Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What's Modern: Color

I spend a lot of time thinking about quilts but more specifically, I think about color. Color gives life to a quilt, gives it the power to affect our emotions, to draw out memories.

When picking colors for your modern-traditional quilt, it's important to think about how you want the quilt to feel. What colors feel "modern" to you? Is modern cold, machine-like? Is it bright and sassy? Is it subtle and subdued? I don't want to sound like I'm taking the easy way out but I really do feel that every color can feel modern...it's all in how you use it.

When thinking about modern colors, I don't let what's "hot" right now influence me. Colors have been paired up for centuries. For example, I love yellow, orange and green mixed together.


But remember when harvest gold, burnt orange and avocado were all the rage? Same colors, different names. Don't let "dated" color combinations scare you off and if you don't like what's "popular" right now, don't worry about it. Choose colors you love and you'll be happy.

More ideas below the cut.

One idea is to choose a color that's really inspiring you right now:


Using many shades of the same color is an easy way to pull together a quilt that has a lot going on...like a sampler quilt.

Another good idea is to use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. My favorite combinations these days are orange and yellow or red and orange. Or blue and green or...who am I kidding, I like all colors!

Contrasting colors are another great choice for a modern quilt:


Their very nature makes for a bold quilt. Adding neutrals will enhance colors even more.

I also think creative use of color in a quilt can override color stereotypes. Like, I'm sure you know how pretty red, white and blue are together.


But a lot of the time, all I can think of is an American flag. And I don't want to think American flag, you know? But there are ways to use use color that will make you think "wow, that quilt is irresistible!"

These are just a few ideas to get you started in choosing your colors. Tomorrow I'll talk about fabric...specifically pattern and form and how it will influence the design of your quilt.

And just because I'm curious...what colors are inspiring you these days?


  1. Your theories are interesting to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    (j/k - that’s just what one of my g/friend s and I say to each other when something is gonna spark a long conversation.)

    And why a long conversation, Kit?

    Because if I look at your first example of green and oranges, I wouldn't think of that grouping as "modern". Although I would say that some of the individual fabrics within the group are modern, the grouping as a whole has a "yellowish" cast to it, which (to me) automatically equates "old fashioned" or "historical" or "reproduction". In addition, some of the fabrics themselves seem old fashioned - traditional florals (for instance, the zinnias (?) on green); to me those are automatically old fashioned and you’d have to work really hard to make them seem fresh and new (again, in my eyes).

    If the colours were brighter as whole though, then I'd think the group was "modern", though that's not to say that how you quilt it up couldn't make it modern. Hmmm... I guess this "modern" thing isn't so easy to define! ;)

    These ideas of yours are very interesting and I’m sure will spark some lively debate!

    As for colours that are inspiring me these days - saffron gold, chartreuse, greys...

  2. But what about this quilt:


    I feel like the colors are modern if used in the right way. Because it's all about how you use it.

  3. Of course, I'm going to have a hard time accepting brown, cream and country blue, for instance...but maybe it could be done with the right fabrics/prints.

    That's why this post is split into two sections...there's just too much to this whole "what makes it modern" thing. It's a little overwhelming. :)

  4. Okay - see, I looked at that, and first reaction was "Cute!". Second reaction was "Quilting lady quilt". Which is short hand for "traditional" which is "old fashioned" in my mind.

    Although that one doesn't have the zinnia floral, I think it was categorized in my mind as "traditional" simply by virtue of being a charm quilt - which to me, are nearly always old fashioned. I could see one being "new fashioned" if it was done in a monochromatic pallette of unusual fabrics - silk taffetta, lame, linen, an overlay of ...(hmmm, never mind lol - I just came up with a new quilt!), but otherwise - charm squares equals old fashioned (to me).

    that's why I'm SO interested in your project. I really love and respect that tradition that quilting is based in, but I want to make something "new". I'm not interested in "copying" what's been done before. But if you can make something old new by virtue of some alchemy that will displayed on your magical blog, then I will be pleased. :)

    As I always say "My commitment is to truth as I see it each day, not to consistency." ;)

    P.S. - You need disqus here!

  5. We're setting up disqus tonight. :)

    I think we all have a vision of what a "quilting lady quilt" looks like...and they're not all the same.

    And not all new ideas are really new.

    Like, take all this "wonky" quilting that everyone feels is so grounbreaking. I think it's just a modern day version of "crazy quilting" that the Victorians invented. And they used silks and velvets and everything wonderful, just like you.

    So, all ideas come around again. I definitely have no idea what is actually modern because crazy quilting was once modern and my parent's avocado green refrigerator was once a modern interior decorating decision.

    And blue and brown came back "in" a few years ago even though that combination (to me) looked very dated. But people were nuts for it.

    It's just one of those philosophical questions that can never be answered. But I think my goal is to make a sampler quilt that I don't hate...and I hate them by the mere fact that they're made from traditional blocks. So color and fabric really has to come through for me here. :)