My Passion for Color

I love color but I didn’t always know how to get where I wanted to go.  As a beginning quilter, I would choose two fabrics and muslin for the background.  All that work and the results were just BORING.

Having absolutely no art classes in my background, it never occurred to me to research color in the art books at the library.   In the mid-80’s, quilt fabric began to change from tiny, multi-colored prints to larger prints, more saturated with color.  I was still just buying enough fabric for a single quilt and working through it until I finished.  A 2-day class with Doreen Speckmann changed the way I bought fabric and my stash was born!  Doreen taught me to think of each piece of fabric as a dab of paint on my palette.

radiationEventually, the marketplace included wonderful books on color from authors like Mary Coyne Penders, Jinny Beyers and Joen Wolfrom.   They became my teachers.  I devoted the next year to working through all kinds of color exercises from their books.  I learned to speak the language of color.

As my quilts changed to richer, deeper, more nuanced colors, so did my choices in the garden.  Where I used to just buy whatever struck my eyes and plop all the colors together, I learned to make a bigger splash by grouping like plants or colors and introducing a spark of the complementary color.  Nature gives me green as the background color but it is never boring because there are so many tints, tones and shades.  Even the time of day will make the colors look different.


Mother Nature makes the best selection of greens

I learned to put artemisia, Dusty Miller and lavender in the garden to separate the greens and add light.  Look how the blue leaved hosta stands out above.  I want fabric in all those colors!

The more I studied, the more strongly I felt about sharing what I was learning.  I did workshops in my guild and eventually wrote a series of articles on color for The Quilter magazine.  That series became the basis for my Color Companions class at Quilt University.

Requests from my students and my own ongoing desire to dig deeper into the mysteries of color led me to develop a class called Gradations and Transparencies.  I sewed and wrote for a year!  The class focuses on using many  gradated values a color together in a quilt.  Sometimes, as with We are Insignificant (below), the palette is very restricted but the use of value results in a big impact.

we are insignificant_quilted

  We are Insignificant

In the kaleidoscope quilt at right, the palette is analogous, meaning all the colors used are in a row on the color wheel.  The values go from light to dark and alternate in each block to create the design.  The corner pieces create the illusion of transparency, as if you are looking through one color to another.  I struck it lucky when I looking for backing fabric and found a piece that picked up many of the colors used on the front.  This quilt was made for my daughter, Jennifer.  Her favorite color is purple and the walls of her bedroom are sage green.  This combination gave her everything she needed.

The problem with learning a lot of about color – at least for me – is that I want to correct people when they do it wrong, much as I feel the overwhelming urge to correct their grammar.  I try to resist the impulse.  Unsolicited advice is hardly ever welcome.  But sometimes a student picture will cross my screen and it is such a wonderful example of good color use, that I just want to stand up and cheer.  That happened this afternoon as I was thinking about this post.  The blocks made by Barbara La Belle are an outstanding example of using complementary colors.

Barbara La Belle   _4635E

Barbara La Belle from Ripless Paper Piecing

I still study color every chance I get.  Often, that just means keeping my eyes open to the world around me.  Other times, a new book will come along to teach me a new way to look at things.

P.S. Gradations and Transparencies starts this weekend at  Come join me!


15 thoughts on “My Passion for Color

  1. Hi Carol, I’m enjoying reading your new blog. I’ve grown utilitarian vegetable gardens for many many years, but I’m rather new to both creative gardening and to quilting. I never considered their interrelationship, but one glance at the juxtaposition of the first two photos accompanying this post made it evidently clear – color is everything! I can see now that taking your color classes will not only improve my quilts, but also my garden! Thanks for this awareness. I look forward to learning and applying.

  2. Thanks, Marsha. Since you are a vegetable gardener, let me ask you a question. What do you do to discourage rabbits?

    • Hi Carol! Luckily, at the moment I don’t have this problem, but in the past the only thing I found that keeps these fuzzy little gluttons at bay is, unfortunately, fences. You can either surround the entire vegetable garden with a fence, or build cages for the things that they eat the most. This is what I do now against pigeons – who eat all my newly sprouting beans and young broccolis – I set net or wire cages over the plants until they are about a foot tall and then, for some reason, the pigeons are no longer interested. Be sure to bury the fences about 6-10 inches in the soil, because rabbits also like to dig. Good luck, there’s nothing worse than a chewed down veggie garden!

      • Well, phooey! There’s no way I can cover everything or dig down 6″. There IS a limit.

        I started by planting marigolds next to the beans and tomatoes to repel bugs but the rabbits have been eating them!

        My DH bought some environmental spray that smells ghastly – it is supposed to repel the little buggers – er, bunnies. Unfortunately, it repels ME, too. I will try spraying in the evening so the smell will be less when I go out in the morning.

  3. Hi Carol! Thanks for your comment on QU about my jackets and circle quilt. I just now went back to read, I don’t often get time to read all the conversations on QU. I am happy you have a blog you have wonderful writing skills and are very creative. Enjoy.

    • Thanks, Bunny. Such nice compliments to start my day. I totally understand about not having time. Where does it all go?

  4. Yahoo, you are doing a blog. I’ve mentioned in the past how much I enjoy reading your QU newsletters and wished you did more! I will add you to my favourites

    • That’s so sweet of you to say – altho I must say it is daunting still to think of strangers reading what I write. I should be used to it after all these years – I started in newspapers in 1970!

  5. When I read in the QU newsletter that you have started a blog, I checked it out–really enjoyed reading!–all the way to the end (or beginning) to this pearl of wisdom: “Don’t they understand that change is only good when it is my idea?” I always note your comments on the Quiltart list for a touch of reality among lots of dribble. I have taken several QU classes and you are to be commended for being at the forefront of this marvelous industry; hope it has been lucrative for you. I, too enjoy flower gardening and do what I can at the age and health that I am. I cared for my husband with Parkinson’s for 10 years until his death last July. Quilting and flowers and my precious cat fill my life with happiness after years of responsibilities and I write about this on MY blog. Come and visit:

    • Martha, wow, your Lady Banksia is astounding! Will you cut it back now or let it hang that high in the tree? I have one in the front yard. The yellow on the top left of my banner is my Lady Banksia in bloom – and then I tiled the picture to make it an abstract. Mine hangs on a piece of white fencing I put in a flower garden to provide a strong support – sadly, my DH doesn’t think it can support the weight of LB and cut a big chunk of her off yesterday. I was NOT happy.

      Your Big Boy looks like my late Mrs. Miniver. She was so hairy she looked like she had 6 toes – I think she had some Maine Coon Cat in her background. But she was smaller than they are. My next cat, also gone now, was Lord Peter Wimsey, known as Wimsey. He topped out at 30 pounds, more than a handful. Good thing he was the most even tempered cat in the universe. All we have left now is Doolittle, a tiny little all white 6-toed cat. She used to push Wimsey around. LOL She’s pretty bossy with me, too.

  6. Hi Carol, love your blog! I’m a fellow quilter, trying to get back to it after numerous diversions.
    You’ve inspired me!

    • As one Carol to another, I’m glad to hear it. I think I worked my way through a dozen different crafts, but quilting was more satisfying than any of the rest.

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