100 Days – Week of Composition – The Positive Effects of Negative Space

The Positive Effects of Negative Space

Todays tutorial isn’t a how to, it’s more of a what’s it all about.  Our “What is Modern Quilting” statement says that modern quilters use more negative space in their quilts.  So, what is negative space and how can we use it effectively as we compose our quilts?

Urban Garden by Jacquie Gering

Negative space is the unoccupied area that surrounds the objects, shapes, or forms in a composition.  Negative space can be within a block itself as well as the space surrounding the block.  It flows in, around and between our quilt blocks.  Negative space is a powerful design tool as it gives definition to our composition.  Sometimes the negative space in a composition also forms a design element that becomes part of the composition.

In addition to defining shapes in a quilt, negative space can be used to create movement, emphasis and interest in a quilt design.  Negative space can simplify or unclutter a design and at the same time draw attention to the focal point of a quilt.  It can also give the eye a place to rest in an intricate design.

Negative space can create an additional design element in block-based designs.   In many block based designs the negative space forms a secondary design element or repeats the design in the positive spaces as in this Cartwheel quilt where the negative space repeats the cartwheel design.

In this spiderweb quilt the negative space creates a new shape between the blocks.  Look at your favorite quilt pattern or design and notice how the negative space enhances the design.

Tin Ceiling by Jacquie Gering

Norma’s quilt is a wonderful example of the design power of negative space.  Notice how the space between and surrounding the fish blocks create the appearance of an organized “school” of fish and the negative space is also used to create the separation for the one that got away.

Leading the Pack by Norma Cecil

Melissa also uses negative space to support her design.  The horizontal piecing is set into the background (negative space) and the space on each side of the piecing is a different size, creating an unbalanced composition that adds interest.  The negative space also flows vertically up the quilt moving your eye up through the pieced section.

Limitless by Melissa Herboth

Dan’s quilt is also a study in the effective use of negative space to create movement in a design.  Notice how he used negative space both within and around his blocks to move your eye over his quilt.

Ripples by Dan Rouse

In many modern quilts large areas of negative space are used to create a minimal, spare feeling which is typically viewed as modern.  Alissa’s Kona Solids Challenge quilt is a wonderful example of a large area of negative space creating a minimalist feel.  The large area of negative space in this quilt also draws attention to the piecing.

Kona Solids Challenge Quilt by Alissa Haight Carlton

All of the quilters featured this week used negative space to enhance their designs.  The large areas of space in Alex’s Busytown quilt draw you in to look closer at her vehicles.  Kristy’s Pixie Stix dance in the negative space of her quilt, Jessica used negative space to create flow and separation in Plum Kebab and Rumi gives your eye a place to rest in her 50/50quilt and she even used negative space to express one of the ideas in her quilt.

Negative space is definitely a positive element in quilts, so we hope you will embrace negative space and thoughtfully consider how to use it as your compose your quilts.