I wrote today on my personal blog, “I love how empty containers look–like they’re just waiting for something. Almost nothing makes me happier than an empty bookshelf, a vacant table top, a basket, box, or bowl waiting to be filled. They are full of potential.”
Empty spaces in quilts are full of potential too. Some quilts are so busy you hardly know where to look. Your eyes get tired bouncing from one bright color or intricate motif to the next. And sometimes that makes for a dynamic, interesting quilt. Most of the time though, it’s just exhausting to look at.
Since I’m not a hand quilter (and only a fair-to-middling machine quilter), I tend to shy away from leaving a lot of open space in my quilts. I use tone-on-tone fabrics to provide resting places for the viewer’s gaze and fantastic prints to provide the intricacy in other areas. But the more quilts I see in the day-to-day course of my work here, the more I appreciate the potential of empty spaces.
The beauty that can be achieved with nothing more than thread on fabric is endlessly fascinating to me. Some quilters are content to let the gorgeous fabrics do the work. Others, either by intention or necessity, use fabric that is not stunning on its own. They often leave large expanses of plain fabric in which to work their magic with needle and thread.
It’s not just hand quilters who do this either. I have seen some of the most incredible quilting done with a regular home sewing machine. (Anyone who has ever seen one of Sherry Reynolds’s quilts up close knows what I’m talking about!) Designs of every imaginable level of complexity swirl and dance through the empty spaces in these quilts and fill them with depth and artistry that no commercial fabric could hope to match.
So next time you’re piecing a quilt, throw in some plain white or some large unpieced sections and fill them with quilting. Leave some potential there. You never know what might grow out of it.