Nancy Crow workshop: strip-piecing days 1 and 2

posted in: Color, Learning | 7

For the first two days of the Strip Piecing and Restructuring workshop, Nancy Crow taught us about figure/ground relationships. To put it simply, when you look at an abstract composition, what comes forward and what is pushed backwards? We were specifically looking at how colors influence this.

We started by making a series of strip-pieced fabrics following some guidelines Nancy gave us. This exericse was designed to get us thinking about the different qualities that individual colors have. We were especially trying to recognize, what colors moved forward and which pushed back. Sometimes it is the very light or very bright colors that grab your attention, but not always. Sometimes the dark colors get pushed back, but not always. Some times it depended on how luminous the color appeared. It seemed so confusing to me, and I already knew that colors are chameleon!

We had to freehand cut the fabric selvage to selvage and stitch multiple strips together with a 1/4″ seam. I decided that I liked wobbly and curvy, so I encouraged that in my lines. So far, so good, other than it was difficult for me to identify the dull versus vibrant colors in many instances, especially in the neutrals like gray and brown. (I came to think of the dull verses vibrant colors as “dead and alive” colors.)

Next we had to cut the pieced fabrics apart to make a simple composition of squares and rectangles. I am not used to working abstractly, so I floundered quite a bit during this exercise. I decided that it was actually good to be lost because it identified another area I’d like to explore further. I tried to be playful and brave and take risks. I tried to give my composition a sense of energy. I took pictures as I went, and I tried several compositions.

For my first attempt, I randomly placed the colors and shapes across the surface. On my second attempt, I tried to group the bright greens in an inverted “V”. For my last composition, I loosely grouped colors in pinwheel-like block arrangements. It seemed more interesting to me that way, but I don’t know that it was highly successful, other than the fact that I met the deadline!

7 Responses

  1. Ann Babillis


    I know exactly what you mean by making a Nancy Crow quilt. The experience was so intense, I blogged about it on my post, “Learning to Live with the Chaos Theory”. I look forward to seeing your final product.

  2. Megan

    What FUN! I like all your compositions but yes, the last one is good! Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to PLAY as opposed to ‘finishing something’…it looks great!

  3. Ann Wiseman

    I like your final composition the best of the three as well. It definitely pulls me in and pushes me out in different places. Although, oddly, it’s the tannish color and white on the bottom center that pull me in past the green and red/pink! Aren’t the dark colors supposed to recede and the lighter colors come forward? Perhaps that’s what the “dead vs. alive” colors part is? I have not heard that nomenclature before! I love learning something new!! As always, thanks so much for sharing your experiences and your willingness to show us your “mistakes”. : )

    • Maria

      The term “dead and alive” colors was my own interpretation. She was calling them warm and cool. I got confused with those terms because to me, warm means red, orange, yellow, and browns while cool means green, blue, violet and grays. I think what she was trying to get us to observe is that you can have two grays, for instance, and one just glows while the other is so dull. So, in that sense, maybe we were looking more at actual luminosity. But you’re right, it’s about what colors are coming forward and which are receding.

  4. Stacy Hurt

    I really like the first attempt. My eyes follow all over and am surprised at the lovely patchwork quality of it giving it an heirloom quality. Last attempt is more sophisticated, definately working on the ‘art’ quilt look. Very inspiring. I was thinking how fun it would be to do this until I realized they are all solids! LOL.

    • Maria

      It was different working with solids. I didn’t have hardly any in my stash, so I had to go shopping. (So sad, right?) But, feel free to try it with in prints, batiks, or hand dyes. Why not? Solids might actually easier in many respects, but nothing says you can’t use prints. In fact, you’ll see in tomorrow’s post that we used plaids, stripes, and bold prints along with the solids.

  5. Belinda

    I am so looking forward to seeing what else you learned! My first ruler in 1987 was a Nancy Crow Quickline and I have been a loyal follower since.