Eleanor Levie HomeAboutEditorial ServicesBooksGallerySpeaker TopicsWorkshopsPast BookingsFree StuffLInks Contact Me

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

Archive for the ‘Color’ Category

Out of Africa? Wearable Art

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

Stunning fashion at the Philadelphia Museum of Art stirs up passions…and questions. Those who know global fabrics have long recognized that the colorful fabrics long associated with Africa come from Europe, particularly the Netherlands. Which begs for an understanding of colonialism and economic exploitation. In any case, Africans as well as Europeans have embraced the fabrics, combining them in ways wild but wearable, even for large ladies.


From its website (http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/845.html):
Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage, April 30, 2016 – January 22, 2017

Explore how the Dutch company Vlisco became one of the most influential textile brands in West and Central African fashion and a design inspiration around the world. Known for its bold and colorful patterns, Vlisco creates fabrics that marry tradition with luxury. This exhibition highlights the company’s classic and new designs, follows the creation of a textile, and showcases a selection of contemporary fashions by African and European makers as well as Vlisco’s in-house design team.
The wax printed textiles associated with Central and West Africa have a surprising history. Although consumers in Africa and the diaspora embrace them as African, the fabrics have long been designed and manufactured in Europe, and now in China and India. The most luxurious are the wax prints designed and made in the Netherlands by Vlisco. Shortly after its founding in 1846, the company began exporting imitation batiks to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). Three decades later, Vlisco found a new market in West Africa. This exhibition is offered in conjunction with Creative Africa, a season devoted to African art and design.”
Have a look!


























Sumptuous, right? Would you wear any of these wow’ems?


Woven Water

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Getting right down to it. Here’s today’s progress:


Warp laid out



Plain weave—over one, under one, with the lighter values of fabric and ribbons


Medium tones woven in a basketweave or twill pattern, passing over 2 strips and staggering the next



Getting ready to weave the darker section.

What? Not looking like water? Will wash away intensity with sheer fabrics, and balance the angles with curvy quilting lines…That’s the plan, anyway. Not that I ever stick to a plan!

Art = Play

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014


      The Contemporary Arts Center –a highlight of a long weekend in Cincinnati, was as fun for my almost 4-year old great nephew as it was for his mom, my DH, and me.  An ultra-colorful and creative current exhibit is titled, “Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? Painting, Parody & Disguise.” Defining the Parody part, curator Michael Stillion mentions, “Taking serious art not so serious and making it hilariously serious.” With that insanely in mind, Zachary Herrmann describes his installation, with its special appeal for us young and old viewers, using other opposing concepts, so that “cultural cues, symbols, and sensual stimulation…project into a more loosely structured space where fictions about beauty and repulsion, violence and humor, mortality, transparency, and psychology are at play.”


detail,fools-houseMark Fox, A Fool’s House Fulfilled–A broomstick — among lots of debris–is a clue as to the scale. P1012102


Upstairs at CAC is the UnMuseum. There, Casey Millard’s character, Shark Girl, is not having a good day. She hides behind a shark head, because that is the animal she feels like. What animal do you feel like? I am a clingy Labrador retriever, Marcie is a kangaroo mother, and Norman is a curious little monkey.



Ryan Mulligan created the most beautiful, free-play putt-putt course–no clubs; you use your feet to guide balls into holes…or send them down the clever chutes…or maybe you simply roll around in the balls like a little Ikea ballroom. It’s called The Dinosaur Says Moo.



P1012115 P1012113 P1012114P1012108 P1012112











I think I’m ready to be more playful with my quilting…how about you?






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?

purple prize

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.

DSCN9389   DSCN9395DSCN9367 DSCN9391

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.

DSCN9477  DSCN9439DSCN9457DSCN9406















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:

DSCN9394    DSCN9384DSCN9380





























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.


DSCN9500  DSCN9428


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?

Yellow = Optimism

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Yesterday, the hubster wanted to take a walk, and take in one of the last warm and gorgeous days of the year. Seeing how the gingko in front of our townhouse and the maple in back of it had just turned gorgeously golden, I ran to get my camera. Soon, I had a bad case of Yellow Fever: I couldn’t stop snapping wherever lemon, butterscotch, or canary turned up.  And Hubby was soon beating me to the Hello Yellow moments, pointing out the best shots, whether mellow yellow or mighty yellow.




Not all the yellow was flora, mind you. Still, the color endowed any item–no matter how mundane or humble–with zing.




















Didja get a load of that BRIGHT yellow house in my ‘hood? (How could you miss it?!) And at the risk of inviting more yellow puns or yolks, er, jokes, folks, it’s time to apply the Glad packaging of yellow to quilts. Here’s what that fab colorist, Kaffe Fassett does with yellow; this is Nona, from his book of a few years back, Passionate Patchwork:



And here’s Bouquet, by the wonderful, always thought-provoking folk artist, Ginny Smith:


The late, great, Jean Ray Laury knew a thing or two about yellow, as shown in this quilt she made of her commercial fabrics:


Here’s a sensational bit of whimsy from Jack M. Walsh III’s collection, as seen at the Morris Museum a few years back. Doesn’t the background color (ad)dress the happy dilemma faced by the artist’s daughter in getting dressed every morning? I seem to recall that the embroidered text repeats, “Does this look good on me?”  I truly regret that #1, it’s not in good focus, and #2, I don’t remember who created it…Can someone help me fill in the appropriate credit? And maybe I can get a good image from the folk artist, one that does this piece justice.

Let’s sashay on down the yellow brick road to my work. BIG surprise, and humble, yellow-bellied confession: I don’t look good in yellow, and even standing near it makes me look jaundiced. Sooooo, I have actually used yellow startlingly little in my quilts and my wearables! But since black and white makes ANY color rock, I did make a big yellow taxi tote:

Here’s where you can find the free directions. 

Or, take inspiration from any of the projects in my book, Unforgettable Tote Bags: 20 Designs too cool to leave in the car.

Or, bring me to your guild or local quilt shop to teach the workshop, Unforgettable Tote Bags. (You don’t have to use yellow.)

By now, I bet you’ve figured out the secret to using yellow. Even a little adds a dash of fun, joy, hope, cheer, sunshine. Pair it with its complement, purple (or lavender) to make it sing. Rev it up with red; cool it down with aqua. Go natural with shades of cream, or ramp up the star power with metallic gold and copper.

Here’s a couple of pillows I made for gifts –to bring some shine and sunshine to a comfy spot.


Anyone who has seen Sunflowers knows Van Gogh’s favorite color. Hey, skip the Van, Go Yellow! We all live in a Yellow Submarine, a Yellow Submarine, a Yellow Submarine…Now to dive into my next quilt project…and pick from among my photos to create an upbeat piece of quilted art. What’s your vote?