February 7, 2023: Understanding color; Being realistic

Greetings dear readers! I seem to be really focused on 2 projects these days, piecing the Japanese log cabin (LC)and hand quilting Sweet Journeys. Working on the LC has been a really immersive experience. I’m into the flow of the process, working from start to finish – choosing the fabrics, cutting, sewing, adding to design wall – in groups of 4 blocks at a time. I’m up to 64 blocks!

Color is a bit distorted on the left side of the photo. If I stopped now, 8 blocks x 8 blocks, it would finish at 48 inches square. Pretty sure I’m aiming for at least 10 x 12 blocks (120) for a 60 x 72 inch top. Then I’ll assess whether I want it larger, whether to make more blocks, whether to add a border, etc. For now, I’ll just keep making blocks. And while I’m making them, I’m often thinking about color choices and combinations.

I’ve never formally studied color, but I’ve done some reading about it in quilting books and magazines over the years. I’m pretty good at working intuitively with color and am frequently praised by judges for my choices. Seeing both the LC blocks and my basket blocks on the design wall at the same time has made me think about their different use of color and reminded me about an important aspect of color that Joen Wolfrom helped me to understand in her book “Adventures in Design.”

In the book, she talks about the 4 major color SCALES. PURE colors are the clear, bright colors you see on the typical color wheel. TINTS are hues created when WHITE is added to pure colors. The other 2 scales are SHADES and TONES. Here’s what she says about those:

My Japanese LC is primarily a combination of SHADES – the darks – and TONES – the lights. I realize that the reason I’ve rejected a number of fabric choices for this quilt is that they are tints or pure colors. I also realize that the reason some of my choices are RENEGADES or SPARKLERS is that they lean towards being tints or pure colors. Careful and judicious use of them is OK, though.

In this mini, I used PURE colors in the center of several blocks, TINTing lighter as the design spins out. The gray background subdues the impact of the brightness:

Here are my baskets, using mostly pure colors and tints:

And here are examples of the log cabin blocks, using mostly SHADES and TONES:

“Taupe” fabrics and what I’ve been calling “authentic” Japanese fabrics are mostly shades and tones. Many – but by no means all! – reproduction fabrics are shades and tones. Many modern quilts use pure colors or tints. What color SCALES do you prefer or tend to use the most? I like the challenge of combining 2 or more of the scales in the same piece. The heart and soul of what I love to do is the marrying of beautiful fabric and color with what I hope will be interesting design. I’m loving playing with shades and tones in this LC quilt!

Another task I’m working on these days is continuing to purge magazines and books. And, after that, I hope to get rid of at least some other “stuff” I’ve accumulated. I’m making myself think of the first noble truth in Buddhism – “right view” or clarity of vision. I’ll be 74 in a few weeks and I need to be ruthlessly honest with myself about what type of quilting and how much I’ll likely want and be able to do in the future. Some former interests no longer seem compelling. A start would be to get rid of at least one shelf of books! Then another after the first shock wears off😊.

For example, I don’t believe I really want, anymore, to do the type of floral appliqué in these books:

I’m purging most issues of Quiltmania prior to issue #100. The current one is 152 and I started collecting at #50. Also getting rid of any remaining American Quilter Society magazines. It’s a start, but very hard for a magazine-aholic!

I don’t buy patterns or kits, so nothing to get rid of there. I need to purge tools, templates, design ideas I’ll never use. For the time being not giving away fabric (I do need to face this at some point!), but trying to not buy new!

Here’s the latest block for Sweet Journeys on which the hand quilting is completed:

Temps went from minus 11 Saturday to mid 40’s yesterday and are predicted to be mid 50’s by Friday – crazy weather! At least I’m back outside walking!

Happy stitching to all!

Be kind be grateful and cherish each day, Gladi

26 thoughts on “February 7, 2023: Understanding color; Being realistic

  1. acityquilter February 7, 2023 / 6:55 pm

    tough when starting to thin the herd but reality and ruthless have been my pals in this regard. i am 73 and like you, took stock of what i’ll need until i’m at least 90…i was generous…LOL…down to one shelf of books, most mag issues gone after keeping a few patterns, no kits so that helps. it is a process but i’m doing it to help my daughter…did cull a bit of fabric but most stays for now…love your LC!

    • gladiporsche February 8, 2023 / 9:50 pm

      Kudos to you for tackling this issue! Fabric seems to be the hardest to let go🙂.

  2. priscilla1940 February 7, 2023 / 7:10 pm

    Hi Gladi!  I just turned 83 and continue to purge .


    div>My advice:  do it now.  I don’t have the same energy th

    • gladiporsche February 8, 2023 / 9:51 pm

      Thanks Priscilla! I agree that “purging” now is best. You’re so right about energy waning with age.

  3. Robin February 7, 2023 / 10:37 pm

    It’s sad but true. I have had a mental bucket list for years of quilts I want to make. That list is slimming down as my interest in some methods of sewing diminishes. I don’t think I’ll ever do another all over applique bed quilt. I want to focus on the parts of the quilting hobby I enjoy most. No more hand pieced quilts. And, as soon as I’m finished with the current quilt in the floor hoop I will never hand quilt with a cotton batt again. The polyester isn’t as traditional but it is much easier to stitch through. Wish I could look through all your books before you move them out. It was very interesting to read about the color. I tend to use what I like but I can see now how important it is to stay within the pure color or tints, or shades . . . whatever it may be

    • gladiporsche February 8, 2023 / 9:56 pm

      Thanks Robin! I learned to hand quilt with polyester batting and it was great!!! I wonder if I would have continued if I’d used something else, though I’m now very comfortable with silk and wool batts. You are totally right about needing to concentrate on the aspects of quilting that give us the most joy and satisfaction.

  4. Pat in WNY February 7, 2023 / 10:56 pm

    Hi Gladi, I’ll be 77 in a couple months and began purging magazines more than a year ago, and a few books as well. Still hanging on to fabric though most of the pieces remaining are 2 yards or less, and very dated. Failing eyesight will eventually curtail quiltmaking, though never my interest in quilting. Thank you for the discussion of color, I’ll be referring to it again as choosing color combinations has always been a weakness.

    • gladiporsche February 8, 2023 / 10:00 pm

      This my second major magazine purge. The first was getting rid of 400 issues of Quilters Newsletters the summer of 2020! Fabric is hard to let go of. It’s totally realistic to consider that eyesight issues, arthritis, lack of energy, and other physical ailments could diminish our ability to quilt as we age, but I’m hoping I’ll find ways around those limitations 😊.

  5. pamdempsey February 8, 2023 / 12:01 am

    Love your quilting and the baskets are my favorite 😻. Good luck on the downsizing, some things were hard for me to let go.

    • gladiporsche February 8, 2023 / 10:00 pm

      Thank you Pam!

  6. Carmen N February 8, 2023 / 1:11 am

    Thank you for the wonderful color lesson. I too find color selection intuitive. You do such a wonderful job selecting fabrics for your quilts! My bookshelf looks as full as yours but I find it so hard to purge. Now is the time though so a family member doesn’t have to do it for me. I recently had deal with my mom’s stash of quilting supplies plus the rest of her home and I don’t wish that on anyone.

    • gladiporsche February 8, 2023 / 10:03 pm

      Good luck on your downsizing! I, too, had to deal with all my mom’s stuff when she died and it was tough so I hope to spare my own kids, at least to some degree.

  7. suzanneco February 8, 2023 / 6:12 am

    Great post. Thank you

    • gladiporsche February 8, 2023 / 10:03 pm

      Thank you Suzanne!

  8. Jeanne - Spiral February 8, 2023 / 2:39 pm

    I’m 71 and have just recently begun my final fabric/tools/book purge also. I know it will take a while, but at least I’m facing it.

    • gladiporsche February 8, 2023 / 10:04 pm

      Kudos to you and good luck!!

  9. Cynthia February 8, 2023 / 7:26 pm

    I love color theory and this post was so fun and informative. I too select colors and fabrics intuitively and I love the process. Your log cabin blocks are looking great. Good luck purging – I hope you find it freeing. I did a big purge a few years ago when we did a major downsizing. I have since added back more books though – always a temptation – and fabric too – lol.

    • gladiporsche February 8, 2023 / 10:14 pm

      Thanks Cynthia! We did a big purge of our house a year ago, renting a dumpster, etc. and it was great, but my sewing “stuff” wasn’t included so now I need to focus on it. It’s so very hard to get rid of any fabric because it’s my inspiration and my palette for my art!🙂. I’m going to start with everything other than fabric first and try to be ruthless.

  10. Rina February 10, 2023 / 3:04 pm

    Hi Gladys, it’s always a pleasure to read your post. Thanks for the information about color choices, it’s really interesting..I’m 62 and I’m still collecting quilting stuff, even though I’m already thinking to declutter, anyway there is still time 😉
    Greetings from Sicily.

    • gladiporsche February 11, 2023 / 9:08 pm

      Thank you Rina! I think it’s perfectly OK to be adding fabrics and tools at your “young”🙂 age as you likely have many years of quilting ahead. I recommend that every 2-3 years you honestly reassess what you want to make and purge what no longer interests you. That way the job doesn’t become overwhelming.

  11. barbvedder February 10, 2023 / 7:15 pm

    Very interesting to read about color. I had to paint a color chart at Parsons School of Design and it really taught me a lot.
    I used to use repros fabric so lots of dulls or shades. I like brights like the solids I work with and I also like to mix it up.
    Like you I work intuitively.
    Love how your LC are coming along, Beautiful hand quilting too.

    • gladiporsche February 11, 2023 / 9:16 pm

      Thank you Barb! I enjoy exploring all the color families, scales, hues, variations, etc. based on my mood, whatever is inspiring me, and the beauty of the fabrics. I favor working with prints and find it a challenge to work with solids, but have done it successfully a few times. I love your bright DWR!

  12. marissthequilter February 11, 2023 / 3:33 pm

    Thank you for your wonderfully clear explanation of colour in all its guises. I too have learnt what I know from reading books and attending quilting classes and am no expert. I tend to work from ‘the seat of my pants’ and a bit of squinting at whatever is pinned up on my board!
    I am enjoying seeing your progress on the log cabin and sweet s!ourneys projects.
    That’s a lot of books! Strength for the purging project.

    • gladiporsche February 11, 2023 / 9:26 pm

      Thank you Mariss! Choosing and working with color is one of my favorite things about quilting. Since my post, I’ve spent 1-2 hours per day cleaning out and reorganizing my stuff. I still have a way to go, but tackling it bit by bit in smaller increments of time makes it feel doable instead of overwhelming!

  13. Marie February 12, 2023 / 4:16 pm

    Purging is such a challenge for me as well, but some days I am better at it than others. On the ‘good’ days I really take advantage of my motivation and try and squeeze in as much as I can. And being mindful of what you really want to focus on is a great help in distilling the ‘wants’ into ‘needs’. Don’t worry – you’ll get there!

  14. Nann February 13, 2023 / 5:01 pm

    Thanks for your insightful post. We need to strike a balance between being overwhelmed by the bounty and reveling in the possibilities. I think the more we practice the more we appreciate the theory, such as what Joen Wolfrom writes about.

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