Sometime in the 1980s I was asked to make a quilt for the mother of a man, (I’ll call him Son), who was quite definite about the fabric colours he wanted. The quilt was to match his mother’s room and he showed me a piece of wallpaper with large pale apricot coloured roses on a white ground, some olive greens in the leaves, with a little smattering of brown on the stems.
Fabric Choices: His, Mine
Son picked out dark browns, deep olive, oranges and tans. My choices were more subdued: apricots, light tans, pale olive, bones, cream. His were all solid coloured fabrics, mine various small scale prints that read as one colour, as well as a couple of plains. Small scale prints are much more interesting to look at than solid colours.
We looked at some block patterns and he decided on Sister’s Choice, also called Farmer’s Daughter or Four X Star. Back to my ‘studio’, my spare room at that time, and I began to make blocks in his fabric choices.
As I worked, I just knew that he would not like those blocks, so I made some in my fabric selections. Twelve blocks were laid out on the spare bed, and I called Son to see what I had done so far.
Guess Which Ones He Hated?
Yep! The ones in the darker fabrics. He loved the others so gave me the go-ahead to get more fabrics in whatever colour I thought would work best.
The other blocks weren’t discarded, as my youngest (red-headed) daughter loved the darker, autumn-toned blocks and we made her a picnic quilt with them.
Why did Son like my fabric choices better? I have an innate sense of colour, and almost always know ‘what goes with what’. I say almost because we all get it wrong sometimes, ;>) .
My problem with Son was that I didn’t know the terms to use, or the colour theory behind my ‘knowing’.
The Picnic Quilt Design
I realised that I needed to learn
How to describe why...
Final design of quilt
My Colour Journey Began
I read everything I could get my hands on at that time. There was no Internet, so it was a lengthy search in book stores and libraries. While I learned, it came to me that the beginners I was teaching had no idea what went with what, so they asked others for advice. Perhaps I could teach them some of what I had discovered.
A Colour Course Should Be The First Class
The patchwork shop where I was teaching announced the Colour For Quilters class and it filled immediately. I taught students a set of simple lessons that started with paste-ups and finished with some easy twenty-five patch blocks. Some of those early students have gone on to make award winning quilts.
Soon I was teaching the course further afield at quilt groups and guilds across Queensland.
It’s my belief that a colour course should be the first class a patchwork beginner should take so that they have more confidence when buying the fabrics for their next quilts.