When Color and Gray Get Together

by Christine Barnes

We finally had winter last week, and it turned out to be a VERY good thing because we got snow, then rain. The weather also put me in a cozy mood, which usually leads me to my studio. And I needed direction. My solids-and-plaids blocks were languishing because I couldn’t decide how to join them.

I wanted to space out the blocks so each would be a unique color story. Gray separating the blocks seemed like a good idea because neutrals give the eye a place to rest and make colors more intense. I have plenty of grays in my stash, but which gray? As I looked at my options, I thought, “Why not use them all?” Below are the eight I settled on. I was fine with different undertones in the grays because I wanted the fabrics to vary.

Best graysI started by adding short vertical strips between blocks, followed by long horizontal strips between rows. For the side, top, and bottom outer strips, I cut swatches and pinned them to the edges to help with value and pattern placement.

2 Swatch placementNext I pieced and labeled the long outer strips. (It’s so easy to mix them up!) This shot is looking down on my design wall and the top of my IKEA storage unit. The surface makes a handy shelf for blocks or sections of quilts in progress3 gray sashing looking down 3With all the strips attached, I gave the top a final pressing. I’m including the image below because it’s a good example of metamerism, a light phenomenon where colors look different under different light sources. The blocks hanging down look more intense because natural light from the windows is falling on them, while the blocks on top of the ironing board look less intense under the room’s ambient light.

4 quilt top, looking sidewaysIn the next image, I’ve isolated four blocks to illustrate my strategy for using the grays:

• Vary the length of the pieces for a random look.

• Try for contrasts in value (some lighter, some darker) and pattern (stripes, dots, circles, squiggles).

• Make sure the border seams don’t fall on block seams

• Distribute the different grays as equally as possible—but don’t make yourself crazy in the process.

5 Mad for Plaid detailBelow is the finished top, yet to be quilted. Some of the gray pieces stand out, while others blend, but overall the “color melody” is in the blocks. For those of you in my Transparency workshop at Zephyr, you can see the illusion of transparency in the upper left block, thanks to the pattern in the woven plaid. I love, love the shimmery look of woven plaids!6 quilt top with sashing 1Speaking of transparency, the new issue of Modern Patchwork includes my Transparent Squares quilt. I really enjoy MP—it has unique projects, and the overall design is so sleek. Click here to be taken to their website, Quilting Daily, where you can get info on this issue. There’s lots to see!Mod Pat cover, spring 2015Until next time, keep thinking in color and try something new!



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