Mint Julep: transparency and the magic of negative space


To the casual observer some of our quilts look pretty straight forward and easy to design. The trained eye, however, notices the subtle differences in proportions and in the use of negative space. Negative space is the the area around a motif or the space between the things that really stand out. In this quilt the negative spaces are the white diamonds and dashes found between the blue and green wedges. Once you look for them the quilt takes on a totally different look. Those magical shapes give the quilt an added bit of visual interest and open up a world that many people never notice.

You know about the negative space in the FedEx logo right? That logo that you’ve seen 1,000 times, right?

Have you ever noticed the elegant arrow between the “E” and the “x”? That wasn’t an accident. That’s some masterful use of negative space. If negative space is a new concept to you, try looking for beautiful uses of it in graphic design or in tile patterns or paintings or packaging. Understanding the concept of negative space helps you understand why some fabrics are easier to work with than others and helps you choose fabrics more easily.

Mint Julep is a calm quilt by design but could become a wild and crazy mix of bright patterns as long as you kept them within a dark or light value so the transparency band reads. I add this because some readers have asked about how to make transparencies without going out to buy a ton of new fabric. You can use whatever you have on hand, is my guess. You’ll just need to sort it by value so the transparency works. You don’t need a lot of yardage to make a compelling transparency, you just need a little bit of the right value.

And yes, I know that you’ll never look at a FedEx truck the same way again. That’s what great design does. It makes everything you look at a little bit more interesting.

And I’ve got to tell you about that green sofa that we used in the photo shoot. I bought that Mid-Century Modern gem for $100 off eBay from someone in North Carolina. It was covered in the original nubby, cigarette-smoke-infused wool from circa 1963. It was shipped to Chicago on the belly of a Greyhound bus for a song. It reeked of cigarette smoke so much that we kept it on our sun porch until the upholsterer could come to pick it up. It’s slim and trim, makes every room it’s in look bigger because it doesn’t have a skirt and its arms are slender. And always looks neat while still being comfortable. They don’t make ’em like they used to.

7 thoughts on “Mint Julep: transparency and the magic of negative space

  1. I live in a small town without a quilt/fabric store. I’m hoping that you’ll kit this is in similar fabrics. I love it!

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