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: https://3rdstoryworkshop.com/newsletter

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

X Sew-Along: Week 5, Binding

The binding is a shining feature of the design of Everyone’s Got an X. It adds serifs to the top and bottom of the X, like a serifed typeface such as Garamond or Linotype Didot.  It’s totally optional to do a piecing binding, but if want to give it a go, here are some things to keep in mind.

The method I use is attached the binding to the front of the quilt by machine and then hand-stitching it to the back. You could try machine-binding all the way, but this way, you can see that everything aligns well on the front.

Squaring up

When your X is all quilted, we first need to trim off the excess batting and backing. You’ll notice that the bar or the stripes may have bubbled outward a bit. This is because the edge is on a bias and has some stretch. Don’t worry, we can carefully trim it off, using the seam of your side borders as the reference for “true” right angles. Make sure your cut is perpendicular to those seams and you should be good to go. Don’t trim off much, just a tiny bit to correct the bulge. You should not need to trim off any of your background fabric (Fabric A).

Serifs

From The Brand Collective.

What are serifs anyway? According to Wikipedia: “In typography, a serif is a small line or stroke regularly attached to the end of a larger stroke in a letter or symbol within a particular font or family of fonts. A typeface or “font family” making use of serifs is called a serif typeface (or serifed typeface), and a typeface that does not include them is a sans-serif one. We will be adding serifs to our X using the binding. 

Pieced binding

Time to piece the binding. Follow the directions in the pattern to join your binding pieces. Here are some tips:

  1. Use a scant 1/4″ seam allowance to keep your measurements true or else you may find that they don’t line up with your X.
  2. Press your seams open. This will prevent extra bulk at each of the joins.
  3. Use a shorter stitch length, like 1.2 or 1.5. This will hide any visible stitching as the binding gets tugged on.
Seams pressed to the side (top) will give you a very bulky bump at the join. When using pieced binding, press your seams open.

You will have two identical strips of pieced binding. After they are pieced, fold and press them in half along the length of it:

Lining up

There are only two places where we need to line up each binding strip with the quilt: In-between the arms of the X. Mark a 1/4″ from the edge of your quilt top.

Align your binding with the quilt, raw edges together; estimate where it should lie. Fold back the binding and check to see if the edges align at the 1/4″ mark. If not, fiddle until it does, then pin in place. Repeat with other point.

Folding back to check if it aligns.

At first, sew only across those points and check to see if you are satisfied with your work. If not, you’ll only have to “unsew” a small section and redo it.

When you’ve got it right enough, sew in either direction and turn the corner as you would normally. One side you will have to do with the quilt back facing up, but you can find out how to do that here! Leave a generous tail for you to join the binding later. Repeat with the other binding strip.

It should look something like this! Join your tails as you would normally. And now sit down the couch, put on a show or a podcast and stitch that binding down on the back.

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 ColorHexa.com 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 SeedsColorPalettes.net, 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 ColorHexa.com, 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 ColorHexa.com. 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.

Colour Post: X, Transparency & Space

Everyone’s Got an X features transparency, with translucent “white” stripes overlaid on a coloured bar on a darker background. First up, a couple of definitions and then we’ll get to how we can achieve this effect in our own versions!

  • Transparent: allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen.
  • Translucent: allowing light, but not detailed shapes, to pass through; semitransparent.

Translucency is a degree: 100% translucent is transparent. Any degree of translucency is semi-transparent (not fully transparent).

Everyone’s Got An X is composed of three layers:

  1. A background layer (Fabric A)
  2. An opaque coloured bar crossing from left to right/top to bottom (Fabric C)
  3. Four translucent white stripes crossing on top of the other two layers (Fabrics B and D)

This effect is achieved with just four different fabrics! The first version used a dark grey background layer (A) and a pink bar (C). The transparent white stripes are, in fact, not at all white! They are made with a lighter grey (B) and a pale pink (D).

Photo by Emma Poliquin.

The same reasoning was applied to this earthen tone version above. You may be able to see that the “white” stripes are a bit stronger —meaning they are more opaque and less transparent. This means that they are quite pale in tone, with a starker contrast from the colours “behind” them.

Pieced, quilted and bound by Anja Clyke. Photo by Emma Poliquin.

How about using prints? Here’s how I approached the fabric selection for the baby version above:

  • I determined the background fabric first.
  • Secondly, I picked a print from the same collection that contrasts the background. It reads as a blender (or “near-solid”).
  • Lastly, I picked solids for the stripes — one that looked white stripes obscuring the background and bar. 
Pieced and bound by Brenda Harvey. Photo by Emma Poliquin.

This green one — it looks straightforward enough, right? A monochromatic version. But look closely here: What is going on with the layers? If you think about it as we have with the other examples — background, then bar and then stripes — it doesn’t work. However reordering the layers makes the colours make sense: The base layer is the dark teal, then the transparent white stripes are placed on top of that and lastly a translucent green bar lays on the very top. Josef Albers book Interaction of Color talks about this as “space” — even though we are only working in two dimensions.

From Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color.

Playing with the dominance of one colour over the other, the blue looks like it’s on the top layer (top image) vs under the green (bottom image).
From Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color.

In the next post, I tackle coloured stripes in lieu of white stripes using digital tools to mock them up!

Qualitative Math and Uppercase Fabric

I have been a faithful reader of Uppercase magazine for a few years now and I finish reading each issue having been injected with a large dose of inspiration. The smell of the ink and the weight of the paper also leave my heart feeling pretty happy. Editor Janine Vangool of Calgary will be releasing her second line of fabric later this fall, UPPERCASE Volume 2: Dot, Dashes and Diamonds. When studying the designs in the look book, I saw how literally the collection was named. Each is made of a small scale prints, some with just diamonds, some with just dashes, some with a combinations of the elements. And I wanted to do some qualitative math. That was the inception of the “Wood Type Quilt.”

A post shared by Andrea Tsang Jackson (@3rdstoryworkshop) on What is qualitative math? It’s a term that I made up. You can see how the colour tones below “add up” like ink as well how the prints are added together to create others. Transparency was on my mind and up till this point, I have mainly thought about it in terms solids. Solids are easier to deal with, come in more precise shades and have less visual noise. But I thought that Dots, Dashes and Diamonds would give me a chance to give transparency a try with prints. I could not, in the end, get both the prints and colours “add up” simultaneously, so colour took priority.

The cover of Uppercase Issue No. 25 features Joey Hannaford’s work, with wood type overlaid on top each other. The transparency of the ink shows the layers beneath and upon inspection, you can tell the order in which the inks were printed. Josef Albers talks about this in his book, The Interaction of Color. The second colour lays on top and appears more dominant in the overlapped area. I wanted to replicate this effect in fabric and came up with two uppercase Xs in the Bernino typeface rotated at 90 degrees. One is “printed” in yellow, and then “overlaid” with cyan (blue). I wish I had a better reason for using Bernino as the font, but the truth is that I like the way it looked and I enjoyed the star shape that came about in their overlap. The name of the font also sounds like Bernina, as in the sewing machine brand.

I did not want to endeavour to repeat this paper-pieced block many times over, so I decided to make it the centre of this medallion quilt. I played with overlapping “transparent” squares that radiated outward from the centre.

There are some things I would do differently next time. An accurate scant 1/4” seam, it turns out, is important. The number of seams per “ring” in the medallion is different and results in long strips that don’t match up. There was a lot of fudging as I forced points to align. Secondly, as I quilted the Vs with my walking foot going into the quilt and then pushing out again to the edge of the quilt, my border got wavy. The blip is well-hidden by my two quilt holders, who measure 39” and 44” in height. They reached up as high as possible to hold this 48” x 48” quilt.

I took Angela Walter’s class “Dot to Dot: Quilting with Piecing as Your Guide” on Craftsy and was inspired to give it a try with my walking foot. I used the technique at the corner of the centre block; it brings attention to the X as the focal point of the quilt. Actually, pretty much every element of this quilt draws your eye to the centre. X marks the spot.

Pieced quilt back.