Playing with Color and Value Placement

Recently I showed you a block that uses the economy block as the center. It’s called “Union Square,” or “Contrary Wife Variation.”

Union Square block

I showed you two different versions of it. Here is the straight set with sashing.

Union Square straight set

Union Square or Contrary Wife variation, straight set with sashing.

What a difference it makes to remove the sashing. If you’re like me, your eye starts to focus on the dark shapes rather than on the blocks. In fact, you might start to see T blocks.

Union Square unsashed

Union Square unsashed

And one more change, putting some subtle color in the blocks’ corner patches. For me, this really blurs the block outlines.

Union Square unsashed 2

Union Square unsashed, with color/value variation

Now let’s try placing the values differently. Different colors, here, too.

Union Square unsashed 3

Union Square unsashed variation

Honest to Pete, it’s the same blocks. Putting the darkest value in the corners and their adjacent wedges takes the eye directly to them. In other words, the visual weight is where the dark values are. That is accentuated by using the pale yellow to create squares on point between the dark segments.

The lesson in this, if there is one, is that the way you see a pattern or design first is not the only way it can be done. Most of us are used to using our own preferred colors. But values can be placed differently, too. Experiment with designs to see how color and value placement changes the look.


If you’d like to see my other posts on economy blocks, the first post showed you how to make the economy block ANY SIZE with my tutorial and cheat sheet. The second showed you 17 different arrangements of the block with alternate blocks. They range from simple to fairly complex. The third is linked at the top of this post. It is on blocks that use the economy block as their center.



8 thoughts on “Playing with Color and Value Placement

  1. KerryCan

    What did quilters do before software? This is very interesting and a good reminder. I tend to gravitate toward the same kinds of colors, no matter whether I’m quilting or weaving or choosing clothes to wear. It’s time to think about mixing it up more!

  2. katechiconi

    I do find colour value interesting. I like the first version, with the sashing and the corner posts, but find the second one ‘angry’ and spiky. With the addition of another colour there’s a change of emphasis and in the fourth one, I don’t see the spikes at all, and have to work quite hard to see where they ‘should’ be.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, I think it’s fascinating how different “the same thing” can look. I’m no fan of the first one with no sashing, either. I think it looks harsh. But imagine it in a scrappy version of white with two colors, and it would soften a lot. Change from white to … pink, maybe, and you have a whole new ballgame. Could be quite sweet instead of angry. One more way to see that each quilt has its own personality. 🙂


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