Foundation paper piecing has been evolving over the past few years. Designers have taken the concept, which allows for very precise imagery and gone to town—there have been intricate florals, stunning landscapes, and animals—lots of animals! But what’s not to love? Paper piecing brings life and vitality to animal figures as only it can—allowing for supreme details in facial features, especially the eyes. Violet Craft is known for her paper pieced animal quilts—and for good reason! Read on to discover how it all started in an article by Lauren Lang, and to see some of Violet’s amazing designer quilts!
The beginning of an idea
The sign of a true quilt designer might be someone who has already started planning her first quilt using a new technique before she’s even learned it. Such is what happened when Violet Craft met foundation paper piecing. “I was at a Portland Modern Quilt Guild sew day and had just tried foundation paper piecing for the very first time,” Craft recalls. “I was working on a star block that took eight templates to make. I had just taught myself the technique and finished the first of the eight templates when my brain exploded with ideas. I immediately knew exactly what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it.”
The rest is history. A fabric designer who also designed some of her own quilts, Craft’s foray into paper piecing has resulted in a match made in heaven. Her work in this style began with the “Forest Abstractions Quilt” (my first foundation-pieced project), a collection of paper-pieced woodland animals.
How Craft creates the patterns
While paper piecing can be a bit tricky to learn, quilters love it once they’ve gotten the technique down. It results in intricately geometric patterns that are often quite graphic, and it affords better accuracy than traditional piecing usually does. But Craft explains that the design process can actually be quite complex. She feeds illustrations into 3D modeling software to transfer the animals into a “low-poly” style and manipulates their shape and position. Next, “I hand illustrate the animals again from this new reference work. The final quilts look very little like the computer generated low-poly images I get from the software; it makes the animals too consistent and generated. I bring life back into the animals by changing the way the polygrams shape their bodies and I give them movement through different angles and inconsistent shapes.”
Beginning with her “Forest Abstractions,” Craft’s menagerie of patterns has multiplied— with stunning effects. “Jungle Abstractions: The Lion” was her first one-block quilt. “I knew I wanted to do an animal that would capture attention and roar from his wall at Quilt Market. I took a lot of time making sure that his personality was just right—approachable, lovable, but still fierce.
Keeping the animals realistic
When I design the animals I’m always trying to capture a sense of their personality and most of that is in their eyes.” “Giraffe Abstractions,” “Elephant Abstractions,” and most recently, “Peacock Abstractions” have followed the lion, and each is a stunning pattern that captures the light and geometric play of low-poly, but also displays an artistry and realism not common in quilting. The irony, Craft reflects, is that none of this was even supposed to happen. “I never intended to pattern this work for consumers. I honestly didn’t know others would want to recreate my art—I mean, I had ventured down a pretty crazy path to get here. I did the work as a gift of studio time to myself. I consider myself to be an artist and a designer. I have just found a way to take my original art and turn it into commercial sewing patterns for my design company.”
The tradition of Foundation Paper Piecing
But even as Craft reflects on how foundation paper piecing has catapulted her into the future, she remembers its traditions in the past. “I love to learn traditional techniques and see how I can manipulate them using modern techniques and technology,” she says. “I don’t think I would have ever been the person to invent something like foundation piecing (which dates back to the 15th century), but I love that I’ve taken it in a new direction. I appreciate every step that’s been taken before me to get me to this jumping-off point—and now I know that my techniques have been a jumping off point for others, too.”
Violet Craft’s designer quilts never fail to amaze! With such an in-depth process we are sure to see more beautiful quilts for years to come. While we wait, check out another designer’s paper pieced animals in this eBook. Subscribe to Quilting Company TV all-access for great videos on foundation paper piecing to get you started.