Color Choices

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by , 03-22-2013 at 12:29 PM (2029 Views)
Some one at my office this week told me that I should take up painting because I have such a great sense of color. I explained that I do my painting with fabric and threads. The person had a curious look on their face, then they raised their finger in the air and said, "Oh, now I get it!"
I have understood throughout my quilting career that many people struggle with figuring out the right colors to use in their art work. While I can't say that I have always made the perfect color choices, I am lucky to have made the majority of my quilts with some really good results. Early on in my quilting life, my sister took a lecture from a pretty famous quilter who told the audience, "Never, ever, use yellow in a quilt. If you do, you'll ruin it because the eye of the viewer will always gravitate towards that yellow piece in the quilt." She shared the story with me and to this day, I believe this may have been my first exposure to the quilt police.
We decided, that some rules are meant to be broken, and following her lead, I decided that's a rule I am always going to try and break. And I have. Almost every quilt I've ever made had some yellow in it. Is it possible that my keen sense of color can be attributed to employing one of the three primary colors in all my pieces? Maybe, maybe not. I think it can at least partially be attributed to my love for happy colors. Most viewers like to look at happy things instead of the dull or mundane. If you were to walk into my sewing studio where the majority of the quilt top construction activities take place, you would find a myriad of color, textures, tones and highlights neatly folded on the shelving units where I store the fabric. On the walls are racks containing tightly wound spools of thread, a stunning rainbow in itself, just waiting to come undone and work its way through the thread guides of my sewing machine.
Can color theory be easily taught to those that lack it? Or is color therapy more the answer? Do you find yourself working within a wider color range, or do you pretty much gravitate towards a fairly narrow set of color choices in your fabric buying and quiltmaking? Do you struggle to complete a guild quilt challenge because the compulsory fabric choices aren't something you feel comfortable using or you just don't like them. I think many people do struggle with these issues. Are you able to envision what a finished quilt will look like in your colors (instead of the sample colors or photo on the pattern?) Maybe this is one reason that quilt kits are so popular. The color choices are made for you.
I have a dear friend that has a bad case of 'the blues'. She works in mostly the blue color family. She's a very happy and often silly person, wonderful to be around, but her fabric choices don't reflect her fun personality. Do yours? Here is one way to tell. Take a look at your wardrobe and how you dress for the day. Do you match your clothing, shoes, jewelry before you head out? Or do you just grab whatever is clean and pressed and run out the door? I have noticed at bigger quilt shows that many of the ladies, do an impeccable job of matching their outfits from head to toe, including the purse, shoes, jewelry and other accessories. Some wear many bright, happy colors, others are more subtle in their clothing choices. Some are downright tacky in their choices, others very sophisticated in every detail. I love it all! Where do you find yourself? I know I often match from head to toe in carefully planned outfits. Its just who I am and I find it fun to figure out what items will work well with others. That's not to say I don't use contrasting colors in my wardrobe or quilts, after all, variety is the spice of life.
Have you ever found yourself where the fabric or color choice you are looking for just isn't out there? Have you tried to make it yourself, either by dyeing the fabric yourself, or printing it or coloring on it with some of the implements available on the market today? I know I have and I would encourage anyone to try dyeing, painting, foiling and drawing on your fabrics to change them to meet your needs. You may surprise yourself. Another trick to consider is thread choice. You can change the look of any fabric by the choice of fabric you use to quilt or embellish the piece. If you are into unique textures, try using overlays of netting, sheer fabrics and other items to add interest to your work. Often a single or multiple layer of tulle can brighten or change the color upon which it is overlaid, making it the perfect fabric choice that you would not have been able to find in any store or your stash.
Now go out there and color your world. Feedback welcome.


  1. SpringBird's Avatar
    I have to admit that I take my best friend with me when I buy fabric. beside the fact that shopping with her is always fun, she has no fear of color, her kitchen is red and yellow and she purchased several shades of red before she got the just right color.

    As for my wardrobe, black with a splash of bright on the good days
  2. NJQuilter55's Avatar
    Well, black goes with everything in clothes, and I wear alot of black and grey myself. But I love bright colors, as you can probably guess if you look at my quilt photos I've posted. I think picking the right fabrics can be very stressful for some quilters and I feel lucky to not really ever had a problem. Let me know if I can ever help you! nice to meet you by the way!
  3. SunbonnetSmart.com's Avatar
    Hello there, NJQuilter55! Well, you and I are going to get along just fine. I love color and the more the better. You'll see what I mean when you visit my web site. I feel color is medicinal, so use it in everything. I have never heard that bit about not using yellow, and I'm glad I've missed out on that rule. Yes, I agree with you. I think some rules are meant to be broken. You asked about books to teach color and I think Pat Sloan's is a good one: "Take the Fear Out Of Color" available on eBay here: http://bit.ly/15FZG9B At any rate, I really enjoyed reading and sharing the enthusiasm in this post. It was lots of fun. Good to e-meet you, Much Love, Fondly, Robin
  4. NJQuilter55's Avatar
    HI SunbonnetSmart! Nice to meet you. Thanks for dropping by and reading my blog and leaving your feedback. Where would the world be without color?
    I will have to visit your site in my non-working hours. I am sure it will contain many things to inspire me.

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