Magical Fabrics, Color Mirage

by Christine Barnes

First up, a big welcome to all our new followers—we are delighted that you’ve joined us! If you aren’t familiar with our Artistic Alchemy blog, we take turns writing about our latest work, our sources of inspiration, and our creative processes. It’s fun for us, and we love seeing your comments in our Inbox. It’s my turn this week, so without further ado . . .

I have a confession: for years, yes years, I’ve been guarding my collection of Elin Noble hand dyes. From what? From whom? Really, it’s ridiculous! But when you look at these photos (the camera is for scale), I think you’ll agree that they are magical, precious fabrics, to be cut only for special projects. They remind me of a mirage, a color mirage.

In truth, I’ve used some of these gorgeous fabrics over the years, but I’ve never combined them with solids and—drum roll please—stripes or plaids. It was past time. I began by isolating an area in one fabric with my 6-inch ruler, then marking the area, which was slightly larger than needed, with chalk.

For each block, I played with three solids and one stripe or plaid that had color connections to the hand dye, but didn’t necessarily match. The Kaffe Fassett stripe in the mock-up below was too dark, but I liked the idea of a skinny B&W strip as an accent.

For my second try, I went with a slightly darker orange, and another wonderful Kaffe stripe. I liked the combination, but I wanted to save the stripe for another group of fabrics.

Enter an ikat plaid, along with a rich yellow-orange in place of the dark orange above, and a darker yellow-green Grunge. Now there were variations in values and textures, plus a few bonus colors in the plaid. Done!

This block needed a bit more punch and a skinny strip.

Replacing the light blue-violet strip with a slightly darker version made the difference. (it’s hard to see this in the photos; trust me). Here’s the block sewn.

Earlier I made two blocks with Peppered Cotton solids and buffalo plaids. In the block below I see layered transparency where the light area of the plaid touches the center square and the yellow-green strip. The light blue-green strip on the right is an Oakshott cotton from the UK, another magical fabric.

I will probably unsew this block and insert a skinny strip. This is just a raw strip laid on top of the block.

I’m not sure this block will make the final cut. The stripe and buffalo plaid compete and take attention away from the awesome center square. It may need a makeover . . . . (Hey, so do I!)

I enjoyed the mess . . .

And the cut ingredients made for a colorful image.

I’m excited about making four more blocks, and of course I’ll show you the finished top. Thanks for following along with my audition-and-edit process.

Finally, the four of us are set to launch an ongoing “Studio Sale,” where we offer things we’ve created, fabric we love (but may never get around to using), and other treasures. Because of deadlines and teaching schedules, our first Studio Sale will happen soon, just not today. My apologies to those of you who tuned in to see what we have. It will be worth the wait, I guarantee!

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