After thinking about Betsey or Elizabeth as names for my new long arm, somehow neither seemed to fit. I spent the better part of one day shifting the room around her (again) for easier use and then spend the rest of the weekend timidly trying her out. My partner in crime, Shelle, came over and walked me through the paces the better part of a Sunday afternoon. The machine worked well, aside from some quirks–she doesn’t like cheap thread, her bobbin case needs to have the tension looser than it was programmed at the manufacturer, and the stitch regulator does not play well when you’re working on pantographs. The whole situation reminded me that every Loretta I had ever known was fine and sweet, but the littlest thing could make them go haywire.
Thus the name Loretta.
I’m over the “scare” factor with her now. She won’t break. She’s just a big, ol’, straight-stitch only sewing machine. And maybe it’s because I did some much quilting on a domestic machine, but I find I like free-hand work much better than pantographs. I haven’t tried ruler work, but I did splurge and order some rulers for stitch-in-the-ditch work, applique outlining, and a setting triangle ruler. This afternoon I also got six more yards of muslin and another bat. Shelle told me to set up the machine and turn it on every time I’m in my quilt studio. “Sit and piece for a while, then get up and do a pass down the machine,” she advised.
My FitBit is going to love me. All those extra steps!
Hopefully I will have some pictures up for you folks in a few days.
Meanwhile, I’m still hard at work on The Farmer’s Wife….
And I purchased this nifty, new cutting mat from Martelli.
A good friend of mine had one at retreat. It spins on a base, so it makes squaring up a breeze or cutting out small, complicated blocks really easy.
It’s now autumn and the landscape is awash with every hue of red imaginable. This time of year automatically makes me think of pumpkins and Christmas trees and warm fires. It gives me a cozy kind of feeling that makes me want to snuggle beneath a quilt, have a quiet cup of tea, and read the weekend away.
Blue has the opposite effect for me. It makes me think of warm summer days, the cool Atlantic Ocean, sailboats, sandboxes, sundresses, and the smell of suntan lotion. It makes me want to throw everything into a suitcase, hop in the car, and head east until I see ocean waves.
Funny how one color can make you feel one way, and another can make you feel completely different. Color is like that. And it’s all subjective. Blue or red could have the complete and total opposite effect on you. The best part is that neither effect is wrong.
The last blog I wrote on color featured the complementary color scheme – those colors directly opposite of each other on the color wheel. Now I want to offer you a couple of other color wheel choices that can be used in designing quilts as well as introduce you to some tools that are really nifty to keep in your sewing bag.
The first alternative color scheme is the split-complementary. Take a look at the color wheel below:
The quilt that I introduced in my last blog about color had two complementary colors – yellow and violet. They are on opposite sides of the color wheel. A split-complementary color scheme takes one color on either side of the complementary color and adds them into the mix. So if my quilt was to be a split-complementary, I could take orange-yellow and yellow-green fabric as well as red-violet and blue violet and throw it in the mix – which I did with the lime green.
There is also the double complement. This happens when two complementary colors are chosen that are right next to each other on the color wheel. Refer back to the color wheel. Besides my yellow and violet, I also could have chosen yellow-orange and blue violet or yellow-green and red-violet fabric.
Triadic colors make up another color scheme to think about. This happens when two additional colors are chosen that are equal distance from one of the main colors.
For instance in my quilt, violet is the main color. If I were thinking about a triadic color scheme, besides the yellow and violet, I would have chosen red-orange and blue-green.
Before we can get to the final color scheme, I need to define some terms for you. First of all there is hue. Hue is the pure color of whatever fabric you have chosen. Think about your first box of crayons you opened up as a kid – remember those fat crayons in the primary colors? Think of those when you are pondering the hue.
Now take the hue and add white. That gives the hue a tint. When you add white to violet, you get lavender. When you add it to red you get pink. When you add it to black, the result is gray. Lavender, gray, and pink are tints.
Let’s take the hue and add black to it. This will produce a shade. These tend to be really deep colors. If you add black to red, you get burgundy. If you add black to blue, navy is the result. Burgundy and navy are shades.
Don’t confuse shades with tones. Tones are made when gray is added to a hue. They can closely resemble shades, but tones are a bit muddy. It’s critical to be careful when adding tones to the rest of your fabric that you’ve assembled for your quilt. If all the other colors are clear hues, shades, and tints, a tonal fabric can pull the color value down and stick out like a sore thumb.
Which now brings us to the last color scheme – monochromatic. While the prefix –mono – may sound boring, the color scheme is anything but. A monochromatic color scheme takes a hue on the color wheel (such as violet) and uses tints, tones, and shades of this hue on either side of it on the color wheel.
If I were planning a monochromatic scheme with violet, I could chose red-violet, blue violet, lavender, deep violet.
Does all this sound complicated? Sometimes I think we take what’s really simple and as we try to explain it, it becomes really difficult. The wonderful part about all of this is that most of this comes naturally. We are exposed to color as soon as we are born and our eyes can focus. The brain immediately begins to file through the colors, tints, shades, and tones and sorts it all out. Unless one is color-blind, for the largest part, finding beautiful color schemes comes as naturally as breathing. So..relax and enjoy this part of quilt planning.
However, if you’re still a little antsy about choosing colors, take a trip to your local hardware store and mosey over to the paint section. Chances are they have a kiosk similar to this
I cannot tell you how helpful these paint chips are when planning a quilt. I am so incredibly thankful that these things are free! When I’m unsure of a color scheme or if I’m simply looking for inspiration, these cards are a huge help. And they fit handily inside a sewing bag or purse that you can take to your local quilt store to find fabric.
I also really, really like this tool:
This is the Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool from C&T Publishing by Joen Wolfrom It has 24 color cards with numbered swatches, five color plans for each color, and a red and a green value finder (I discussed value in a blog last year). It comes in a handy-dandy protective pouch and slips easily into your purse or bag.
If you don’t come away from anything else with this series on color, I hope I’ve at least taken the fear out of picking out fabric. I’ve seen far, far too many talented quilters opt for making the quilt just as it looks on the pattern because they are too afraid of making their own color choices. And I know an equal number of them who would much rather opt for kits than go on the great adventure of finding their own fabric.
I have been so busy the last couple of weeks. First of all this happened…
My King Quilter Long Arm arrived in about seven boxes. My wonderful friends, Shelle and Janet, offered to come over on the Sunday before we left on the Retreat and help me put it together. Both of these ladies know so much and are so generous with their time and knowledge. For the price of a large pizza and two bottles of wine, they gave me six hours of their time on a Sunday afternoon and we got her together. I still have to sew a channel on my leaders (because I’m using the Red Snappers), but then she will be ready to load and I’ll be ready to take her for a spin.
Let me tell you, the Retreat was awesome! First here’s some background on it. When the High Point Quilt Guild formed in 2012, one of the first things the group decided was that we needed a few days to get together and just quilt. We didn’t want to worry about meals. We wanted to be able to stay overnight, and we didn’t want to have to drive hours to get to the location. Haw River State Park fit the bill nicely. It was close, it had lodge rooms, and it provided meals. So in October 2012 we had our first “Drop Everything and Just Quilt!” Retreat. And we’ve been going back every year since. We’ve expanded the Retreat from three days to four and now we allow non-guild members to also attend.
It’s four days of talking, laughing, eating, and quilting (not necessarily in that order) with a wonderful group of women. I would like to encourage you to find a group to quilt with. I belong to five groups – two are guilds and the other three are bees. While there is great pleasure in working on our art alone (it frees the mind, reduces stress, allows you to use a different part of the brain), there is also great fellowship among quilters. We support each other, inspire each other, pray for each other, and on occasion – when necessary – tell each other the hard truth. I have honestly learned as much about life as I have about quilting with the women I surround myself with.
Here are some pictures of the beautiful things that were made…
I promise to have more on color next week. Meanwhile, I’m still unpacking…
And there’s a good reason for this. If you’ve followed my blog for a while now, you are aware that I normally publish on Thursday, and at the very latest, on Friday. But this week is a little pushed for time, as I’m in a workshop tomorrow all day and then there’s guild meeting tomorrow night. So tonight it is…
I’ve said all of that to say this: Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. I know we’ve been discussing color (and we will pick that up again soon), but when we were just starting this series, I urged you to take a walk. Observe the color combinations that Mother Nature puts together and don’t be afraid to copy them.
We moved from there to focus fabrics, where I explained that it’s always important to let fabric “speak to you.”
Now for this: Look for inspiration all around you. I am lucky enough to live and work in High Point, North Carolina, the Furniture Capital of the World. I know, I know…Vegas is billing itself as that now, but we had the title FIRST. And while other High Point residents may bemoan that twice-a-year market as a time of too much traffic and too few restaurants, I love it. Know why?
All. The. Colors.
Main Street is awash with the newest colors and it’s easy to get inspired to either redecorate your house or make a new quilt every day! Understand that color is a very individual thing and what I may completely all head-over-heels for you may very well turn around and run from. It’s subjective. It’s emotionally and mentally linked. But try this little trick the next time you do a double-take at something and ask yourself, “Was it the color that made me stop and take a second look?” If that was the reason, or even part of the reason, you may want to snap a picture with your cell phone and file it away. Then the next time you’re planning a quilt, pull it out and take a look at it. That may just be your next focus fabric color.
This week, my DH came home with a new rug for his den. The colors were tan and blue. The rug immediately caught my eye because it looked old. I took a second look when I realized that those colors would look beautiful in a quilt. A few shots with my cell phone and now I have a pictorial file of inspiration.
Then there was also this:
This is a fabric that I am using for my Farmer’s Wife Quilt. I’m making that one out of Fig Tree Fabrics and this is a great print. However, for whatever reason, this week that fabric reached out and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey! I’d make a great focus fabric!” I happened to agree and purchased the last four yards on the bolt at Dragonfly. Since the pattern was large-ish, when I snapped the picture, I placed a penny beside it to give me a size reference. This will come in handy when I start purchasing additional fabrics to go with it.
Finally, remember this focus fabric that I said spoke to me from all the way across the room?
This is the quilt top I made with it:
It has not been quilted yet, but you can see the how the other material pulls out the colors of the focus fabric.
There will not be a blog next week as I will be attending the High Point Quilt Guild’s Annual “Drop Everything and Just Quilt!” Retreat. Much fun will be hand, many calories will be consumed, a lot of stitching will be done, and loads of laughter will prevail.
From fabric that “speaks to us” to marrying that fabric to the quilt pattern, I want to cover all of this in today’s blog…
Like I stated in last week’s blog, I’m not sure what makes me pick a certain fabric as my focus fabric. Sometimes I’m going for a certain color scheme on a quilt (especially if I’m making the quilt as a gift for someone and they have a favorite color), but most of the time it’s just a fabric that appeals to me for any number of reasons. It could be the use of color. It could be full of possibilities. It could be whimsical. To be honest, I’m not sure, I just have to have it and take it home with me.
We will explore color and fabric choices in the next several blogs, but to kick us off, let’s just start with this:
I found this beautiful lime green and purple fabric at Quilting at the Beach*. This particular fabric is the focus fabric for a quilt I’m making called Garden Gate. Lime green is also a favorite of mine, so to find it coupled with my very favorite color purple, was simply a dream come true.
This pretty quilt is designed by Diane Nagle and can be found in the September/October 2016 edition of Quiltmaker magazine. This particular pattern calls for seven cuts of fabric and some assorted scraps for the squares in the borders.
For those of you that have taken my beginning design class, you may remember that you really only need five fabrics to make almost any quilt. And for those of you who haven’t taken my beginning design class, there it is – the critical information you need. Five fabrics – that is all. You need a focus fabric, a neutral, two tertiary or analogous colored fabrics, and a complementary colored fabric. **
We discussed neutral fabrics a couple of blogs ago. Technically, neutral fabrics are those falling into the color realms of white, black, ecru, beige, tan, or gray. The neutral fabric is kind of like the mortar that holds bricks or cinder blocks together. Neutral fabrics don’t really get a lot of attention, but they’re the glue of the quilt. They make the quilt flow and ebb and allow a resting place for the eyes as they travel over the quilt. Quilts without these tend to make me a little edgy because I have no idea where to look first. It is interesting to note at this point, that the definition of neutrals (white, black, tan, ecru, beige, or gray) is changing a bit. Several quilt designers have opted for other solids as the neutral if it enhances the quilt better. For instance, I recently completed a quilt that pink was the neutral. And the pink wasn’t a light shade that trended more toward white, either. It was a true pink. It simply did the quilt a bigger justice than any other neutral, so I used it. When the quilt is out of competition phase, I will be happy to share it on this blog, but I cannot until then.
On Garden Gate, I fell back to my favorite neutral – gray. I think it worked better for the lime green and purple than anything else.
Since the pattern called for seven cuts of yardage, I chose four analogous colors instead of two. Analogous colors are those colors that are side by side on a color wheel, such as yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange. I wanted to play up the purple on the lime-green focus fabric, so I opted for these analogous fabrics.
Complimentary colors are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. In this particular situation, I wanted the complementary color to be opposite of purple instead of green. In this case, that color was yellow. This is the particular fabric I chose.
Why did I chose the complementary color to be opposite of the purple instead of the green focus fabric? I could have. If I had, the complementary color would have fallen into the orange-range. However, personally, I didn’t like the way that orange played with purple, so I opted for the yellow. And if you look at a more detailed color wheel (one with more than twelve colors), you can see that lime-green is a complementary color of purple which is a complementary to yellow, so really the yellow-purple-green-gray thing is going to work better than almost anything else.
Besides, I think yellow adds a little more sparkle to a quilt.
In addition to the colors, there were some other ideas I had to keep in mind about this quilt. Finished, this quilt is 63.5 inches by 76.5 inches or a little over 5 feet by 6 feet. It’s not a huge quilt. As a matter of fact, it falls between the youth and twin-sized quilt range. None of the fabric that is cut to make the pieced blocks is over 7.25 inches square and these blocks are cut on the diagonal to make two triangles. The solid blocks in the middle are 9.5 inches unfinished. Armed with this information, I quickly realized that large prints would not work well for this project. Those would overwhelm this sweet quilt. I also realized that if I chose fabrics with a pattern on them (which I did), the pattern would need to be fairly close together or I would lose impact.
So besides taking color into consideration, it’s also very important to read the entire pattern directions. Remember when we were talking about project planning back in the summer and I emphasized that it was important to take the entire project into consideration and not just the pretty picture on the pattern? This is another reason why it’s important. It’s perfectly wonderful to buy a pattern because we love it and it’s perfectly wonderful to purchase fabric because it “speaks to us.” However, when you marry the two, it’s important to count the cost and have all the details. Quilting is an investment of time and money, so make sure the fabric you love will work with the pattern or the pattern will work with the fabric you love. If they both marry well, then you will have a project that you will love to work on and be happy with the end results.
Now I have a focus fabric, four analogous fabrics, a neutral fabric, and a complementary fabric. All of them play well together and will work with my pattern. If I can get this sucker cut out and ready to take to Quilt Retreat at the end of the month, I’ll be in business.
Love and Stitches,
Sherri and Sam
*Quilting at the Beach is a wonderful quilt shop located at 3246 Waccamaw Ave. in Myrtle Beach, SC. If you’re in the area, it’s well worth it to take the time and stop in for a visit. It has everything from reproduction fabric to batiks to the latest lines that are seen in current quilt magazines. Plus the staff there is so helpful and friendly, you feel right at home in a matter of minutes.
**This information does not pertain to scrap quilts. Those are a whole ‘nother ballgame.
If you’re new to my blog, or if you’ve forgotten, I am not employed by any of the publications, publication companies, or other industries I mention in my blog, with the exception of Dragonfly Quilt Shop in High Point, NC.
Christmas is always an exciting time at Casa de Fields. For us to have only two children, two in-love children, and two granddarlings, it’s surprisingly difficult to herd everyone together in one place at one time for a meal and some togetherness. However, Christmas is the one time of year that Mom puts her foot down and issues an edict that you show up or you’re out of the will everyone makes an effort to be there.
I really try to find not only the gifts that everyone wants, but I also make a gargantuan big effort to purchase little “surprise” gifts that I think suits each member specifically. Within this boundary lies a gift that “speaks to me.” Let me explain…
While shopping, I often come across an item that has no specific purpose.
As far as I know, none of my family members particularly need this item. But for whatever reason, I am compelled to purchase it and bring it home and wrap it up and put it under the tree for some unsuspecting lucky member of my family. Sometimes this object is tacky as all get out, but sometimes it’s sweetly sentimental. My family’s problem is two-fold. First, they never know if the gift is truly tacky or not, and second they never know who’s going to get it.PAYBACK!! All they know is when I hand it out, I precede the gift giving with the phrase, “This spoke to me…”
I tell you this because today I want to discuss focus fabric. Hang with me, the above situation will make more sense as we go along.
Focus fabric for a quilt can be defined many ways. One designer told me “It’s the fabric that jumps in my cart first. I really can’t tell you why, but I just love it and have to have it.” Another quilting sister of mine defined it this way, “It’s the fabric I just have to buy, but think it’s too pretty to cut up.”
Literally, it’s the fabric you chose that you plan your quilt around. It’s the fabric that is used to assist you in picking the rest of the material for your quilt. For right now, let’s just forget about picking a pattern at this point and talk only about material. Sometimes quilters purchase the pattern and plan around that, but more often than not, we pick the fabric and plan the pattern. And that’s the scenario we are going with here.
I can tell you my definition of focus fabric: It’s the fabric that speaks to me. I can be in any random quilt shop, working my way around the room and BOOM! There will be a bolt of fabric that beckons me to it and before I know it, the debit card is produced and five yards makes its way back home with me. There are two rules of thumb at this point. Notice I said I purchase five yards. In the past, I would only buy three yards, however, things have changed in the fabric world. Once the manufacturer of said desired fabric has run out of that particular material, they generally do not produce any more. So if you run short and need even a half-yard, sometimes it can be impossible to find. Ebay has certainly saved my quilt more than once, but there are no guarantees. It’s better to have more than you need than need more than you have. Any extra yardage can be used in the label, binding, or in making a pieced back. Or put back in your stash.
The second rule of thumb with focus fabric is that I’m really not quite sure why and what makes it speak to me. This one is obvious:
It’s primarily purple, which is my favorite color. But a closer look reveals that there are more colors involved in this batik than purple – there are also magenta and orange in the mix.
Then there’s this fabric:
This is one of those fabrics that immediately “spoke to me” and beckoned me all the way across the room. While the background is brown – admittedly my least favorite color – it does involve a lot of other colors that I could plan my quilt around: two shades of pink, lime green, and yellow. There are a lot of options open in this material, which makes it a fantastic choice as a focus fabric.
Here’s a great choice from Kaffe Fassett. Sure, there are soft pastels used, but there are several vibrant colors in this fabric. I not only could use different colors with this, but I also could use different values of the same colors. And this is a terrific pick for either a baby quilt or any other quilt, because of the value choices.
This is another one of those “it spoke to me” fabrics. There are pinks, blues, and greens in this material, in varying shades. And it’s sweetly feminine. Even though the color palate could be more limited in this one than the Kaffe Fassett above, the scale of the flowers in the fabric is small. This means that the focus fabric would not necessarily be limited to larger patches or borders. It could be scattered throughout the quilt.
The same is true with this fabric:
The print is a small scale, so it can be used in even really small patches, but for a tiny print, it packs a color punch – it has purple, magenta, golds, greens, and pinks. There is a lot I can do with this fabric. It has nearly unlimited potential.
This focus fabric speaks for itself:
There are so many color options here…blues, pinks, golds, greens, oranges…it’s pretty much throw down nearly any other fabric and you have a winning combination. But that’s not what drew me to this fabric. Nope. It was the black background. To me, putting black in a quilt is like finishing a sentence with an exclamation point. It’s dramatic. Remember a few blogs back when I mentioned that a really good quilt will catch your eye across the room, in the middle of a room, and right smack-dab in front of the quilt? Black does that for me every time. Perhaps it’s because on the whole, quilters don’t use black too often in quilts, or maybe it’s my own preferences coming out, but black just adds more umph to anything.
So far, we’ve taken a tour of my focus fabrics that have only included prints. However, in one quilt that I’m currently working on, this is the focus fabric:
Again, this is one of those fabrics that didn’t just speak to me at the quilt store – it screamed. Why a solid? Well, more particularly, why this solid? Truthfully, I don’t often choose solids as my focus fabric. With a print, there are generally more color options. But this … this fabric is scrumptious. The picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s a deeply color-saturated fabric from French General called Noel. It’s not a coral. It’s not a salmon. It’s not a shrimp or any shade of red or even pink. It’s that elusive “somewhere in between.” However, it’s turned out to be a great shade to bounce peaches and greens off of.
So the rules to picking a focus fabric? Only two.
First, make sure it’s a fabric you love. It can speak to you, scream at you, or make your mind go crazy with all the options it opens up for your next quilt. Second, buy at least five yards.
Have a great weekend. Makes spend some time with who and what you love.
Love and Stitches….
Sherri and Sam
PS — The classes last week were fabulous. I learned so much!
As promised, I want to talk about colors a little more this week. When I first started quilting, this was the part that terrified me about the whole process. Despite having a fairly heavy art background, this… the choosing the fabrics and committing to them…this was the part that scared the bejesus out of me. With paint, pencils, or pastels you could alter the color or paint over them. Waaalllllaaa – the wrong choice goes away. But with fabric? Nothing short of quality time with a seam ripper would make it vanish.
Plus a lot of fabric had patterns on them with other colors involved, and that muddied the water even more for me.
I was that quilter who made every quilt from a kit or was the champion of the three-color quilt (one neutral and two primaries or complementaries – what could be easier?). Better yet, I’d find a quilt store with great customer service and lasso the sales person into picking the colors for me. This went on for a while until my quilting mentor told me to “Grow up and up your big girl panties on and pick your own colors.”
Having the art background, I was very familiar with the color wheel and all the monochromatic/tertiary/primary color combinations out there. The only thing that made me get over my pickingmyownfabric issues was just jumping in and doing it.
Did I like all my first choices?
Did I make mistakes?
How many seam rippers did I go through?
Seriously. I lost count.
But this process got me over that hump of thinking that this was just too hard. I want to talk about focus fabrics and colors and tools, but this week, I want to talk about the colors that aren’t on the color wheel, and that’s the neutrals.
If you’re a grammar person, think of neutrals as the comma in quilting. If you’re a music person, think of neutrals as the rest. If you’re a math person, think of neutrals as the equal mark. If you’re a science person, they’re the carbon in the experiment. If you’re biology, they’re the oxygen in life. They allow the eyes a chance to rest between blocks and colors and they are as necessary in quilts as the thread that holds them together.
By definition, in this field, they fall into these colors:
White – This includes all whites, including white-on-whites. A couple of important things to remember here. If you use white with soft pastels, it can give your quilt a very soft, almost washed-out look. If that’s the look you’re going for (such as perhaps in a baby quilt), then white is a good option. If you use white with jewel tones or batik, it almost makes the quilt glow. But be aware that there are differences in whites. If you’re using white in your quilt, purchase enough of the same color from the same maker on the same bolt for your quilt. There is a huge difference in Kona snow and Kona white just ask me and I can tell you how I know. And if you’re thinking about doing hand applique or hand quilting with white-on-whites, look carefully at the pattern. Some of the white-on-whites have a kind of rubbery feel to the pattern. It’s great for machine work, but can wreak havoc on your fingertips with hand work.
Black – Like the whites, there are differences. Make sure you’re using the same color from the same maker from the same bolt, because there are differences. Amish black is richer and darker than midnight black. Black is a wonderful neutral to use with some batiks and all jewel tones – like the white, it will make them seem to glow. Pastel – not so much.
Tans/Beiges/Ecrus – Believe it or not, there are differences between these three. Beiges are the lightest, Ecrus are in the middle, and Tans are the darkest. The same song and dance goes with these neutrals as in blacks and whites – buy the same color from the same maker from the same bolt. It is truly amazing how much these can vary from dye lot to dye lot. Neutrals are truly the neutral ground in piecing a quilt top. They work well with pastels and batiks and jewel tones.
Gray – Let me introduce you to my favorite neutral out there, the grays. I love grays. They play well with jewels and batiks, but can over power pastels if the gray trends towards the middle ground. The light grays play well with pastels, the middle grays play well with jewels, and the dark grays play well with all colors.
I had never really thought about gray as a neutral until beginning the Country Inn Quilt by Barb Adams and Alma Allen. This quilt is heavy applique and the blocks are huge. I was working on this quilt with a group of my friends and all of them had opted for the lighter version with lots of small prints and reds.
I wasn’t even going there. I wanted something different – something dramatic. So
I opted for grays in the background and overdyed batiks for the flowers. So far the results have been highly satisfactory.
Any of these colors – white, black, tan, ecru, beige, and gray – are necessary in a quilt. Your eyes need a place to rest. Have you ever looked a quilt and just felt unsettled or rushed? I feel this way when I look at the 1718 Coverlet.
Don’t get me wrong – that’s a wonderful quilt and it’s just amazing – but as you look at it, there’s no place to rest your eyes. Your eyes can’t travel over it at an easy pace. As a matter of fact, it’s hard to take in because you don’t know where to look first. It gives you a feeling of unrest. That’s because there are no commas or rests or equal marks or carbon – there are no places for your eyes and soul to just stop and comprehend what you’ve just looked at. There is no significant use of neutrals in the 1718 Coverlet.
Neutrals usually are used to an extent in your quilts blocks, but they’re also used in sashing and borders and setting triangles. Take a look at my quilt that I made as a history challenge.
While the neutral does have a tiny blue and red print in them, they frame the center of the quilt and allow the eyes to travel over the important parts of the quilt at an easy pace. They let the eyes rest and the soul sigh in peace. And on a personal note, I rarely use solid neutrals. Almost all of them have a subtle print to them, whether it’s tone-on-tone or a few, small, scattered designs of colors complementary to the quilt. I like this subtle movement. It adds a little pizazz to the quilt that the viewer doesn’t expect.
Choosing the correct neutral for your quilt is just as important as choosing the correct focus fabric. You don’t want it to muddy your colors. Watch for understated undertones in your neutrals – a tan can have a pinkish cast to it. Some whites can “go gray” when placed next to blues. Always be sure to make your neutral part of the casting call: lay it out with the rest of your fabrics to audition. Picking the wrong neutral can alter the entire dialogue of what you want your quilt to say.
And have fun. Remember, it’s quilting, not rocket science or brain surgery. If you make a mistake, learn from it, move on, and the next quilt will be even better. Progress is better than perfection.
Meanwhile, back at Casa de Fields, guess what arrived this week?!
That’s right! My long arm! Or at least part of it. The head, ruler table, android, and accessories are here! The frame should be arriving shortly. I haven’t definitely named her. I’m leaning towards Betsey (as in Ross) or Elizabeth (as in Bennet).
I’m not sure if there will be a blog next week. I solemnly promise I will try. I’m in NACQJ classes all day on Monday and Tuesday. That means my “real job” will own my soul Wednesday, Thursday, and maybe even Friday.
Summer is still hanging on to this part of North Carolina for all its worth. The calendar may very well say September 10, but outside it still feels as if it’s July. Air conditioners are still chugging away for all they’re worth and my standard dress code is capris, t-shirt, and sandals. For most of us, the fact that the first frost is only weeks away is still a mirage in a vast wasteland of suntan lotion, beach chairs, and double layers of deodorant applied liberally to keep the underarms of our shirts decent.
Last Sunday, because it’s still 90 degrees where I live, I had the opportunity to visit the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University. Bill wanted to take pictures for his portfolio and I tagged along because well, I was in a rut.
It may be because that I see so much fabric (since I work in a quilt shop and have an enviable stash), I feel like I’m picking out the same colors all the time for my quilts. And in several ways, that is possible. Often a lot of the fabrics that are sold in shops and on line are directly influenced by the Pantone colors of the year. This year two were chosen, a blue (Serenity) and a pink (Rose Quartz). Personally, I took one look at them and immediately time-traveled back to the ‘80’s when everything was Williamsburg Blue and Old Rose. I still have these colors in my oldest stash.
In 2015, the color was Marsala Wine – which I affectionately redubbed “Cow Pattie Brown.” The year before it was a gorgeous purple. Needless to say, after these colors are announced, fabric storefronts and on-line shops get several bolts of this color and the variations … which we buy…and we make quilts out of. Then there are the seasonally influenced oranges, browns, and reds, followed by a variety of holiday hues, then followed by the next wave of Pantone induced dyes.
Add to this any colors that are collecting a “following”, such as the Aunt Grace (1930’s), Reproduction Prints (Civil and Revolutionary War), French General…you get the picture. Quilt and fabric shops are full of all of these because they sell and sell well. And they come with lots of “family members” (i.e. blender bolts), so all of that makes quilt making a bit of a breeze as far as picking out colors.
And woefully boring.
If it weren’t for the jarring excitement of batiks (“Oh Wow! That fabric has orangeandpurpleandblueandyellowandgreen!), I’m afraid that all of my quilts would end up like the clothes you wore in the ‘70’s – you know what I’m talking about…the outfits you look back on in your yearbook and physically cringe because yes, you actually wore that. And yes, it did look that bad. But then again, all 50 of your class members looked equally as bad.
We are losing our imagination as quilters.
So, feeling like this, I tagged along to the gardens to take pictures of flowers and trees because sometimes looking through the lens of a camera and then seeing the pictures is just what I need to jump-start a project and re-define my color choices.
The gardens were still in bloom despite the heat. The first thing I was struck with was how many shades of green there were.
At one time, this color held the least amount of shelf space in my quilt studio, because frankly, it’s not my favorite color. Please don’t ask how much room the purple fabric takes up. After learning to applique, I realized that I was going to have to up the ante on my greens, because I was making tons of leaves and stems. So every time I went fabric shopping, I would come home with at least one fat quarter of a green. Now several years have passed and the greens take up an entire shelf and a half.
But you know what? Nine times out of ten, I still don’t have the shade of green I need on the shelf. And now I know why. Mother Nature had the same problem. Look. At. All. The. Greens.
And look at the colors that are used with the greens. There are yellows and blacks and fuchsias and purples. It’s my observation that if Mother Nature has no problem mixing it up like this, neither should we.
For me, this is why it’s so important to get out of the studio every few days and look at some other visual art form or take a walk somewhere. It not only expands your color visualization, but it frees the mind to think outside the next kit, or next fabric line, or what’s being shown on Pinterest or quilt magazines. This helps your next quilt have a different variety of color choice and not look like the same three hundred other quilts that have been made from the same pattern and pretty much the same fabric line.
And this is important because in order for your quilt to be different (in a good way), you need it to “pop” visually in three places: From across the room, from the middle of the room, and right up in front of the quilt. The area that is going to pop in all three of these places is the color and its placement.
This is an area I want to explore a little more in the coming weeks. So this week if you’re able (and I’m not talking to you, Eileen), get out and take a walk. Take a hike. Go in out in your yard and use that fancy-shmancy phone of your to take some pictures. It really doesn’t matter what you take pictures of: weeds, birds, butterflies…whatever is out there, take some pictures.
Then look at the pictures. I don’t mean glance through them in a rush on your way to send your next text message or Facebook post. I mean really, really look at them. Look at all the shades and hues and colors that have been put there by Mother Nature and begin to think about how you can use these in your next quilt.
I’m always a little nostalgic this time of year. I see the yellow school buses and kids on the street corner waiting to board. All of the school supplies are out at the stores. The parents are purchasing them by the buggy load, with a gleam in their eye. They know that soon the long summer chasing kids will be over and school will once again usher their little darlings into the arms of knowledge and get them out of their hair…
When I was teaching, by this time in summer, I would have at least two months of lesson plans under my belt and be more than ready for the first class on the first day of the school year. This year I was slightly taken aback when I saw the large Thomas Built buses rolling past my house this week. Had school started back already? Where had the summer gone?
And I’m booked solid for September. Between the quilt shop and new classes and my guild, it’s holding that this month will be just as cray-cray.
I am excited about two classes I’m taking. The first is a Christmas table runner and placemat set with Gloria Stickney. She uses the square-in-a-square method, and while I have used this method before, this is the first time I’ve sat in on a class. We’re working with the diamond technique, and that’s a first for me, too. Shelle, Janet, and I are taking the class together. I’m really looking forward to it, as all I have to do is show up and sew. The kit is pre-cut.
The second class that I’m enrolled in is Lorraine Covington’s National Quilt Judging Association class. While this won’t make me a quilt judge (there still would be a lot of work to do before I could bear that title), it’s a stepping stone and everything I learn will make me a better quilter.
The High Point Quilt Guild has several opportunities to get out in our community and promote quilting. While I can’t be at every one of these events, I do plan to be at several. All this leads to the fact, that for this month my quilting time is way too limited for my liking. But October means Quilt Retreat and Quilt Retreat means four uninterrupted days of piecing and fellowshipping. In slightly over 50 days, I and thirty of my closest quilty friends will be at Haw River State Park for a long weekend of sewing. I have three quilts I need to cut out and get ready for this. Somebody tell my boss I need a couple of days off to get ready…
In the meantime, I have something to show for my time. Remember the Hand Print Quilt I shared back in the spring that some of our guild members help make for the teacher that had cancer? Well, it was featured in the High Point Enterprise last weekend. I can’t tell you how much joy I got out of helping the kindergarten class make this for their beloved teacher. The fact that she so obviously cherishes it makes it even more special. Quilters do truly get just as much out of giving of themselves in the quilt as the recipient gets out of receiving the quilt.
And I have had time to paper piece some more squares for my Farmer’s Wife Quilt. I have one more to go and then I’m going to start putting the top together. There are more squares to make, but I’m about at the halfway mark and want to begin the top’s construction before I make any more. It will help me see how my color wave is working.
Have a great week and a wonderful Labor Day weekend! Keep something under your needle!
Bill and I have been together for a long time. For a while it was on again and then off again, but over all we’ve been together for longer than either of us will admit. We met when we were 19. For the last 16 years we’ve owned a demolition and environmental company together. Need something torn down? We can do that. Need asbestos abated, mold removed, or lead paint take care of? We can do that too.
But secretly? Both of us are frustrated artists. I’m a quilter and would love to work in that field full time. But Bill…well, he’s a photographer. If you get a chance drop by his Facebook page and take a look at his work. He’s awesome.
The reason I bring this up, is that the man who has championed my quilts, sent me to Lancaster and Paducah and other parts for quilt shows, the man who never blinks when I come home with a new machine or bolts of fabric…the man who has celebrated every ribbon and disparaged judges that didn’t give me one? Well, that man has made the cover of The Best of Africa Magazine with this picture:
I. Am. So. Very. Proud.
He’s a wonderful photographer and he takes beautiful pictures. And I sincerely hope as we enter the next 30 years of our lives he can begin to take more photos and tear down fewer buildings.
Being married to a photographer is fun in a lot of ways. We do day trips on the weekends for him to take pictures and for me to poke around antique and quilt shops. This past weekend we rode over to Murray’s Mill near Catawba, NC. There wasn’t a quilt shop open on Sunday, so it was my plan to look around and take some of my own pictures. A wonderful side-advantage to these trips, besides antiques and more fabrics and great local meals, is that I get to see a lot of nature up close and personal. I take pictures for myself not only to remember the time we have together, but to get color inspiration for my quilts.
Murray’s Mill was a wonderful place. Quiet and picturesque. I met one of the docents for the mill and general store. I mentioned I was a quilter and Jennifer immediately whisked me into the back room to look at some of the quilts the museum had — as well as some of the feed sacks that had come from the mill in the 1920’s and 1930’s. I got to see a cotton plant…and the scales where they would weigh the large cotton bales as well as the grain that came into be ground into meal and flour.
It was just a lovely place and a lovely afternoon…
These pictures really don’t do the place justice, as they were made with my iPhone. If you want, you can jump over to Bill’s Facebook page and see some really good ones.
To me, one of the neatest parts of the trip was this:
Murray’s Mill is part of the Carolina Thread Trail. And while yes, that looks like a Mariner’s Compass Block, it’s not. I know the name “Carolina Thread Trail” would make you think that, but that’s not the reason. Murray’s Mill is part of the trail that links North and South Carolina via hundreds of miles of walking, running, hiking, and biking trails. There are also rivers and creeks you can paddle down.
The photo of the lion at the top of this blog was taken at the Asheboro Zoo. That was another adventure, as we went that day to try to get a picture of the elephants. The elephants were having nothing of that, refusing to cooperate. So we trekked to the lion exhibit just in time to see the lions get fed. It was a perfect set up.
This was my favorite picture of that day.
Since the pictures and the trips have turned into a kind of a side adventure/venture/hobby/obsession for both of us, I’d like to invite you to a new blog called Carolina Backroads. It will be up shortly. It’s a monthly blog that Bill and I are doing that features his pictures and my writing. It will involve places, but more than that, it will introduce you to some characters we’ve met along these adventures. Some of these folks will make you laugh until you pee yourself.
But I’ve left with tears in my eyes and my heart ripped open with others. These are stories that need to be told. These are people you need to know. They will make your life richer.
I will always have my weekly blog about quilts. Quilts are my passion. Quilters are my best friends. Nothing has changed about that.
Carolina Backroads is a delightful side trip we’ve found together on this journey.