Friday, February 11, 2005

When it's not working...

You've gathered together the fabrics you want to use in the piece you will make today. They are in front of you, on your work surface or pinned to your wall and you wait for inspired direction.


What gives?

I've been there a million times. My worst-bad-habit is to try to make something work that hasn't a ghost of a chance of becoming wonderful. One can waste an entire day on that task and have Perfect Blahness for a product.

One must start with DAZZLING in order to end up with DAZZLING.
Yeah, but....

What is DAZZLING? How can you expect me to use this good piece when I have no idea if my design idea is good enough to warrant it. Or worse, I have no idea where I am going with this design... I can't 'waste' this good fabric on a design experiment!!

We'll talk more about design another day. This is about color..

Dazzling is defined as really beautiful fabric, that you love upon seeing it, that looks wonderful alone and even better in combination with its opposite. Nothing short of gorgeous.

The fabric makes the quilt.

TRY making fabulous from gray flannel. Not gonna happen. Not in my world at least, and if you wanna prove me wrong go right ahead. I will be spending my time with wonderful color, and high quality fabric.

Contrast can bring excitement too. So many of us quilters have vast supplies of medium range values, and nothing in the deep dark range or very light to almost white range. And then there are the light mediums and the dark mediums, which confuse us into thinking we have a 'good enough' value range.

Years ago when I was a youth, I worked as a commercial artist and one of our mentors always reminded us that a good design works even without color, as in the black, white and gray mock-ups that we used. Now (if and or )when I sketch a design for a quilt, I draw in the values to define the design and that helps me remember the importance of using value as a compositional device.

Color Contrast: Simlutaneous contrast is when two colors that are opposites on the color wheel, aka compliments, are juxtaposed to provide that DAZZLE. I must confess that this is one of my favorite tricks. I love the effect of these brights colliding and making the viewer reach for the sunglasses! Some of the best combos are orange and turquoise, hot pink and kelly green, and red and green too. But it can even work to your advantage if you pale it down to something like buttercup yellow against pale lavender. You will still get the vibrations that cause the eye to blink.

Lately I have been in training to use limited color schemes. This is a big lesson for me since for the last ten or so years I have been busy using only one color scheme: all colors, all the time.
When you dye your own fabrics you can make whatever colors you want, and I wanted them all. In. One. Piece. However, I do admire the work of other artists and had to admit that using only some of the colors in a work had merit and so I am trying it.

Not everything I have tried has been a smashing delight.

But I am learning. I have had some success with earth tones, which was like pulling teeth for me, since no fuschia was included in this scheme. However an all earth toned quilt with no turquoise is like the Southwest without frijoles. So it is important to remember to include the spark to start the fire.

Another good color scheme for me is what I call the Frieda colors, orange, purple and Frieda Green, which is an olive-y kind of green. These are offshoots of the three primaries which were always my initial three perfect starters.

I have not had good success with using regular blue over turquoise as my basic blue. Something about midrange blue, just stops a piece dead. Royal however is a gem color and then you can combine that with emerald, ruby and topaz which again are offshoots of the primaries.

So here's an exercise to get one moving towards a solution: Search your stash for values, and make five piles. Light, light-mediums, mediums, dark-mediums and darks. I will bet you will be off to the quilt store for more values at each end.


  1. Thanks for the color wisdom. I've always admired your use of color.I love those glorious colors, how could anyone not be happy when looking at them?

  2. Finding your own color palette is a good lesson for all of us. Pushing fast the comfort zone is very important too!

  3. From reading many artists writings, color seems to be the one aspect of our work that we continue to learn from through the years. One could study only color for the rest of their life and still find something new. Thanks for the reminders.


So nice of you to drop by. I love your comments, and if you would really like a reply, please email me at fibermania at g mail dot com