Let’s Hear It for Low-Volume Fabrics!

Christine Barnes

It’s another cold, raw spring day in Grass Valley, perfect for staying in and sharing my thoughts with you. My wild cherry trees are in bloom, and today wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen snow falling on the white blossoms. I call them my popcorn trees.

In this post I’d like to focus again on low-volume fabrics—how to spot them and use them in your quilts. The term is from the modern-quilt movement, and it means “quiet” colors and prints, used mostly as backgrounds or negative space. They are generally light in value, which makes them recede. Some are colored, but my faves are fabrics that have widely spaced black or gray motifs on a white or cream background. A picture is worth lots of words, so here are some examples. When possible, I’m adding the selvage info for those who want to seek out these fabrics. I included my fabric bracelet from the deYoung Museum to give you a sense of scale.

This print is by the designer Bonnie Christine, for Art Gallery Fabrics. It’s from the Hello Bear Collection, and the name of the design is “Summit in Dawn.” I’ve seen it on the Hawthorne Threads site. It’s more of a “medium-volume” fabric because of the colors, but I had to show it because I love it!Next is an open-and-airy, large-scale print from Contempo Studio’s Daily Zen collection, Michele D’Amore designer, by Benartex, style 1738. The background is creamier, not really white.Another design by Daily Zen, Michele D’Amore, style 1735. Love the openness of it.Also from the Daily Zen collection by Michele D’Amore, but alas, the selvage is gone. If you find this fabric, please let me know—I’ll give you extra credit. Remember the bird Woodstock in the Peanuts cartoons? To me, this looks like one long rant by him! The partial selvage reads “For Your Nest,” by Moda, style 48203. I love this random pattern of pale gray lines by Marcus Fabrics. The selvage says Studio 37 Fabrics, Nancy Rink Designs, Getting to Know Hue, style 9720. It comes in the opposite colorway of white lines on a gray background, and it’s gorgeous.I have no info on this pale gray-and-white stripe, but I believe it’s from Riley Blake. (This photo looks yellowish—the lighting was stange the day I took it.)And here’s how I used that stripe in a Gypsy Wife block, as the lowest-volume fabric. This block/quilt is one of the projects for the retreat.Note that the other two fabrics in the block above are anything but low-volume. I chose them because they separated and “stood up to” the colorful triangles but didn’t take over. There’s no selvage info for this large white-on-gray dot, but the smaller dot is by Michael Miller, style CX-2490, Dumb Dot. Michael Miller fabrics is a great source for dotted fabrics.I hope I’ve “spoken up” for low-volume fabrics enough to entice you to add them to your stash. They’re hard to find, but so worth the hunt.

One more thought: My retreat workshop is now full, but feel free to contact me if you’d like to be on the waiting list. You never know . . . .

Also, I’ll be showing more low-volume prints and my Antique Modern quilt top in my next newsletter, “Christine’s Color Connection.” You can sign up on my Home page, or by texting COLOR4Q to 22828. See you when we “get together” again!

 

 

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When One Thing Leads to Another

by Christine Barnes

I’m guessing most of us have a bin or space on a shelf for fabrics and pieces left over from past projects. Too good to toss, we keep them, thinking they’ll speak to us another time. Several years ago I made this simple vest of pieced squares and appliquéd circles cut from ombrés. (I had no idea that I would one day become an ombré-aholic.) I intended to embellish the circles, but you know how that goes.00 vest back onlyWhen you appliqué circles, you usually cut away the fabric from the back to reduce the bulk. I call these circles “bonus circles,” and ones from this vest were way too cool to throw away. So they sat in a special place, waiting to be used.000 cbnus circles on grayAnother project that’s been sitting on my shelf are units/blocks based on my “Luminaria” pattern (scroll down in my Store). I took 16 units made from Painter’s Canvas fabrics by Michael Miller and auditioned them as four trial blocks. I thought of my circles: why not try them in the centers?1 four blocks on wall, earlyThat day I passed by my studio, looked in at my blocks and ombré bolts, and said to myself, “color therapy!”0a looking into my studioI started laying out the units to make rows, but I was beginning to feel that the texture and pattern of the Painter’s Canvas fabrics were a bit much. Also, I could see that a few of my inner fabrics weren’t light enough (look at the second row, second block from the left, the raspberry unit). What to do?3 a row and a halfI began to make more units from my collection of Grunge fabrics by Moda. (Many of the colors are in my Store.) Their pattern is subtler than Painter’s Canvas, as you can see below, with Painter’s Canvas on the left and Grunge on the right. Grunge and Painter's swatchesI made lots of Grunge units and auditioned them in rows.6a mostly GrungeBetter, I thought, yet there was still the problem of some of the inner fabrics not being light enough.

Another possible solution was to “air out” the blocks with plain alternate squares. I like the black-and-white fabric (lower left) best because it repeats the black in some of the bonus circles; however, it’s very lightweight, more like lawn than a quilting cotton.6 color blocks and B&W auditionThen I decided to try blocks with four light fabrics that were similarly light, to make the centers blend into one shape and recede.25 block made from 4 diff blocksWhen I mocked up four blocks and laid the circles on top, I saw immediately how well the circles stand out against the lighter backgrounds. Graphic, but in a quiet way. And that’s where I am for now.30 Grunge only, desert blocksI’m not sure if I’ll set my blocks side-by-side or separate them with alternate squares. And I don’t know how large the quilt will be. It’s true: one thing does lead to another, and someday I’ll make a quilt from all the units that are still left over.

In my next “Christine’s Color Connection” newsletter, I’ll be doing a step-by-step tutorial on making the units, blocks, and bonus circles (I have a technique for making them from scratch). If you don’t already get my newsletter, you can sign up on the home page of my website, or text COLOR4Q to 22828 on your smartphone.

That’s it for now. I hope your summer is going swimmingly and that you have plenty of creative projects lined up. As soon as I post this, I’ll be back working on my samples for Zephyr. The countdown to the retreat continues. Cheers!

 

 

 

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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!

Christine

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.