Design Purpose

How does my daily email support my design thinking?

My email inbox this morning was filled with three sorts of emails. The first series was house sit opportunities – these were easily deleted as we have booked ourselves up until end of June. We will think about our next location after I have submitted the final PhD document, which I am planning will be before that!

Online support from Quilters

The second group was from quilting sites I have joined. This raised my awareness to the opportunities available for quilters to do online courses to learn their craft. In my past, I learned my sewing and quilting  from my mother and from the generations before her. Then I had opportunities while at primary and secondary school, and then did some at university. As mentioned earlier these were my mental health maintenance courses. Since leaving university, books, and weekend workshops have supplemented my own experimentation. This morning, I marveled at how our craft has taken on, and accepted the use of the Internet for passing on the skills and knowledge previously inaccessible to people like myself who live in isolated and remote areas of the world.

Instructional Design

My professional life has been ‘education’. Working in primary schools, vocational education institutions, and universities has been my income stream. In all these situations I have been interested in ‘distance education’. Once introduced to the computers and the ability to connect and communicate with these tools, back in 1986, I have since explored the opportunities to live remotely and still feel part of the urban world.

The final group of emails was from instructional design and academic groups that I belong to. There is a lot in common with patchwork and quilting and instructional design. The information shared this morning by John Laskaris, of TalentBlog regarding what needs to be considered when creating a learning experience for students is similar to the process one needs to engage with when designing a quilt. Most important is the purpose! Laskaris suggests the following considerations when involved in instructional design. Here’s how I might apply them to my textile design planning.

What is my objective?

In instructional design, the purpose might be sharing information, teaching a skill or promoting a change in behavior. Each requires a different approach. So it is with designing a quilt, wall hanging or any other piece of textile art. When designing a textile creation, I need to determine first why I want to make this object.

  • Who is going to use this or look at it? Is it for me or someone else?
  • When I am finished am I going to want to enter it into a Quilting show?
  • Is it to be another of my ‘mental health’ projects?
  • Will I add it to the pile of quilts for the Children’s Hospital?

What resources will be needed?

  • Am I doing this as an experiment with techniques, tools or materials?
  • Do I want to make something practical or a ‘work of art’ for looking at?
  • If the finished product a bed cover how big do I want to make it? Do I want it to just cover the top of the bed, or hand down the sides of the bed? Will it need a pillow allowance and have adjustments for the corners and hems?

Do I need to consider the detail, craftsmanship, and evaluation criteria set by others?

  • Will the finished item be for showing to others through exhibition, or for my own use and care?
  • Will

Do you have the right tools available?

  • to express my joy in colour, a particular pattern, or experiment with non-traditional techniques?

What is the level of interactivity?

  • Is this to be a piece that can involve others?

Will the person I am making this for be involved and have choice?

  • Is the intended owner fastidious or casual?
  • Will my creation have to be laundered, or a work of art that is kept away from dust and dirt?

Where to next?

Thinking about each of these questions leads me to the idea of making decisions. How we go about making decisions and what stimulates the decisions. Well my decision today is to follow the decision process using the above criteria. I probably won’t be back for a few days as I have other pressing matters to attend to, but I have decided to blog the creation of a single quilt through the design and creation process.


Interaction of Colour Joseph Alber's text with activities to demonstrate how colour is in the eye of the viewer.

Interaction of Color 

After a recent work experience that for me, was rather grueling, I found  I needed to experiment with colour. I decided to try to recreate, using fabric, some experiments that Joseph Alber taught to his art students.

Joseph Alber’s text —Interaction of Color—is filled with experiments / activities to demonstrate how colour very much depends on the colours of other objects in the surround. The physical makeup within the eye of the viewer determines the intensity and degree of colour of an object. In 1963, Albers promoted learning as an act of experimentation and trial and error. This is my way of going about learning; and one I have promoted with my students during 40 years of teaching. He wasn’t unique in the 60’s promoting this strategy. I had been taught using this technique in my own small town, elementary school context.

I needed to play with the fabric pieces to help me work out in my own mind how things had ‘gone wrong’ in my work environment. As humans we try to adjust to those around us. If the environment is not compatible with our own values, internal conflict ensues, causing mental disharmony. This of course results in poor health. Just as colour is changed by the other colours around it, so humans too are influenced by their environments. I did not like the subtle changes I was making in my own behaviours while trying to adjust to the working environment.  Thus, I decided to get out.

Indigo is considered a 'true blue'. This image comes from

Indigo is considered a ‘true blue’. This image comes from

I started playing with two of Alber’s colour theory concepts. I was searching for ‘true blue’.

Indigo is often considered ‘true blue’, as is cerulean blue. Wikipedia tells us that “cerulean was used to describe blue pigments, particularly mixtures of copper and cobaltous oxides.” The image to the right demonstrates a range of shades of blue, and how they differ when located with other items .


The relativity of colour


First,I experimented with his task of demonstrating how colous can appear as two different tones just  by arranging the surrounding colours.


A color has many faces, and one color can be made to appear as two different colors. Here it is almost unbelievable that the left small and the right small squares are part of the same paper strip and therefore are the same color. And no normal human eye is able to see both squares — alike.

I used a cerulean blue strip of fabric, placing it between other fabrics to see if I could create the difference in intensity suggested by Albers in his own class activities.

Second, was the task of using the complementary colour to create ‘true blue’. This is using no pigment at all. It is using the physical reaction that is created in the eyes cones & rods by saturating them with one image for 30 seconds, then moving the gaze to a white space. No longer does the eye see the original colour, but presents the complement to the viewer.


True Blue Vase Wall quilt (Cherry Stewart 2015)

My original work with circles, ultimately turned into a quilt that I have entitled ‘Universal Blue’. Not satisfied with the design (or my craftsmanship) I took on my husband’s suggestion of creating a ‘Blue Vase’ through the illusory use of red/orange flowers.

While I am now satisfied with the design, arrangement, and choice of colours to create the ‘Blue Vase’, I am aware that this lesson means little to anyone else.  Unless the viewer also understands the colour theory of seeing a colour after  concentrating on its complement, of course they will never see the ‘Blue Vase’.

I wonder, what does this mean to me in the social environment? Is there a lesson here that will help me deal with the ‘real’ world?  Does an intensity of concentration on one element in the environment create a reaction that impacts how we see other elements in the social environment?