BCQuilter's Weblog

A Value Lesson Learned on Colour Theory- or my new quilting project

Posted on: 19 April 2009

For about a year now, I’ve been working on a quilt design for my Sister-in-law and her husband for their 25th Wedding Anniversary.  I wanted a design that would have something interlocking and that would evoke the images of longevity, union, joining together, bond, marriage.   None of those terms quite match what I have in my head, but I hope it conveys what I’m trying to envision.   I’m happy to say, I have a design.  That being said, I’m still tweaking it.  Changing colour arrangement and such.


Version I went shopping with.

Last week I was visiting an out-of-town Quilt Shop, looking for fabrics.  I knew I wanted a burgundy (dark red), a medium pink,  a light pink (dusty rose), and a light brown for the background.   I didn’t find anything that jumped out and said “I’m the one you want”.  I was getting rather discouraged, here I was thinking buying the fabric for this particular project would be easy, because I knew what I was looking for.   As I said, I was getting discouraged… their anniversary is 4 months away, and I need to get started on the quilt.

Version with the green added.

Version with the green added.

You may be thinking “gasp, only 4 months”.    And you will probably gasp again when I mention that it will be a queen size quilt.   Are you still with me?  Take a few deep breaths, you and I will both be okay.  The main design of the quilt top, is fairly easy to put together, and goes together quite quickly.   The borders on the other hand, may give me some headaches.  I’ve only just started piecing my borders, getting away from the “long” borders.

I have been using EQ6 to help with the design, although, when I originally designed the unit (four units required to make the block), I did use graph paper and pencil.    I need to use EQ6 more, so I will be more comfortable with it.  I find it odd, that a computer person such as myself, has not mastered this program yet, and I’ve had it for 2 years!

I had made a lap quilt from the design, and have yet to quilt it, but it worked out well.   I considered doing the same thing, but making a queen size quilt for my Sister-in-law.   But then an idea struck me (carried over from my Fast Scrappy Quilt), what if I put the blocks on point.  And I’m really liking the design now.

Okay, so where am I.  My brain is jumping to “right now”, when I really need to write about what led up to “right now.

Design – check

Fabric – check

Oh.  Okay, I know where I am now.  While getting discouraged about not finding the fabric I want, or at least in the colour way I want, I noticed the shop’s selection of batiks.  Hmmm… the Burgundy works.  Oh, a very pretty pink.   Now for a background… there isn’t anything in the light tan/beige variety, but there is a bolt with the burgundy and pink on it… and it has a bit of dark green, and the main colour of the background is a pale green.  Hmmm… I don’t know… I really want the tan/beige.  Oh, I found some dark green, that really goes with the burgundy and pink.    There isn’t anything else to use for the background.  *frown*.   Okay… if I had this bolt here, which has more orange in it, but it has the same colour as the other colour in the burgundy print.    Hey, I think I’m onto something here.  Not so sure about that background, but as other customers are walking by, they are all commenting on the fabulous colour choices I have.    The pink isn’t going with the background print… but the other two fabric choices are.    The green I’m definitely adding… it’s just adding that little extra zip I was looking for, but didn’t know how to fit in.  Do now, I’m happy to say!  I had mentioned to my daughter who was with me, I wish I had brought my camera, so I could take a black and white, to see if I have enough contrast.


This is my fabric choices.  Look pretty good don’t they?  The fabrics were washed, dried and pressed… ready to be cut.  I really wanted to use that pink, but something wasn’t quite right with it, and the background.  I decided to take some black and whites, and I started having a hunch on what was going on… or wasn’t.   I decided to rule it out, and make two test blocks.  One with the pink, and one with the orange.

Test Blocks - orange vs pink.

Test Blocks - orange vs pink.

Doesn’t the pink and the burgundy blend nicely together.  And the orange and the burgundy.  But what is it with the block on the right?  A quick switch to black and white mode on the camera, and the answer becomes blazingly obvious.

Contrast is an issue here.

Contrast is an issue here.

That is what my eye was seeing (or not).  The pink and the background fabrics have the same value.   Value can be defined as “in painting and drawing, the lightness or darkness of a colour”.   As much as I wanted to pair the pink and the burgundy, there was no fabric available that was lighter in value than the pink and the background fabric I chose.   When two fabrics have the same value, they can disappear into each other.  This could be the desired effect, but with my design, I need the contrast, to make the pattern evident.    Sometimes I forget to use value, but in some cases, you may not want a lot of contrast.   Just over a year ago, I attended a one-day workshop on colour, and I learned a lot, and I know I still have much to learn.  Our instructor was Ionne McCauley who co-authored the book “Color for the Terrified Quilter” with Sharon Pederson.   It’s a great reference book, it has lessons and projects if you wish to learn more about colour.

Don’t feel to badly for the pink, I have a plan for it… it will be used in the border.  And yes, since I have bought the fabric, I have recoloured the border, trying different colour layouts.

Now its time to start cutting the fabric.   The unit is 10″ finished, and it takes 4 to create the interlocking squares.  (I haven’t come up with a name for this design, so I revert back to what it looks like).  When I made the test blocks I cut all the strips at 2½”.   The unit uses squares and rectangles.  Remember when I mentioned, my mind was in the “right now”… this was the thought I had up there.  I think my design would lend itself quite nicely to those jelly rolls that are out there.  Perhaps have each interlocking square a different colour.   I think that would be a neat design to play with in EQ.  But not right now… I need to share more!

I started thinking, that if I cut all the strips at 2½” that I would need to cut extra strips so I would have an even number of pieces, and to have complete finished units, with out “extras”.  I decided that cutting the fabric to the rectangle length, and then when stitched, I would then cross-cut to the 2½”.  This worked very well with the strip piecing.  And the blocks came together quite quickly.  I was able to make 17 units from the width of fabric (WOF) strip.  My husband was so amazed that I had those units done so quickly.   I have 32 more to do, and then I need to tackle the corner and side triangles.   The nice thing about EQ, it gives cutting instructions, to help make it easier.  We’ll see how that goes!

Here are the 18 blocks I have thus far.

The first set of blocks

The first set of blocks

The background fabric is really growing on me… and I know that I’ll be using that very pretty pink in the borders.  And the green is just going to make everything pop!  My focus for the next several months will be this quilt.  I have no idea how I am going to quilt it… I’ll wait until the top is done.

I mentioned the workshop on Colour, it was that workshop that I truly learned the value of my camera.    When working on bargello quilts, where a colour way from light to dark is required, the black and white feature on your camera is invaluable.   My West Coast Sunset bargello, the value of my fabrics didn’t quite match the pattern, I changed two of them, and it worked out much better.  I’m glad I found that out, before I started cutting, I don’t think I would have been very happy.

On your next quilt project, if you really want the design to be noticed, check out the contrast between your fabrics.   Take a black and white of your fabrics.  Arrange the fabrics how they would be in your project.   I’m sure you’ll be amazed with your results.  I’d like to hear about your experiences using colour value in your projects.



7 Responses to "A Value Lesson Learned on Colour Theory- or my new quilting project"

This is a terrific post Alice. I have used the practical information about colour value here to check the fabrics for my next quilt. It works too!

As for your quilt design I think it’s fabulous. I like the interlocking design and its symbolism. I have yet to use batiks but would love to – there are some amazing designs and colours as we can see in your choice of fabrics.

Placing the blocks on point has created real visual interest as will the pieced border. I put one on a lap quilt last year and would have welcomed EQ to calculate the design and fabric needed.

EQ seems to be such a powerful tool – something you really need time to play with. Therein lies the problem. We never have enough time I guess!

I am certainly looking forward to seeing the finished top and discovering your plans for a quilt design.

Happy Stitching…Ann 🙂

You’re right, the pink is lovely but is washed out by the background fabric. At first you wouldn’t think the orange would work but it really does!

It’s a great design Alice, and I’m impressed with your skill on EQ6 – despite what you say!


Oh Alice,
This is a great project. I love the colors and the way they “interlock”. I enjoy watching the quilts evolve.
Take care Alice

wonderful design! I’m only just starting so still figureing out how to put squares together. Later on I’ll concentrate more on colour.

Alice I love the background – perfect tiny print.

Not only did you learn from this quilt – but you have helped/taught/reminded many of us about using VALUE, not just colour. I took a class (20 years ago!) from the author of a book called, THE VALUE OF VALUE – very sorry can’t remember her name — and have used the book ever since for practically every quilt I have made. The interlocking block is one of my definate favourites, but strangely I have not ever got around to making one — perhaps I will see what I have in my stash and do a small donation quilt for my guild – just so I can say I made one…
Oh the border is great ! Wishing you success on it, and hope it does not cause you any difficulties…
And, finally PS, thanks for coming by my blog — as to the store with bad service — the word has gone around our little quilting community like fire — better prices and better service elsewhere so now we don’t go to the sewing store on Clearbrook Rd.

[…] on the Anniversary Quilt I first introduced the Anniversary Quilt in my post on Colour Value.   I knew that this quilt would come together quickly.  And I knew the challenge for this quilt […]

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