A Tale of Two Quilts (and a bit of transparency)

by Christine Barnes

New fabricsThe image above has nothing to do with this post, but I just had to drop it in because I LOVE these fabrics by Marcia Derse, Alison Glass, and Kaffe Fassett. You’ll see some of them again in a future quilt or garment.

Now, to the business at hand: Have you ever worked on a quilt that wasn’t quite “working,” yet you continued because you hoped it would get better? That’s what happened when I started my quilt Urban Ombrés. It began with the block below. I cut the center rectangle from a lighter ombré, and the surrounding strips from darker areas of other ombrés, all from Caryl Bryer Fallert. (The black-and-white is by Kim Schaefer and isn’t available, even on the Internet.) I thought the block was lovely, very ethereal and serene.

1 single block, all ombre Ah, but sometimes more is actually less. I made a total of sixteen different blocks and joined them to make the quilt top below. I knew long before I finished that it lacked punch, but I kept going. Sound familiar?2 quilt with all ombres“It needs pattern,” I thought. I looked on my shelf of recent acquisitions, where I keep new favorites. Nothing. Then I saw a pile of Marcia Derse fabrics, like the ones below, and thought, what if?

MD FQsI grabbed a scrap and laid it over the center of the top left block. What a difference this one fabric made!3 single block, with MD printSuddenly the block had visual weight, and the center unit looked cohesive. I kept going, making 16 blocks with the same colored ombrés in the same positions as in the first quilt top. (There are a few exceptions.)

5 quilt with MD centersI’ve never had the first top quilted, but I’m glad I took photos so I could show the impact value, hue, and pattern have on the look of a quilt. As I have said before, “Lesson learned!”

Changing gears a bit, below is an example of layered transparency. In the first mock-block I combined four medium-to-dark colors. These fabrics are from Michael Miller’s “Painter’s Canvas” line, and they are still available. In fact they’re coming out with new colors next month. Good!6a painter palette AThen, from my embarrassing stash of MM fabrics, I laid four lighter-value versions of the same colors over the original fabrics:

6a painter palette FNow there is the illusion of a transparent plane of lighter color. Very simple, very graphic,  and really very easy. If you’ve signed up for my workshop, you’ll get a chance to make this and other transparency studies, one of which you’ll turn into a quilt.

Today is Friday the 13th, but I feel lucky in so many ways. Just having a light-filled studio with an abundance of delicious fabric makes my day, every day. Happy Spring!


p.s. I have a few Urban Ombrés kits consisting of the Marcia Derse prints, colored ombrés, gray ombré, and quilt pattern. (Both black-and-white fabrics are sadly gone.) Email me if you’re interested.

Luminosity—a Very Special Effect

9a AA DecNew Year’s greetings from me, Christine, to all of you! I hope you’re enjoying (or recovering from) the holiday festivities and are looking forward to a fresh year. If you aren’t already relaxing, I invite you to do so now while I show you one of my favorite special effects, luminosity. In my first post I wrote about luster—the sense of light striking the surface from above or from the side. With luminosity, the light and warmth come from beneath the surface.

I stumbled on the concept of luminosity while playing with transparency. As I was working on a mock-block exercise, I said to myself, “Oh my gosh, that block looks, well, it looks luminous!” As I worked with the concept more, I came up with a luminosity recipe—when you surround a relatively small area of warm, medium-value, intense color with a larger area of cooler, darker, duller color, you can create the illusion of glow. I can’t begin to tell you how much quilters respond to this effect—when it works, we all say, “Wow!”

Let me begin by defining value, temperature, and intensity. Value is about how light, medium, or dark color is. Temperature is about how warm or cool color is; yellow, red, and orange are warm, while green, blue, and violet are cool. Intensity is about how bright or dull color is; neon green is intense, while sage green is low-intensity.

The three fabrics on the right below pulsate with warmth and light, making them great for creating luminosity. Surrounding them with the three fabrics on the left would enhance their luminosity.  (The middle two fabrics got into the act because I loved them.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWoven plaids like the one below look luminous on their own. When you fussy cut them to isolate the warm color, then surround it with cooler color, it’s as if candles burn brightly beneath the surface. 3 AA DecThe same woven plaid, in a different colorway, used just in the center of this block. (This image looks so soft because I framed the block using nonglare glass.)4 AA Dec“Airy” batiks are great for suggesting luminosity, and the colors can be a mix of warm and cool. The dappling in the center batik also suggests distance because a light-value fabric will recede when surrounded by a darker-value fabric.

5 AA DecLuminosity can be just about light, without the illusion of warmth. In this block, the lighter-value batik looks far away, as if you’re looking through a cut-out in a dark stripe square.

6 AA DecThis cut-and-paste block shows how a combination of different fabrics—woven plaid, woven stripe, batik stripe, and ombré—makes a luminous block more interesting. 8 AA DecAnd finally, sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between luminosity and luster. Look again at the pillow at the start of this post. Do the circles suggest light striking and bouncing off the surface, or light and warmth emanating from beneath the surface? (The circles are cut from a Caryl Bryer Fallert “Gradations” ombré, and the solids are Kaffe Fassett shot cottons.)

What about the blocks below, where the ombrés and Marci Derse prints switch places?0 AA Dec These are the things I love to ponder, and I hope you find them just as enticing. I’d love to hear what you want to learn about color. Let me know your thoughts, your questions, and I’ll explore them in future posts. The New Year is the perfect time to play with new colors and concepts. Let the creativity—and the fun—begin!