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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Solids + Prints: A Colorful Combination

by Christine Barnes

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with plain solids for years. They seemed dull, and patterned fabrics seemed to die in their company. The two exceptions were hand-dyes from Cherrywood (they look sueded) and shot cottons from Kaffe Fassett (with different-colored warp and weft threads, they look almost iridescent). With the exception of those fabrics, I shied away from solids.

But with the advent of “visually delicious” plain solids from a number of companies—Moda, Robert Kaufman, Clothworks, to name a few—my rocky relationship has turned into infatuation. I never thought I would feel this way, but I’m crazy about solids!

I wanted to develop a third version of my “Brushed Metal” quilt (you saw the first two colorways in earlier posts). I began by taking stock of what I had in the way of solids. Not enough, of course, so I headed to a local shop for more. To make the design process easier, I cut strips from all the possibilities and pinned them to my design wall. I love this approach because once you cut everything, knowing that you may need to cut more, assembling the blocks goes quickly. I like this image—it looks like “color DNA” to me.2a just stripsMy plan was to create blocks that featured a center print surrounded by narrower and wider rectangles of color. This funky-flower print is by Kim Schaefer.E funky flower cen lighter stripsI didn’t try to match the colors in the prints and solids—you’ll make yourself crazy doing that. But I chose solids that had something in common with the center fabric. The far right strip is red-violet, for example, while the violet in the print is a truer violet. These differences make the block richer and more original.

Here’s the same combination of solids, with a gray-and-white center. Love those neutral dots!F gray dot enter 2From there I moved on to a block with “swizzle stick” borders, my term for skinny strips. I have a simple method for inserting these strips without the “unpleasantness” of bulky seam allowances. (Notice that the skinny strips are from the same Kim Schaefer print as the first block.)

D original If you’ve seen my quilts, you know that I have an ongoing love affair with stripes. This Kaffe Fassett stripe fit perfectly into the block design. It also gives this very symmetrical block a bit of asymmetry.A AmishMoving right along—can you tell how much fun these blocks were to make?—I combined a wavy stripe with solids. Again, I didn’t attempt to match colors in the print and the solids, but the colors are related. B 1 citron plain centerThen I had to try the block with the wavy pattern running vertically and with skinny strips from the gray-and-white dot. When I cut the strips, I centered the white dots to create the illusion of a striped fabric. I like the crispness the skinny strips add to the block.B .citron with gray dot sqizzleJPGI have no idea which blocks I’ll use in the quilt—there are more combinations waiting to be discovered. But I do plan to use nine blocks and set them with sashing strips and cornerstones. To give you an idea of the design, here are four of my favorites, with that gray dot as cornerstones:

Blog mock up, 5-30-14I’m still searching for a light-value sashing fabric, not too light, not too busy. I’ll show you the finished quilt when I find the perfect fabric. Until then, consider plain solids and patterned fabrics—it’s a winning (and colorful) combination!

p.s. This basic block works beautifully for luminosity and luster, the focus of my retreat workshop.