A couple of years ago I saw a photograph at an art show that caught my attention instantly. The photo, Tunnelvision, by photographer Dado Molina, was taken at  Fort San Cristobal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was drawn to the architectural elements, arches, and monochromatic color palette.  Dado’s image captures the texture of the structure, light and shadows of the interior passage, and the color and tones of the the sunlight reflecting through the open corridor.  The repeated arches add depth and dimension and evoke my sense of adventure. His photo inspired me and I couldn’t stop looking it. This is exactly the kind of place I enjoy discovering and exploring!

Tunnelvision by Dado Molina

I saved this photo to my computer and  from time to time I would open it and daydream.  I always thought that one day I might create it in fabrics.  Recently I contacted the photographer and obtained his permission to use it as an inspiration for my architectural quilt.  His photo is shown above and linked to his site. Please be sure to click over to his website and check out his other wonderful photos. His work is fabulous!

I’m ready to begin this project and create a tutorial for piecing an architectural quilt using Tunnelvision as my inspiration piece. To break it down into easy to follow lessons this will be a three part tutorial.

Part 1: A Guide to Getting Started

Part 1 will describe what to look for when selecting a photo and some simple editing steps. I will describe how to make fabric selections and give you options to help you make good choices for this type of project.

  • Selecting and editing the photo
  • Creating the outline and line drawing
  • Choosing your fabrics

Part 2: A Guide to Construction

Part 2  will be cover a variety of assembly techniques used to complete this project. These will include using freezer paper patterns and fusible web to construct your foundation and create shadows and depth.

  • Creating the pattern
  • Cutting and piecing
  • Adding dimension and depth

Part 3: Bonding and Fusing

Part 3 will give you some tips on how to add detail using bonded fibers and decorative threads. I will also show you a quick edge treatment that will give your project the perfect finishing touches.

  • Fusing in the details
  • Using bonded fibers to add highlights
  • Thread-painting the details
  • Finishing the edges

Lets get started!

Selecting and editing the photo!  You will need an architectural photo! The photo you select should have areas with high levels of contrast and enough detail to add interest to the project. Look for a photo with repeating patterns, straight lines, and a few curved elements.  A lot of detail can be added using fabric selection, but photos with small intricate designs do not lend well to these techniques.

You will need access to a photo editor, for this project I used Adobe Photoshop but there are plenty of applications online if you do not have Photoshop. To begin I pulled Tunnelvision into Photoshop. I used the black and white adjustment levels to convert the original photo to grayscale.  If you do not have a photo editor, you can make black and white photo copies at the copy center and adjust the levels as needed to lighten or darken. The purpose of this step is to remove the color so you can see the VALUES ~ the lights, mid tones, and darks!

Left: The original Photo. Center: Grayscale version. Right: Line drawing.

The next step is to use a filter to remove some of the texture and create a simple line drawing. I used a filter to add contrast between the light and dark areas. I  saved and printed the result, shown in the center above.

To create the line drawing, I taped the black and white edited photo to a window and traced the outline of each main element.  This produced a line drawing that will be the foundation of the work. I took the Black and White print out and my line drawing to a copy center and enlarged them to 30” x 24”. This will be the finished size of the quilt. There are several areas where there are defined shadows. These were cross hatched using a different color marker to differentiate from the outline. This will help me to decide where to fuse the details later.

Line drawing with crosshatch highlights

Selecting your fabrics is the next important step.  Take your color photo to a quilt shop an pick out fabrics for your quilt. I carry the photo on my tablet to the store so I can zoom in on some areas and walk through the store looking for just the right one. I focus on the main colors in varying tints and hues and then select a few for the very light and very dark areas. Use color to create depth – the texture will be added by selecting fabrics with mottled designs and patterns.

For this project I selected 10 shades of brown, tan, gold and gray to begin. The gray and black fabric will be used to create the very dark shadows and one lightest fabric will be for the sunlit areas.  I may decide to pull other fabrics from my stash as I go.  For my project, the finished size is going to be small, only 24″ x 30″.  I purchased 1/2 yard cuts, which is plenty more than I’ll need.

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This collection of similar fabrics will help unify the overall effect of light and shadow. Notice on the left side of the photo there is a dark fabric with  mottled print. This fabric will be used in the shadows between the arches. The print lends nice to the varying shades in those details.  Carefully selecting your fabrics is an important step. Take your time and audition all of the players.  Start with more than you need and make cuts as you go.  Look at the print and imagine the fabric in smaller pieces on your quilt. You can always change your mind while you are piecing. if you don’t like your first pick.

There is a lot of work to be done to complete part one.  I’m going to work on this and post my progress as I go.  In the next blog, I will  work with you and show you how to create freezer paper templates, assemble the foundation, and fuse on some of the additional details.  Until then, start looking for a photograph that inspires you!  Start at Dado Molina’s site. There are so many great choices!

Happy Stitching!