Tag Archives: fabric

Finding Value

Color, value, and pattern all factor into the ways we experience the interplay between patches and blocks.

Value is the relative lightness or darkness of one fabric patch to another. Some would argue that value is more important than color in impact on the quilt design. I’m not sure I’d go that far. To me, color and value are partners, along with the other elements of design. Because some people perceive one more easily than the other, as a quilter you need to be aware of both. Both color and value contribute to the elements of shape and line, to give the total impression of contrast and visual interest.

For those of us who are not color blind, differences in color are pretty easy to see. But value is much harder for many quilters. Value can be obscured by saturation, or by “brightness.” For example, here is a quilt I found interesting. This is my XOXO quilt. Look at the values in the Xs and Os in the last border. Is the pale blue background lighter in value than all the other patches?

XOXO, Medallion Sew-Along Track 1, finish #6. 48″ square. Finished June 2014.

What about the solid medallion I showed you a few days ago? To me, the colors give strong contrast, but the values do not. Are the values the same or different? What is darkest? What is lightest?

Unquilted sample

Prints can make it difficult to discern value differences. To me, this one is darn near a “low volume” (muted, low value-contrast) quilt.

A more modern take

Here is a quilt I made for Jim many years ago. Both value and color seem to be in a narrow range here. Are they?

There are various tricks quilters use to discern value when it isn’t obvious.

  1. Array a group of fabrics from darkest to lightest. Squint or take off your glasses. Are you sure they are in value order? Rearrange if needed. Turn the lights down most of the way, so the room is dim. Now how are they?
  2. Use a colored filter. Viewed through a filter, fabrics generally reveal value differences as the color disappears. However, a red piece of fabric will still show as red if you use a red filter, and green fabric will still show as green through a green filter. To get this to work for all your fabrics, you need multiple filters. That isn’t always convenient, or even easy to remember.
  3. Use a scanner or copier to photocopy fabric swatches, then print in black and white. With the color removed, you can see only value.
  4. Easier (these days) is to take a photo of a set of fabrics. Using either the camera’s own setting, or a photo-editing application, view the picture in black and white. (One photo editor I use is PicMonkey. This is a free service for basic needs, though you can also buy access to an upgraded version.)

Here are the four pictures from above, shown with color removed. The black and white reveals value differences more clearly than you may see with just color. For XOXO you can see there is one block in the top border and one in the bottom border with no value contrast. In black and white, the block almost disappears. The bright pink fools the eye with color contrast, though. You can also see the middle border disappears, because there isn’t enough contrast in the half-square triangles’ values.

In the solid medallion, the fuschia (hot pink) is actually lighter in value than the background grey. And in fact, there is reasonably good value contrast.

This looks low volume (muted and low contrast) in color and in value. The larger prints lead to some of that effect, as the edges between patches blur. My preference, generally, is for stronger contrast than this.

This really is all the same color and value. The main differences are in pattern. It was a deliberate choice I made as an early quilter. Technically it may not work, but in person on Jim’s office wall, it looks darn good.

As I looked for online resources about value, I found them much less available than about color. One of the better blog posts I found was from Piecemeal Quilts. This Skillbuilder Series post talks about color, value, and pattern. There are some helpful photos that show the affects of changing value combinations.

Kona Cotton Solids

I’m working on a small quilt made of solid fabrics — no prints. I don’t mind mixing prints and solids, but this one is intended to have an old-fashioned Amish feel. Some of the fabrics were purchased at JoAnn’s, and some were from local quilt shops.

JoAnn’s sells solids under two or three different labels. One label (brand) is Kona Cotton Solids. The question comes up regularly about the maker of JoAnn’s Kona solids. If you buy something called “Kona” at the quilt shop, it also will show the maker as Robert Kaufman. JoAnn’s doesn’t say that.

Who makes JoAnn’s Kona solids? Are they made by Robert Kaufman or some other manufacturer? Are they Robert Kaufman second-quality goods?

This morning in the Stashbusters Yahoo site (group forum), someone posted a link to Bonnie Hunter’s Quiltville blog. Bonnie and Robert Kaufman answered this question definitively. I encourage you to read the whole answer provided by Robert Kaufman. However, I’ll summarize here:

  1. Robert Kaufman makes ALL Kona Cotton Solids, regardless of retailer.
  2. ALL Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton fabrics distributed are first quality. Seconds are destroyed.
  3. If you find fabric labeled as Kona Cotton Solids that appears to be of lower quality, the company would like you to mail them a sample.

Where should you buy your Kona Cotton Solids? Many of us like to patronize our local quilt shops, ensuring their success to keep them in our communities. Many of us like the coupons and sales offered by JoAnn Fabrics. Hobby Lobby also has carried Kona solids, but I don’t shop there anymore. So as with most of the rest of my fabric purchases, I will continue to buy at JoAnn’s and make sure I support my local shops, as well.

Explosive and Stable at the Same Time

FFF, 42″ x 44″. Unquilted, July 2014.

I’ve been working on this, off and on (and mostly off) for … a long time. I started with some beautiful African fabrics I bought at a quilt show (years ago). With those as inspiration, I found a number of other “domestic” prints. (Just how domestic our fabrics are is a matter for another post.)

The center star was the first part of this project. I built it, faced it with lightweight fusible interfacing, and appliqued it to the background. It is appliqued rather than pieced into the background to retain the stripe of golden dots across the top. Next I rimmed that with 1″ half-square triangles that includes an African print. And that is how it stayed, waiting patiently for me to begin again.

Maybe that’s when it started to scare me. This isn’t my usual style, though it IS my usual format lately, a medallion. At every step I’ve had to remind myself that nothing needs to be permanent. Any portion put on can be taken off again. It is not so precious that it can’t be changed. And so I framed the center with black, and tipped it off-square, and loved it. And it waited again until after I began the Medallion Sew-Along last fall.

Someday, somehow, a very odd geometric print appeared in my stash. Of citrus green on black, it features interlocking circles and angry cats. And it became the next frame on my slowly-building quilt top. I followed that with different fabrics on each side, separated from the center with a very narrow red line.

More waiting…

The same African stripe used to build the center star became the next border. At that point I wasn’t sure if it was done. So I did what I usually do: I asked someone else. My sister Cathie said “no,” not done yet. It still needed some heft to offset the darker center.

And I asked Jim. He said “it needs blue.” Blue? There’s no blue here! But in fact, there is a blue-purple in one border and touches of blues in another. He has not failed me yet, so I tried blue. Whaddya know, blue was the thing to brighten and strengthen everything already there. But blue all the way around? Too strong for me. So I used blue print on one side and stitched solid blues into an uneven piano keys border made from scraps. And I chose yet another print for the fourth side.

Busy! But … intriguing… To corral it all, I ringed it with red and black print, echoing the red star center and the red line used earlier.

One more line of blue, this time all the way around. It’s a tone-on-tone with stars, the perfect Americana touch to complement the African fabrics and feel. This quilt will be for a friend, explosive and stable at the same time. The stars are another hat tip to him.

The final border is another African print of black and cream, edged with the same brilliant orange found near the center.

I really had to talk myself through this. What was scary about it? Mostly the worry that if I “ruined” the African fabrics, I wouldn’t be able to replace them. Also, because it will be a gift, I want it special enough to honor my friend. The next intimidation factor I’ll need to overcome is quilting it. I think that will be less frightening, if only because the design is so busy, quilting will hardly show!

Thanks as always to Cathie and Jim for their encouragement and advice.

What’s the most recent “scary” project you’ve done? Why were you hesitant? Did you work through it? Were you happy with your results?

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Laughing At Myself

and I deserve it. My last post commented about quilters who put up eye candy of an array of fabrics, claiming they will use it to make a particular pattern. I don’t work that way, always changing pattern and/or fabrics while the quilt is in process. But…

Today I went to Inspirations, one of my favorite local quilt shops, and bought

I intend to use these fabrics to make that pattern:

And these fabrics to make that pattern:

In my defense, I’m developing a class on medallions for beginning quilters. Rather than step them through a sampler, I’ll teach construction of blocks and units in a medallion format. So these fabrics for that pattern will allow me to make samples in two different colorways.

Note the units and blocks they can learn: variable star, half-square triangles, and puss in the corner blocks. Of course the star requires flying geese. And I don’t know about you, but figuring out sizing for corner blocks — even plain ones — baffled me when I was a new quilter. I think it can be fun, challenging, and help them create beautiful quilts.

So yes, today I am laughing at myself. But there’s a method to my madness!

Did you make a sampler as one of your first quilts? What block or technique gave you the most fits as a new quilter?

New Fabric, New Plan — Is It Just Me?

I have to admit, I’m always kind of baffled by a particular kind of blog post I see. They feature an array of beautiful fabrics, recently purchased with excitement and enthusiasm. That part I get! The part I don’t get as well is that many of those posts name a particular pattern the bloggers intend to follow, using said fabrics.

In other words, the blogger intends to use these fabrics to make that pattern.

We all have our own ways to make a quilt, all of them as varied and wonderful as we are.

I’ve bought specific fabrics for a specific pattern once, I think. In 2012 my local guild had a red-and-white challenge. We were to use ONE red fabric and ONE white fabric to fulfill the challenge. I designed my quilt before starting, purchased the red and the white, and commenced.

Red and White Challenge Quilt. Finished April 2012.

Otherwise, all my quilts have been all stash, a combination of stash and new fabrics, or occasionally all new fabrics purchased well before having a specific pattern. In other words, I knew the colors to use, but not yardage needed, and I probably bought several pieces that never ended up in the quilt.

In fact, buying for specific patterns is probably more efficient and more economical than my method. But since I’m usually designing as I go, either for scrappy block quilts or my ever-increasing medallions, I enjoy little surprises at every stage of construction.

Sometimes that leads to frustration, when the little surprise is that I’ve run out of a piece I really want to use NOW! But then I turn to my stash, or the stash held by local quilt shops, and substitute. To me, the variety of fabrics make the quilt interesting, both to build and to behold once it’s done.

Do you choose a pattern and then choose your fabrics? Do you choose fabrics and then choose a pattern? Or do you make your fabric selections as you go, as I usually do? Is it just me?