Casting Shadows Class Plan

by Colleen Wise

Make your quilts pop with shadows! Adding shadows creates an exciting three-dimensional effect that makes your pieces appear to float right off the surface. Casting Shadows: Creating Visual Dimension in Your Quilts explores the effect of shadows using several techniques. Some may be familiar to most quilters - color and value, piecing, and appliqué. Others may be new to both you and your students - using surface design techniques such as discharge, paint and oil sticks.

Class #1 Piecing - Project: Emerald City

Skill level
All levels

Number of sessions:

  • One full day class, or
  • Two 3-hour classes

Note to shop owners
The Omnigrid #98 or #98L triangle is important in making this quilt, so be sure to have plenty in stock!

Note to instructors This class can be taught in one day, but it really works a little better when broken out as 2 sessions of 3 hours each. In the first session, the students make the blocks. In the second session, they shadow and sash them. I like to keep the 2 sessions about a week apart. This gives students a chance to finish their blocks. If taught as a full day class, think of the two sessions as morning and afternoon. The morning session will take longer, as students will want to make some headway on their blocks before thinking about setting them.

Recognize that there are really two sets of fabric choices here that are almost unrelated to each other. The first is a set of light/medium/dark fabrics for the blocks. The second set of fabrics is the background fabric and its companion shadow fabric. The two sets of fabrics do not have to be related to each other at all in terms of color. There are two different concepts at work in this quilt.

Supply list

  • Required textbook: Casting Shadows: Creating Visual Dimension in Your Quilts by Colleen Wise (pages 39-43)
  • Fabrics for blocks:
    1/2 yard dark-value fabrics
    1/2 yard light-value fabric
    1 yard medium-value fabric
  • Fabrics for sashing and borders:
    1 1/4 yards solid or near-solid fabric (not black)
  • Shadow fabric: 1/2 yard fabric that is darker and duller than the sashing/border fabric
  • Triangle ruler: Omnigrid #98 or #98L, or other ruler for quarter-square triangles

Session 1 (or morning of a full-day class):

  1. This session is devoted to creating the blocks.
  2. Discuss color and value. Value is important in making the illusion work. Check each student's fabric choices and make recommendations, if necessary. They should have a light, medium and dark for each block.
  3. Explain the technique and give instructions for constructing the blocks, following the instructions in the book.
  4. Let students sew until the time runs out. They should be able to finish a few blocks in 3 hours.

Session 2 (or afternoon of a full-day class):

  1. This session is devoted to setting the blocks, using a shadowed setting.
  2. Discuss fabric choices for the background (sashing and border). Talk about effective shadow fabrics for any given backgroundÑhave some examples of good choices.
  3. Explain the piecing technique for creating shadows, following the instructions in the book.
  4. Let the students sew.