Asymmetrical Color

by Christine Barnes

For this post, allow me to digress from my retreat workshop topic, “Luster and Luminosity,” and focus on “asymmetrical color,” a concept I came up with to describe the way I often work with color. It’s a simple idea: color used in unequal quantities, in an asymmetrical block or quilt design. Let me show you what I mean:

I like funky-flower patterns, so you can understand why I fell in love with this Alexander Henry fabric.funky fowers, lighter

I created this 12-inch block, which is just an isolated section of one of my symmetrical quilts, tweaked and enlarged a bit. With this design I saw an opportunity to use color in different quantities, in a way that looks and feels balanced.Asymmetrica blockPutting the large-scale floral in the large square was a no-brainer, but what to use for the smaller shapes? I chose Kaffe Fassett shot cottons because, like the patterned fabric, they are low-intensity, or muted. The shot-cotton colors are related to the floral colors, but they don’t quite match, which makes the design more sophisticated and keeps it from looking formulaic.just fabrics, modern fleurs, lighter

Here’s the mock-block. The variations in the values of the shot cottons, from the light celadon in the lower rectangle to the dark merlot in the corner square, create a design within the design and enhance the off-center look of the block.mock block, lighter

Next I asked myself, what happens when this block is repeated in a quilt? Here’s how it looks in a straight set, though in reality the floral pattern would vary from block to block:modern fleurs 2, lighter

I found this to be a bit much; there’s no place for your eye to rest. (I’m a huge fan of “visual relief,” providing quiet areas within larger areas.) And when I rotated some of the blocks to vary the layout, the floral squares touched and looked even more fragmented.

So I spaced out the blocks, which begs the question: what to do with the plain squares? If you know me, you know my first thought is usually “stripe.” Now I’m looking for just the right one. Even without a fabric in the alternate squares, I like the light-and-airy look of this layout.

modern fleurs 4 lighter

Finally, my mind turned to thoughts of a wearable, perhaps a vest, with a pieced right front and this Kaffe Fassett stripe for the left front. What fun to see where a fabric takes you!ALL fabrics, lighter

Changing gears, here’s another example, my quilt “Squares and Stripes.” I designed asymmetrical blocks and rotated them for the overall design. I also varied the width of the borders. But notice how I lined up the stripes in the borders to suggest planes of color flowing beneath the blocks. Sometimes you need a bit of symmetry to calm an asymmetrical design.AA Squares and StripesNext time, I promise to show you new ideas for luminosity. Until then, keep experimenting with color. The options really are endless. So long for now!

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