Learning How To Quilt With Color

Color The Most Crucial Aspect Of Any Quilt

Color is one of the most crucial aspects of any quilt. Working in connection with fabric texture, these two elements constitute a quilt's personal feeling or story. But what exactly is the "story" of a quilt, and how does color inform that process?
Creative quilter and all around artist Wendy Nash lends insight into these questions.

Nash explains that she always wants the colors of her quilts to open a dialogue.She begins the process by laying all her available colors out on a large table or surface. Then she simply sees which ones naturally accent the others. When colors are particularly heightened and vibrant either on their own or due to the relationship with another color, she calls that "making the colors sing." Needless to say, Nash wants her quilts to sing.

Once she has established which colors open up a desirable dialogue or song, she builds the quilt around that idea. Perhaps it's a deep purple trimmed with a soft pastel peach. Perhaps its inky black accented by shocking white. Whatever the colors, this is Nash's starting point. She then proceeds to pin these colors together and hang them in a prominent place in her home. She simply tacks them on a bulletin board and picks a place she knows she'll walk by frequently. Nash calls this stage of the process "living with the colors." She gauges how the presence of the colors affects her mood and feelings, and if the evoked feeling is desirable, she proceeds with her quilting project.

For Nash, color is a very interactive part of the creative process. When she's determining which colors to use, she doesn't even solely rely on sight. Instead, she brings in the more esoteric element of feeling. According to her, the most important job of a quilt is that it conveys certain feelings to people.

The interesting part of quilting is that the particular feeling doesn't have to be the same for every viewer. Each person can interact with the colors and the finished product in varying and different ways, but so long as the experience is interactive (opens up a dialogue between the viewer and the piece) Nash feels she has created a successful piece of art.

Colors can be such a rich and rewarding part of a quilt. They lend so much substance to an artistic project, and color has that unique ability to evoke strong emotions or remind us of important memories. But there is an aspect of color that is both a major benefit and a major drawback. It is the quality of color which allows it to change so easily with different lighting.

Firstly, the benefits of this quality can be breathtaking. A quilt in one light can look like an entirely new quilt in another light. Even moving the quilt back and forth in the same light can lend the piece different shades nuances of the same color scheme. This makes the finished product incredibly versatile and interesting. It almost takes on a human like personality, altering and changing in different situations. This allows for a piece with tremendous character.

However, the downside is that very same quality. Because colors are so susceptible to change, what looks pleasing in one light can be very unattractive or undesirable in another. Therefore, quilter Wendy Nash suggests always picking out your colors in a very well-lit room or area. If you don't, you're only going to be surprised when the product is finished. Perhaps that surprise will be good; perhaps it won't. This is another reason Nash suggests "living with the colors" before you put the final product together. That way you have a chance to see how the colors interact with light and shadow at different times of the day.

Nash even cautions against buying fabric in different parts of the world. For example, she once bought fabric in Finland.
However, when she returned home, the pieces looked so drastically different. This disparity was due to the fact that the light in Finland is inherently different. (At differing times of the year, Finland experiences days with practically no sun and days with practically no darkness.)The important thing is not to understand how every color is going to behave in every situation. It is merely that you as a quilter understand that color possesses this propensity to change and that you plan accordingly.

Creative quilter Wendy Nash always emphasizes the importance of color. She preaches using varied and interesting colors and always ensuring that those colors interact in a meaningful and artistically significant way. However, so much about color is personal. If it weren't, everybody would immediately have the same response to the often asked question "what's your favorite color?"

So it is important to note that the vast majority of colors carry universal connotations. Black is almost exclusively associated with the mysterious or even dangerous, while white typically embodies everything pure, clean and angelic. These are feelings and emotions that the colors naturally evoke. However, it is the personalized element of color that is so important to keep in mind when quilting. Everybody responds to colors differently. Despite so many of these universal connotations, it is still common that what one person deems beautiful can conjure distasteful emotions in another. This is especially important if you are making a personalized or custom quilt for a customer.
Therefore, make sure that customer is absolutely involved when picking out a color scheme.

The second thing to keep in mind is that personal tastes naturally change. Whether it's just because you grow up or because your preferences have altered for some other reason, it's perfectly natural and expected for colors to say different things to you at different times. Understand that colors have the ability to either stimulate or relax. Make sure that in the moment you're creating a quilt for somebody, the colors accomplish the desired results.

The last point is not to fear experimentation. Some of the most brilliant and unexpected color couplings have resulted from simple trial and error. If you place all your available scraps on a large surface and simply start shuffling pieces around, shocking and delightful pairings will reveal themselves.

While color seems like a fairly straightforward part of any artistic project, it is actually very complex. Consider the aforementioned suggestions and tips, and you may truly surprise yourself with the beautiful and personal work you create.


About the author:
 Michelle is a quilting enthusiast who has turner her hand to helping other quilting enthusiast's make money from quilting.
Her free membership site offers both quilting howto and quilting business advise.

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