Tag Archives: Quilt block

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.

 

So Are the Days of Our Lives…

Naw, this isn’t about the soap opera. It’s about hourglasses. You know, “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” I never even watched the show, but I can still hear the announcer’s voice.

A few days ago I started a new quilt. It’s a block quilt this time, not a medallion. Hourglasses are a favorite of mine, and they’re easy to make. I was ready for easy. I decided to make large-ish blocks, 8″ finish, to make a bed quilt. Using a 10×10 layout, that would give an 80″ square quilt, not including borders.

I chose old-fashioned pretties from my stash, things I still enjoy but am not using much these days. The darks are in reds, greens, teals, and purples. The lights are varied, ranging from creams to peaches to pale greens and blues. None of the fabrics are uglies or leftovers, and many of them are interesting in their own right.

I cut 50 light squares and 50 dark squares, and cut them on the diagonal twice to make the hourglass triangles. That gave me 400 patches. I paired them light and dark randomly and stitched, creating 200 pairs. Then I matched them again randomly. My only hard rule was to not have two purples or two reds, for example, in the same hourglass block. So each block has two different dark colors in it. I also randomized the lights so each block has two different lights, as well.

Today I’ve been sewing rows. Here is a taste of the layout.

20150803_131227_resized

Rows not fully assembled.

As you can see, most of the blocks have red as one of the triangles. Using a dominant color helps create an anchor. When no color dominates or repeats enough, a quilt can appear chaotic. Well, this riot of scrappy triangles is chaotic enough! I also chose a dark red print for the border, to emphasize the reds.

As I write this, there are only 11 seams left. Of course they are the long ones, assembling the center and attaching the borders. But very likely this project will get put aside for a while. That’s okay as I’m not in a hurry for it. It’s intended as a gift and can wait until cooler weather to be given. I think the recipient will enjoy the fabrics I chose as much as I do.

 

More Fun with the Economy Block

I keep playing with the economy block, which I first wrote about in January 2014. Apparently other people do, too. It’s my most-viewed post by far, with at least several hits every day. In fact if you google “economy block”, this is the result:

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 9.31.52 AM

Yep. Two hundred and six MILLION results, and mine is number one. Okay, now that I’ve bragged…

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.

This week I’ve played with the economy block as the center of a bigger block. Below are two blocks. Each is sized to be 1.5 times the size of the economy block in the center. For example, with a white center below of 4″, the economy block is 8″. The points on the outside add another 4″ (2″ on each side). The total finished block size is 8″ x 1.5 = 12″.

Here is a block EQ7 calls a “Contrary Wife Variation.” I’ve also seen it called Union Square. Wouldn’t it look great as the center of a medallion quilt? 😉

Union Square block

Union Square straight set

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

Union Square on point

Union Square or Contrary Wife variation, set on point with sashing.

EQ7 calls this one the “Double X, No. 4” block. I think it looks a little more delicate than the one above. Also the cornerstone in the sashing helps create a wonderful secondary design.

Double X block

Double X No. 4 block

Double X str set

Double X straight setting

Double X on point

Double X on point setting

I’ve shown these in one color set, but it’s easy to imagine them in a range of colors, with more than three colors per block, or using lots of fabrics (scraps.)

There’s a lot more, but this is enough for today.

DeLight

20150620_104255

DeLight. 96″ square. Finished June 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

(Click on the photo above to open it larger in a new tab.)

As noted (extensively) in the last post about this quilt, the center block is a variation of an old design called “Odd Fellow’s” block. I found the design in a book called One Block Says It All, by Toni Phillips and Juanita Simonich. The book has a number of patterns all based on 60″ center blocks, surrounded by a couple of borders. While I used the same configuration as one of the centers in the book, I scaled mine to 32″, still a large block by most standards.

Proportion
I’ve discussed before the proportion of the center as compared to the whole medallion quilt. Though I didn’t have a final plan when I made the block, I knew the quilt would be sized for a big bed, queen or king, so a big block would work well. (I’ll give all the border sizes in another post, as well as a blank you can play with.)

Almost all the shapes in this quilt are big. The smallest shapes are star points at the very center of the quilt. Next are the blue accent triangles in the inner HST border. They are small, but the solid pale grey in which they’re set creates large shapes to offset. (Note this: there are two shapes, one in the “color” and one in the background, or negative space. Either or both contribute to the sense of scale.) Also, the vibrant blue gives them weight relative to their size.

The “middle” border is actually two blocks wide. Each block finishes at 8″ square, so the perceived width of the combined border is 16″. As compared to the center (finishing at 32″) the middle border seems wide, and the blocks are bulky. The pale grey background fabric also attracts the eye more than the darker grey in the center. When the quilt is hanging as shown, the wide border and value difference takes some of the focus away from the center. When the quilt is on a bed, however, the imbalance is lessened in impact.

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Color
Two of the feature fabrics are the red with black print, making star points in the center and the large red triangles in the broad border, and the orange dandelion fabric. I’ve long wanted to use them together. They set the color scheme for the rest of the quilt, emphasizing the reds and oranges, but also including the violet.

The background color throughout the quilt is grey in varying shades. I’ll be honest. I am not a fan of grey, generally. But it was the right offset to the reds and oranges. It is very neutral, as a white would be, but it is less stark than white. That said, I much prefer the paler greys to the darker ones.

Value
Speaking of paler compared to darker, the value contrasts in this quilt are a big factor in its effectiveness. In particular, I think the center block would be better if the background grey were paler, lending more contrast and showing off the Odd Fellow’s block and its fabrics better.

On the other hand, the broad border might be better with slightly less value contrast between its background grey and the shapes of color. A little less contrast would make the odd shapes stand out less.

Overall, though, I like strong contrasts creating distinct rings of value between center and border components. So while I’m not completely satisfied with the effect here, in the broad scope of things, I think the value contrast works okay.

Shapes
Shapes are another design element we use to create meaning in a quilt. The comment above about value contrast in the broad border alludes to odd shapes. In truth, I really like the shapes from center through the big red triangles. And I like the outside border of red half-square triangles. And I even love the Old Maid’s Puzzle blocks in the corners of the broad border. But the other shapes there, especially the squares on point and the flying geese on either end of them, do not work as well for me as I’d hoped. Though they are connected to the red triangles and the Old Maid’s Puzzles, they don’t seem to relate. I still haven’t figured out what would have worked better.

Unity
Unity is the design principle that refers to the overall look of a piece. Does it present itself as a whole, or are there parts or elements that look out of place? This quilt displays unity. Aside from my misgivings about the squares on point, I don’t think they draw attention to themselves, distracting from the whole design. The strong symmetry and repetition of shapes and colors is soothing, while the ways points are directed provides some tension and contrast.

This quilt isn’t on my list of favorites, but I tried some things I hadn’t done before, and on the whole I like it very much.

Look for the EQ quilt design next time.

DeLight-ful Odd Fellows and Old Maids

On the same weekend I finished the Fairy quilt, I also finished DeLight.

20150620_104255

DeLight. 96″ square. Finished June 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

This quilt began (as most medallions do) with the center block. The design is a variation of an old block called “Odd Fellow’s” block, or alternately, “Odd Fellow’s Chain.” The variation you see above puts one more variable star as the center of the block you see below.
Odd Fellows block

This is what the Odd Fellow’s block looks like if you group four of them:
Odd Fellows 4
and if  you color it a little differently:
Odd Fellows 4 variation

Notice the corners of the block, reaching clear toward the center of the block. Each corner is made like the block called “Old Maid’s Puzzle,” shown below.
Old Maids Puzzle block

When you group four of these, they become the same as an Odd Fellow’s block.
Old Maids Puzzle 4

More about my quilt’s design process next time.