Friday, June 1, 2012

A Little Color

I had to work late tonight and then stop at Trader Joe's . . . then make and eat a sandwich for a late dinner. I had no time for sewing and not too much time for blogging (although I DID do my little housecleaning chores--still on task!), so I may talk a little more about colors and picking fabrics another night, but I thought I'd at least talk about using something other than white--or cream--as a background fabric tonight.

First the disclaimer: I'm not a color expert. I don't even play a color expert on TV. I know a little bit about the color wheel and primary colors and secondary colors and tones and such, but not all that much. If someone gave me a quiz right now, I might get a C if I was lucky and guessed right on some of the questions. But here are a couple thoughts I have, and please feel free to leave a comment agreeing, disagreeing, or offering additional insights, okay? After all, we're all in this crazy quilting world together.

Yes, we all know about whites, off whites, and creams. For years I didn't like to use white, and that's probably because it didn't look very good with many of the country-toned colors I liked to use. Now I'm more open-minded. White, I think, looks great with clear, jewel toned colors--the colors I think of as happy colors, for instance. Off whites and creams, to my eye, look better with deeper and grayed down colors--think Thimbleberries, many of the 1800s repros, and primitives, for instance.

I think recently we've all seen this Amish with a Twist block of the month project, right?

This is a good example of using a background color that isn't white. The black looks great against the brighter colors and gives them a high contrast. As a background color, white would go well with these colors too, but it wouldn't give the quilt the visual punch that the black does. One of these days soon, I want to use black as a background.

Here's one of my favorite quilts:

For this Schnibbles quilt, I used a Fig Tree line of fabric. The soft, sunwashed shades would have looked okay with an off white background but I think the quilt would have appeared a little boring. A black background might have been too jarring to the eye. And the problem I find in working with charm packs is that you need to find a background color that goes with the colors in the fabric line but doesn't duplicate the colors in the line--because that would mean we couldn't use the charms that were the same color as the background, and that would leave us with fewer usable charm squares. For awhile, I couldn't figure out what I wanted to use as a background, and then I started looking at other Fig Tree lines--because quite often, designers like to work with colors that blend together from line to line. I saw that there were browns in a number of the Fig Tree lines, so I tried a brown from my stash--not a Fig Tree fabric but one in a shade that was similar. I liked it! The brown is a soft enough shade to look like it goes with the other fabrics, but it still provides a good contrast.

Finally, my recent Doc Schnibbles:

I'm not a big fan of 30s fabric, although I like the colors--just not all those tiny little prints. The difficult thing--in my mind--about working with 30s fabrics is the lack of contrast: Most of the colors used in 30s fabrics are medium value colors. When I work with the colors of 30s fabrics, I treat white as the light fabric and I like to use red as the dark contrast fabric. And that's kind of what I did with Doc.

The fabric I used, Make Life, had a lot of light charm squares and a lot of colors a bit like the colors found in 30s fabrics, with the exception of that dark gray. And although there was red running through the entire line, there were only about four charm squares in each pack that were solid--or nearly solid--red. So I already knew red would go well with the rest of the colors, and I even knew what SHADE of red worked--all I needed to do was set aside the red charm squares for something else and use red as the background.

And just like using the darker contrast of black as a background color in the first quilt, Amish with a Twist, using red as a background color in Doc provided a surprising contrast that made the other colors pop.

Busy Little Quilter left a comment yesterday saying she uses red as a neutral. I kind of agree, but it doesn't go with everything--or maybe it does, if you find the right shade. But it's certainly an option if you're looking for contrast. Next time you're thinking about a background fabric, think about using something unusual. Gray is a popular color now and would make a good background in many instances. I'd also suggest yellow--I use it as a wall color for about half the rooms in my house, because I'm hard pressed to think of a color I wouldn't like with yellow. (See the yellow wall behind Doc?) If most of the fabrics you want to use in a project are light, think about trying out a dark background.

It doesn't hurt to experiment--after all, it's only fabric, and there's plenty more of it out there! But you might surprise yourself, and wouldn't that be fun?!


Anonymous said...

Have you heard of Freddy Moran? I remember reading an article about her in QuiltMaker years ago, she thinks red is a neutral too!

I subscribe to the theory that if 10 fabrics look good, then 100 must look better. I didn't realize, until I reread that interview, that Freddy stated that too!

I love the Amish quilt pic you posted, and I'm tempted, but then I remember how hard on the eyes I find working with black is...... Oh yes, and the other 10,000 projects I love, and bought!

Kim said...

Thanks for this post. It really gives me something to think about. I like the idea of looking at other lines to help with background color selection. I also like that Amish quilt with a twist.

Quilt Hollow said...

I use blacks as a nuetral quite often when I'm using several lights as you said. I lean towards aged look perhaps why my lighter backgrounds? Your Amish quilt is a fun one to see but would look so out of its element here in my house. I love to work with brighter and fun fabrics...hoping for grands someday!!

Anonymous said...

I like using different colors for background. I don't use white very often. Thanks for sharing.

Josie McRazie said...

I am on the other side of the fence! LOL I prefer white and the brighter colours! I finished a quilt (top) for my Honeyman a few months back and used grey and I tell you it is a very close second for me! I sam not as much a fan of the 1800's fabrics and more the
30's! stuff!! But that is what makes quilting great! seven people can work on the same project and they all will have a different outlook on what it should look like!! :)

Anna said...

Ah, I get it! you are a gypsy quilters at heart!

Kigwit said...

Thanks for the tips. I learn so much reading your blog.