How To Choose Dynamic Colors, Fabrics And Themes For Your Quilts?

How do you go about selecting the different kinds of fabric, colors, and themes for your quilts?

Ricky: I tend to rely heavily on my gut feelings. Because I enjoy it, I do not have a phobia of it. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this topic recently, specifically in relation to the rhapsody quilts featured in the new book that C&T Publishing is publishing, as well as the quilt that I’m currently working on.

I simply began with a piece of fabric that I enjoy, and then proceeded to cut out another piece of fabric that I thought would look good with the first. When I look at my collection of fabric, I think to myself, “That will look good,” and as I add more, I focus more on the contrast and value of the fabrics than I do on the colors.

The reason I say this is because, particularly in my capacity as a quilter, I believe that you make a stew with the various colored ingredients. If you make stew one night and you have certain ingredients in the refrigerator, you are going to end up with a stew that has a flavor profile that is pleasing to the palate. The next time you make stew, you might use some of the same ingredients, but you might also experiment by adding something new. Even so, it should turn out to be pretty satisfying.

Everything gets mixed together and splattered all over the place. On the quilt, choose a color palette that you think looks good together, whether you think it’s the tonal values or the variety of colors that look good. If you then continue to use that category of color and do not suddenly introduce something different, then the hues will blend together in the same way that a flavorful stew blends together. They are going to blend together on the top of the quilt.

Although I am well-versed in color theory and even teach it to others, I must confess that I do not give it much thought while I am actually working. In the end, I hope to impart the wisdom that you should follow your gut instinct. That is something I firmly believe. If someone says, “I’m not sure if I like that,” then you should heed their advice and refrain from using it. There is no guarantee that they dislike the color in question. They are merely investigating how it fits into the larger scheme of things at this point.

Penny: It’s an interesting coincidence because we had Joen Wolfram on our call the previous month. I am aware that Joen is a close friend of yours, and she views color in the same manner as you do. The topic of her most recent book is how to take photographs and make use of the colors that they contain.

Ricky: She has some wonderful books on the subject of color. They have been a source of education for me. The Magical Effects of Color by Joen Wolfram was one of the first quilting books that I ever purchased. Back in either 1991 or 1992, Jenny Beyer published a quilt color book under the title Color Confidence. Those books most definitely had an effect on me.

When I instruct students in color, the first thing I want them to understand is the value of each color. I would like for them to comprehend that value is always relative. You can look at the big picture and say things like, “This is medium, this is light, and this is dark,” but when it comes to your quilt, the fabric that you consider to be “medium” might actually be the fabric that is the darkest or the lightest of what you have available.

In the end, everything is connected. The colors will fall into place once the value of the quilt has been adjusted appropriately. The value is what really makes the design stand out. Because of this, I place a much higher priority on value. A large-scale print with lights, mediums, and darks on a black background and floral or all kinds of crazy things on it can be a beautiful fabric; however, if you’re trying to show the actual design, it gets muddled up inside of a quilt.

Different fabrics work in different ways, but you need to keep it in the same value family rather than the same color family to make it work.

With contributions from Ricky Tims and Penny Halgren of the website

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