Negative space is one of my favorite tools to use in my modern quilt designs, and I was ecstatic when Sylvia Schaefer released her book, The Quilter’s Negative Space Handbook. In this book, Sylvia takes the concept of Negative Space and breaks it down into eight manageable sections for the reader to explore. These sections can be used on their own or mixed and matched to develop your own unique designs. While there is a project to illustrate each type of negative space, the reader is actively encouraged to apply each approach to their own original designs. This combination makes the book perfect for all levels of quilters. At the end of this post, you’ll have an opportunity to win a digital copy of The Quilter’s Negative Space Handbook, so I hope you’ll keep reading!
Sylvia has a great eye for negative space, and I have been a fan of her work ever since I saw her quilt, The Disintegration of the Persistence of Artichokes at an American Quilter’s Society show in Paducah one year.
A couple of years later we had our quilts (both using lots of negative space!) hanging side by side in the winner’s section of the Modern category at another AQS Paducah show. This time it was Meeting of the Geese that I was admiring.
Most recently, I was honored to quilt Northern Lights for the book. The edge to edge motif is a digital download by Anita Shackelford.
The eight approaches to negative space design in the handbook are:
- Removing Elements
- Standing Alone
- Oversized Simple Blocks and Inverting
- Setting Rows
- Making Shapes
- Extending Lines
I am looking forward to further exploring each of these approaches to negative space, but the one I couldn’t wait to try was scattering. I have made several plaid quilts, and I thought some of Sylvia’s suggestions would be fun to try in creating a new design. (Please check out this post about Infused Plaid to see how my typical design process differs from what I am doing here!) In the book, Sylvia mentions using a random number generator to determine block placement. This really caught my attention, and before I even went to the next page of the book, I googled “random number generator” and started sketching.
For this design, I started by setting a few parameters. The grid is 34 units by 34 units, and I decided to place 34 colorful squares into that space. I used a random number generator for each of the horizontal and vertical coordinates, then rolled a game die to determine the color of the square. Since the linear matchstick quilting that creates the plaid effect will extend through the squares, each row and column was assigned a color for all future squares that were placed in them.
Once the main pieced section was developed, I decided that extra negative space would really set off the design. Considering the concept of breathing space that is introduced in the “Standing Alone” chapter, I decided that the top and right sides of the main section would be about half the width as the borders on the bottom and left sides. Here is the quilt top, complete with borders. I always make these plaid quilt tops a few inches larger than the desired finished size. This allows me to block the quilt and trim it to the size that looks best.
When I add the quilting to this piece, I will be incorporating a third type of negative space usage to the quilt, extending lines. I love to allow colorful quilting thread to take on a staring role, and this should be a an interesting way to infuse color into the surrounding space. Hopefully, I will be sharing the final quilt with you soon!
Here’s the exciting part! If you would like to win a digital copy of The Quilter’s Negative Space Handbook, just leave a comment on this post. Any comment counts, but if you are looking for inspiration, tell us about your favorite quilt using negative space. It can be a quilt you made, or a quilt created by someone else. One entry per person, please.
One week from today, Monday, March 25, 2019, I will use a random number generator to select a winner of a digital copy of the book.
You can also order a copy directly from the author!
There is lots of inspiration at the other stops on the blog tour, so I hope you check out these other negative space inspired posts!
March 11 – C&T Publishing – blog tour kickoff
March 12 – Nicole Neblett – Mama Love Quilts
March 13 – Christa Watson – Christa Quilts
March 14 – Jessica Caldwell – Desert Bloom Quilting
March 15 – Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill – Whole Circle Studio
March 18 – Cassandra Ireland Beaver – The (Not So) Dramatic Life
March 19 – Yvonne Fuchs – Quilting Jetgirl
March 20 – Sarah Ruiz – Saroy
March 21 – Sarah Goer – Sarah Goer Quilts
March 22 – Sylvia Schaefer – Flying Parrot Quilts – tour wrap-up
NadaMarch 18, 2019 at 6:01 am
Love the meeting of the geese quilt
GeorgiaMarch 18, 2019 at 7:30 am
Congratulations on your win at Quilt Con! I love to see what you’re working on. I saw Sylvia’s Persistence quilt several years ago at a Georgia quilt show, and it stopped me in my tracks.
Rosalind GutierrezMarch 18, 2019 at 10:40 am
Definitely some “Eye Ball ” quilts to drool over.
bobbieMarch 18, 2019 at 11:01 am
Thanks for the wonderful giveaway! Loved seeing your quilts at QuiltCon. Such great negative space inspiration!!
Anna McCurdyMarch 18, 2019 at 12:09 pm
Your northern lights quilt is fabulous. This is a very interesting technique that i have not explored. Thanks for the chance to win a digital copy . Regards from Canada
RochelleMarch 18, 2019 at 12:16 pm
I’m still trying to wrap my head around your plan for the quilting on the negative space top. I’ve seen and admired your plaid quilts here on your blog and so I will be waiting to see more of this quilt. The book sounds intriguing.
Sharon AuroraMarch 18, 2019 at 12:44 pm
I like how you chose where to place the colors. I would like to see the quilting on it when it’s finished.
SachaMarch 18, 2019 at 12:49 pm
I saw Sylvia’s lecture about negative space at QuiltCon this year and it was so good! I didn’t know who she was when I registered but then I recognized some of the quilts in her presentation and now I notice her name and work all over!
Cassie SedlmeierMarch 18, 2019 at 1:27 pm
You just blew my mind with the amount of planning and math that goes into what could be mistaken as a simple quilt top design! I am going to follow your blog because I just can’t wait to see what you do with the quilting!! Glad you were a part of this blog hop so I could find you!
Laura TawneyMarch 18, 2019 at 2:55 pm
I’ve been a great fan of Krista Wither’s for a long time! Two of my favorite quilts of hers: Diamond Mine and Soft Triangles incorporate a lot of negative space and her quilting is what first drew me in to this type of quilting and how effective it can be. I would love to win a copy of The Quilter’s Negative Space Handbook!
MarleneMarch 18, 2019 at 3:05 pm
I am very intrigued by this book and your process. Going to Google random number generators right now. 🙂
AngiMarch 18, 2019 at 3:11 pm
These are gorgeous. I love what negative space does in a quilt and when my art training can further my quilting experiences. Can’t wait to check this book out.
Lisa MarieMarch 18, 2019 at 9:32 pm
What a clever way to create your design! I have only experimented a little bit with negative space but this book and blog hop has me interested in doing more.
CarolynMarch 18, 2019 at 10:35 pm
Cassandra – I have been admiring your quilts like this for awhile. Thank you for taking the time to explain how you make them. The plaid look is so beautiful – an excellent use of negative space and thread.
JackieMarch 18, 2019 at 10:38 pm
As a professional statistician random number generators are part of the work. How fun to use them for something more artistic.
Madison HeetderksMarch 18, 2019 at 10:42 pm
Wow!! Will definitely be using this approach in one of my quilt designs!
LindaMarch 18, 2019 at 11:03 pm
My favorite quilt that I made with negative space is Prism, a Zen Chic pattern. I enjoyed domestic machine quilting 42 different designs in it. Thanks for the chance to win!
thenotsodramaticlifeadminMarch 26, 2019 at 9:51 am
Congratulations! You have won the digital copy of “The Quilter’s Negative Space Handbook.”
LauraMarch 19, 2019 at 12:05 am
I love the idea of using a random number generator! Can’t wait to see this one progress!
ChristiMarch 19, 2019 at 12:20 am
I don’t know if I have a favorite but I have so much to learn on this subject. I totally love all of the straight and gentle curve lines used in the quilting.
Marla VarnerMarch 19, 2019 at 12:21 am
I would love to experiment with negative space! One quilt I love is “The Other Side” by Carson Converse.
MalealynMarch 19, 2019 at 12:25 am
I studied negative space extensively in drawing classes, now I’m intrigued on how I could use it in my quilting!
JeifnerMarch 19, 2019 at 12:32 am
I feel like negative space makes a quilt. I always want to make one with lots of negative space.
NancyMarch 19, 2019 at 5:22 am
Wow, I can’t wait to see how you quilt your quilt. I’m sure it will be excellent! Thanks for sharing.
JamieMarch 19, 2019 at 7:30 am
Thanks for highlighting this book. It looks amazing! I like the Persistence of the disintigration of artichokes as it has wonderful piecing and beautifully crafted quilting.
Karen AMarch 19, 2019 at 8:31 am
I have done very little modern quilting, but I did get to attend Quilt Con in Savannah and your plaid quilt hanging in that show was one of my favorites. I am intrigued by the idea of deconstructing traditional blocks and would love to read this book. Maybe an old(er) traditionalist can learn some new tricks.
YolandaMarch 19, 2019 at 8:45 am
This is so gorgeous!! I can’t wait to see the final product!
DanaMarch 19, 2019 at 8:53 am
Thanks for introducing me to a great quilter and book. I enjoy books that are process or technique vs. More project oriented.
MelissaMarch 19, 2019 at 9:14 am
I love quilts with negative space, but only think “how am I going to quilt it?” I’d love to see all the inspiration this book has to offer!
JayneMarch 19, 2019 at 9:18 am
This is such an intriguing book! I love seeing quilts with a lot of negative space, but haven’t been able to get there with my own designs!
TracieMarch 19, 2019 at 9:41 am
Wowza, I love the Northern Lights quilt!
DebbieMarch 19, 2019 at 10:03 am
I’m intrigued by this book! Adding it to my list, but winning a copy would be great too!
Laura MMarch 19, 2019 at 10:37 am
Sounds like Sylvia uses a very structured approach to discussing negative space. She certainly creates some very striking quilts using her strategies. I look forward to learning with her.
Barbara JohnsonMarch 19, 2019 at 11:03 am
I can’t really say that I have a favorite quilt that uses negative space. I am relatively new to the modern quilting movement, and I must say that I am really drawn to the bold designs of the quilts that I have seen so far. I would love to have the book so that I can learn the design concepts to make my own Negative space quilt. baj555(at)yahoo(dot)com
Laura MMarch 19, 2019 at 1:21 pm
My apologies, if I have commented twice, but my internet went down in the middle of posting last time and I don’t have a way to know if my comment arrived. I love Sylvia’s artichoke quilt and others that I have seen which use disintegrating blocks. Looks like fun to try.
Holly ColvinMarch 19, 2019 at 2:18 pm
so many that I love! I like several of Zen Chic quilts that use negative space, one I remember they used a shimmer fabric, I’m not sure what it’s called, but I really liked it. Would love to win a copy, if not, I’ll have to buy one!! Thanks!
PattyMarch 19, 2019 at 2:20 pm
This book looks fantastic and I love your approach to your design!
aliMarch 19, 2019 at 4:20 pm
Love love love Sylvia’s book!!!! Been looking at a copy and lusting over the Northern Lights – such a great way to do a New York Beauty Block.
Sandra WalkerMarch 19, 2019 at 7:12 pm
Man the cover of her book is stunning! I’ve never used a RMG in quilt design, just draws, ha! Cool method. From what I’ve seen of your beautiful matchstick quilting, your design is going to be another winner. Cool eight concepts too, some of which I’ve heard of!
Pamela ReimMarch 19, 2019 at 7:33 pm
It looks like a great book. I designed a quilt last year “It’s all about…negative space” with my take on the concept which featured negative images & words & my version of Mr Yuck in the center. It garnered quite a few comments 🙂 not all “positive” but hey that what originality is all about.
Kathy CummingsMarch 20, 2019 at 12:26 am
I made one quilt with negative space! My flying geese quilt, with random rows and uneven numbers of geese, is a favorite!! Lots of just ivory- colored background, straight line quilting!!
AnneMarch 20, 2019 at 5:39 am
I’ve never made a quilt with negative space as I’ve been a bit intimidated. Loving the concepts shared from the book and would love to try one of my own.
Kathy hMarch 20, 2019 at 8:25 am
The quilt I really liked was all stripes. Almost the whole background used an off white fabric for the stripes and the rest had various sizes of fabric lengths. They were using the entire line of a fabric collection.
sharonMarch 20, 2019 at 11:21 am
I have not used negative space often– only when I have done a vertical strip of quilt blocks then used a piece of fabric (on each side) i would like to be more creative in my use of negative space
Elizabeth BoltonMarch 21, 2019 at 7:40 pm
I have so many favorites, I don’t think I can pick just one, but I am so attracted to all the designs in this book. They’ve sent my mind off in new and thrilling directions, and that’s a glorious thing at my age!
Kathy RMarch 22, 2019 at 7:45 am
I really like confetti quilts and plan on making one in shades of purple. The first two quilts in your post are designs that catch my eye since the triangles are flying of into space.
Deborah B.March 22, 2019 at 11:33 am
I have never made a quilt with negative space. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and process. Also, thank you for the giveaway opportunity.
DonnaMarch 22, 2019 at 11:06 pm
This book looks to be filled with great design ideas for modern quilts.
Meeting the geese is amazing, I would like to make my quilting lines look that straight. Thanks for such an inspiring giveaway.
Donna TannerMarch 24, 2019 at 8:58 am
Just found you through colorgirl quilts. I’m new to this endeavor, can’t wait to learn more!
MichelleMarch 24, 2019 at 3:10 pm
I recently attended Quiltcon and was introduced to the concept of negative space. There was so much inspiration there and i have so many ideas for future quilts!
FrançoiseNovember 19, 2020 at 4:14 pm
Hi ! You white-with-little-squares-loooking-like-mosaïque quilt is one of the beautiful ones I have ever seen ! Congratulations