Using Glorious Colors from 100 Days of Modern Quilting

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Color, glorious color! As Helen tells us, “Don’t be afraid of using colour. I love the joy of colour against crisp white. As the Crowded House song goes, ‘colour is its own reward’.” DQS #10 by Helen Simpson As quilters we have all the colors of the rainbow at our fingertips.  It’s a blessing and a challenge at the same time.  Using color is a bit about what you know and a lot about what you love. This week we’ll explore a variety of color schemes and share quilts whose makers have a knack for using color effectively. Life in Technicolor by Jacquie Gering Throughout the week with beautiful examples of modern quilts we’ll explore the ‘big three’ color schemes:  complementary, analogous and monochromatic.  We’ll look at what they are and what makes them work.  And what’s color without considering value?  We’ll review the concept of value and its importance in quilting.  In addition, we’ll look at proportion.  How much of a color is just right?  Sometimes a splash of color makes a big impact! Pink Stacks by Alissa Haight Carlton Lastly we’ll talk scrappy, using what we have and making all those colors work together.  It can be fun to put everything except maybe the kitchen sink in your quilt.  Scrappy quilts are a staple with quilters and modern quilters are no exception. There’ll be more tutorials too.  On to the Week of Color! Scrappy Cabins by Jacquie Gering


Featured Quilt 1


Red, orange, yellow, green, blue indigo, violet is a popular color scheme.  When you can’t choose one or two, use them all in rainbow order.

Up first as the featured quilt is Kati Spencer’s stunning Pixelated Colorwheel.  Take a few minutes to take in this quilt. 

Pixelated Colorwheel by Kati Spencer


Katie shared that she wasn’t seeking perfect transition of one color to the next. She simply wanted to create the overall impression of a colorwheel.  The squares in this quilt are 1 ½” finished.  There are 841 squares in the quilt.  Katie used six Kona solids charm packs, 1 of each colorway except 2 of the bright palette, though not all of those colors found their way into the quilt.  There are four squares of white near the center of the quilt where the design begins.  She started her quilting at this point as well.

Kati’s thoughts on color:

“Working with color is an ongoing experiment for me.  Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don’t.  Frequently, I’ll pull stacks of fabric for a quilt and let them sit on the shelf for days or weeks just looking at them occasionally.  I often find that I’ll remove several fabrics out of the stack because the color isn’t quite right.  Sometimes it takes me quite a while to realize which ones just won’t work.  I’ve also come to realize that the color combinations don’t have to be perfect, but rather interesting.  In this quilt, the color arrangement isn’t perfect, with each color blending seamlessly to the next.  I designed it this way to add interest.  This quilt remained on my design wall for weeks before I actually started sewing.  I would walk into the room, glance at it, and notice one or two squares that needed changed.  It was an ongoing design process for quite awhile to get the colors just as I wanted them.”

More about Kati:

Kati tells us, “Modern quilting means so many different things to me. Solids almost always say modern to me. I also think modern quilting frequently has an interesting yet relatively simple overall design.” Kati is a member of the Salt Lake Modern Quilt Guild and blogs at From the Blue Chair.  She loves her guild and tells us it’s a great place to learn! Kati’s favorite part of quilting is “seeking out great inspiration and then turning that great inspiration into unique quilts.”  She’s definitely inspired us!  You can see more of Katie’s work in her Flickr photostream.

Featured Quilt 2

Make it Complementary!

There are no hard and fast rules to follow when working with color, but there are some concepts to know and which might help you make your color decisions.  Complementary colors are those that fall directly across from each other on the colorwheel like blue/orange or red/green.  By their nature complementary colors are a dynamic combination.  Sometimes a bit of a color’s complement goes a long way to spice up a quilt.  If true complements are too bold for you, they can be toned down a bit by using less saturated version of the colors.

What's for Breakfast by Karen Anderson Abraham


Today’s featured quilt is Karen Anderson Abraham’s ‘What’s for Breakfast’.  Though there isn’t a lot of color in Karen’s quilt, the complements of blue and orange stand out in the surrounding neutrals while adding a bit of sparkle to her quilt. Karen’s quilt is a wonderful example of how a little color goes a long way.

 Karen’s thoughts on her quilt:

“It started with a vision of neutrals that I had been thinking about for quite a while. I mostly used scraps and leftovers of whites, off whites, light browns, muslin, etc. that I had laying around the sewing room. Some even picked up off the floor.

I think my biggest challenge with this quilt was finding a way to make a very quiet, monotone color palette have some interest and draw the viewer in in some way while remaining true to my wish for a mostly neutral quilt. My constant inclination was to add more color to create visual interest but kept reminding myself of my mostly neutral, mostly solids vision; “color restraint” became my mantra.  In order to make the quilt interesting without much color, I tried to really vary the neutrals and piece together interesting sections with the whites, off whites, creams and my favorite stone colored linen.  I think very subtle variations in tone with these “colors” can create lovely shading and an interesting yet very calming overall effect.

I don’t know much about color theory beyond your basic color wheel stuff so my thoughts on that are pretty limited.  I just used the colors I was drawn to and that were visually pleasing to me.  The blue had a cool calmness to it, while the yellow and orange added warmth to the overall piece.  I put a couple of shots of brown in there because I just love the grounding effect that brown can have, and it’s one of my favorite colors- yes, I said brown is one of my favorite colors, is that weird?  

More about Karen:

Karen has been quilting about 5 years and even with a couple of babies and little time has figured it out on her own.  Karen says, “I’m still learning a lot and have only completed a handful of quilts.  I work slowly and my process is very intuitive.”  She is a founding member of the Santa Barbara Modern Quilt Guild and blogs at Bloomingpoppies.  We appreciate that she has taken what time she has to become a quilter!  You can see more of Karen’s work in her Flickr photostream.

Featured Quilt 3

Love Your Neighbor!

Analogous colors are colors that are next door to each other on the colorwheel.  Blue and green, or red, orange and yellow are analogous color schemes.  Like good neighbors, analogous colors play well together.  Sometimes it can be nice to let one of the colors dominate when using an analogous color scheme.  Experiment and see what combination you like.

Today’s featured quilt is Half Square Triangle Love by Katie Pedersen.  Katie chose three colors blues, greens and purples combined with a couple of neutrals to play together in this stunning quilt.

Half Square Triangle Love by Katie Pedersen

Katie’s thoughts on her quilt:

“HST LOVE quilt mixes a few of my favorite things, half-square triangles, an analogous color scheme in a mix of value and random order.  Purples, blues and greens are my favorite colors.   Sitting side by side on the color wheel it’s hard to go wrong with these colors.  They flow together creating a quilt that’s easy on the eye, with a pop of white added in for some brightness.  After sewing the blocks, I gave them a shuffle and threw them up on the design wall.  Where they landed is where they stayed for the quilt layout.”

Katie’s thoughts on color:

“I love color.  My design wall is my go to tool for working with color.  I’m constantly putting swatches, strips or pieces of fabric on my design wall to see what works with what.  As I choose colors value is number one with me.  I’ve learned over time that value is more important than color in my quilts.  Value is what makes my work shine.”

More about Katie:

Katie is a Seattle gal and is a founding member of the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild.  Katie teaches modern quilting classes in the Seattle area.  She blogs at SewKatieDid and you can find more of her work on Flickr.

Featured Quilt 4

Pick One Color, One Color Only, Please!

Today’s featured quilt is an exquisite monochromatic quilt by Ellen Stallard that was entered in the Monochromatic Challenge for Project Modern.

January by Ellen Stallard


Monochromatic is all about one color and using tints, shades and tones of that color to make it sing.  Using different values is a key to making an effective monochromatic quilt.  We’ll talk more value tomorrow. Ellen tells us that she thought using a neutral for a monochromatic quilt would be a challenge. “My quilt is titled “January” which reflects the time of year when skies are gray and leaden and the color of the landscape is pretty flat.” Ellen accepted that challenge and did a beautiful job!

January (close up) by Ellen Stallard


Ellen’s thoughts on color:

“I typically lean toward using bright vibrant colors in my quilts.  Most of them are a combination of solids and patterned fabrics, and I often like to include something unexpected or unpredictable.

Designing this monochromatic quilt was a personal challenge given my tendency to use bright colors.  Although I often use gray as a neutral and background color, I had never tried to coordinate a number of grays together.  It soon became apparent that all grays are not created equal.  There are cool grays, warm grays, blue grays, green grays, grays that are more tan than gray, even pinkish grays.  I tried to choose fabrics with enough variation in shade and tone to create movement and not appear flat.  This quilt was fun to make and there might be another in the future as my stash of gray fabric is bountiful.”

More about Ellen:

“My aunt (now 83) taught me to quilt about eight years ago, and I still thank her for that memorable experience.  I learned about the modern quilting movement in the summer of 2010 from my son’s friend who has been quilting since her college days and writes a blog (Nacho Mama’s Quilt).  I think there is a relatively new Modern Quilt Guild chapter in Nashville, but since I live in the country forty miles out of town I have yet to check into it.  I just have the Flickr link right now…I live vicariously through others’ blogs.” You can find Ellen and more of her quiltson Flickr as TNquilter.

Featured Quilt 5

Value is the degree of lightness or darkness of a color.  In its simplest form value is classified as light, medium and dark.  It is easier to determine the value of fabrics of the same color.  With fabrics of different colors it can be a bit trickier. Standing back and viewing fabrics on a design wall, squinting, or using a value viewer or your camera can help you see value differences.

The value of value is that it creates contrast.  Greater value difference results in more contrast and contrast defines shapes.  Not all quilts need high contrast.  A low contrast quilt can be very effective.  Using fabrics with similar values can be a challenge because sometimes fabrics too close in value used together can look muddled.

The featured quilt today is April’s wonderful log cabin quilt.  This quilt exemplifies how using value makes a quilt shine.  April did such a good job choosing fabrics in her log cabin blocks.  The fabrics have enough contrast so that the rounds of logs in her blocks are well defined with just the right amount of contrast. The value differences in her blocks create interest as well and notice how the panel of log cabin blocks pops off the blue background.  Simply lovely!

Modern Log Cabin by April of By Small Means


April’s thoughts on using color:

“When it comes to color, I am a bit of copy cat. I have been known to pull my color combos from flowers in my garden, a fun piece of fabric, a cute shirt I saw on the rack, or the latest book I’ve been reading. From there I may take a favorite color in my latest quilt and try it again with another group of colors but for the most part my color combo choices are inspired by those I see around me. ”

More about April:

April is a stay at home mom with three beautiful children. She and her family are currently living in Turkey and loving it.  April sews when her kiddies after her kiddies are tucked in and when time allows. She blogs at By Small Means and you can find more of her quilts on flickr.

Featured Quilt 6

In Proportion!

Today’s featured quilt is another by Karen Anderson Abraham called “Stormy Seas.”  The colors give the quilt a slightly nautical feel, even though that may not have been what Karen was aiming for.

Stormy Seas by Karen Anderson Abraham


This striking quilt with its effective use of color is a wonderful example of using color in proportion.  The touches of red in the quilt and the binding help create movement in the quilt and the bits of red add zest to the blues.  Karen put in just enough red to bring the quilt to life, but not so much that it overwhelmed.

Proportion is something to think about as you make color choices for your quilt. Changing the proportions of the colors in a quilt can make a big difference in the look of a quilt. Sometimes equal amounts of colors can seem a bit boring or static, but remember there are no hard and fast rules in the color world!  Try different proportions as you are choosing colors and see what you think!

 Karen’s thoughts on her quilt:

Stormy Seas began with a love for solids and this color combination.  Karen said, “This quilt began as a conceptual drawing on my computer.  I loved the drawing and the composition itself, but wasn’t sure how it would translate in fabric.  Never know til you try, right?”

Karen shared that the colors feel a bit stark to her, but even if it might not be her favorite, we love it and think she’s a pretty talented gal.  You can get to know her better on her blog, Bloomingpoppies!

Featured Quilt 7

Make It Scrappy!

Today’s featured quilt is Modern Scrappy by Andie Johnson.  Isn’t this a happy quilt!  It’s satisfying to make a quilt from nothing but scraps.  It’s economical and earth friendly.  Even the tiniest piece of fabric can be worked into a scrap quilt.  Many quilters save every piece of fabric and some have elaborate organizational systems so they can access their scraps systematically. Typically a scrap quilt will reflect the fabric taste and color preferences of its maker since the scraps usually come from previously made quilts.

Modern Scrappy Baby by Andie Johnson


Andie’s thoughts on color:

“Quilting for me is all about color. The first thing that I see in any quilt is color. Whether they’re saturated, juicy colors or stark black and white, before I notice any other design element, I see color.  I think what I love the most about using color in quilting is how it can evoke a memory, an emotion or capture an idea. For example, a Double Wedding Ring done in all 1930s feedsack prints set against a white background will have a completely different vibe than the same block made with modern geometric fabrics set against a gray background. I love the possibilities that color gives us to express ourselves.

And oh my, how I love a scrappy quilt! For me, scrappiness lends itself so well to both traditional and modern quilting. Using a collection of scraps, you can make something that looks as though it came straight out of the pioneer days or, on the flip side, something that’s uber-modern, fresh and crisp.  Some of my beloved fabrics making their way into multiple projects is very endearing to me.

More about Andie:

Andie has been sewing and quilting since she was a teen.  She is the Vice President of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild.  Andie finds time to sew even with three teenage children. She is currently co-writing a modern quilting book with Kelly Biscopink to be released in September of 2012.  Congratulations Andie and Kelly!  Andie and her quilts can be found on her blog, AndieJohnsonSews!