Color Play Assignment

Posted by Jean Wells on Oct 15th 2018

Feeling like you need some quilting inspiration? Play around with this assignment from Intuitive Color & Design, Updated 2nd Edition by Jean Wells.

Lichen journal page

By stitching together fabrics into strata, you become more familiar with your fabrics and potential color palette. As you work, notice if you are using more of some than others. Or if you see two colors together that seem to be fighting, you will know better than to place them side by side in your quilt. This is also an opportunity to practice Rulerless Cutting and Piecing, Narrow-Insert Piecing, and Detail Piecing (see Intuitive Color & Design for full instructions for these techniques). 

1. Cut at least 3 rectangles 4 ̋ × 9 ̋ from at least 14 of the fabrics you wish to audition in your strata. Toss these in a pile.

2. Pick up any 2 strips and use the Rulerless Cutting technique to piece them together. Press the seam in either direction. Make a second cut on one of the pieces for the next seam. Add another strip as before. Press. Be sure to vary the width of the strips and the line work to make it an interesting composition.

3. Continue piecing until you have a strata at least 12 ̋ long.

4. Put your strata on a design wall and look at it objectively to see what you like and don’t like. By looking at these strata, you can easily see when a piece needs something brighter, duller, darker, lighter, and so on. This is not just a classroom assignment—Jan Tetzlaff uses this technique to launch the color palettes in the majority of her work.

5. After reviewing the piece, add at least 5 more strips at either end of the piece, or, if you have a strip that is too wide, slice through it and add a strip or 2. The goal here is to make it more complete.

This assignment helps you look objectively at your work and see what adjustments you want to make. At this point you have not invested a huge amount of time in the project, and adjustments can be easily made. Many of these experiments can be made into pincushions for gifts or land in another project.

As you cut through the 4 ̋ strips, the leftover fabric will begin to accumulate in a pile on your cutting surface. Glance at it from time to time. There are ideas to be found here: 2 or 3 colors may end up near each other in the pile that look really interesting together—if you did not stitch them next to each other in the strata, this may lead you to making another color-play strata.

Lichen by Jean Wells, 50 ̋ × 20 ̋

Lichen began as a color study. On a trip to Gateway, Colorado, I was fascinated by the colors of lichen on rocks after a rainy night. Strata-style composition is a good way to tell a color story. For more interest, some of the strata were interrupted with piecing. A couple areas of detail piecing create even more interest.

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