Special Effects with Color

• Playing with Color and Light Part I: Luster

Grad sheen blocks F, AA

Welcome to my very first post! I’m Christine Barnes, and I am SO excited about Artistic Alchemy and our 2014 retreat. My goal in posting is twofold: I want you to be intrigued by our retreat, but I also want to show you some of my favorite aspects of color. Think of my posts as an extension of my book The Quilter’s Color Club, a place where you can learn about color and put the theory into practice in your quilts.

I’d like to jump right in and talk about luster, one of the special effects we’ll be working with in my workshop. Luster is the illusion of light sweeping or bouncing across the surface. In its subtlest form, it’s sometimes referred to as sheen. Smooth shifts in value, from light to medium to dark, can create a lustrous effect in a quilt.

By far the easiest way to get the look of luster is with ombré fabrics, sometimes called shaded fabrics. In the three blocks below, the wide ombré strips are from a fabric line called “Serenity,” though I think they look more like brushed metal. (The prints are by Marcia Derse, the stripes by Kaffe Fassett.) Orienting the ombré strips so the light goes in opposite directions gives the blocks the illusion of motion as well as sheen.

Brushed metal 3.25 in

Next, take a look at my quilt “Deco Circles.” The sashing, a “Gradations” ombré by Caryl Bryer Fallert, has a subtle sense of movement, thanks to gentle shifts in color and value. (The blocks at the beginning of this post were also made using Gradations ombrés.) The light-to-dark-gray background triangles, cut from just one fabric, ground the shaded circles.

Deco Circles, Finished

I made the quilt below, “Elegant Circles,” before I was ever thinking “luster.” The light-struck borders came from two pieces of beautiful, linen-like Japanese fabric that was printed in bands of different colors. (I used the same fabric, in additional colors, for the upper-right triangles.)

Elegant Circles for AA blog

You can also see luster in fabrics that go from one color to another. Below are “Gelato” ombrés. I love the intensity of these fabrics and the seamless changes in value and color.


Just for fun, I made potholders from some of the Gelatos, with a bit of black and white for contrast. Who wouldn’t love to have lustrous potholders? (But I must say, I’ll never use them.)

Lustrous potholders 2

Thanks for reading my first post. I’ve had lots of fun with it, and I hope I’ve piqued your interest in luster and the kinds of fabric that create this special effect. To see more of my work and follow my teaching schedule, click on the links below. Note that you can sign up for my newsletter, “Christine’s Color Connection,” on the home page of my website. Also check out the three lines of ombrés—Gelato, Serenity, and Gradations—in my Store. I love, love working with these fabrics—they offer so many opportunities to create lustrous quilts.

website: http://www.christinebarnes.com

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/chrisebarnes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristineEllenBarnes

Facebook biz page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristineBarnesDesign

Stay tuned for “Playing with Color and Light Part 2: Luminosity” in my next post. There’s a simple “recipe” for creating luminosity, the illusion of light and warmth coming from beneath the surface. It’s very different from luster—but just as impressive!


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