Tag Archives: Value

Do You Like to Color?

Yesterday I played in EQ7 with a design for a big bed quilt. As drawn, it would finish as a 96″ square, a good size for a queen bed. Add one more plain border on 3 sides and it would easily fit a king-sized bed.

I wondered what it would look like in different colors. Now, one of the problems with simply re-coloring a design is it gives me preconceived ideas of value placement. Why not start from scratch?

Old Maids Coloring Page

You can see the lines very differently this way, can’t you?

If you click on the image, it will open as a separate tab. You can print it from there, if you’d like.

Fairy Border 3

Though I struggled some to find border 2, border 3 was easier for me to envision. It finishes at 3.5″, so whatever I did had to be petite in scale. I decided on plus blocks using all the colors from the center. In particular, I wanted to include the acid yellow.


I Found the Housework Fairy But She’s Not Coming Back. Through 3rd border, crooked on my design wall. Finishing at this stage at 35″.

Color in Medallions
Why add the yellow in border 3? It’s found in the center block in some of the flowers surrounding the fairy. In fact, if you look at the center block carefully, you’ll see lots of colors you might not have noticed at first glance. There are several variations of greens and purples; strong dark red and bright orange, aqua and shell pink. Those are all repeated (in some form) within borders 1 and 2. The aqua is alluded to with the turquoises; the shell pink is echoed in the darker pinks.

Adding the yellow in border 3 repeats the color from the center block. Its use allows it to be used again, at any time, in outer frames of the quilt. If it didn’t show up until the final border, you might think, “Huh. I wonder why she used yellow. That doesn’t make sense…” 🙂 Though it is in the center already, it will look more natural used multiple times.

One quilt design expert has suggested that colors need to be used within the central third of the quilt, in order to use them later. This quilt will finish at 60″. That would mean everything would have to show up in the center 20″. Frankly, that’s a lot stricter rule than I’ll use. But it’s good to keep in mind.

You might notice I’ve added blue in the third border. There isn’t any real blue in the center, though the other cool colors stem from blue. That batik corner block in the second border is as close as it comes to adding blue (and golden yellow appears there, too.) But I did put it in this border, specifically to “reserve the right” to use it again later. I have a great print I might use, and it has a little blue in it. Added into the rest of the array in the third border, it fits right in.

Medallions are great vehicles for using lots of fabrics, including scraps. With the stash I have and the way I work, I often run out of fabric pieces in the middle of a project. Substitutions occur to the point that I don’t even consider them substitutions. I just figure out what will work instead.

More important than using a specific fabric (which generally is not important, IMO) is using a reference to the color. That means if you’re using purple batiks in your quilt, using another purple batik will almost surely work fine, regardless of placement in the quilt. So all my colors of green work fine together, and I can add any similar green across the rest of the quilt.

In fact, the more variations of a color you use, the better. It adds depth and richness to the look. And it gives you, the quilter, so much flexibility and opportunity for fun. In the plus blocks, I used a number of scraps that simply make me happy to see them again. The lavender with bright butterflies, the light turquoise with tiny flowers, both hold memories for me, as do other pieces.

Value is another design element we can control with the fabric we use. I wrote about it here. You can choose to have high contrast or low contrast between patches and between borders. Both can be very effective, but it is something you should choose, not let happen by accident.

First, decide whether you want a low-volume (low value contrast) quilt or one with higher contrast. I generally prefer higher contrast across the quilt, though I may deliberately choose lower contrast in a particular border. For example, the Fairy’s third border is low contrast, with mostly medium values. To balance that and provide some interest and depth across the quilt, I might design the fourth border to include more lights and darks. In particular, I’ll probably use light values against the third border, to create instant contrast.

Size Issues
When the second border was attached, the center (center block and attached borders) was 28″ finished. The third border finishes at 3.5″. I chose this width purposely, because I can divide 28 by 3.5 and have an “easy” number to use: 28/3.5 = 8. So if I use (only) 3.5″ square blocks in the border, I’ll have 8 of them on each side. (I could have chosen a 4″ wide border and used 7 4″ squares: 7×4 = 28. But I didn’t pick 4″ because border 2 is 4″ wide. There is no rule for this, but I think adjacent borders often look more pleasing if they are different widths.)

In fact, I chose to use square blocks, but I decided on 3″ squares, and only 7 of them: 7×3 = 21. My little blocks only fill 21″ of the 28″ available. And of course they only fill 3″ of the 3.5″ width.

Let’s start with the width. Since they are only part of the width, I added a half-inch spacer to each. Varying the orientation of the spacer, against border 2 or away from it, allows the blocks to float. They have a more whimsical appearance than if they marched along beside each other, and it suits the nature of the fairy fabric. This floating effect is an experiment for me, as I’ve not done it before. I like the way it looks.

Now for the length. I had room for 8 3″ blocks: 8×3 = 24. I chose 7 blocks because that allows a different layout. Consider:

8 blocks:
This shows one A block against border 2, one B block away, repeating until all 8 blocks are used. The corner blocks would have been situated differently at each end of this stretch.

7 blocks:
This shows a different pattern, with the A block against border 2 at the beginning and ending of border 3. The corner blocks are situated the same at each end of this stretch.

Using 7 blocks took up 21″ of 28″. I had 7 inches leftover. Because I started and ended my borders with spacer units, there were 8 spacer units on each border: 7″/8 = 7/8″. It was easy to do this math, too.

To summarize, each border used 7 3″ blocks. To make them fit for width, I added a half-inch piece to each to finish at 3.5″. To make them fit for length (as a border,) I separated them with 8 spacer units, each 7/8″ long.

Why do I tell you all this? So you can see this is all steps that can be learned. I don’t have any magical talent at this conferred by a wave of the skills fairy’s wand. These are all decisions, and if you care to, you can learn how to make these decisions, too. Your decisions will be different from mine, as they should be.

Break away from patterns. Be powerful. Make your own quilt, your way.

Garden Party

Also finished on March 31 is Garden Party. Yes, that’s right, folks! I finished both quilts the same day!

Garden Party. 62" x 68". Center panel by Julie Paschkis for In the Beginning Fabrics. Finished March 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Garden Party. 62″ x 68″. Center panel by Julie Paschkis for In the Beginning Fabrics. Finished March 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

This goes on my list of favorite quilts of all time. Unfortunately this quilt does not belong to me. As I started it, it told me, “I’m for ___.” I said, “No, I have something else planned for ___.” But it was insistent. So ___ will get it, but we’re going to hold onto it for a while.

What makes this one of my favorites? I love the center panel. This whimsical view into the garden is like looking out (my fantasy of) my back window. Squirrels and birds abound. The colors and values range from palest green to black. The reds run from pinky to orangey. The tree trunk, flowers, and birds provide a variety of golds and tans. Greens and blues complete the palette. With both color and value, I could have gone nearly any direction on this.

The first thing I did was use the red line to stabilize and square the panel. The sawtooth border of half-square triangles sprays leaves beyond, continuing the organic feeling. The variable stars are quilted with 8-petaled flowers to reinforce the garden theme.

I started playing with the garden maze lattice blocks early in the year. See posts here and here and here. The last of those three posts shows how I made the blocks for this quilt. Originally I planned to fill the lattice with black, but it was apparent that it would be too stark. A floral would be better for value and “light,” and would give a stronger garden effect. I had a floral on black and considered using it. Before doing so, I happened to look at the Hancock’s of Paducah site and found a Julie Paschkis floral from the same line. And BONUS! It was $4.99/yard. I bought it and backing fabric at the same time.

When it arrived I knew the scale was too small, and ultimately I used it in the final border. The fabric I already had provided light and color. The fanciful feel went well with the rest.

Building the lattice crossover blocks was simple but required some coordination. There are sixteen crossover blocks including the corners, and with that there are six different kinds. So I had to plot it out and keep track carefully.

Here again, my quilt top surprised me. I thought it would be done after the lattice (garden maze) border. But it clearly needed something else to finish it. Again I thought I would use black to outline that, but black was too harsh and too dark. After the relatively dark lattice border, I needed to brighten it. Jim helped me narrow down the options and we agreed the golden tan worked best. Finally I used that piece I bought from Hancock’s for the last edge.

This quilt was an adventure from start to finish. I actually started it more than a year and a half ago. It was … unworkable. In February took it apart and began again. That is the MOST important point: I BEGAN AGAIN. Why is that important? Because my critique of its progress was not tied up with my ego. It did not hurt my feelings to acknowledge that it needed a do-over. By returning with a beginner’s mind, I found a new way forward. THIS is where your power lies, in finding a way forward, without expecting a particular outcome.

I love everything about this quilt. The garden theme carries through the entire work. The pieced borders use different sizes and shapes, and color emphasis, but all relate to that theme. The background of the stars border brings a lot of light to something that could have become too dark.

I’ll be sad to ship this off to the owners, and eager to get their reaction to the surprise. Fortunately, I don’t need to do that until after July, when I’m showing several quilts at a local gallery. 🙂

Stained Glass Too

I am very blessed — I have few real deadlines or obligations in my life. (Taxes? Done! Death? Not in a hurry!) But when I’m nearing the end of a project, and nearing the end of a month, I end up telling myself I should finish that project by the end of the month.

I LOVE finishing things, because then I can start new things. And with a new class to teach this month, it was great to clear the decks at the end of March. In doing so, I finished Stained Glass Too and Garden Party.

Stained Glass Too. 66" x 70". Finished March 2015.

Stained Glass Too. 66″ x 70″. Finished March 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

I’ve shown you progress on this quilt as I made it, and I showed you the finished top before quilting.

The quilting I chose (which you probably can’t see in the photo above) was simple meandering. The primary reason was because I wanted the effect of ripply antique stained glass, and/or the notion of the colors being wavy and washed like watercolors. As simple as the quilting was, it did what I wanted.

I love the colors and fabrics in this quilt, almost without exception. It was fun to make a quilt all tending toward warm. Even the “cool” colors were greens, turquoises, and purples, so all had warm hues mixed in. The quilt became a little bigger than I’d originally planned. I thought it would stop after the broader green border toward the outside edge, but when it got that far I wanted it a little airier, so added the narrower strip borders and the final pieced border of beads.

Besides lightening the total effect, that last pieced border also repeated the triangle-in-a-square units used near the center. At the same time, because the long beads are of two colors, it echoes the notion created in the hourglass border, where two colors come together separated by a spacer.

In critiquing farther, I haven’t decided how I feel about the low-volume effect. In a relative sense, the dark turquoises and that olive in the strip borders show up as dark, but they are more dark-mediums. I’m kind of a high-contrast gal, so it’s a narrower range than I am used to.

I also don’t love the fabric used for those spacers in the hourglass border. Spacers were required because the quilt is oblong. The block size that would fit “correctly” on the vertical didn’t fit on the horizontal. The color comes off as murky as compared to all the clear pastels. But it is the same fabric as in some of the center’s hourglass blocks, which were leftovers from another project. Repeating that fabric helps tie the center to the rest of the quilt.

This quilt is going to stay with Jim and me, as it has not claimed another owner. The bright, cheery colors suit our living room and we’ll enjoy using it.

XX’s Quilt

XX's Quilt. 75" x 75". Begun with a medallion print purchased in Boulder City, NV. Finished in February 2015.

XX’s Quilt. 75″ x 75″. Begun with a medallion print purchased in Boulder City, NV. Finished in January 2015.

XX’s Quilt is a funny name, but this is a quilt for someone special, someone who can’t know the gift is coming. It will be several months before delivery, and in the meantime, I need to call it something!

I began this just before the end of 2014 and finished it in January.You’ve seen this as an unquilted top before. I’m trying to get in the habit of describing process on current projects, rather than unloading the whole story after the fact. Most of my decision points were described here.

I had created a quilt two years ago that I still consider one of my best. In the center of the center block, I used the medallion print used in XX’s. I set that quilt on point, as this one is. It was very elegant and masculine. I had hoped this one would have the same feel, but it does not. It is masculine, but I wouldn’t call it elegant. I’d call it bold, rather forthright!

So what do I like and what do I think falls short? It’s a unified design, with the different elements of color, value, line, shape, and pattern contributing to a whole. Nothing stands out as out of place. The repetition of various elements adds to that unity. The sawtooth border in the corner settings adds movement. The narrow borders create delineation between sections of the border but do not fragment it. The medallion print in the very center is repeated directly in the four corners, but also more subtly in the dark red floral border stripe, and in the small print of the next-to-last border. The strong value contrast leads to that bold, showy look, along with the Americana colors of dark reds and dusty blues.

For negatives, it seems slightly center-heavy to me, so the proportion isn’t quite right. Not sure how I would change that if I were starting over. I like the accents of dark brown, but they are rather far and wide, so don’t feel as consistent as if I’d used them a little more. And over all, it takes itself pretty seriously. There’s nothing playful or exuberant or light-hearted about it.

Even with all that, I’ve come to love it anyway. It will suit its recipient quite well.

Thanks as always to Jim for taking photos for me. ❤