I have been teaching a class on paper piecing at Sew Downtown recently, and part of the class includes color theory. I’m confident enough with the basics: color wheel, contrast, color schemes, hue, saturation and brightness. I like to go to Color Scheme Designer 3 to get some ideas and see how colors work together, but I thought I’d Google color and quilting to see what else I might find. I was really surprised to come upon a color system called Munsell that I’d never heard of before. Not that I should know everything about everything, but I’ve been in school for the last two years taking graphic design and art classes.
Munsell has a color tree that’s a 3 dimensional representation of hue, value and chroma. They have a blog entry from Maria Elkins, a winner of quilt shows on the international level. After reading her blog entry, it is clear that Ms. Elkins has put a huge amount of effort into learning about color, creating striking modern quilt tops as studies in color. I’m in awe. I love that the quilts in this series show a side of quilting that isn’t about perfect points and matching seams but the art in quilting. Find the entry on Using Color Theory in Quiltmaking here.
- worqx.com has a good tutorial for understanding color theory
- X-rite Photo has an extensive color glossary
While all of this is very helpful to understand why some color combinations are more appealing than other, quilting adds another degree of difficulty. Sure, Kona cotton solids are all the rage in modern quilts, but I still love prints. And with prints comes the dimension of additional colors within the prints and the scale of the prints.
As I was continuing on, trying to find more helpful information for my students in the paper piecing class, I remembered that Craftsy has a free block-of-the-month (BoM) class that teaches color theory for quilters while making a quilt, one block at a time. They do a great job of explaining how to use the print scale along with the main and accent colors within a print. Honestly, I don’t like the quilt they have on display. My opinion on why this quilt doesn’t work is that the batiks used have a lot of color and action going on and then the quilt itself uses a lot of small pieces. So take the class (it’s free!), but if you would prefer to use a different group of fabrics or fabric from your stash, do it.
I brought along a paper pieced UFO (unfinished object – or project – as we call them in the quilting world) that was one of the first projects I ever started. It uses a Debbie Mumm collection called Cabin Fever, and I call the project Adirondack Beauty. It’s a New York Beauty pattern with the woodsy cabin theme, hence the name. I noticed that there were several pieces I’d put together at the time (probably 10 years ago) that weren’t providing the impact that they should. Unfortunately I’ve cut all the pieces for the outside of the squares, so some of them will never look good. I didn’t bring the UFO along as a bad example, but it was perfect to show how much of a difference the end result will be if you take the time to learn before you cut.