MM 7-11-07: Finally here are some sketches for you to look at. Please keep in mind that they are extremely rough as they are really just concepts. Let me know your thoughts.

Marian bubbles small

marian giant flower

marian large spiral

marian flags

marian abstracts


RM 7-12-07: Of these ideas, the ones that jump out and stick in my mind are 1) the large flower 2) the flags 3) the bubbles falling off the edge of the page. In book-usefulness terms, I think either the flower or the flags.

The flower is a good demonstration for the book that you really can put a spiral in any shape of any size. I also think it would be an interesting study in shading, as you could really shade in the dimension and subtleties of the petals with light variations of tone in the petals. (Is this something you feel you could design/execute at your level of skill?) This would be a challenge, but coudl be well worth the effort. If I were you I would get some real pictures of flowers to use as guidelines as you color this.

The templates could be done in EQ as one large block, or could be drawn by hand. Actually, now that I give it a second look, I think drawing by hand would be preferable, becuase I think you would want to draw the spirals so that they run out of the sides of the square, “cropping” them as you have done the petals.

The flower reminds me of the quilts by that European couple (Ilse Marden & Steen Hougs) that does huge blowups of natural objects, paints them on fabric and then quilts all the texture in.

As for the flags or any of the other designs, they would be quite straightforward, simple uses of spirals in “free” settings, though with imagination and flair they could also yield interesting quilts. I really think that your most original and striking design is the flower and would encourage you to go with that if you feel you’re up to it.

Where time is concerned, whether you work in small spirals or large, you’ll have roughly the same number of pieces, so small vs. large spirals isn’t really an issue.  You really should get started soon, though, as the end of September is 2-1/2 months away (how time flies!).

[BTW, the first spiral on the “one large spiral” page — the one with smaller spirals in the center — is exactly what Julie Willis is doing, so steer clear of that.]

MM [see comment below dated 7-26-07]: 

Marian Tree Canopy

RM: Marian, this is quite an interesting application of spiral technique — there are only a couple of others using it in a representational landscape-type design. I think you can shade darker colors into the interior of the tree tunnel.  I think I like the arrangement of the one on the bottom better. 

MM 8-28-07: I just figured I’d better touch base with you and let you know where I’m at. I’m getting there. I’ve been working on drawing up the baravelle which is almost done. As I am doing it by hand, it is a slow process. I had to figure out what shape and how many sides to use to get what I wanted. I also made it a bit larger than originally planned. It’s many, many pieces! After I get it done, I will photo and print out some copies to color.

As I have some flexibility with the design, let me know if you’d like me to emphasize any of the elements – i.e. more shards, broken spirals, full spirals.

I ordered fabric from Carly Mul. It came really fast but all of it was not quite as expected. Anyway, I then went and got a few more pieces here and think I’m there with fabric. I’ve got about 3 greens, a brown, blue for the sky, and a beigish one for the road. I may do some painting after it’s done but hopefully it will be ok as is. I’ll send you a photo when I send the sketch.

Depending on if I quilt it myself, I may embellish with some beads.

I went to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham last week and took some photos of a few quilts that were kind of spirally. I’ll send them to you as soon as I have to get back on the computer. You’ll be glad to know that I really didn’t see anything like your technique (just some twisted log cabin type of things). I think you may really be on to something new and exciting. It’s great seeing all the different things everyone in the spiro group has come up with; so much variety.

Talk to you soon,


RM:  Marian, thanks for the update — it sounds like you’ve been busy, and that you’re on the right track!

MM: I have finally drawn up my design, for the most part. I still need to refine it a bit. I’m mainly trying to work on the road and the center. I’m not sure what to do with the ’empty’ space.

Marian first too many

I stopped because the triangles were getting extremely small. I was orginally thinking that I’d divide the space up somehow with fabric but now I’m leaning toward painting it or doing something with stitches. I might paint the continuation of the spiral pattern with faux triangles. The road will have a broken line down the center which I might do in a big stitch or paint. Any ideas?  I hope to get sewing like crazy by tomorrow. The fabric colors are a bit lighter than they look in the photo; the one that looks nearly black is just a darkish green.

RM:  Marian, this has so many small pieces, I’m not sure it’s humanly possible to complete it by the end of the month.  Are you sure you want that much stress?  Also, the colorings are so random that it really doesn’t show the spiral effect at all. 

MM 9-20-07: Here’s the latest attempt. I sent the “template” so you can get an idea of what I’m working with. I’m leaning toward something like the third one, but with some brown in it. Let me know if this works for you.

Marian Template

Marian 2731 small

RM:  Marian, even though you have simplified this from the last version, I don’t think it has lost any of its strength.  In fact, it may be even stronger because there is much less to sort through visually to understand what it going on.

This is #2731.  I liked it the best because putting more dark colors in the center emphasizes the sense of it being a tunnel and shows up the perspective more.

MM: If you want me to proceed, I have some questions such as what to do with the area that is currently white. These are some of my ideas:

1. continue on with the greens and brown in irregular shapes (trees).
2. use blue as if it’s a pond or lake.
3. use brown as if it’s soil.

I might embroider, paint or something like that in this area.

RM:  I would go with placing blue in the corners, suggesting sky.

MM: My biggest question is, what’s about the smallest you can go with the triangles? I will try doing a test but figured you’d have a good idea about this already.

RM: You can go all the way down to 1/8″ high for the triangles — both Micki and I have worked that small.

I’m including here an edited version of the picture above, to try to illustrate an idea I have:

Marian revised colors

You said at the beginning that this was a tunnel of trees.  I don’t see trunks in any of the pictures you have sent, which would help to suggest trees.  What about starting some of the spokes near the ground in brown to suggest trunks, then changing to green where the trees would have leaves?  The brown would also give a really strong visual beginning to the spiral movement causing the eye to be more aware of it in the less-defined green areas.

Also, you could keep some of the sense of randomness by using several different shades of light green in the light green spokes and several different shades of dark green in the dark green spokes.  This would maintain the spiral structure (light spokes/dark spokes) yet give you variation within the spokes. 

Going back to the trees/branches: You mentioned that you might do some painting or embroidery.  What about after the spiral is pieced adding some brown embroidery coming from the brown triangles and “peeking out” from among the green “leaves” that would be the small, upper branches of the trees?

I can see that you are working from a very strong impression, an idea that you really like.  I hope that you find these suggestions helpful in communicating your vision to the rest of us who didn’t get to see it in person.  Spiral on!

20 Responses to “Marian Murdoch”

  1. marian15 Says:

    Send me the sketch you mentioned when you have a chance.

  2. RaNae Says:

    Marian, please forgive me, but I’ve forgotten which sketch I was was supposed to send you. If you could give me a little reminder, then I’ll get it up here on the page ASAP! Thanks!

  3. RaNae Says:

    Marian, I sat down last night to try to sketch out what I was describing to you — and it was HIDEOUS! Sometimes things sound better in concept that they look in execution. Let’s look around for a better idea, okay?!

  4. marian15 Says:

    I just burst out laughing when I read your comment; pls don’t be offended. I will try to get something to you no later than Monday. I can’t get over all the possibilities; they really are endless. I’m trying to keep mine simple because of the time factor. It will most likely be a wall hanging (or lap-size quilt). I’m also trying to work with some of the fabrics I’ve already got. I’ve got some batiks that are mostly green and aqua but I think that it will be too “washed out.” Perhaps I can pick up some purple-sih colors that they’ve got in a Moda Marbles type of fabric. Any thoughts? (I suppose it will be easier once you see what I’ve got in mind!)

  5. RaNae Says:

    Marian, send me a sketch and let’s get an idea of what you’re working on before you settle on fabrics.

  6. RaNae Says:

    From MM: I’d rather design than produce! I feel like I have to limit my ideas due to the lack of time to implement them right now. Anyway, I’ll try to rough something out by Mon. This book seems like quite a mammoth task for you but you’re doing a great job with it. I’m sure it will be better once everyone’s got their designs firmed up and is spiraling along their way. Where do you work?

    RM: Marian, thanks for the vote of confidence — looking forward to seeing a few of your many ideas!

  7. sdehaemer Says:

    Perhaps someone might want to use some of your more complicated ideas. Someone that doesn’t like designing.

  8. RaNae Says:

    Marian, I haven’t seen ANY ideas — could you let me know what you’re working on? Thanks — R.

  9. marian15 Says:

    Sorry, I actually just sent an e-mail over. I hope you understand the sketches. I haven’t drawn all the actual spirals. Basically, all of the shapes are supposed to have spirals in them, with the type yet to be determined. I was thinking that the “flag” patterns (#4) would vary because of the size and shape of the triangles but I was just thinking that they could even be sub-divided to have other shapes within the triangles. My main objective is that the one I work on is not to complicated to do as I am still a novice quilter but mainly because of the time I have to work on it. Other than that, I’d like it to have a contemporary feel. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  10. RaNae Says:

    From Sharon DeHaemer: I liked the flags and hexagons going off the page the best. I also liked the triptych concept, I think it would be cool to maybe do three small pieces put together in a screen type format, using maybe skewers or dowels or even pencils or chopsticks for the hinges.

  11. marian15 Says:

    Hi RaNae – The bubbles was one of the first ones I did and I like it a lot but wasn’t sure if it might be better as a painting. Anyway, I don’t think it will contribute anything to the book that isn’t already being done (as is the case with most of the others). I thought of the flags as “a design based on irregularly-shaped triangles that do not connect” (from the assignment “menu”) and the flower as “a design based on spirals with an uneven number of sides, regular or irregular.”

    I tried playing a bit last night with redrawing the shapes and also trying to figure out how they’d look as spirals. I had been trying to keep this simple so, of course, this seems to be the most complex concept! This brings about the the fear of whether I can pull if off (mainly from the time stand-point). I would like to think about it over the next few days and try to work on the design more. I will try to find examples of Marden & Houg quilts, as I am not familiar with them. Last night, as I lie in bed with visions of spirals in my head, I also thought of Georgia O’Keefe. I will take a look at some of her paintings also.

    When I drew this, I was thinking about how each “petal” would be a different shape and size, leading to varying spiral patterns.

    I really do think that it is down to the flower or coming up with something else altogether. So, now down to the actual nitty gritty design/technical questions:

    1. I realized that, as currently drawn, most of the shapes have an even number of sides. Would it be better if they are uneven?

    RM: I don’t think that it matters.

    2. With regards to the center, is there a particular shape you would want or would recommend? As you know, I have drawn it as a pentagon but it could probably be something else (hexagon? octagon? ). For some reason, I’m thinking odd no. of sides. Then the next question is, should it have equilateral sides or irregular sides?

    RM: In floral design you are often encouraged to use an uneven number of flowers for a more dynamic design. It’s a subtle and almost unconscious thing, but it’s true. Perhaps the same principle would apply here, so like you, I’m thinking odd no. of sides, just on my gut instinct.

    2a. I’m thinking baravelle for the center and pinwheel for the petals (which would be necessary if they only have 4 sides). Would that be right?

    RM: I think you’re right — the more spirally center will pull in the center. Since the Baravelle has partial sides, I would, however, make the outer edges solid — either make the outside ring “pinwheel” or do the two outside rings in the same color so that there is a border around the center that would define it against the petals. This is one place you DON’T want the spirals to flow into the adjacent spiral. Pinwheel will give you the more elegant spiral for the petals, whether they have four sides or more.

    3. With your help, I think I could design it alright. We’ll have to discuss it re: my ability to execute but I think I’ll be able to do it, as long as I can find enough time.

    RM: I thought more about designing it last night and realized that the whole flower could be drawn in an EQ block, then the block itself cropped to achieve the close-up look you’re after.

    3a. Could you elaborate on your thoughts re the coloring and shading? It sounds like you’re describing something fairly realistic. I had wanted to do something pretty abstract but don’t necessarily have to stick with that.

    RM: I think the best way for you to see it would be to get the template with some colors already in it, then do some more playing of your own alongside those Georgia O’Keefe paintings you are talking about. (And you will see that the Marden & Hougs quilts have the same big feeling that the Georgia O’Keefe paintings have.) When I look at your design it reminds me of a large magnolia flower. So think of shading the flower in terms of trying to be somewhat realistic? What color comes to mind — white? red? yellow? magenta/purple?

    3b. What types of fabrics were you thinking? Originally, I was going to use batiks. I’m trying to avoid buying more fabrics but it looks like I’ll end up doing it anyway!

    RM: For subtle shading, you’ll probably want close gradations of similar colors — but before you make that final decision, why not work on color a bit to get a better idea of composition.

    4. What do you think about the “background”. I had thought of it as a solid. It sounds like you envision it as spirals also. The other question is, should there be a different background or should I just add more petals behind? Perhaps the suggestion (or actual representation) of leaves?

    RM: No, I thought of the background as a solid or a subtle, dark texture. Did you see the leafy fabric that Denise found for her background?

    Well, I think that’s it for now; I’m sure I’ll think of more questions. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Oh, I almost forgot, I have to draw the templates by hand as I don’t have EQ or other graphics programs.

  12. marian15 Says:

    I don’t have EQ.

    I thought of another idea over the weekend. I started drafting an email to you but didn’t finish it yet. I will probably work on that but may explore the flower as well. I’ll try to write you later tonight but it will probably be tomorrow.

  13. marian15 Says:

    Hi RaNae,

    Funny, I was going to try to arrange to talk to you re my design. The biggest problem I was having is that everything I wanted to do seems like its already being done. I wanted to do the “bubbles” one but I don’t think it would contribute anything to the book, especially as the book is mainly about technique. The other problem I had was that alot of the ideas I came up with were more suitable for a different technique.

    Anyway, I did have find inspiration over the weekend. We were driving home Sat eve and I dozed off (I wasn’t driving). I woke up just as we were approaching an arched tree canopy. I’ve roughed out some ideas and started trying to translate it into spiro quilt format. I think it will work for the book as it is representational and I think you mentioned on Sharon’s WIP pg that that would be good to illustrate that the technique can be used for that. I had wanted to work with greens and blues and this fills that criteria (I’ll have a bit of pale blue sky). I also wanted to do something with a contempory feel (which is one of the reasons I liked the spiro technique to begin with).

    I still haven’t figured out how to get drawings into a format suitable for you. I will send sketches to Sharon and have her forward on to you.

    I did a rough sketch and one trying to translate it into spiro. I think it should work. I just wanted to check with you: I drew an irregular polygon to get the shape I wanted and plan to trunkate it at the bottom. That is, I’d cut it off. I wouldn’t really cut it though; I’d just “shorten” the template and then sew it like that. I’m sure this will become clearer when you see the sketch.

    Glad to hear you’re feeling better. Sometimes you just need to stop and take some time out. It’s good you realized that.

    I sent a rough of the tree canopy to Sharon to reformat and forward on. The outer “tree” area would be baravelle. I think the inner “road” would be something else like a point to point. The blue areas are sky (brown tree trunks/branches). Let me know if you think I’m on the right track and I will continue working on the design. I hope it’s something you feel will be useful for the book.

  14. RaNae Says:

    I’m trying to imagine with without the sketch — you’ve got me really curious — can’t wait to see what you’re thinking about. Could you forward to me the same sketch you sent to Sharon?

  15. marian15 Says:

    I didn’t send it directly to you because of the formatting thing. One of these days I’ll have time to sit down and figure it out (hoepefully). Anyway, I believe Sharon sent it to you on Sat. If you think this is ok, I will work on the design and try to finalize it. It will be more involved and have many more rings. Will need your input re: the road portion. I want to order fabric soon, especially as I will order from America! Cheers!

  16. marian15 Says:

    So I guess that means you think it will work? The bottom one was the original sketch and the top one is from when I started trying to translate it into a spiral. The bottom one is definately a better composition; the spiro one needs to be more asymmetrical. Let me know if you’d like me to pursue this for the book and I will try to work on some more sketches. What technique do you think the road should be done with?

  17. RaNae Says:

    Marian, why not just keep the road simple — that way the spiral technique on the trees will stand out more.

  18. marian15 Says:

    Funny, I had originally thought of it as a spiral also but today I was thinking, why not just ‘plain’ fabric? I guess I’m on the right track (no pun intended!)

  19. marian15 Says:

    After your reaction to the last version, I was afraid to put the brown in for the trunks and branches. I thought you would feel they didn’t show up the spirals well enough, especially since I don’t have many rings now. Well, I’m glad you like the brown as it was looking a bit plain to me without it. I will put it back in.

    My previous sketches also had bits of blue here and there to represent sky peaking through the leaves. Do you think it would be too much to try adding some of them back in as well?

    The white space I was talking about wasn’t the sky in the corners (I already colored it blue but I guess it didn’t show up in the photo). I was talking about the area just below the center, to the left of the road. I’m leaning toward option 2 (blue fabric to suggest a pond). I thought this would also work well to balance the blue of the sky in the top corners.

    Different shades of the light and dark greens are probably not an option at this time. I don’t have the right fabrics and it is so difficult for me to buy fabric here. I may do something with variegated thread for the quilting. I also have some green beads that might help achieve some variation and depth.

    I do think like your suggestion about the brown embroidery for the branches and may try that.

  20. quiltfee Says:

    I am looking forward to this quilt, it sounds thrilling!


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