When I gave my very first talk on color many years ago, I mentioned that I had a “secret ingredient” that seemed to work with almost every color scheme I put together. That ingredient was brown. As the years went on I soon realized that it wasn’t just brown but any neutral. Grayed down colors…..browns, grays, khakis, dirty blues, etc. Those are the types of colors we tend to overlook when browsing a quilt shop. We tend to gravitate to the brights, pretty colors and others that grab our eyes.
Yet when planning a color scheme neutrals are one of the most important ingredients. I illustrate my point with the images shown here.
The first one above is a photograph of an Iris that was blooming in my yard one May. When we look at that we just see all the beautiful colors and don’t realize how many neutrals are there.
But look what happens when the bulk of the neutrals are removed. Something is lost.
Many years ago I designed the quilt Mayflowers for use with the colors I found in the iris. Look at these two images side by side. The first is with the neutrals included in the color scheme and the second is without the neutrals. By far my favorite is the one with the neutrals included. The colors in the second one seem too bold and are lacking the rest that the neutrals seem to give our eyes.
So next time you’re designing a quilt or wandering through a quilt shop, don’t forget the neutrals, that secret ingredient.
This week’s web special offers the last of the Irish Heather bundles. In August, I introduced the grand bundle with colors extracted from a photograph of the Irish hillside taken by Nancy Fallone. Once a month for five months we have offered nine of those fabrics as a web special. My blog of August 22nd also showed a Thousand Pyramids quilt made with all 45 of the fabrics.
I love scrappy quilts and as we wind up the Irish Heather grand bundle web specials, I want to share another of my favorite “scrappy” patterns made with a 60 degree diamond. There are more than 20 different names for this design including Baby Blocks, Tumbling Blocks and Diamond Cube. My pattern, ”ScrappyBlocks,” illustrates yet another name for this design.
Just as in Thousand Pyramids, this quilt is also made in block units. Within the unit try to get a balance of all the colors, the darks, lights and accents. Here is a sampling of possible blocks.
The pattern, Scrappy Blocks, has instructions for a crib-sized quilt, but to make the quilt larger just make more blocks until you have the width and length that you like. You would still use the same edge pieces that are used in the crib sized quilt, just more of them, depending on how many blocks you make for your quilt.
Borders Can Make a Difference
I love using border print fabrics to finish off a quilt. My border print fabrics all have both a narrow and a wide border as shown below. Sometimes there is just a solid color in the seam allowance areas and sometimes a pattern as seen in the second example.
Typically, I add the narrow border, a “middle” border of a different fabric and then the wide border as I did in the two quilts shown above.
When making a smaller quilt, a border like the one shown above would be too wide and could overwhelm the interior design. Therefore it is necessary to try some other options. So in the next example, shown below, the Delhi border was used, but instead of using the narrow and wide stripe with a contrasting fabric in between, I used the portion of the border shown below, which has the wide stripe, plus the seam allowance area and a portion of the edge of the narrower stripe.
I found this border still a little overwhelming for the small quilt, but that same border used on the larger quilt has better proportions.
I tried another variation of the Delhi border on the smaller quilt this time using the portion of the border shown here.
Here is yet another border on the Scrappy Blocks quilt.
Compare all the quilts shown here and notice how the overall colors of the quilt look different depending on which color border is used.
If you have collected at least quarter yard sets of each of the Irish Heather bundles you would have plenty of fabrics to make the crib or double size quilts shown here. Three yards of border print is a safe amount for a double size quilt. Two and a quarter yards would be enough for the small one.
Here it is almost the beginning of winter and fall seems like a blur. It seems I was on a treadmill and didn’t know when to get off. We had our anniversary sale, followed by some classes, then our 10-day shop hop, followed by a trip to Quilt Market in Houston and as soon as I got back from that turned around and went to visit my grandchildren (and their parents) on the other side of the country! Back home a few days ago, I am now in the throes of preparations for my most favorite holiday of the year, Thanksgiving.
No one worries about presents, cards, or the pressures of the December holidays……just good food, family and camaraderie. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to share with you my recipe for stuffing. Years ago, I started with the basic bread, onion and celery stuffing and kept changing it little by little. Here is how I have been making it over the last several years.
Jinny’s Thanksgiving Stuffing
Makes 12 cups of stuffing
1 ½ cups chopped celery, including leaves
1 cup finely chopped onion
¾ cup Smart Balance
9 cups sprouted wheat soft bread cubes
1 lb. ground hot sausage (Jimmy Dean or Bob Evans)
3 cups peeled and coarsely chopped apples
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground sage or two tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
In a large kettle, melt the Smart Balance and add the celery and onions. Stir and cook until celery is tender. In a separate skillet, cut the sausage into chunks and cook until crumbly. Add all ingredients to the onion/celery kettle and mix well. Taste for seasoning and add extra seasonings as necessary. Stuff the turkey cavities just before roasting. Put any leftovers in an oven proof dish, dot with more Smart Balance, cover and bake the last two hours of roasting the turkey.
Last month I wrote a blog post on getting color inspiration from a photograph. I gathered fabrics that matched those colors and created the Irish Heather grand bundle of 45 different fabrics. I showed a quilt I created from those fabrics and arranged triangles in the traditional Thousand Pyramids style. So you have the bundle of 45 fabrics, you have the design, but the question arises about how to get a good distribution of the colors and that is what I want to talk about this week.
Any time I do a quilt like this, I like to work in “units.” It is easier to get a good distribution of the colors from a smaller unit than it is to try and visualize the entire quilt. Check out the first Irish Heather blog on how these colors came about.
For this quilt I had two units (A and B). The black and white sketch shows that in A the dark triangles are pointing upward and are across the bottom of the triangle. In B, the lights are across the bottom and pointing upward. To create the quilt, these two units are alternated with Unit B turned 180 degrees. Half units fill in the sides.
Please note that in the above illustrations, all the darks are very dark and all the lights are very light. There is a lot more interest if some of the darks are lighter and some of the lights are darker. Any light triangle only has to be lighter than all the dark ones surrounding it and likewise any dark triangle only has to be darker than all the light ones surrounding it. Compare the difference between the illustrations above and the one below.
The next task was to create those units in fabric. Each unit has 25 fabrics—15 darks and 10 lights for Unit A and 15 lights and 10 darks for Unit B. In each one I tried to get a good balance of all the colors in the bundle as well as a good balance between values from light to dark.
When I put several of the units together I wasn’t sure I was getting the colors the way I wanted them. Comparing what I had to the photo I realized I needed more of the pinks and blues and less of some of the other colors.
So I made two additional units (C and D). For these units I had more of the blues and pinks. And then in the final quilt I alternated all four units.
While I made this quilt digitally with only the fabrics from the Irish Heather grand bundle, if I were doing it in actual fabric I would add many more fabrics from my stash that fall within the same range of colors. My philosophy is the more fabrics the better. In fact, this particular design was a favorite one to use when making a charm quilt…a type of quilt popular from the late 1800’s to early 1900…but that is a whole other story to pursue in future blog posts.
Why not give this quilt a try? Here are the two templates that I used in creating the quilt shown here. In addition to the templates, you will also find yardage requirements for the borders and some basic instructions. I hope you have fun with it. Look for additional Irish Heather bundles in upcoming Weekly Web Specials.
Last month, I shared with you the beginning design process for our Quilters’ Quest Shop Hop quilt for this year. I designed the quilt in black and white and decided upon two different shaded units made from 60° diamonds.
The next step in the design process was to sort through the 2 ½’ strips that were collected from each shop.
First, I separated them by color. In the sorting process I discovered a few fabrics among the strips that had too much contrast, which would make the shading difficult. In all, I took out nine strips and set them aside for the small quilt I plan to make with leftover pieces.
The next step was to arrange them in a somewhat shaded order.
I would need five different fabrics for each diamond. In total, there are nine diamonds in each shaded unit, but for continuity I repeated the same fabric for the rows that have more than one diamond. (See black and white image above.) In other words, one fabric for the first row, two the same for the second, three the same for the third, then two of the same for the fourth and one for the fifth.
Once all the diamonds were cut, I arranged them in shaded groups of five or more fabrics. I like to have more than five so I can use this same grouping for different completed units. It makes the shading process easier. In other words, for this particular grouping here I have eight different fabrics that not only shade from light to dark, but more importantly they also shade “through” colors. A group of all blues or all yellows or all teals is not as interesting as ones that contain more colors. You need to look for “blender” colors that help you get from one color to another.
For this particular group of diamonds, I can get four distinctly different shaded units. Fabrics 1-5 form one group, 2-6 form another, 3-7 another and finally 4-8 form the last. Notice how different the first and last groups are.
This is the way you should proceed with all your diamond groupings. That way you have some lighter than others, some darker, some brighter and so forth.
A quilt like this is a great hand piecing project. In mid-May, I arranged several diamond units, some shaded lengthwise and some shaded sideways, and put them in my luggage and headed off to Quilt Market in Portland. I spent a few days after Market with my daughter and her family and by the time I had two five-hour plane trips and several hours of downtime while the kids were in school and their parents working, I was able to hand piece more than 40 of the 65 diamond units I needed for the quilt. Here are just a few of them.
Next time I will tell you about making larger units from the smaller ones already completed.
We often receive questions and comments from quilters about a wide range of topics and often those questions will pertain to a wider audience and seem a good topic for a blog.
We received the following comment from Rosemary:
“Please consider creating online hand quilting classes or DVD-based classes for those of us who live far away and can’t get to your studio.”
While I do have two classes coming up at the Studio next week, including Hand Quilting, I certainly understand that our website reaches quilters around the world and most of you will never be able to visit the Studio. This was one of the reasons that I began my mystery quilt series and include video lessons with them.
We do currently have classes based on our mystery quilts both last year and this year. Our mystery quilt lessons are free to subscribers of our newsletters during the length of the class. Each newsletter has the link both to the written pattern and to the video lessons. The classes cover a wide variety of techniques that I teach, including hand and machine piecing with topics such as sewing curves, joining odd angles, applique, foundation piecing, etc. We also discuss color, quilting, using borders prints and more. Once the year is up and we go on to the next project, the previous year’s quilt pattern and videos are available for sale.
Currently, last year’s project, which covers a wide variety of techniques, is available for sale as a pattern and DVD. That project is Moroccan Mystery.
The current year’s project is Kyoto Mystery. Those patterns and video lessons are free if you are a subscriber to our newsletter. Even if you start now, in each newsletter, there are links to the previous months’ lessons and videos.
Kits are available for both of these quilt projects, but even if you do not want to make the quilt, the video lessons are valuable on their own as they cover many of the techniques that I cover in my classes.
Our web site also has many free videos and quilt tips on a wide variety of subjects. Click here to visit our “Tips and Lessons “page.
How many times have you seen a beautiful sunset or image in nature and wondered if you could capture those colors to use in a quilt?
Staffer Nancy Fallone took this photo on the final miles of a hiking trip in Ireland. We loved the colors so we decided to use it as inspiration for our next “Grand Bundle” that we will be offering in installments as a web special over the next few months. The photo captures the essence of the Irish hills when the heather is in full bloom.
There are a couple of ways you can pull the colors out of an image. The first is explained in this tip on our website.
This method is a little tedious and there is another that works well and is quite a bit faster. This method uses Photoshop. Here are the steps to take:
1. Open the photo in Photoshop.
2. Go to Image/Mode/Indexed color. A dialog box comes up asking you to select how many colors to show. I generally click anywhere from 100 to 250. 3. Click OK
4. Next go to Image/Mode/Color Table. A chart will come up with the 100 colors (or however many) you selected.
5. Take a screen shot of the color table and save it.
I like to put the colors into shaded order and that takes some time. I make a box, select the color I want with the eyedropper tool and then fill the box with that color. You will find that many of the colors in the color table are very similar, so I eliminate some as I go.
Here is the photograph with the colors arranged in shaded order.
The next task, and the most fun, is to find fabrics in the Irish Heather colors. This is how we created our new “Grand Bundle.” This Grand Bundle will be divided into five “mini” bundles. Once a month for the next five months we will be offering nine of these fabrics as a web special. Collect them all to build the entire Irish Heather Bundle Collection.
So, the next question is what to do with the fabrics once you have them. It should be no secret to anyone that I love using lots of different fabrics in my quilts and scrappy quilts are some of my favorites. I decided to use the fabrics from the Irish Heather Grand Bundle to create a Thousand Pyramids quilt.
For my blog at the end of August, I will explain how I arranged the triangles to get an even distribution of the fabrics throughout the quilt. I will also give you a template to download in the size I used for each triangle.
The first mini bundle will be offered as a web special on July 25th with subsequent bundles on sale the last Wednesday of each of the next four months.
Nature so often provides us with a beautiful palette of colors. I hope you enjoy these inspired by the beauty of the Irish countryside and don’t forget to watch for my Irish Heather blog next month.
This is the time of year that I am working diligently on our quilt and pattern for our annual shop hop, Quilters’ Quest. The event is earlier this year (October 19-28), so I have to work even faster. As was the case last year, I want to share with you the planning and designing of the project.
The first step is to plan the color scheme. This year, since we selected the cruising theme “Anchors Aweigh,” we chose colors that are often reminiscent of warm tropical waters and sea glass found on the beach.
The next step was to decide on the size and amount of the fabric swatches each shop would have available for the customers to either purchase or receive for free, depending on the amount of their purchase. This year we selected six 2 ½” by the width of the fabric strips. Each shop selected six fabrics that would fit within the color palette shown here.
At our next meeting, everyone brought 10 sets of their chosen 2½” strips and we participated in a “swatch swap.” Each shop went away with 10 sets of fabrics, one set from each shop for a total of 60 different fabrics.
Now is when the fun begins. Each shop must make a quilt using as many of the swatches as they can. They can also add other fabrics if they wish. One of the perks of the Quest is that you receive a free pattern for a shop’s quilt when visiting during the Quest. Participants can collect all the swatches and decide which of the Quest quilts they like the best. Most shops have “finishing kits” available to make their version of the quilt.
Since the cruise destination for our shop is Hawaii, I wanted to design a quilt that would fit in with that theme, and thought the beach at Waikiki with its high rise hotels seemingly emerging from the sea would be a perfect inspiration.
Sixty-degree diamonds are one of my favorite shapes, and since they are very easy to cut from 2 ½” strips, a fragmented, shaded diamond design seemed a perfect choice for the Studio’s quilt. Value placement is so important in this type of design so I always do preliminary designing in black and white. I tried shading the diamonds in two ways, dark to light lengthwise and dark to light sideways. I played around with the configurations of these two block units until I arrived at a design I liked. It is actually a takeoff on one of my personal quilts from several years ago…I will share this with you when the finished quilt is revealed.
Stay tuned. Next week I will share with you how I sorted and shaded the fabrics.
Row by Row starts next week on the 21st of June! It is always a great event at our shop. We see so many new faces of people coming into the shop to pick up our row pattern.
If you are not familiar with Row by Row, it is a worldwide event of which we have taken part for the past several years. Quilters can collect free row patterns while visiting participating quilt shops. They can then create themed quilts using the rows they collect. (According to the rules of Row by Row, the kits and patterns are only available to those who visit the Studio, not online.)
This year the theme is “Sew Musical.” Since we are in Virginia, we decided to choose a block that depicts a traditional folk dance called Virginia Reel. Thought to have roots to England, Scotland and Ireland, settlers brought the dance to the new world where it dates back to the 17th century. The block depicts the dancers as they link arms and twirl around.
The size for the “rows” has been changed this year. In addition to the original 9” x 36” row, the following sizes have also been added.
We decided to design a row and give a pattern that could be made in one of two different sizes—the traditional “row” as shown above and the new “Foxy Boxy” 18” x 18” size shown below. Our kits for this year’s row are only $13.50 and there is enough fabric to make either of the two variations.
Take part in this fun event and visit us this summer. Click on this link for more information on the Row by Row experience.