Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Planning a Quilt Design Part 2: Symmetry

Another step to consider in planning the design of your quilt is Symmetry. Symmetry can really help make the eye flow. You can really wow people (perhaps even clients) with the design of your quilt if it has good symmetry. In fact, beauty seems to be based off of symmetry, or at least that is what I've learned in art school. The more symmetrical the face, the more attractive it is to more people. But, it is important not to be an exact mirror image, as this gives an eerie feel. Now, apply that to quilting. There are several ways to achieve symmetry and it doesn't have to be boring.

First let's talk about kinds of symmetry. Symmetry can be achieved in many ways. Three I will discuss are
reflection, translation, and rotation.

Translation is when a shape is repeated in a quilt, without being flipped or rotated. It is just repeated one after another.
This quilt below is a good example of translational symmetry in the borders.

The shape in the border is repeated, but never rotated or reflected. Each side just repeats itself.

Another type of symmetry is reflection. Reflection is when a part of a quilt is mirrored. Often times it is mirrored left and right, as well as top and bottom. This is called
H-Symmetry, because it is mirrored in the same manor as the letter H. The example below is very visually interesting. I can feel my eye moving in this block. That is because of the H-Symmetry, AND the complimentary color harmony. The purple and yellow vibrate off one another.

While this catches my eye and is very visually interesting, I will say that it is very BOLD, and not always the look you may want in a quilt. This is what I was talking about when I said that if something is too symmetrical it can give an eerie feel, like something is not quite right. The shapes can still be symmetrical without having the colors also needing to be symmetrical. Keep in mind though this is all happening in one block, and we are aiming for an entire quilt.

Finally, there is rotation. Rotation symmetry is when the orientation of the shape stays the same but is rotated around a central point. This monochromatic quilt block shows an example of a shape being rotated.

No matter how you turn the block, it will always look the same. So now that you've seen how symmetry can be achieved, below is an example of a quilt that is symmetrical and also has a great color composition. This is a triadic color harmony of red-violet, blue-green, and yellow-orange. See how well they work together? They are all equally spaced on the color wheel (in the same way that the primary and secondary colors are).

What I LOVE about this quilt is that most of the fabrics pictured above are hand-dyed by the quilt designer, Nancy Watkins. This quilt has reflected symmetry, although I also believe that you could argue for rotational symmetry as well.

When I design, I try and put the same block, or the same fabric in opposite corners of a quilt. If I put a star block in the top right of a quilt, chances are I will also put one in the bottom left. I just feel that this helps anchor the quilt and give it a sense of balance. I hope this further helps you with your designing process. 

Ok, this is an add on to what I posted originally. Today (3/9/12) I looked at Keepsake Quilting's Facebook page and they had posted this article. Just thought I would share since it also deals with symmetrical quilts. Take a look!

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