Quilt Art Design Tip: Use the Rule of Thirds

When making quilt art, whether you’re creating artist trading cards (ATCs), mini quilts, or a larger wall quilt, there are certain tricks that can help you achieve a balanced and pleasing design.

quilt art fabric collage fruit mantra by deborah boschert
‘Fruit Mantra’ quilt art collage by Deborah Boschert.

Contemporary quilt artist Deborah Boschert illustrated her tips for combining linear and organic design in art quilts in the October/November 2012 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine. There, she described how she uses “The Rule of Thirds” as a design strategy in art quilting.

“You can create a more visually stimulating and graphically interesting composition if you follow the design guideline called ‘The Rule of Thirds,'” explains Deborah.  “Simply stated, imagine that your collage is divided into nine equal parts by two grid lines placed both horizontally and vertically. If you arrange the primary elements of your design on those grid lines, you will create more tension and interest than if you center your subject.

“Keeping this rule in mind when designing your composition will help you place the elements of your fabric collage in a pleasing and interesting manner. Don’t be too tight, though. Mix in some jagged cuts, frayed edges and asymmetry,” she adds.

With the Rule of Thirds as her guiding principle, Deborah has developed a way to combine graphic and organic components in a small art quilt. The grid is formed by creating a collage of square and rectangular fabrics. It is paired with organic shapes that are created with fused appliqué, free-motion stitching, or a painted stencil. This combination of linear and organic components incorporates layers of design, and can be used to complement many different styles of artwork.

quilt art example by deborah boschert
Example from Deborah’s article in Quilting Arts on using The Rule of Thirds in creative quilt art.

As you look at the examples shown here, see if you can tell where the elements fall into the grid. Notice how the fabric collage background is not necessarily exactly in thirds, but still fits into the grid pattern. Notice, also, how the organic shapes overlay the grid.

If you haven’t tried this design technique before, give it a try. It will give you an excuse to play to fabric scraps–as if you needed one! For your organic shapes, try using a small tree branch or leaves as your inspiration. Make drawings of your discoveries in your sketchbook for future reference.

For more details and tips on this art quilting design technique,you can download the October/November issue of Quilting Arts right now.

P.S. Have you used the Rule of Thirds in your creative quilt art? Was it helpful or restrictive? Tell me how it worked for you in the space below.

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