Colour Post: The Glowing Effect

Starry Night — one of the world’s most well-known paintings — has been subsumed into the image bank of my mind and probably influenced the design of my hoop quilt design, Canned Pineapples. In this post, we’ll talk about how to choose colours to achieve this effect.

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Night, by legendary artist Vincent Van Gogh, has inspired countless artists after him, such as musician Don McLean who wrote the song “Starry, Starry Night”. Besides the dynamic brush strokes that are Van Gogh’s signature technique, the emanating light around each star and the moon give the painting its mood.

Photo by Kitty Wilkin (Night Quilter) for The 2019 Quilter’s Planner

The design was inspired by a summer’s night camping in upstate New York with my friends (amongst them my future husband — read the full story here). Fireflies — or lightning bugs, depending where you’re from — danced in the woods, glowing like I had never seen before. The quilt design takes a traditional pineapple quilt block and randomizes the colours of the radiating pieces a bit. The effect are glowing fireflies.

Pineapple quilt block, tiny sewing

Each pineapple block uses six colours to make the glow. All you really need is some scraps in the right colours. How do we choose the “right” colours?

Note that the colour code from the pattern is in parentheses below.

Because the pieces of the pineapple block are very small (approximately 1/4″ width), solid fabrics will show this effect best. Small-scale prints can also work well. The exception is the background fabric (N) — go as crazy as you want with that! 

Pineapple quilt block

Fireflies: Choose the colour of your firefly (YL). For simplicity, white works best. Yellow is a step up in difficulty, but you can use the colours in the pattern as a guide.

Background: Choose your background fabric (N). This can be a night colour like navy, a print with dots in your firefly colour or something that looks like a natural surrounding.

A navy, a Cotton + Steel sprinkle print, or a bold print like Anna Maria Horner’s “Imposter” from her Passionflower Collection (above).

In-between colours: Next, you will choose the four “in-between” colours (YM, YD, G, B). You will want to “bridge” your firefly colour to your background.

The simplest is using a white firefly. Find fabrics that form a tone gradient from white to the general colour of your background. Here, my background fabric is a blue-grey. I used a combination of solid scraps and a chopped up ombre similar to the blue-grey of my background. Use the swatch chart provided to keep track of your colour selection.

Fabric color selection, Canned Pineapples hoop quilt pattern
Bridging the white of the fireflies (lightest at left) to the blue-grey background.

If you’re using a yellow firefly, you will want to refer to the colour wheel. Identify your yellow and your general background colour and build a loose “bridge” between them.

CMY color wheel

This colour wheel comes as a free download if you’re a subscriber of my newsletter! Sign up here:

That’s it! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Colour Post: Transparency x Digital Tools

Digital tools are a great testing ground for quilt designs before you purchase or cut into any fabric. This post shows you how to use and PreQuilt to help you mentally mix colours. In Everyone’s Got an Xhow translucent coloured stripes will look like on top of your bar and background. If you are looking to accomplish a simpler — but equally stunning colour design — that uses translucent white stripes, check out this post.

The pattern uses four fabrics to achieve the look of translucent stripes over a coloured bar on a background. When we consider using coloured stripes, we are introducing an invisible 5th colour — just as we don’t use any white fabric to represent translucent white stripes.

From Emily Peterson Studio.

To start we choose three colours: A background, a bar and a translucent overlay, which I am calling Colour Z. Using the above palette as inspiration, here are my picks for the exercise. I made up the colour names; they do not correspond with any fabric lines — they are simply for my reference.

I recommend using Design, or Emily Peterson Studio as a sources of colour palette inspiration. The hexadecimal colour codes are right there for you to use. You can also find lots of inspiration on Pinterest – here’s my colour inspiration board. At the bottom of this post, I’ll give you some general tips on how to choose these three initial colours for pleasing results.

We can always estimate what “looks right” in terms of colour mixing – what that bright pink will look like on the turquoise background. But some of us don’t have the sharpest colour intuition. And those of us who do have good colour intuition will be surprised by the technically “true” answers to our colour mixing questions. Using, we are going to use two equations to find out what Fabrics B and D will look like:

  • Fabric A (Background) + Colour Z = Fabric B
  • Fabric C (Bar) + Colour Z = Fabric D

Head on over to Enter the Background hex code + your Colour Z hex code. The tool will then spit out your mixed colour in hex code!

The result of mixing my turquoise background with the bright pink is a lavender. This will be the colour of Fabric B. I recommend you take a screenshot of the swatch so you have a visual reference. On a PC you will want to paste this in a Word document; on a Mac, you will save each of these images somewhere safe in your files.

Repeat the equation, this time with the Fabric C (Bar) hex code and the Colour Z hex code. This will be the colour of Fabric D. Again, take a screenshot for future reference.

The pure Colour Z on the left. Translucent Colour Z on top of the background/bar.

Digitally coloring in the X

After you have your four colour swatches (excluding invisible Colour Z), you can head to PreQuilt to see how these four colours (now without your initial invisible colour) look in the Everyone’s Got an X design! Here’s a video to walk you through how to digital colour your design by approximating fabric colours with your hex colours.

  • Click on “Design Now”
  • Hit the “Colour Book” tab
  • Hit the “Open Colour Tags” button
  • Select your preferred solids manufacturer under “Fabric Companies”
  • Select “A” which indicates Fabric A/Background and edit it by replacing the swatch with one that’s closest to your hex code colour
  • Repeat with the Fabrics B through D
  • See how it looks!

Tips on choosing your initial colours

  • Using analogous colours — which are colours adjacent to each other on the colour wheel — will always give you a harmonious look.
  • Using a medium to light Background and Bar colour will allow your invisible colour to show through with more clarity.
  • Using a darker Background will give your invisible colour a muted look. Here, a very pure red shows up a muddy colour on a dark background, in contrast to its effect on the yellow bar.

Using these tools, I got some really interesting results that I would not have come up had I just relied on my own colour sense! Have fun with it!

P.S. Some other colour/solid fabric tools to check out are Anne Sullivan’s Palette Builder (Moda Bella Solids) and Steph Skardal’s Digital Swatchy Tool.

PreQuilt x 3rd Story

In the fall, I had the privilege of meeting up with Laura Henneberry in Toronto. Laura is half the mastermind behind PreQuilt, a web-based app that lets you pre-colour a quilt to test out ideas before you start cutting into fabric. The other half is her husband Gar Liu, who is the web developer. Together they developed this tool for quilters to be able to visualize their quilts without expensive software.

You can create a quilt from scratch using a library of blocks or use existing designer patterns and re-color them. I am so pleased that my design, Banner Year, is available for “pre-quilting’!

Abby Glassenburg of While She Naps wrote a piece about PreQuilt when they launched in the summer: “For designers, offering a pattern on the PreQuilt app gives their customers an obvious value-add – the ability to easily see how the finished quilt will look made in an infinite array of different colors. It’s often challenging for customers to visualize how a pattern will look in colors other than those pictured on the cover photo, but PreQuilt makes it easy and fun.”

PreQuilt offers solid colour palettes from major fabric manufacturers like American Made Brand, Kona, RJR, Michael Miller, Moda, Riley Blake,  AGF, and Free Spirit. Choose your favourite or explore a manufacturer that’s new to you — or mix it up! As a web-based app, you don’t have to download anything — you can simply play around on the site and save an image of your quilt design when you are happy with it. Here’s a clip of how I played with it:

Patterns are currently available from designers such as Laura Henneberry herself (Commonwealth Quilts), Rebecca Burnett, Rachel Hauser (Stitched in Color) and Krista Hennebury (Poppyprint) — with more designer collaborations coming soon. When you purchase the pattern through the PreQuilt shop, we share the proceeds. Give it a go and have fun!

Laura and Gar’s quilt design Vocal as it appears in the PreQuilt app

Banner Year: Colour Considerations

Banner Year is the first 3rd Story Workshop pattern that is traditionally pieced, and not paper pieced! This is a beginner-friendly pattern that comes together quickly and fits a nursery, pre-teen or teen’s room or a living room depending on the colour palette you choose. The pattern comes with instruction with a “spectrum” colour option and a “scrappy” option. The spectrum is a rainbow with rows in different hues, as shown below.


Quilt by Adrienne Klenck of Seam Work.

Here are some other colour options to consider:

First up is a staggered rainbow. It takes all the same fabric selection and block construction as the original “spectrum” option and rearranges the colours for a diagonal colour arrangement. It’s just as orderly but gives is a different sort of pizzazz. Here it’s shown in with neutral backgrounds to let the happy colours shine in all their glory.

For the lap size (shown at left): Take one banner from each colour grouping for each row, starting with the following colours:

  • Row 1: Pink
  • Rows 2 & 3: Yellow
  • Rows 4 & 5: Teal
  • Rows 6 & 7: Purple

For the twin size (shown at right): Take five (5) pairs of banners from each colour grouping for each row. Each row will start with a different colour, as in the original pattern.

Above, we have some monochromatic schemes with dark backgrounds. The blue lap sized pictured at left has all banners in each row using the same fabrics for the banners. The dark green to the left has is more randomized. It could be a scrappy selection of fabrics all in the same hue/colour.

Here, we see a neutral and monochromatic colour scheme to the left. Each banner is constructed with the same fabrics all the way through. To the right, we see a monochromatic and scrappy selection with a neutral background. Here’s what that could looks like in a finished quilt:

Is there a sports fan in your life? There is certainly a couple that live in my house. Using a complementary background colour with a monochromatic set of banners makes them look like pennants.

You can see how Banner Year could be really sophisticated or fitting for a fun kid’s room. It represent different things depending on your fabric selections. Play around with some fabrics from your stash and have fun with it!

Banner Year in V & Co. Ombre Confetti. The instructions for this baby quilt in these fabrics is included in the pattern as a special insert.

Tutorial: How to Chain Piece Rows

You know that moment when you’ve cut all your pieces for a project and you’re ready to sew, sew, sew? It’s the go-time moment. I think we all love this part – when we can just feed that beautiful fabric through the machine in one long chain. We can apply that chain piecing method to rows of a quilt top. It’s a technique where you don’t have to stop to snip your threads between each block. If you can skip a step, why wouldn’t you – right?

This technique of chain piecing rows is sometimes it’s called “web piecing”. It can be applied to a large quilt top, using a design wall or your floor (see note below about a larger quilt). The mini quilt shown above, which measures 9.5″ x 9.5″ unfinished (9″ x 9″ finished), is a perfect little sample to show you how this method works. The pattern is Thorn and Thistle by Briar Hill Designs and is part of their 2018 Coast to Coast Quilt Along.

So here we go.

Chain Piecing Rows [Web Piecing]

  1. Lay out your blocks in the final arrangement.
  2. Sew Column 1 to Column 2 in a chain.
  3. Finger press your seams to one side, alternating directions at each row.
  4. Add Column 3 to the first two columns of assembled blocks.
  5. Finger press these seams in the same direction as the seams between Column 1 and Column 2. We want all the seams in a single row to go in one direction.
  6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 until you’ve added all your columns. You’ll have a “web” of rows, all attached together.
  7. Turn on your iron.
  8. Sew Row A to Row B, nesting your seams.
  9. With your iron, press your seam to one side.
  10. Sew your Row 1/Row 2 assembly to Row C.
  11. Press your this seam to one side, in the same direction as Step 9.
  12. Repeat Steps 10 and 11 until your whole quilt top is assembled.

Check out this quick little video to help you visualize how chain piecing your rows works:

Setting your seams. Some of you might like to set your seams before you press them to one side, which can improve the accuracy of your quilt top. If you want to do that, you can do that between Steps 2 and 3, and then again between Steps 8 and 9. My personal preference is to set my seams when I am assembling the completed rows, but not for the individual blocks.

Larger quilts. When you’re working with a mini, you can lay out your blocks right next to your sewing machine on your tabletop. For larger quilts, lay out your blocks on a design wall or on the floor. You’ll want to stack up columns before moving them over to your machine. Here’s another video where you can see that in action.


Log Cabin A

In August, Curated Quilts put out a call for submissions for mini quilts with a loose theme of “Log Cabin,” using a very beautiful triadic colour palette. The colours are blush pink, mustard, coral, navy, and gray/beige. These five are amongst my top ten favourite colours. I could not resist the temptation to respond to this prompt, even though I had many other projects on the go.

Curated Quilts is a new ad-free publication founded by Amy Ellis and Christine Hicks, and has just launched its first issue. Each issue centres on a broad theme; the first issue was “Linear” and Issue No. 2 will be “Log Cabin.” For those of you that are unfamiliar with the log cabin, it’s a traditional block that looks like the image below. It’s constructed with strips “spiralling” around a centre square. Often the centre is a contrasting colour and the two diagonal halves are also contrasting.

Luke Haynes is an architect-turned-textile-artist who has made 50 log cabin quilts and has explored this traditional block to death, all the while using repurposed textiles. His work is amazing and mind-boggling; the way he manipulates this very simple log cabin culminates in stunning results. It’s possible to achieve a seeming ‘curve’ with these straight lines, and this was my starting point.

I love letterforms, as you might know from the Wood Type Quilt and my Euclid x Lustig Elements from the last few months. The beautiful curves of a lowercase “a” really drew my attention this time around. The typeface is Baskerville, which is extremely accessible to anyone unlike other fonts. The greyish squares are the originating centre of each log cabin block. They are all loosely log cabins with different widths of strips, the smallest measuring 1/2″. Sometimes the strips are actually large rectangles. I am a “messy” purist — I do allow myself to bend the log cabin rules to a certain point. Log cabin-ish. (Aside: Have you ever read the book Ish by Peter Reynolds? Please read it with your favourite budding artist!)


  • Light pink: Northcott Colorworks #40
  • Mustard yellow: Free Spirit in Spark Gold
  • Orange-pink / coral: Kona Cotton in Nectarine
  • Navy: Kona Cotton in Indigo
  • Textured centre squares: Essex Yarn-Dyed Linen in Indigo
  • Backing: Friedlander by Carolyn Friedlander (not pictured)

The quilting was a bit messy and not completely well executed. The thread cutters on my machine leave ends quite short, so I’m glad that this is a mini, not a real quilt. The threads might unravel if it was a functional quilt. It was also my first time facing a quilt rather than binding it. I used Terry Aske’s tutorial to give this technique a try; I think I like it but I need to give it a few more chances to know for sure! I will finish out on one of these landscape sketches with a facing soon.

I have some more exploring to do with these log cabin curves – paper piecing, different widths of strips, etc. I just have to find some time.

Take a look at all the submissions on the Curated Quilts blog.

Colour Post: A Glossary of Colour, in Pincushions

I have been following Amanda Jean Nyberg of Crazy Mom Quilts for a little while now, and I have seen her produce pin cushions on a daily basis. What a great way to use up scraps. I was particularly enamoured with Day 8 of this current round of production and made one for myself. And then I thought it was SO cute — and I am not one to gush about cuteness. But this was REALLY cute. So I made seven more as tiny quick colour studies. (Remember SkinnyMalinkyQuilts’ Quilt Prints?)

This Colour Theory series came out at 3″ x 3.5” each. Using short 1″ stripes from a bag of solid scraps, each illustrates colour schemes of basic colour theory. I will post a tutorial for the pincushions in the next couple of weeks (here it is). But for now, I’d like to provide you with an illustrated glossary of terms that will help you articulate your thoughts and preferences around colour. A glossary illustrated with pincushions, that is. Why is it important to be able to articulate in words how and what you think about colour? Because it helps you make conscious design choices, whether you are selecting fabric for a quilt, putting together an outfit, or decorating a room. (Please note that this is not by no means exhaustive list of terms; it is meant to give you a start.)

First, let’s start with a CMY (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) colour wheel. Sign up for the newsletter if you would like a printable PDF of the colour wheel.

HUE is the name of a colour, such as purple. A MONOCHROMATIC colour scheme uses one hue in various tints and shades, illustrated by the purple pincushion below.

INTENSITY or SATURATION is the purity of colour that determines its brightness or dullness. The pincushion below uses only WARM colours and is very SATURATED.

A TINT is a colour with the addition of white, such as baby blue. SHADE is colour with the addition of black, such as maroon. When you lighten or darken a colour with white or black, they become MUTED – the opposite of saturated. The colour scheme of the pincushion below is made up of COOL colours, and MUTED in tone.

An ANALOGOUS colour palette uses colours that are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel. The WARM colours in the pincushion to the right are ANALOGOUS. With the purple next to it, the whole composition of the photo also uses an ANALOGOUS colour scheme.


A NEUTRAL colour scheme is made up of white, black, and gray. Often neutral colours like white and gray have a temperature – warm or cool. The whites in the pincushion below are warm in temperature, with a slight it of yellow in them. This is another example of a MONOCHROMATIC colour scheme.

COMPLEMENTARY colours are directly across from each other on the colour wheel, such as blue and orange (below, top). SPLIT COMPLEMENTARY colours are indirectly across from each other on the colour wheel, such as the green/pink/orange pincushion at the bottom of the photo.

TRIADIC colour schemes loosely form a equilateral triangle when you connect them in a colour wheel, such as the three primary colours (pincushion to the left, below) or three secondary colours. A QUADRATIC colour schemes forms a rectangle or square, as in the purple, blue, yellow and orange pincushion.

There are multitude of words and ways to talk about colour, and I could go on for a long time about the relationships and proportions of colour as well, but I’ll save that for another day. I think I will have to give names to these very cute pincushions.

Colour Post: Navy + Gold

My love for navy blue is right up there with my love for grey, black, and white. I imagine that it will adorn my living room or bedroom walls someday. What is special about navy is that it’s an actual colour; I surprise my architect self with this preference. What puts it into this category of favourite? And what does the addition of gold do to elevate it?

A nostalgia settles in when I think about this colour combination. My 16-year-old self imagines a romantic “Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh while reading a Pablo Neruda poem from Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair:

“Tonight I can write the saddest lines
Write, for example,’The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings…
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”

Oh, the teenage angst. (In fact, that last line was quoted in the series finale of Dawson’s Creek. Anyone remember that?)

Let’s start with navy. This colour really permeated my world when we moved to the East Coast. It’s often paired with white for a nautical feel, often with a lobster red thrown in as well. The thing about navy that gives it an advantage over black is its hygge-ness. Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is the Danish word with an approximate equivalent in English “cozy.” It derives from a 16th-century Norwegian term that also is the root of the word “hug”. From the new definition from the Oxford Dictionary, “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”. (More on hygge in this New Yorker article.)

Black can be stark, which often is my aim. However, there is a softer feel to the navy hue, making for a cozy, hygge-type warmth. Black represents an extreme purity in its lack of colour and light; navy has a humanness in that it leans toward imperfection. Navy is a warm neutral, close enough to being perfect that it’s even more close to being perfect than black in certain contexts. (Navy is the new black, don’t you know?) I love navy.

Gold quilting lines. Gold thread likes to break, but my affinity for this subtle shimmer outweighs the frustration. Photo: Naomi Hill.

So what’s my deal with gold? It’s also a warm neutral! The colours of natural materials – blond wood, metallics, walnut wood – fall into a neutral palette with ease. When paired with navy, gold gives sharp contrast in tone without adding too much colour.

When I first started using Pinterest in 2012, one of my very first pins was a colour palette that I name “Lemon to Midnight.” It sat on my ‘colouring’ board for four years until the perfect project came along.

The perfect project ended up being the Land & Sea quilt, a collaboration with Keephouse Studio. We picked a navy fabric (Kona Indigo) as a background for Alissa’s prints in gold ink.



Photo: Naomi Hill

Fabrics with metallic prints are becoming more common now, but in times past, gold made appearances in spandex and prom dresses. We often consider yellow to be a matte approximation of gold, in the range of golden yellow to mustard. Yellow is tricky as a hue. As the tone darkens it often turns brown. Add black to darken it and it turns green, often losing its warmth. There are actually fewer shades of yellow than other colours in the spectrum.

The key to the navy and gold/yellow combination is contrast. Navy and yellow sit across from each other on the colour wheel. One is a dark, near-black tone and one is a light to medium tone, as you can see from the black and white photo of “Land & Sea” below.

Beauty, calm, serenity, angst, hope — the range of emotions that navy and gold represent is vast. It makes it oddly versatile. There is no shortage of inspiring ways to use this striking, but comfortable colour palette. Find more on my Pinterest board.