Four Fabric Forest

It was a very enjoyable day with Lisa Crnich yesterday learning her method for making a four fabric forest. The weather was hot outside, but we were cool and comfortable at the North Plains Senior Center, and we enjoyed a nice potluck lunch. Fruit was in abundance among the potluck dishes, and so even lunch was cool and comfortable.

Before starting, we had a chance to look again at Lisa's beautiful quilts made in the style of Ruth McDowell.

There are a number of books for sale on Ruth McDowell's website, and so it's worth taking a look. Her technique is not difficult. Nevertheless, taking this class from Lisa was a great head start to understanding the methods described in Ruth's books.

Our goal for the day was to create a four fabric forest. Here are a couple of examples from Lisa's work.

She started by showing us the photograph she used to create her pattern, and then gave us some ideas about how to create patterns from such a photograph.

She encouraged us to choose some fabrics we thought we might like for our own creations, and then gave us some ideas, tips, and rules of thumb for choosing a winning combination. Fabrics can be dark or light, but trees should contrast well and bring out the hard line between tree and background. Our foreground should be something darker or brighter than our background. The midground should be something that is more "blurry" while the sky background should be more "lacy" with lots of white flecks that suggest light shining through tree tops. Also, linear designs are to be avoided or cut in such a way that the orderliness of the design disappears. Nature is not orderly.

Some other suggestions included choosing fabrics with three or more colors in common. Also, when squinting one's eyes to blur one's vision, the hard line between the three fabrics should disappear somewhat.

 Here are some examples with foreground to the left, midground in the middle, and sky background on the right. See what you think.

Notice that some of the midground pieces are not "blurry". However, the scale is large enough that the design will disappear when the fabric is cut into strips.

Here are some examples of fabric strips cut for trees. It was surprising how many different and un-tree-like fabrics began to take the shape of trees when cut into strips. Some were even literal trees that had been cut cross-wise to increase interest.

Here are some fabric combinations selected from the fabrics I brought to class. Interestingly, I ended up using just one of my own fabrics...the one in the lower right-hand corner.

We were provided a pattern, and the first step was to tape the pattern to a light source (in this case, a window), and then to tape freezer paper over the top with the shiny side up. While I had my lightbox along, it was easier to do this using the window as a light source. It's helpful to spread out and trace the whole pattern at once, rather than the pieces the size limitation of the lightbox would require.

Here, it was important to use the Sharpie brand ultra-fine point pens for tracing the lines of the pattern. Other brands, including the Pigma brand, will smear on the shiny side of the freezer paper.

When the lines were drawn in, we flipped our tracing over to the dull side, and then taped it below the pattern. It was important to do the remainder of the work on the dull side. The shiny side will be ironed to the fabrics to create the pattern pieces. Any markings within the edges of the pattern piece will transfer to the fabric during ironing.

The traced lines are visible from the light source, but it is now reversed from the pattern. Next, one color of highlighter is used to demarcate the boundaries of the piece, and a second color to highlight the sections. It is also helpful to mark the top of the tracing.

Then, colored pencils are used to label the sections of the pattern A-1, A-2, B-1, B-2, and so forth.

After that, hash marks are added along the lines (to facilitate matching the pieces when they are sewn).  X's are marked over any intersections.

When that was finished, it was time to begin cutting pattern sections apart, ironing them to our fabrics, and then cutting them with a quarter-inch seam allowance. Our work was pinned to design walls to begin.

It was time to decide if our four fabrics were going to work well together. Lisa and I agreed that my midground fabric needed to be turned in the image below. While the directionality wasn't important in smaller strips, it was a bit too obvious in this, the largest piece in the whole quilt pattern.

When I reached that point, I took some time to peek at some of the other students' work.

It's interesting to see how different fabrics can so completely change the look of the pattern.

Toward the end of the day we started sewing our pieces together. This process is essentially paper-piecing with freezer paper. I sewed my largest strip together along with one of the trees and then decided to pack it in and head for home. My neck was starting to bother me, and I was just tired of working on it.

It's always exciting to learn a new technique. I've been to classes where I ended up feeling more frustrated than empowered, but this technique was of the latter kind. Lisa Crnich is an excellent instructor (she's also a fourth grade teacher), and her style is friendly and relaxed. She lives in the local area, and she invited us to sign up for her email mailing list for information about more classes on Ruth McDowell's style. Ruth McDowell is retired from teaching now, and so I'm grateful to have Lisa nearby. I love this style of piecing, and this class left me hungry for more.

Today I'm going to put aside my four fabric forest just briefly so that I can finish up the Vintage Tin quilt top. My sashing fabric arrived Friday, as expected, and it's washed and ready for use. The scale is a little smaller than I expected, but I think it's going to be fine for my quilt.

This fabric came from Fabric.com. I've had good luck with online fabric shopping on their website, and I like that they'll give me free shipping with a minimum $35 purchase. Of course, you don't have to buy much fabric to rack up $35 worth. They have a nice clearance section, and I almost always find something on sale. And since I'd rather put my money toward fabric than shipping, it feels like a bonus to have a choice. With that in mind, this was my bonus fabric for this shopping trip. I've purchased this fabric in several colors, and it always gets used right away. It's very versatile.

Besides, it made me think of this sunflower that bloomed a few days ago, compliments of the squirrels. They're always planting the sunflower seeds they find under the bird feeders, and these random sunflowers come up all over the yard and field.

They can be pesky and destructive little buggers, but I do like their gardening habits.

And that's it for me. I'm chomping at the bit to finish up that Vintage Tin quilt, and that's where you'll find me today.


Dana Gaffney said...

Interesting, I like the "chopped up" look of the backgrounds, at first I thought they were just strips with the trees appliqued over.

Quilting Babcia said...

This was so fascinating. That is a technique I could totally see trying. I love those fabrics too, and anything that reads as a solid seems to fly out of the stash, doesn't it.

Quilting Babcia said...

This was so fascinating. That is a technique I could totally see trying. I love those fabrics too, and anything that reads as a solid seems to fly out of the stash, doesn't it.

Quilting Babcia said...

This was so fascinating. That is a technique I could totally see trying. I love those fabrics too, and anything that reads as a solid seems to fly out of the stash, doesn't it.

quiltzyx said...

I'm not sure I quite understand how this is done - if you don't cut up the freezer paper, why do you need hash marks? Could be my slightly sleep deprived brain having processing problems I think. :) Love all the different fabrics used!

Kate said...

Lots of interesting landscapes. It's amazing how those fabrics are transformed as you work them in with the "trees".

Debbie said...

Wow...looks like a great class. I am fan of Ruth's work anyway. Starting with the correct fabrics is so key to making this technique work. Looking forward to how you progress.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

Looks like an interesting class. Loved seeing the fabric choices of each laid out to start and then in their 'in-progress' mode. Very pretty all of them.

Anonymous said...

Ann Shaw also teaches Ruth's style, have done her rooster class, and am taking her design class this fall

Dar said...

Looks like a very good class and your trees forest is going to be very pretty. Thanks for all the detail explanations about the process. Those squirrels are better planters in your area than mine - I would fire them here at my house.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

The volunteer sunflowers courtesy of the squirrels are the best blooms of the summer. Always a surprise, forever a delight. Interesting technique-love the fabric choices in some of the combos. Enjoy your day.

Celtic Thistle said...

It definitely looks like a.technique that is better learned in a class than from a book Barbara!
Thanks for linking up to New to Me too.