Friday, June 4, 2010

Blending fabrics

When I first began quilting about 25 years ago,  I was taught that a good quilt included a light fabric, a dark fabric, and  a bright fabric.  Very traditional and correct, I guess.  Most of my early quilts--wall hangings usually-- followed that rule, too.  You might also notice that I don't feature any of them now.  Not only has the quilting world changed, so has my focus.  I still love traditional patterns, but prefer to put my own stamp on them.  I am not very good at following the rules.  So scrappy quilts and watercolor type quilts suit me just fine.  I like to find the surprise in each one. 
I had an email from someone who stumbled across my blog  asking about how do I blend fabrics.  They had seen The World is a Garden on Mary Jo's blog.  So I thought I would share part of the lesson I am doing on blending.
Blending the fabric squares is what creates the watercolor illusion. Nature abhors hard edges and straight lines, and so that is why blending is important. The seam lines when we sew the squares together will create straight lines, so we need to create that illusion of one square flowing and blending into the next one.
Look out your window at a tree or plant. First you see shape and color, then you see the shadow areas that are darker. Then you might notice the light that fills in through the leaves. There may be spots of other color behind the leaves or branches from another plant. That's the blended effect we want to create. 
Value is the main way to achieve this look, but not the only one. Sometimes I use the background color to blend from light to medium to dark, or it may be the flower or leaf color that I use to blend to the next square.
This photo shows how I blend from the dark at the bottom to the medium close prints to a fabric with a light background---in 4 squares. As you look at the photo, remember that ¼ inch from each side of the square will be lost in the seam line. Look at the red flower square--- the square below it has a touch of red and yellow at the touching edge. Although most will be lost in the seam line, there will be a hint of color that touches and it will fool the eye to blend the line. Now look above the red flower to the green leaves in the two touching squares. The greens are not the same but they are the same value. Again they will merge and not hard line for the eye to see. 
Now look at the purple and green square that is diagonal to the red flower. This is a great fabric because it has both light and dark areas and just a hint of a dark background that shows. The bit of white on the right edge will merge with the small white flower to its right. And the purple and green at the top lead right to a medium print on a light background at the top and to the left also.
The keys to achieving blending......value, background color and value, leaf color and value, flower color and value.
This applies to selecting fabrics for a traditional pattern like the trip around the world, or courthouse steps.   This is Summer Garden 2006 that is done in all floral fabrics using the courthouse steps pattern set on point.  The value radiates from the center outward.  The center blocks were done using light color fabrics. Then a set of blocks with medium fabrics with lights  on one side.  The last set was made using darks with medium values on one side of the steps. 
OK, enough class room time.  I have to finish up the sourdough bread I am making.  Deana bought me a starter packet while we were in Alaska.  So, off to the kitchen.  Happy stitching.

1 comment:

Exuberant Color said...

i do a lot of that type designing too. You explained it very well.

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