen.


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A flower show is rather a heady affair, and with a British accent and the most recent royal wedding, this means crowns and fascinators. You remember, those little headpieces that defy gravity as they perch atop the head? The breakout fashion accessory seen at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton? Lots of show-goers took advantage of a make-and-take opportunity and sported their fascinators through the show and out into the wintry winds. Of course, the headgear of the show were all composed of floral sprigs, stalks, berries, pods, leaves, moss, and fresh flowers.



One popular feature of the flower show is rather like an exhibit of  dollhouses. There are always long lines to peer at the miniature displays, but at the end of the evening on a Monday, I was able to drag the husband through at a good clip. He admitted the prize winners were mind-bogglingly sophisticated, rather than cloyingly cute.


A flower show is rather like a scavenger hunt: Looking closely rewards you with inspiration for recycled and unusual materials and containers.


Come to think of it, the Philadelphia Flower Show delivers everything I love about quilts in a juried quilt show: all the elements of art and artistry, storytelling, surprising materials and innovative techniques, use of text and graphics,  fascinating wearables, and fabulous miniatures.

It even included a quilt hidden among the foliage! A priceless olde English heirloom you’d put out in the garden…methinks not! More likely, a tufted pinwheel pattern of feedsack fabrics, and downright American.



Yes, a flower show is very like a quilt show. So you tell me, why do YOU think so many quilters are fond of gardening?