Shell Themes & Variations: Finding Quilting Inspiration at the Shoreline

In my heart, I’m a beach girl who enjoys nothing more than the sound of the shore break and the feel of sea spray on my skin. Now that I’ve got tetchy, ballet-damaged feet, sand-walking is the only thing that soothes them in a truly satisfying way. Consequently, when I visit my parents in Florida, I make daily pilgrimages to the beach for a sand-and-saltwater therapy and to enjoy one of my very favorite places on the planet.

Dates & Places:  FL beach

One of upsides of my ritual is the opportunity to treasure hunt along the shore. Yeah, well, I’m really in search of errant doubloons washed ashore from sunken treasure fleets, but discoveries of “pieces of eight,” although not unheard of, are scarce.  Shelling is the reliable seaside treasure hunt.  Just a few weeks ago, as I walked along the shore, I spotted a very common shell with a striking white stripe.

Inspiration-J:  Shell 1

Isn’t Mother Nature interesting?

Inspiration-J:  Shell collection

Typically, I can’t stop at picking up one. Each exemplar of this basic shell had different bold patterns of white and rusted tan.

Inspiration-J:  Ombre shell

Look at that:  Mother Nature is on trend with an ombre shell!

After my first walk, I riffled through the shells my sister displays on a bookshelf in the guest room of our parent’s house. When we’re visiting at the same time, we get to share that room and sleep on the original twin beds from our childhood home. What a treat since we’ve both been known to snore–plus she’s a night owl and I’m not! Back to the narrative:  that’s when I spotted the elongated snail shell with ombre coloration in Laurie’s purchased collection.

Inspiration-J:  Shell arrangement

Then I just had to go all “quilty” with her purchased shells and my findings and compose a color, pattern, and texture story.

Inspiration-J:  Ombre shell 2

I couldn’t exactly run off with Laurie’s treasures and so I hit our favorite shell store TerMarsch Groves where they serve fresh-squeezed OJ to shoppers while they browse Florida treasures like key lime marmalade, shark-teeth necklaces, seasonal citrus, preserved gator heads–yup and yuck–and shells. I was in pursuit of my own ombre shell and found one with a smidge more visual drama.

Inspiration-J:  Shell ensemble

When I got back to California I composed a mini vignette in similar colors and textures with my shell stash–yes, I have shell and fabric stashes!

Inspiration-J:  Closer view of shell patternsThere’s something about this pairing that pleases me. Perhaps it’s the soothing neutrals and the markings that play with light and shadow.

Fabric-J:  Stash crash

I crashed my stash and pulled fabrics that keyed off the shell markings and colors–mid-range neutrals were scarce, but I’m sure I can find those middle notes without much trouble. I like these quasi-academic exercises; aside from sharpening color, pattern, and scale selection skills, it’s also a good way to refresh stash recall. Hey, fancy that:  a fabric treasure hunt–it’s not pirate treasure, but close. Happy hunting!



10 thoughts on “Shell Themes & Variations: Finding Quilting Inspiration at the Shoreline

    1. Shells are fantastic for their variety in shape, texture, and color. Jewels all. I’m mindful when I go shelling. I pick up just a few, not boatloads! Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation.


  1. Hi Jennifer, So so you have a pattern in mind yet? As a former mermaid, I loved this post! I want to make a quilt with this palette too! Why don’t you come to the Cape and we can make one together?


    1. No, Cinderella, nothing firm as yet. Maybe we should indeed collaborate?!? Perhaps we’ve finally found an intersection in our widely different approaches to quilt making? I’ll do Cape Cod any time!


  2. Loved reading about your idea of pairing shell colors textures with fabrics! Can’t wait to see the quilt that comes from your inspiration! I too love taking my walks on our sweet lil
    New England town beach… Always calming yet inspiring!!


    1. Gotta admit I was just messing around when I pulled those fabrics and now, from Sally’s pertinent comment, I’m mulling ideas over more seriously. Thanks for sharing your comments. I stopped by your blog too–what a lovely diversion you have with your journals!


    1. Hey Sally, I took your comment to heart this morning after reading your comment and spent some time in my contemplation space (i.e. my shower) and realized that you have delivered a great suggestion for tackling spiraling shell motifs. Thank you! Wow!


    1. Hello Marie, thank you so much sharing photos of your beautiful quilts. I do love the fact that you enjoyed making your son’s quilt so much that you had to make another for yourself. Truly beautiful quilts cued on beach colors from your shores. Florida beaches can be eyeball-burning bright and so I particularly loved the colors you used that reflect more northern seas. Fantastic!


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