Monday, November 23, 2015

Selecting fabrics that blend

  I promised a post on blending fabrics last week. Looking back through older posts, I realized I had started covering this topic back in 2012.  So I have selected part of that post and added a bit more to help with this part of watercolor technique.

  On the right are the "light fabrics".  There is more background color---from white to light tan---showing and the design or print is light or faint looking.  Note the low contrast between the background and the print.   These can be hard to find, so when I do discover them, I buy a lot!
  Update note:  Janet reminded me that often the backside of a fabric will work for a light.  When you have a difficult time finding the right fabric, flip it over and see what the back side looks like.  It could be just what you need!  Thanks, Janet.  

   On the left, are some light medium fabrics.  Again, the background is light, but the print is stronger and has more contrast with the background.  The one on the far left is a great example of a "sprigged" print.  A 2" square of this one can blend into a very light area like a sprig the extends from a branch of a tree.

 The above photo are a collection of medium fabrics.   These are the work horses in watercolor.....they often bridge from a lighter  area to a darker well as being the most used.  The background may range from light to darker cream, or  tan....maybe a light green even.  The design is darker and in good contrast with the background.  Usually there is less background that shows, making them "closer packed".  

And the dark fabrics......give the watercolor depth and life.  The background color is, brown, blue, green.....and the design has strong contrast.   The areas of light and dark on the dark background provide the way to blend and merge the squares for a water color.  

  I talk so much about the right fabric, I thought I should also mention the wrong ones.  These are great fabrics, they just don't work well for blending in a watercolor.  Why?   Mainly because  they are one or two color fabrics.  Either they "read" as a solid or a polka dot from a distance.    Step back from the computer and look at them again.   The second fabric---purple paisley---fooled me when I bought it.  I thought it would work, but just does not blend well because the design is so evenly spaced.  So save these fabrics for another project or turn them into backings.                 

  If you have selected the right type of floral and paisley style prints, you still may face the challenge of making them blend.    Remember the real blend comes the value not the color you are using.  I created a collage photo to help show a simple blend from lightest to darkest.  

Top row------ from the lightest to the darkest.  If the lightest fabric is in the central area of the watercolor, you need to move out to the edge getting darker as you go.  

Middle row---- a close up detail of the first 4 fabrics.  The second fabric is a "sprigy" one that has a lot of background showing and introduces a darker stem.   The third fabric picks up on the background color of the second fabric and has more of the darker stems and leaves.  

Bottom row---  the second fabric in this row is what I consider a workhorse does so much!  Generally it is a dense or packed floral pattern with little or no background showing.  It has strong contrast in the pattern with distinct light and dark areas.  So it can go from medium value to dark value in just one square.  
  The last two squares in this row are dark values with the square on the end having more black background showing.  That is the drama factor.  

     This is one of the Cascade wall hangings.  You can see how I used the above blending technique to quickly move from the center of light to the darker edge.    One other thing to note on this is the effect of large/huge the red at the top left.  By positioning 2 or 3 squares that have a  large flower in similar color next to each other, you create the appearance of a very large flower.  
And the rest is up to you now to experiment and train your eye. 
  •  Get use to using the value viewer.  
  •  If a square doesn't work, give it a quarter turn or flip it over to see if the value is better. 
  •  Stand back....about 10 feet  before you judge too harshly. 
  •  Take a photo and view it on the computer.....changing it to black and white from color is a great trick I have not mentioned.  You will be surprised at the effect of just viewing the value.  
  • That is also a good tip to use on traditional quilts.  Sometimes we use too many medium values and then wonder why the pattern looks flat or uninspiring.
Whoa....this is long.  So I know I have over whelmed many,  hopefully you got thru it.
Happy stitching!


Quilting Babcia said...

Great informative post! Seems I have a lot of those flowery fabrics lurking about in dribs and dabs, maybe enough to try a table runner using this post as a guide. Always fun to learn new things, and you are the go-to expert on watercolor quilts! Thanks, and happy Thanksgiving!

Samplings from Spring Creek said...

Great tips on fabric selection--time to put them into practice on my next quilting project

Vroomans' Quilts said...

Fabulous information and thank you for sharing.

Janet O. said...

Such good info for watercolor work here. Wish I'd had this when I was helping my Mom choose fabrics for her first watercolor piece. : )

Sylvia Anderson said...

Good morning Debbie, and thanks for such an informative post. I think the majority of us learn from sight lessons, rather than just reading about the right and wrong fabrics to use, and I will save this along with ones I have from Wanda, for my next foray into watercolor quilts. Wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving, with lots of good things to eat and drink.

Elizabeth V Kelbaugh said...

Thank you for the helpful information. The toughest part for me is training my eye to see the difference in value and not color.
Enjoy the holiday season.

Dana Gaffney said...

I'm so glad you're sharing all of this. I made my first watercolor back in August 2011 after following your directions, I remember how happy I was with myself, not a gorgeous watercolor like you make but still one I was and am so proud of.

Deb@asimplelifequilts said...

Such a value-able post! ;-) You are so good at explaining what to look for. I hope to dig into my watercolor stash one of these years.

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