Serene Circles: A Mini Tutorial in Transparency

by Christine Barnes

Greetings, Artistic Alchemy followers! Before I begin, Heidi just posted photos from last September’s retreat. Check out the new Pics page and see what the fun was all about!

OK, let’s get down to business. Yes, I admit it: I’m a circles addict. As you may have seen on our Workshops page, I’ve just started a new transparency quilt for my retreat workshop. Below is the story behind one of the blocks, using three values of yellow-green. These fabrics are Peppered Cottons from Studio E, but the fabrics need not be from the same manufacturer. They should, however, have a similar intensity; that is, all muted or all brilliant, or all somewhere in between.Serene fabricsI had fun piecing the background square below from light-value, mostly neutral prints, with the light green solid running through the middle.Serene pieced blockThen I pieced a circle of the medium and dark green fabrics. It’s a bit tricky keeping the seams straight so they will match the seams in the background square, but Peppered Cottons have a slightly looser weave that bends beautifully over the edge of a freezer-paper circle.

When you lay the circle over the background square and line up the seams, look what happens: it appears that the light green runs through the dark green, creating a medium green. Suddenly, the background square comes to life, and the circle looks layered.Serene circle on topI first saw this design idea in a quilt by Naoko Anne Ito, at an East Bay Heritage Quilters show a few years ago. She graciously allowed me to have it photographed and included in my color book. Isn’t it exquisite?

Barnes, 10751, Sp11It’s also possible to make the design lines of the “parents” carry through the “child.” In the example below, the blue-green zig-zag seems to start in the left square, flow through the center square, and continue into the right square. Transparencies of value, color, and design lines are often the most amazing.2015 Yellow, blue, fave trans blockThe block below shows what happens when the values aren’t quite right. The light yellow-green fabric is not as light as the lightest yellow-green in the printed center.  When I teach transparency, we joke about “recessive genes” and “color DNA,” but in general, the lightest value in the child must also be in the parent. I still love this block, even if it’s not that successful as a transparency.

BLK 4 teal, y-g_2033I’m glad you joined me for this short session, and I hope I’ve piqued your interest in transparency. It’s an awesome special effect, and it works wonderfully in all kinds of quilt designs. Feel free to write with questions. I love thinking about this stuff!




4 thoughts on “Serene Circles: A Mini Tutorial in Transparency

  1. Very inspiring. I have your book and have been following this blog. I have a pile of fabric laid out, now I just have to start.

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