Finding Colour Confidence | Lolli & Grace and colour psychology

Finding Colour Confidence | Lolli & Grace and colour psychology

Today is the last day of the ‘Finding Colour Confidence’ blog series!  Like any trip overseas, it has come to the end {far} too quickly, we all feel like we didn’t eat enough of the amazing local food and we’ve all come home with a few extra kilos {thankfully this time it’s just knowledge we’ve gained haha!}.  

Colour really is altogether pretty amazing, don’t you think?  And wouldn’t you agree it’s amazing that we can often associate the way we {feel} with colour?  That it actually stimulates something in us that makes us FEEL something about it!?

That colour can have a physical impact on us is nothing short of mind-blowing.  And in case you didn’t already know, there are actually scientific reasons behind why businesses use certain colours in their branding – red for this, blue for that, black here and orange there – and it’s not just aesthetics!

But before we go any further, let me introduce today’s guest – the lovely Anne from Lolli & Grace.  Anne is a creative who specialises in hand-stitching her drawings and creating patterns for others to create with.  When I look at Anne’s work, it makes me feel so happy!  {I mean, would you just look at her?? How could she not? Doesn’t she just radiate and embody joy and happiness??}  Her use of colour is joyful, playful, warm and inviting.  Her designs feel fresh and fun.  It’s colour psychology {in action}, folks, which happens to be today’s topic!  But before we look into that, let’s hear from Anne!

Finding Colour Confidence with Lolli & Grace
The oh so lovely Anne!

Interview with Anne from Lolli & Grace

Do you have a favourite colour?  

This one’s easy, because the answer is yes – PINK!  It’s difficult for me to not include some form of pink in my designs, whether it’s full-on fuchsia, rosy pink, hot pink, blush pink or even a combination of pinks.  But I will also say that when I’ve made a conscious decision to use a color palette that is different from my usual “go-to” colors.  I’m always invigorated and excited to play with colors and combinations that surprise or challenge me.

Finding Colour Confidence with Lolli & Grace
Image credit: Lolli & Grace

How would you describe your personal aesthetic and how does it relate to your use of colour?

My personal style, as in the clothes I like to wear, usually tends towards a deeper palette of the same colors I like to use when I design.  For instance, I like to wear deep pink or maroon shirts, often with a scarf that has teal, slate blue or spring green in it. For my embroidery designs, I use those same colors but they are BRIGHT!

Finding Colour Confidence with Lolli & Grace
Image credit: Lolli & Grace

When I look at your designs and the way you use colour, it makes me feel happy!  And while your designs use lots of bright and bold colours your designs don’t feel overbearing.  Why do you think that is and what does it have to do with the way you use colour?

First of all, that’s pretty much the best compliment you can give me!  I think the true measure of success for an artist is that they are able to evoke emotion in their viewers.  For me, I’ve chosen to imbue happy, cheerful feelings into my work.  There’s already enough darkness and bad stuff happening out there without me trying to create more of that, ya know?  But to answer your question (which is a fascinating one, by the way!)…in a recent Instagram post I said that I honestly feel that colors and color palettes trigger an actual chemical reaction in our brains.  (There is science to back this up.)  I use colors that appeal to me personally, but the combinations are somewhat based on long-standing color theories about which colors work well together because of the color wheel (such as, blue and orange are good colors together). But mostly I just pick the ones that make my eyes happy, and I’m lucky that other people like them too.

Finding Colour Confidence with Lolli & Grace
Image credit: Lolli & Grace

Something that a lot of us struggle with is being afraid to use colour (including me) and I think it is because we worry too much about whether our choices will be considered acceptable or technically correct (at least it is for me!).  Do you have any exercises or tips you can share with us to help us overcome this fear? 

I fully believe that THERE ARE NO WRONG OPINIONS.  If you like certain colors, then they are right!  As an example, there are certain combinations of colors that I adore (fuchsia pink/yellow green/turquoise/orange) and some that just make me say, “eh, no…boring” (primary colors used together – red, blue, yellow). But if someone likes primary colors and detests pink, that does not make them “wrong” – it’s absolutely right for them.  However, I’ve found that it is really easy for me to get too comfortable with my favorites, which is not a good thing. 

I’m learning to make a conscious choice to be open to colors and combinations that might at first not be something I would use.  Pinterest is a rich resource for this, because it allows me find all sorts of inspiration from a variety of sources – plants, interiors or fashion, for instance.  And I also have to remind myself not to automatically label colors as unappealing, because that’s limiting as well.  For instance, you know that color that is sort of green and sort of yellow? Chartreuse almost, but with a bit more yellow?  Years ago I would have written that off as a “puke-y” color, lol.  But now, I find this color to be so interesting, and versatile too.  So the short version of my advice is this – there is no “wrong” or “right.”  There is only what speaks to you. And remain open to new (to you) colors and new ways to use them, even if previously you thought differently about them.

Finding Colour Confidence with Lolli & Grace
Image credit: Lolli & Grace

Do you think it is important to have a technical understanding of colour, or is intuition enough?  What is your knowledge and use of colour based on – intuition, technical understanding, or a bit of both?

It depends.  I think having some technical knowledge is never a bad thing.  But intuition is huge, right?  I have a general knowledge of the color wheel, but I’m not chained to it when deciding whether colors are “acceptable,” nor am I classifying colors as secondary or complimentary or whatever.

Do you have any tips for people who want to develop their sense and understanding of colour?

One thing that I think has helped me was painting with watercolors.  Watercolors are all about blending transparent layers of color, so you spend a lot of time learning about subtle gradations of color.  Which colors look good when they’re mixed, which ones turn muddy, how to indicate shadows (and light) with color… things like that.  You basically immerse yourself in color.  And just like any mental or physical skill, the more you exercise your brain (and muscles) working on that skill, the more adept you become at it. There was a book I spent a lot of time studying when I was first learning about watercolor.  It’s called “Blue And Yellow Don’t Make Green” by Michael Wilcox.  There’s a somewhat scientific section at the beginning of it about color and light waves and all that, but the latter part of the book is truly about how to get the color you want by mixing two colors (or shades of a color) together.  I found it very interesting and helpful.

But for a more simple and quick suggestion, spend some time perusing Pinterest for colors and color palettes that speak to you. Sometimes you don’t know you like something until you see an image that makes that “happy” connection in your brain.  You don’t have to just pull combinations out of thin air.  Gather up some inspiration, immerse yourself in it, and gradually you’ll find yourself gravitating to the colors that work for you.

Finding Colour Confidence with Lolli & Grace
Image credit: Lolli & Grace

How do you choose a colour palette for your artwork?  

The very short answer to this is that I choose the colors that make me happy at the time I’m designing something.  Most often there is a bit of inspiration I’ve seen or stored away that makes me say, “Oh yes! Those are the colors I want to work with right now!”  And usually, I can’t wait to get started… my fingers and eyes and brain are itching to work with those colors.  I’m also very influenced by nature.  The colors with which I want to work generally get brighter in the summer, more subdued in the fall and winter, and gradually take on a lighter tone in the spring.  And flowers… always flowers.  They always get my creative juices flowing!

Thank you so much Anne!  What a perfect interview for a discussion around Colour Psychology!

Colour Psychology

Put simply, you might say colour psychology is the study of how colours feel to human beings.  Which is kind of weird, because we don’t literally feel colour.  We see it.  But in reality, colour does actually have a physical impact on our bodies. 

Put not so simply, colour psychology is the study of colour (or hues, as we learnt here), in relation to how it is perceived by the human body, and the impact it has on our behaviour.

Finding Colour Confidence with Lolli & Grace
Image credit: Lolli & Grace

How does colour psychology work?

Well, we don’t really know, tbh.  There hasn’t been a lot of study on it, and a lot of the evidence we have so far is anecdotal, but in general, colour seems to cause a physiological reaction in our bodies that makes us to react in similar ways.  

In saying all this, colour psychology is not an exact science because we are not robots!  The impact of a colour on an individual can depend on a number of variables, including culture, gender, age and plain old personal preference.  And this is the part that I LOVE because it confirms that there are no right or wrong colours! 

Because we {feel} colour, our {PERSONALITIES} actually influence our reaction to colour!  If you are someone who is reserved and quiet then you may not feel comfortable with colours that are bright and overbearing; and vice versa, if you’re someone who is loud and vivacious, you might lean towards the brighter, warmer end of the spectrum.  Of course, because we are all individuals, this might also be the complete opposite!  

Over time we have learnt that colours do tend to cause some consistent physiological reactions, however.  For example, red tends to stimulate while blue soothes.  White is generally associated with purity and innocence, while green is often associated with envy.  You can delve into this more deeply here and here.

So then…

Finding Colour Confidence with Lolli & Grace
Image credit: Lolli & Grace

How about colour psychology and design?

Since we now know that colour impacts the way we relate to or perceive something, it follows that at times we may need to consider the colours we use in design a little more closely than just using whatever happens to be our favourite colour of the moment.  And not only do we need to consider the colour we use, but also the tone!  {Gosh!  So much to think about!}

For example, if you’re making a gift for someone who has lost a loved one it might be thoughtful to use colours that soothe and express love, like soft pinks, blues and yellows.

If you’ve designed a simple pattern that doesn’t contain a lot of movement, you could liven it up through a palette that inspires action with bright red or orange.  

Or perhaps, if you have a child who won’t sleep at night, you should reconsider the orange and yellow room accents and head toward the cooler end of the scale with blues and greens that tend to tone down the energy level.

Can you think of any other ways you can use colour pychology personally, or in your work?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below, if you can!

Finding Colour Confidence with Lolli & Grace
Image credit: Lolli & Grace

In the end…

The psychology of colour is really just another useful tool we can use as creatives to help us in our artistic endeavours.  How much we use it is up to us, and it is important to remember that the way that we feel about a colour may not be how another person feels, for many reasons, including OUR individual personalities!  Nevertheless, colour psychology is an element of colour theory that can most {definitely assist us} in adding depth and meaning to our creations, which in the end will help us to connect more deeply with those our artwork is intended for.  And if you’re like me, that’s most definitely going to give a boost in confidence!  

Colour Confidence FOUND!

And that is it for the Finding Colour Confidence blog series!  *dusts off hands*  {S0} how do you feel now about colour now?  Because the goal was simply to open up some ideas around colour that might help you find your confidence in using it.  Because I wasn’t confident using it.  And I figured if I wasn’t, then there were probably others out there who weren’t as well..? 

Colour is subjective

Since I started researching colour and how to use it successfully just a few short months ago {and I use the term ‘successfully’ loosely, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned in this series, it’s that colour is SUBJECTIVE!}, I now feel much more at ease, and well, CONFIDENT {dang it!} in creating a colour palette!   

And, to me, that’s really wonderful, because previously I didn’t feel that way.  Previously, I was constantly second-guessing myself, researching palettes in Pinterest for hours on end {so much time wasted!} and worrying about what everyone else was doing.  And all that was nothing short of frustrating!

BUT… I can honestly say I’m past that now!  As a result of knuckling down, learning the basics and putting my newly acquired knowledge into practice, I’m actually pretty sure that both my skill and confidence in using colour has improved significantly!  {YAY!} 

And here’s another BUT!  99% of the time when I’m working with colour, I don’t sit down with a book of Pantone swatches and a colour wheel to do a thorough analysis of the technical relationships between the colours I have selected.  *Nope-ty Nope!* 

Trust your gut!

Mostly, I’m just trusting my gut!  {Huzzah!}  For me, colour confidence has meant getting a general and very broad understanding of the concepts of colour relationships so I can use them to build and express, and as a result, {ACCEPT} my own personal style.  And that’s what really excites me!  

I am so grateful to all those wonderful creatives who participated by giving their time to answer my questions.  And I hope it’s been an enjoyable way for [YOU} to dip your toes into the amazing world of colour!  But remember, there is so much more out there when it comes to colour – this series was just a drop in the ocean, so keep going with your learning, and keep trying new things!  I know I will be!

Further reading:

  • Fiona Humberstone of The Brand Stylist has a number of resources on Colour Psychology for creatives and businesses who subscribe to her email list.  
  • As per Anne’s recommendation of playing with watercolour to strengthen your colour muscles, Watercolour Magic is a Skillshare class which I enjoyed taking – maybe you will too! 
Finding Colour Confidence with Wife-made
Finding Colour Confidence with Saija Elina

Finding Colour Confidence with Saija Elina

Hello again!  We’re currently circling the land of Colour Confidence, which means we’re almost there, and preparing for landing!  This week, I really want us to appreciate colour in all its magnificence.  Which will be easy, because today’s interviewee is amazing at {all the colours}!

I have long been an admirer of Saija Elina’s beautiful creations and her Instagram feed is living proof that {ALL} the colours are beautiful.  Saija doesn’t limit her palette choices to a variation of a handful of colours, which confirms to me that she is {most} definitely fluent in the language of colour.  Her creations move across the colour wheel with the flexibility and ease of a professional gymnast, cartwheeling from pink to yellow, and then unexpectedly backflipping to greens, purples, and everything in between!  And I am convinced it is for this reason that she is a highly sought after pattern tester in the quilting world!

Finding Colour Confidence with Saija Elina
The lovely Saija!

I’m excited to share this interview with you because Saija enforces the importance of trusting your colour instincts, because if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this series, it’s that.  Trust {your} gut.  Do what {you} love.  And, above all, don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.  Speak {your own} colour language!

Interview with Saija Elina

How long have you been quilting?

Sewing as a hobby has been important for me since I was a kid.  Nearly all of the women in my family have sewn.  My interest in quilting started after I had my first two children.  I wanted to make them handmade blankets.  I went to a beginners class where they taught me how to use a ruler and a rotary cutter.  We also made different kinds of blocks.  It was a new and interesting world to me and since then I’ve been hooked.  My first quilt was a log cabin quilt and that simple pattern is still my favorite.  I have now been quilting over twenty years.

What does quilting mean to you?

Quilting is a big part of my life especially now that all of my three children have moved away.  I have plenty of time for myself.  Playing with colors is my way to be creative, it’s kind of like painting with fabrics.  Sewing helps me to relax and get my mind out of things.

Tell us a bit about your fabric stash. What makes you choose a fabric?

I don’t know if my fabric stash is big or small compared to other quilters.  I try to keep all colors and as many shades as possible.  With the fabric, the most important thing is color and after that the design.  Even though I live in the capital of Finland we don’t have any quilt shops.  Usually I order my fabrics online or buy them when I’m traveling.  It’s hard to say my favorite designers because there’s so many of them, but I like quite a simple style.  At the moment I’m quite excited about solid fabrics and have quite a big pile of them in my stash.

Have you done any study related to color or is it just natural talent?

I haven’t done any study related to color, but for sure, it would be useful to know the basics.  I don’t think about how the colors are supposed to be.  If I like them, that’s enough.

Do you have a favorite color?

I use turquoise a lot.  Maybe it’s my favorite color.  I don’t know why but somehow I choose it often.  White, blue and black are also nice.  When I look at my Instagram feed there is no brown at the moment.  Even though I like it, it’s hard to use.

Your home has a very neutral palette of whites and greys, and you introduce colour to the palette through soft furnishings like cushions, quilts, wall hangings. Why is that?

We moved about a year ago to this apartment.  Almost all big things like walls, couches and chairs are white or grey.  I’m pretty sure some people think my home is pale but I want it to be this way.  It’s so easy to change style using different colored textiles, decorative objects and flowers.  Also colorful quilts fit well in my home.  I’m not a very brave decorator and that’s why I usually choose something timeless.

Can you tell us about your creative process when choosing a color palette for a project?  

This is very difficult question because I don’t have any special method for the creative process.  I just choose colors which look good together.  When I start a new project I choose all the fabrics at once.  If the colors look good on the table they look good on the finished quilt.  Of course sometimes changes are necessary later.  Usually I make color decisions quite fast but sometimes it takes many days to decide.  If you have trouble picking fabrics it’s easier to use fabrics from the same collection because they are the same style. Although I like to make more personal quilts by mixing different designers.

Sometimes I have an inspiration for specific colors.  Then I search for a suitable pattern for them.  When the quilt is is going to be a gift I try to pick colors that the receiver likes.

My mood in the moment effects my color choices a lot.  Sometimes I want to make something really romantic, sometimes something very strong and modern.  Usually I don’t make two quilts of the same colors in a row because it’s boring.

All my fabrics are arranged by color in a glass cabinet.  Seeing them all at once makes it easier to choose what I like.

Inspiration can be found everywhere.  When I see a nice color combination, for example in nature or an art exhibition, I take a picture of it.  Then later I can use it in my quilting.

Do you have any thoughts for creatives who want to develop their sense and understanding of colour?

I think the best way to learn is by mixing and matching different color combinations. You always learn from your mistakes, at least I do.

Thank you Saija!  I think that’s a perfect place to finish up.  

Finding Colour Confidence with Wife-made
Finding Colour Confidence | Kristina of Fabric Bubb & choosing colours online

Finding Colour Confidence | Kristina of Fabric Bubb & choosing colours online

We’re six weeks in and things are getting a little less theory and a little more practical!  {Or, in keeping with the travel theme, this is the part where we discuss the best way to get your super heavy luggage off that moving carousel while maintaining your dignity.  Haha!}  In my opinion, there are times where you could be the most colour confident person in the whole world but still stuff it up majorly {technically speaking} when buying fabric online because of the difference between ‘real life’ and what you see on the screen in front of you. 

And, if you’re like me, you’ve probably had at least one experience buying fabric online or something else at least, only to have it turn up and not be what you expected.  A big one for me was a rug for our living room.   I loved it when I saw it online.  Yep, that’s the one, I said to myself.  And {WHAT} a bargain!  Only $400 for one that big!  It was navy blue and cream with contrasting flecks of a gold-mustard colour, and a bit of teal here and there.

Or so I thought.

It arrived and I excitedly tore off the wrapping to very disappointingly find a cream and TEAL rug.  Not navy blue at all.  Lots and lots {and lots} of teal.  I still have that much hated rug.  It taunts me every day.  And since then I’ve been very scared about buying online because I can’t afford to spend money on things I hate when they arrive on my doorstep.  

Now let me introduce the person who is going to help us both with buying fabric online!  Her name is Kristina Green and she owns an online fabric store called Fabric Bubb.  Kristina is, without a doubt, a native of the land of Colour Confidence.   Her Instagram feed is proof of this.  The way she puts together fabric bundles for her store makes me want to {buy. it. all!}.

Finding Colour Confidence with Katrina Green of Fabric Bubb
The lovely Kristina!

As an owner of an online store, and a confident colour user, I knew that Kristina would be the {perfect} person to give us some tips on buying fabric online and choosing colours with confidence!  Over to you, Kristina!

Interview with Kristina Green of Fabric Bubb

What inspired you to start Fabric Bubb? 

Interestingly, I never intended to own a fabric store, that was never ‘the dream’, it just happened. Like many of us after I found out I was pregnant I did not like the fabric options available, particularly for boys, in the stores, so I taught myself to sew and started making my own things. Which lead to me manufacturing baby goods for others and in order to provide more fabric options I started buying wholesale and selling fabric on the side to my other business. But buying fabric is addicting (as we all know) and the response to our fabric shop was beyond what we expected so it grew and grew. Eventually I had to give up the manufacturing business and began focusing on fabric full time. We launched our own website and the rest is history.

Do you have a favourite colour? 

Ummm this is tough. It changes. Probably depending on my mood and what it is for. Usually I tell people purple. But I don’t mean purple. I mean plum. A good dark plum color (like Kona in Berry). There is no love for lavender or a royal purple over here when I say purple. Definitely plum. I tend to be drawn towards bold, jewel-toned colors. But you won’t find any in my house. I use/select/am drawn towards certain colors depending on their purpose as I think all colors are lovely and each has their place. Even *gasp* brown. I love them all. And white, the absence of color has its uses too. I love how colors change with other colors, how it can affect your mood and how it can remind you of places or people.

Finding Colour Confidence with Katrina Green of Fabric Bubb
Image credit: Fabric Bubb

You describe Fabric Bubb as “thoughtfully curated”.  Can you explain what this means in regards to the colours and prints you choose for your store?

Sure, everything I sell in my store is selected because I love it and can see myself using it for projects that I want to make.  There are tons of fabrics available and being pushed on fabric shops to sell, and I won’t buy them if I don’t love them.  Just because a certain person makes it or it is asked for, if I don’t love it, I won’t select it for the store. 

My goal is for my store to feel like an extension of my stash; cohesive and true to me.  It’s my selection of what I think is the best to offer and therefore is very thoughtfully put together.  I think that the amount of fabric out there can be overwhelming so I select only my favorites, not what they say ‘will sell well’ or because everyone else is selling it.  Occasionally I’ll get prints that my oldest son loves as he loves to browse the fabrics we choose from, but it doesn’t happen often 🙂

What things do you consider when choosing colours and prints for a bundle of fabric?

This is actually tough to answer as I don’t use a formula – they just come together naturally for me.  Either I’ll see a bolt stand out and I’ll start playing around with things that could go with it just because I love doing that and if I like it then I’ll share what I come up with.  Other times I’ll see an order I am inspired by and think it would look even better with a few more prints (or change a few here and there).  Or I’ll just want to pull things that are all the same color. 

So I can’t really quantify a formula for how I put them together.  It’s more I start with one, pull out a color and find something that I think goes, and then pick another color and just keep pulling.  Sometimes when trying to create a bundle, the ones that don’t work with it actually go together better, so I’ll start pulling a new bundle from the one I started with.  It almost always starts with one (sometimes two) main prints and then I just keep expanding on it with supportive prints.

What colours do you think should be part of every fabric stash?

It depends on the person and what they are drawn to and use the most. If you don’t like blue and don’t find yourself using blue, then don’t get blue. If you love white and black then get a lot of white and black, etc.  I find it helpful to always have a little of every color and then more of what you love most. 

I have some of every color and in different values.  For example, with peach I have solid peach, peach with some white and white with a little peach.  That way when I need peach I have different options all using peach.  I think that it’s more important to have a lot of smaller geometric and low volume prints as you can use them easily to support main prints or novelty prints.  I find myself constantly using ‘basics’, like stripes, polka dots, tiny hearts, flecks of something, lines, etc – ‘low key’ prints that aren’t loud and have a small/minimal scale.  They can so easily be used with louder prints to calm them down and I find basics to be invaluable – probably why my shop has a lot of them.

Do you have any tips for people who want to develop their sense and understanding of colour?

I would recommend coloring. There are tons of adult coloring books out there {Wife-made edit: Check out Rad & Happy!}, so get one that has patterns/shapes that speak to you and just color them.  Soon you’ll get a really good feeling of what colors look good together or how changing a color here or there can change the whole picture.  You can also photocopy a page and color it with different colors each time to see how that changes things.  There are classes and books about colour too, but I think coloring is the best way to go to develop your own sense of it.  Plus its easy to do with or around kids because they’ll just want to color with you.

Buying fabric online can be daunting because of the difference in the colours that we see on our screen and what they are in real life.  Do you have any tips for how to successfully curate a bundle of fabrics when purchasing from an online store?

Yes, I completely agree, it can be hard to buy online and with different dye lots happening it can be problematic if you need more of something.  But I think it is also hard to buy in the store cause you have to leave your house (haha!) {I like your thinking Kristina!!!} and the lighting can play tricks on you – so you might choose something based on what you see in the store and then you get outside or to your house and it doesn’t match.  I would definitely suggest looking at all the pictures provided by the store.  But it does get easier once you get more comfortable with it and manufacturers/designers start to become predictable as to what to expect when you order their fabric.

Kristina’s tips for buying fabric online

These are tricks that I used prior to owning a shop (and still use for when I am buying fabric online).  It really depends on what/how you are buying, but it kinda falls into two camps for me:

A. You just love a print…

Then the manufacturer’s picture is a really good representation, because in this case, you’re buying the print, not necessarily the colors.  If I like the print, I like the print, and if the peach is a tad different to the manufacturer’s picture it isn’t a huge deal as I just love the pattern.  But with social media and blogs, with a little research you can usually find a good picture of the print prior to purchasing if the online shop doesn’t have one.  And most of the manufacturer pictures are really close to what you get in real life.

B. You’re buying prints to match each other or to create a bundle…

In this case, if matching is THE important thing, then there are some tricks that I use when buying fabric online:

  • Buy coordinating prints from the same collection as they are designed to match.
  • Buy from the same manufacturer as the colors you’re trying to match tend to be made in the same way and will more likely match than not.
  • If crossing manufacturers, I would suggest not trying to match colors unless you want a gradient of that color, then they purposefully don’t match but create the shade that you’re after.
  • Buy a pre-made bundle that the shop has curated as they match each other or at least go together.
  • Email and ask the shop owner if the selections go together.

I think one of the hardest things is matching solids to prints to have an exact match. And for that, I’d suggest getting a solids swatch card.  First, buy the main fabric, then use your swatch card to select the coordinating solids.

And I am always willing to help people match, so feel free to email me and ask!

Thank you Kristina!  So many helpful tips to use when buying fabric online next!  {And let’s be honest, it won’t be too far away ;)}

But before we head off again after this Fabric Bubb lay over, I asked Kristina if she would also share her tips on curating a bundle of mixed prints and colours, because getting confident with colour in the quilting world also means getting confident with working with lots of colourful prints! 

As I mentioned in this earlier post, Anna Maria Horner discusses this in her Creating Colour Palettes CreativeBug class, but it’s always good to hear different perspectives, so here are Kristina’s tips!

Finding Colour Confidence with Wife-made

Kristina’s tips for curating a bundle of mixed prints and colours

  • When selecting your main prints remember that mixing a number of strong prints together can be difficult as they compete for attention.  For example, if you have a floral and a geometric pattern together, do they compete for attention?  If so, which one wins?  If you want the floral to be the focus but it is overwhelmed by the geometric, reconsider the geometric print.
  • If you have multiple strong prints, be sure to mix in some minimal and low volume prints to balance it out.
  • From your main prints choose a couple of colours that you would like to feature, then select a range of solids and low value fabrics in these colours.
  • Another alternative is to choose one or two colours from the main prints that you would like to feature and then select a gradient palette in those colours {like we discussed in this post with Meghan of Then Came June!}.
  • Make sure you have a balance of small, medium and large prints in your selection.
  • Trust your eye and go with your gut!  Does the selection look pleasing to the eye?  What is your gut telling you about the selections?  Do any stand out too much?
  • When in doubt, get the colouring in out!
Finding Colour Confidence – Meghan of Then Came June & an easy ombré palette how-to

Finding Colour Confidence – Meghan of Then Came June & an easy ombré palette how-to

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking.  We’re currently cruising at an altitude of 35,000 feet on this flight to the land of Colour Confidence.  We’ll be dimming the cabin lights shortly, but if you look out the left-hand side of the cabin you’ll see a beautiful ombré sunset that sets the scene for our next guest in this series.

We’re well on our way in our colour journey now!  How are you going?  Hopefully no travel sickness?  {Cos, man, I’d hate to be with you on a real plane!}  How about the view?  Pretty good, don’t ya think?  And everything you’re learning about the indigenous people of Colour Confidence?  Hopefully you’re starting to feel like maybe one day you could relocate and become a citizen of this {seemingly} far off, mystical land…?

If not, today’s guest should give you a bit more of an encouraging nudge in that direction, I think.  Let me introduce you to Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June!

Finding Colour Confidence with Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June
The lovely Meghan!

When I first came across Meghan’s Instagram feed she was working her design magic to fulfil her dreams of owning her own pattern design business.  Today, she’s still working her design magic, but with almost 20,000 Instagram followers I think I can pretty confidently say that she has moved from ‘rising quilting star’ status, to just plain old ‘quilting star’ status.  {Nice work, Meghan!} 

I’m sure I don’t need to explain what it was that made me stop the mindless Insta-scroll and hit follow on her profile… but of course, I will, because I’m the {crazy} pilot of this colour-plane!  *insert maniacal laugh*

It was, most definitely {and probably obviously since I’ve interviewed her for this series} the way Meghan uses colour, particularly in her ombre palettes and scrappy quilts.

Ok, enough of my yammering, let’s hear from Meghan!

Finding Colour Confidence with Wife-made

Interview with Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June

Do you have a favourite colour?

Oh man. I thought my favorite color was always blue and to this day I still *think* it’s blue. But as I have been sewing for the past couple of years, I have realized that the color that almost always sneaks into a quilt is some kind of peachy tone. Either it being a blush tone, peach, light peach, dusty rose.  Peach is comforting yet bright and fresh. Depending on the tone and saturation it can have a soothing effect or a punch of energy. I think I love that it is so versatile.

Do you prefer to work with solids or prints, or both?  Why, and how does a print on the fabric affect the colours you choose? 

I find for the most part I love to either work on a project that is all solids or all prints. Recently I have really enjoyed playing with all solids. To me, solids are pure and I can’t hide behind what is maybe not quite a stellar design with only solids. When you throw in prints, sometimes the prints are so cute that the design can kind of fall away from the first thing you notice about a quilt. But I do love when I get a chance to play with scrappy.  It is not my natural go-to style but I find it a challenge and I enjoy that. When I do mix solids and prints, I try to find complimenting colors and tones in each fabric so they play well together.

Finding Colour Confidence with Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June
Image credit: Then Came June

Is colour choice an intuitive experience for you, or technical, or a bit of both?  Do you think it is important to have a technical understanding of colour, or is intuition enough?

Color is intuitive to me. I did go to school for Merchandising with an emphasis on Interiors (furniture, architecture, home goods) and I took a color theory class, but in general I couldn’t tell you the exact definition of hue, tone, saturation, complimentary colors, etc.  I think a technical understanding can help you problem solve an issue. If you are stuck on a combination, that skill would help you step back and think technically about what could work. But mostly for me, I just do what feels right. I have always loved color and playing with it gives me so much joy.

What influences your colour choices for your quilts? 

Most all of my inspirations for quilts are specific. I either have a specific scene from nature in mind, a beautiful tile wall I saw walking down the street, a person and their life in my head when I am picking a palette. I think, in the moment where I feel like the color palette is going in the right direction my excitement level increases. I can feel myself getting giddy haha! And when it isn’t right, it feels forced. I can immediately tell – either it’s not pleasing to my eye or it feels harsh. I like color to be comforting, soothing. Doesn’t mean it always needs to be soft and muted. I just want the palette to be inviting, let you in, let you look around a bit and maybe feel movement from the color choices I have picked.

Finding Colour Confidence with Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June
Jawbreaker Quilt by Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June

In your opinion, how does the design of a quilt interact with the colours it’s made in?  How do you know what colours will suit a particular design and what won’t work?

I think the relationship between quilt design and color is essential. There has to be give and take. If the design is very sharp and bold, I like to either play that up and do high contrast colors or I like to soften it and do gradients. My biggest dislike in color combinations is when all colors are the same saturation level. There is no tone difference or ease. That isn’t to say that every color combo needs to feel like a gradient, I just think you can pick a few main color groups and play within each one on different saturation levels and tones. It gives the palette movement and depth which I think lends to showing how versatile a quilt design can be.

Finding Colour Confidence with Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June
Meadowland Quilt by Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June

You are becoming well-known for solid colour gradient quilts.  Is there a method that you follow when choosing fabrics for a gradient style colour scheme?

When choosing gradient colour schemes I usually know what’s the darkest I want a color to be and what is the lightest I want it to be.  That way I know in what kind of range/how many colors I am going to choose. It also helps me decide how far into a gradient I will go.  Am I going to go from super light blush to bright saturated peach or coral?  Or am I doing a tighter gradient of very similar tones and hues? For example, Flame, Tangerine, Coral, Creamsicle, Peach.  I do half of my planning in Illustrator because I can load in the Kona Color swatches, but then the other half of the time I really love playing with my Kona color card pieces. 

Finding Colour Confidence with Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June
City Grid Quilt by Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June

Most of the time I like to stick to the same kind of cool undertones or warm undertones.  Mixing warm and cool in a gradient can be difficult because it can feel muddy.  If I am eliminating color from a palette it is usually whatever stands out too much, in either a too light or too saturated way.

I love using Pinterest to get color inspiration, I have a whole color board I pin to.  {Follow Meghan on Pinterest here!}  Plus I am constantly taking pictures on my phone of things I see everyday.  Recently, I took a photo of a woman’s hair on the airplane. (HAHA!  Creeper status!).  She had this dark brown hair and had strains of silver and then bright reds in it, and I thought, man that could be a pretty fall-inspired palette.

Most of the time, when I am choosing a palette for a project, I have multiple options I make and then just pick whatever one I keep going back to.  I am learning to really trust my gut.

Finding Colour Confidence with Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June
Ombre All Day by Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June
Finding Colour Confidence with Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June
Image credit: Then Came June

Do you have any thoughts for people who want to develop their sense and understanding of colour?

I think sometimes people get overwhelmed by the amount of color options out there. To start, pick your favorite color, whatever grabs you and says PICK ME PICK ME! Then, find a color card or go online to find their swatches and look to the left and right of that color. You will find other colors that will work well with your chosen color.

Another easy way to start is to buy bundles.  There are amazing solid bundles out there between Robert Kaufman’s site or sites like Fabric Bubb. And sometime’s those bundles can inspire you and take some of the guess work out when beginning.

Thanks Meghan, for your contribution to my colour series.  Your perspective is invaluable!  Ok, now…

Finding Colour Confidence with Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June

Let’s talk ombré, hombre!

So, of course, it would be wrong if we didn’t talk about ombré, right?  But what exactly is it?

The definition of ombré is this:

Meaning of ombre - Finding Colour Confidence


Meaning of ombre - Finding Colour Confidence

In plain English, this means that a {true} ombré colour palette contains only one colour, displayed in varying levels of lightness and darkness {remember, saturation and value?}.

So we could say that an ombré colour palette is a MONOCHROMATIC colour palette!

For example, the image below is an ombré colour palette that ranges from a very subtle greenish white through to a dark bottle green.  But the key is that they are {ALL} on the green spectrum.

Image credit: Design Seeds

But because I am who I am, and colour is what it is, and design is the wonderfully dynamic, fluctuating beast that {IT} is, I’m going to say that there are {TWO} types of ombré palettes.  {O.M.G!}

Ombré – more than meets the eye!

Yep.  Mindblowing stuff over here people!  Hold onto your food trays, cos we’re heading for a loop the loop!

So, what then, is this {OTHER} ombré that I’m so rudely rewriting history for?

Alright.  Let’s start by calling the original ombré palette a {MONOCHROMATIC ombré}.  Because it’s a palette that consists of a range of tones in a SINGLE colour.  Which is really a monochromatic colour palette, right??

Now, I propose that an ombré colour palette doesn’t {HAVE} to be restricted to one particular colour.  {YOU PROPOSE WHAAAAT??}

Let’s think of colour in relation to the spectrum for a sec…

One colour doesn’t stop completely and THEN the next one begins, does it?  Not to the naked eye, at least!  The colour changes so gradually that it blends into the new colour!

So based on this, I propose that the second type of ombré colour palette is one that moves between two colours that are beside each other on the colour wheel or in the spectrum.  Let’s call it {ANALOGOUS ombré}!

Here’s an example…

Finding Colour Confidence with Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June
Image credit: Eric Cahan

Ok, so where exactly are we heading with this?  Because there really isn’t any purpose to getting in a plane and flying for hours if there’s no destination.  Right?  Right!

Of course, the {ONLY} destination is one where I help us both to become better at using colour.  And in this case – we should ALL know how to {SUCCESSFULLY} create an ombré colour palette of our own!

Because {SUNRISES} and {SUNSETS} and {RAINBOWS}!!!

So how do we create our own ombré colour palette then?  Well,  I set off to find some guidelines for how to create an ombré palette.  And you know what? 

I couldn’t find any. 

Not a single, solitary, lonely ol’ tutorial for creating an ombré colour palette.  So, like the good blogger that I am, I made one up.  And with only two steps, it’s {SUPER} fast!

An easy ombré palette how-to for fabric

1. Search Pinterest for palette inspiration

If you’re not sure where to start with an ombré colour palette just search ‘ombré colour palette’ to see if anything peaks your interest.  If you know you want an ombré palette in specific colour tones, then search for that – for example, ‘pink ombré colour palette’.

Here’s what I chose – another Design Seeds image!

Finding Colour Confidence - Ombre Inspiration
Image credit: Design Seeds

2. Upload image to the Play Crafts Palette Builder 

The Play Crafts Palette Builder is a fantastic online tool you can use to determine the closest matching solid colour fabric to any colour you can upload to the site. 

In this case, I uploaded a screen shot of my chosen inspo image from Pinterest.

Depending on your preferences, the Builder can select from a number of colours from the Kona Cottons and Moda Bella Solids ranges, but can also help you find matching Aurifil Thread colours and hex values.  {SUPER USEFUL!}

Now, move the little dots around until you have all the colours in the palette covered.  You can add (just click on the green plus button) or remove (hover over the rectangles at the bottom to bring up the delete button) matches as necessary.

Finding Colour Confidence - Ombre Inspiration

If you have the Kona Cottons or Moda Bella Solids swatch cards you can then look at the swatches IRL to decide if they are the best colour selections, and if not, see if you can find a better alternative.  And if you don’t own one, it’s a good investment – I’ve linked some {non-affiliate} stockists above.

Here’s the ANALOGOUS ombré palette I came up with for the red and purple image above.  It literally took me all of two minutes to create!

Finding Colour Confidence with Meghan Buchanan of Then Came June

Now, don’t forget to consider Meghan’s tips for creating an ombré palette!

Meghan’s top tips for creating an ombré palette

  • Limit your palette by selecting the darkest and lightest colours in the gradient.
  • Decide whether you want a loose gradient or tight gradient.  A tight gradient will have more colours in between the darkest and lightest colours, whereas a loose gradient will have fewer.
  • Eliminate any colours that appear to stand out too much.  Is a colour too light or too saturated?  If so, remove it and try to find an alterative that leads to a smoother graduation in colour.

Now, tell me, do you use ombre palettes very often?  If so, how do you choose what colours to include in your palette?  Share your tips in the comments section below!

Finding Colour Confidence – Stuart Moores Textiles on experimentation & saturation

Finding Colour Confidence – Stuart Moores Textiles on experimentation & saturation

If you’re the kind of person who baulks at the word ‘experiment’ because of everything you think the word implies (eg. experimenting = waste of money + waste of time, which also = failure…) and you have no idea what colour saturation has to do with anything, then I really hope today’s guest will help you {and me!} soar past these mental blocks!

Stuart Moores Textiles - Shelagh Jessop
The lovely Shelagh!

Shelagh Jessop is the creative mind behind the beautiful work of Stuart Moores Textiles.  I first stumbled across Shelagh’s work on Instagram and was immediately drawn to her use of colour, as well as the beautiful process shots she shares.

I was amazed to learn that the fabric Shelagh uses in her work is ALL hand-dyed by herself, beginning with just 3 primary colour dye powders!  It then came as no surprise to hear that Shelagh’s great grandfather was a chemical engineer.  Clearly it runs in the family!

So let’s get a bit of a bird’s-eye view of how Shelagh sees colour.

Stuart Moores Textiles - Fields Quilt
Image credit: Stuart Moores Textiles

Interview with Shelagh Jessop of Stuart Moores Textiles

Do you have a favourite colour?  

That is such a hard question for me.  I go through phases of loving certain colours or colour ways, making over everything I wear and my whole house in those colours, and then deciding I love a whole new palette six months later, and going through the whole process all over again.  Over the years, though, I tend to come back to pale pinks and earthy greens over and over again.  In my work I like to use bright and bold magentas as well, so I guess pink coupled with earth tones is my answer…but not princess pink!

You don’t use printed fabrics in your quilts.  Why is this?

Up to this point, I have only used my own hand-dyed fabric for all of my Stuart Moores Textiles projects.  In the past I have used commercially printed fabrics, and growing up I definitely used them all the time, but since I discovered hand dyeing at university, I haven’t used anything else.  I think there are a few reasons for this: first and foremost, I really love the process of hand-dyeing fabric.  Dreaming up new colour ways, experimenting with dyes, and seeing my ideas come to fruition is really exciting for me.

Another part of the process I love are the surprises that happen along the way.  I am not a very precise person and even though I keep notes and do a lot of test runs, if I am out of some dye powder or don’t have enough for a ratio, I will throw in the next best thing and see what happens, and often this is where my new directions come from.   Something else I love about hand-dyed fabric are the really oversaturated colours and the depth that I have found only in hand-dyed fabric.  The subtle inconsistencies across the hand-dyed fabric surface creates a richness that I am addicted to!

How has your experience in dying fabric impacted your understanding, appreciation and use of colour? 

I think the answer to this question goes back again to the dye process.  Because there are a lot of surprises and because of the unpredictable nature of hand-dyeing, I often have a colour for a project that I didn’t anticipate having.  I spend a lot of time in the ‘messing around’ phase for each of my projects, so playing with the colours I have made and experimenting with the unexpected colours teaches me a lot about what is possible (or more simply, what looks good) and I end up learning more and more about colour and colour interaction each time.

Is colour choice an intuitive experience for you, or technical?

It is intuitive all the way.  I do have a colour wheel and I have studied a bit of colour theory but everything I make basically comes down to spending a ton of time experimenting with what I have to work with.

I strongly believe in using restraint as a tool for creativity in each of my projects.  I rely heavily on ‘restraint’ in my improv work and talk a lot about ‘creating restraint’ in the improv tutorial I have available for free on my website. 

I don’t limit myself in the amount of time I will take to experiment.  I will keep at it until the right design and colour combination hits me and…(I don’t know any other way to describe it)…I just feel that it is right at a certain point and I know that I have found what I am looking for (even if I didn’t know what that quite looked like to begin with or even if I started with a completely different design in mind).

What is it, in the moment where you’re putting one colour next to another, that makes you go YES!, or conversely, what is it that makes you go no, that’s not right? 

I wish I knew!  But I definitely have very visceral reactions to different colour combinations.  As I mentioned above, I just know it when I see it, but I also know when I really don’t like something. Sometimes though, I will warm up to a palette.

I have noticed that I do tend to get stuck in certain colour ways and don’t think outside of them until someone or something makes me think otherwise.  I work in a collective design space and more than a few times I have had an improv block or a WIP up on my design wall that I was pretty sure was destined for the bin, but someone will walk past and say they love it and it will force me to have another look (and they are usually right!).  I try to recognise this about myself, getting too comfortable with the same palette for too long, and push myself to explore new colour ways in my work every so often.

How do you choose a colour palette for your designs?

My biggest colour inspirations come from the changing seasons.  There is a time each year when I get really excited about autumn or spring, for example, and I feel very ‘out with the old, in with the new’.  This year it happened on the first warm day here in western France (and it wasn’t even that warm) but I felt an excitement about the prospect of warmer weather, sunshine, and longer days that translated immediately into my work.  I was using very saturated magentas and forest greens and almost overnight all of these heavy hues were set aside in favour of pale, dusty pinks, light browns, and minty, pastel greens.

I get a lot of energy from the changing seasons so I tend to do a lot of my experimenting and creating new work at the beginning of a season and then move on to reproducing that work for a few months and working on computer stuff after I have exhausted all of that ‘new season’ frantic creative energy.  It’s not a system I have set in stone but I have noticed it is the way that I work over the last couple of years.

For me, I have to really want to do something to create work I am happy with.  If I am not feeling something or my mind and heart are in a different place, I allow myself to move on to another project or idea until I am ready to return to something.  This is also the way that a project or a colour way/experiment gets eliminated from my aesthetic.  If my heart isn’t in it anymore, I know that I need to head in another direction, but I never throw anything away because, like I said, I change my mind all the time and also let other people change my mind too!

In your opinion, how does the design of a quilt interact with the colours it’s made in?  How do you know what colours will suit a particular design and what won’t work?

Experimenting!  I do so much experimenting it is probably the reason I will never be rich.  (That was a joke, there are many reasons why I will never be rich! 😉 )

I am so envious of other quilters and artists who can make a sketch and know exactly what they want to make.  I start with an idea in my head and immediately go straight to making it.  I also use the same materials that I want to use for the final project, instead of experimenting with cheaper fabric or commercially dyed fabric, because anything else just won’t work for me.  I need to see the final vision and I need to see the colour interact and come together in a way that I am happy with.  When I make anything, a quilt, a pillow, a table runner, I want to see how the colour is interacting with the object and I really like to see how the object will interact with it’s environment.

For every final project that I end up sharing, there are ten that don’t see daylight.  That is why I have a metric tonne of scraps and unfinished projects that I ship around the world every time we have to move to a new place.  My scrap pile is probably worth it’s weight in gold by this point judging by how many times I have paid for it to be shipped overseas!

Do you have any thoughts for creatives who want to develop their sense and understanding of colour?

I would say experiment like crazy and give yourself some restraints.  Just as people say the journey is the destination, I think the same is true for creating colourful quilts.  Don’t focus too much on the end product being perfect or just what you imagined, let yourself have a lot of colourful disasters and enjoy the process.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with wild ideas and don’t limit yourself to what is currently popular.

There is a great book called ‘Color: A Workshop Approach,’ by David Hornung that I read many years ago that really helped me develop my understanding of color and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to take a more technical approach.

Thank you Shelagh!  I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it {immensely} helpful looking at colour through the eyes of other creatives, especially those who use different techniques and approaches to creating than I do.  For example, I would {never} have considered that dying your own fabric would give you a deeper understanding of colour saturation.  But now that I think about it, it’s probably kinda obvious, so I’m just going to thank Shelagh for her creative investigations and use that to broaden my own understanding without having to get my hands quite as dirty as I’m pretty sure Shelagh’s get when she’s elbow deep in a dye bath!

So let’s unpack our colour saturation bags a little…

Colour saturation

Some words used to describe colour saturation include:

  • intensity
  • purity
  • brilliance
  • vividness.

Another word used to describe colour saturation is:

  • chroma.

Say whaaaaaaat?

Ok, let’s chuck that {less understandable for the average sleep-deprived mother} word out the plane escape hatch and ponder on those other words I mentioned above…  intensity, purity, brilliance, vividness…

Still pondering… 

What comes to mind when you think of those words?  For me, when I think of the word {vivid} of think of a clear blue sky – the kind when there’s not a cloud in sight… it’s pure, intense, brilliant… can you picture it?

These words give us a pretty good idea of what saturation means.

But, ‘let’s get technical, technical, I wanna get technical’ for a moment…  

Technically speaking, the saturation of a colour refers to the dominance of hue in a colour.  A colour that is pure is considered fully saturated.  It is bright and alive and vibrant!  Take a look at the photo of Shelagh’s quilt, below.  The colour of the sky, the boat and the quilt are all very saturated.  They pack a real punch and stop you in your tracks!

In comparison, a colour that is desaturated is washed out.  You create a desaturated colour by adding white, grey, black (think about your editing software’s colour picker!) or the pure colour’s complement. 

The level of desaturation depends on how much of that other colour you add.  Just adding a touch of grey? Then it might be 97% saturation.  Adding a huge blob of black?  Then it might be 9% saturation. 

Get it?

You might say desaturated colour is dull and lifeless, BUT desaturation might also make an image soft and express a soothing, gentle feeling, like in this tulip photo, below.  The pure colours in this image have white added to them to make pastels.  The greens at the bottom have grey or black added to them to create shadow.

How to use colour saturation in your work

Using colour saturation in our work is really very simple.

As we saw in the photo of the boat above, colour saturation can used to make a statement.  In compositions that include both high and low levels of saturation, the highly saturated colours wave their arms and yell, “Look at me!  Look at me!” – they draw the eye to a particular place.

Anna Maria Horner talks about the use of bright colours in her ‘Creating Colour Palettes’ CreativeBug class and how important it is to incorporate ‘muddy’ colours into your quilt’s colour palette in order to be able to {see} the bright colours.  She compares it to the lead and supporting roles in a movie – we can’t all be the movie star {the saturated colours}, someone has to play the supporting role {the desaturated colours}!

We can see a practical application of Anna Maria’s movie role idea with the addition of  the pink, mustard and blue centres in Shelagh’s beautiful Starburst appliqué design, below.  {Not to mention those bright macarons!}  In this quilt, the background of the soft, muted pink plays the supporting role.  It’s like the movie extras that you see, but don’t see.  You know they’re there, and they need to be there, but if they’re doing their job properly they don’t stand out.

The pink, blue and mustard centres are the lead roles {and I’m pretty sure that pink is a diva!}.  The three colours say “Look at me!”.  The first place the eye goes is to the pink, and then the mustard and then the blue, because there is variation in the highly saturated colours as well.

Now imagine if every part of Shelagh’s quilt was made with highly saturated colours like that pink?  The eye wouldn’t have a place to rest – it would tire quickly and the quilt wouldn’t be as enjoyable to look at.  It would be exhausting!  Similarly, if the quilt only contained desaturated colours like in the background and the top right Starburst centre, the quilt would be boring with nothing to draw the eye and you would quickly lose interest.

Finding Colour Confidence with Wife-made

Saturation can also be used to convey emotion and mood in a composition.  As an example, imagine a piece that holds a palette of a variation of highly unsaturated colours – like greys, deep blues and purples – that is punctuated with highly saturated, vibrant reds.  The unsaturated colours might convey moodiness, depth, darkness while the pops of saturated colours might express explosive outbursts of anger or confrontation.  Get it? 

So that’s colour saturation in a nutshell!  So much more to colour than picking your favourites, right!?

Let me know how you are using colour saturation in your projects, and how experimenting with colour has broadened your understanding of it.  Do you have any tips about using colour that you might like to share with other readers?  

You can follow along with Shelagh’s creative journey on Instagram @stuartmoorestextiles or on her website.

Further Reading…

I really recommend Anna Maria’s CreativeBug class if you’re interested in learning more about choosing colour palettes for your quilt.  She talks about multicoloured prints and how to work with them in your colour palette, as well as providing a no-fail process for choosing a quilt colour palette.  {CreativeBug is not even paying me to say this.  It’s just good.}

Finding Colour Confidence | Tara Faughnan on unexpected harmony with colour value

Finding Colour Confidence | Tara Faughnan on unexpected harmony with colour value

Welcome back for the third instalment in the Finding Colour Confidence blog series!  Today we’ll be diving deep into the theories around colour and probably throwing in a few ‘loop the loops’, but first let me introduce today’s guest!  Tara Faughnan!

Tara Faughnan
The lovely Tara!

Although, I probably don’t ACTUALLY need to introduce Tara.  If you’re a quilter it’s likely that you’ve come across her work somewhere online or in a magazine, or if you’re lucky, in real life.  Her quilts are bold and appealing, but not in a perfectly coordinated kind of way.  With her clever use of colour, Tara takes you on a never-ending journey across the landscapes of her quilts.  To me, the palettes she chooses give her work a sense of movement and life, and an almost pulsating quality.  It’s probably pretty obvious that I love her creations.  Tara takes the simple and through her colour work makes it complex – and I was so pleased to have the opportunity to get a peek into her colourful brain.

Tara Faughnan's Lone Start Quilt
Lone Start Quilt – Image Credit: Tara Faughnan

Interview with Tara Faughnan

What is your favourite colour and why?

 It’s magenta!  I find it goes with every color but also adds an interesting element.

You don’t use prints in your quilts, but you also don’t use any fabrics with any colour variation at all.  What is it about prints and colour variation that you don’t like?

I do like prints!  I love seeing prints in other peoples work, just not in my quilts.  It’s just an aesthetic thing.  I like my colors to be flat and bold.  Mottling is distracting to me at this point, though I’ve just started working with denim and I love the variation in the threads in this fabric.  And I really love hand woven fabrics, but I don’t think I could bring myself to ever cut into them to use in a quilt.

Tara Faughnan Pieced Pineburr Quilt
Pieced Pineburr Quilt – Image Credit: Tara Faughnan

You’ve said that “Colour interaction is the key inspiration that drives me”.  What is it, in that moment where you’re putting one colour next to another, that makes you go YES!, or conversely, what is it that makes you go no, that’s not right?

  I couldn’t really say, it’s a gut reaction.  It probably sounds a bit strange but how I see colors exists outside of my head.  When I put two colors together that I love, it feels like my thoughts expand in a sphere.  Conversely when I put two colors together that I don’t like, everything contracts to a small, snarly cluster.  I never thought about this interesting physical play until I was coming up with a class on color, and I knew I couldn’t teach that!  But in thinking about it, I started to notice what my reaction to color FEELS like, and where in space that color actually can be found.  When I’m looking for the color that is the obvious choice it will be to the right, and when I’m looking for something that will be more unexpected or jarring, it sits to the left.  It definitely has a physical component that’s hard to explain.

But honestly, it has been years of practice and play.  I didn’t start quilt making understanding color, in fact my first quilt was all blue, and I just played with value.  Over the years I’ve worked and worked at using color, and more importantly, I paid attention to how I reacted to color, and how just a small change in hue could make something go from just OK to really exciting.

Tara Faughnan Zig Zag Quilt
Zig Zag Quilt – Image credit: Tara Faughnan

You mention how you “strive to walk the line of discomfort, while still making everything work together as a whole”.  What is it that makes your quilts different to a regular rainbow quilt, or is it purely intuition that tells you when you find the point of harmony and discord?

 The colors in my quilts have nothing to do with order!  When I think of Rainbow quilts there is an obvious harmony to them, but nothing unexpected.  It is the order created naturally, and I love it when I look at a quilt and see something I didn’t expect, be it color or design.

Do you have any exercises that can help with getting past ‘colour block’ and learning to trust your intuition?

 I usually don’t sew my quilt top together until I’ve finished all the components, so I make a lot of bold choices that may not end up being used in the quilt.  I read the best advice when I was starting out making quilts, which is to NOT FEAR wasting fabric.  So I make whatever color combinations I think of and then only at the end do I remove something that’s not working for me, and that block goes in the scrap bin.  Same goes with design ideas – I just sew it to see if it will work, and if it’s not what I want – into the scrap bin!   Also, it really freed me up when I realized one quilt leads to the next, and if you don’t like some aspect in a quilt, it’s fine, as you can just make another and keep learning.  I don’t think a quilt needs to be perfect, and I like the flaws I see in my quilts as I go, and sometimes those “flaws” are my favorite spot to look at.  I try ideas and sometimes they are total failures, and I just move on.  So the only advice I can give is really just to keep going, take risks, and not get stuck on trying to make it perfect.

Tara Faughnan Courthouse Steps Quilt
Courthouse Steps Quilt – Image credit: Tara Faughnan

In your opinion, how does the design of a quilt interact with the colours it’s made in?  How do you know what colours will suit a particular design and what won’t work?

What I pay attention to from a design point is not so much color as it is value. Really, I think all color palettes are interesting, and there is no one “right” palette for a quilt. I had the honor of being a judge for QuiltCon, and what I noticed after looking at so many quilts so intensely is that I could get into the maker’s shoes no matter what color choices were made. But what made a design really work for me was when the use of value was right on. Using value as the key to defining design was much more impactful than which particular color was used in what spot.

Tara Faughnan Prism Quilt
Prism Quilt – Image credit: Tara Faughnan

You have mentioned previously that trial and error is the best way to learn about colour.  Are there any tools you think are ‘must haves’ to help in this process?

A design wall is key!  It allows you to see the quilt as a whole, rather than just the parts.  My design wall is just a piece of batting I’ve stapled to the wall, so nothing fancy.  I don’t have a ton of wall space , so sometimes I have 2 layers of batting on the wall, each with a quilt in progress.  If you don’t think you have a spare wall, just tack some batting up over anything that’s on the wall.  It might not be the flattest area to work on, but it makes a huge difference to see your quilt that way.

Do you have any thoughts for people who want to develop their sense and understanding of color?

Nope, just do it.  And know that there will be quilts that are less than lovely….  Here’s a great quote from Josef Albers:

“Just as the knowledge of acoustics does not make one musical…so no color system by itself can develop one’s sensitivity to color.  This is parallel to the recognition that no theory of composition by itself leads to the production of…art.”

I agree with this completely – the process of making and noticing and learning is invaluable.  When you practice choosing color and making choices you love or regret, then you will start to learn.

Tara Faughnan Double Wedding Ring Quilt
Double Wedding Ring Quilt – Image Credit: Tara Faughnan

Thank you Tara for your colour insights!  Now, let’s elaborate on a few of the key points from Tara’s interview, starting with…

Colour and harmony

When it comes down to it, the whole aim of colour theory is to create colour combinations that we like.  And this is the definition of colour harmony – to produce a visual combination of colours that is pleasing to the eye.

You know that feeling when you’ve just downed a slice of your favourite cake – and not a ‘piggy’ sized piece, I’m talking more like a ‘Goldilocks’ sized piece – it was juuuuust right?  Well that’s kinda what we’re talking about.  It makes the eye ‘happy’, and as Tara described, it’s a bit of a gut feeling.  {Mmmmm, cake.}

We briefly discussed the basic techniques for combining colours in an harmonious way in part 1 of this series – these colour formulas are complementary, analogous, triadic, split-complementary, tetradic and square.  These are the most straightforward combinations that can be used to develop a pleasing colour palette, and for the novice colour-combiner (that’s a technical term, btw) these are a sure thing.

Finding Colour Confidence with Wife-made

But what about the ‘unexpected’ that Tara mentioned?  How do you combine colours in a way that intrigues people and makes them want more?  Good question!  Let’s look at this a bit more…

In part 1 of this series I mentioned the term ROY G BIV.  In case you have no idea what this means, it stands for the order of the colours or hues in the rainbow, as discovered by Sir Isaac Newton back in the 1600s – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.  And, as Tara mentions, it is the natural order of colour.  So how do you take your colour combination from nothing out of the ordinary/ho-hum to fireworks in my chest/Tara Faughnan WOW?  That’s what I want to know!  So, let’s see if we can unlock this mysterious colour code a bit more…

Tara Faughnan Railroad Crossing Quilt
Railroad Crossing Quilt – Image Credit: Tara Faughnan

The importance of value

What exactly is value when we’re talking about colour?  Going back to that YouTube video from part 1, value refers to the lightness or darkness of a particular colour (hue) and indicates how much light the colour reflects.  If you add black to a colour you get a shade of the original colour (which is easy to remember, just think about how the shade of a tree is dark), and if you add white to a colour you get a tint of the original colour.  It is also important to understand that colour value is a relative concept, which means that the value of a colour will vary depending on the colour it sits beside.

Another way to think about value is that it allows us to see an image.  If there was no value variation in an image, it would either be pure black or pure white.  Pretty boring, huh!  Take a look at the following images, for example.

The use of value adds depth to what is actually a flat shape and allows the imagery to tell a story beyond what the shapes alone can convey.  From the different values in an image you can see if a surface is flat or undulating.  If it has texture or if it is smooth.  From the images above, if I hadn’t seen the original greyscale image before the black and white image I probably wouldn’t be able to tell what the painting was even about!  While this may be an extreme example, it certainly makes you appreciate how important value is.  Some people will even go as far to say that value is even MORE important than colour choice.

Tara Faughnan Hourglass Quilt
Hourglass Quilt – Image Credit: Tara Faughnan

Now let’s take a look at Tara’s Hourglass quilt above.  Some sections of the quilt appear to pop out while others look like they’re receding.  This is a result of the use of value.  If all the colours used had the same value, the quilt would appear flat and lifeless, but in this quilt some colours come to the foreground, while others recede into the background.  By simply changing the value of the colours used, the quilt comes to life.  The eye is drawn from one part of the quilt to another and another and another and so on.  By using value you can highlight one section of your quilt while downplaying another.  You can direct attention away from an area while drawing the eye to focus somewhere else.

Value helps keep the eye interested, and helps us to express emotion in the art that we’re creating.  Pretty cool, hey!  I don’t know about you, but I’m learning heaps from this!

“Ok, Xanthe, hold your horses, how do I actually apply this now?”, you’re saying.  I know what you’re saying – you might be able to talk the talk, but can you WALK the talk?  

Tara Faughnan Diamonds Quilt #2
Diamonds Quilt – Image Credit: Tara Faughnan

5 ways to improve your colour value practice

Well, from all my research, these 5 points pretty much sum up how you walk the talk when it comes to understanding and applying colour value in a meaningful and visually appealing way.

1. Practice, practice, practice and then…

Practice some more! Yikes!  That’s a lot of practicing!  {I know. *sad face*}  But unfortunately we’re not all born quilting/colour/value geniuses.  And, apparently neither was Tara {her words!}.  Phew!  That makes me feel a lot better.  As someone whose work I really admire, one of the things I really appreciate from Tara’s interview was her honesty about how it is for her.  It’s not about getting it perfect {I wish I could tell 15yo Xanthe that.  Ok, and maybe past-Xanthe from just the other day… hee hee…}, it’s about giving it a go, and if it doesn’t work, scrap bin it {because it might be right for another project!}, and try again.  Which brings me to point number 2.

2. Use a design wall

A quilt really is greater than the sum of its parts.  It’s all well and good to make one block and be happy with the colour/value combination, but it’s impossible to know how that block will look next to every block that will surround it in the finished quilt.  Remember, colour value is relative! 

Being able to stick your blocks on a wall, step back and look at them from all angles and really just let it percolate for a few days (or weeks, if necessary) has enormous value.

Need some design wall inspo?  Check these out!  Suzy Quilts, Aqua Paisley, Craftsy.

3. Choose a value range and stick to it

Even though it seems incongruent to creative freedom, it’s always helpful to set constraints on a project we’re working on.  The same is true when working with colour palettes and value! 

As a starting point, consider the overall mood or feeling that you want to convey in your design.  Now, set limits on the value range you will use.  You can always make adjustments but this gives you somewhere to begin and sometimes starting is the hardest part!  Read more about this here.

4. Take a photo

So you’ve followed steps 1 to 3, but you’re still not sure if the fabrics you’ve chosen for your quilt have enough value variation…  No worries!  Take a quick photo, convert it to black and white and adjust your fabric choices accordingly.

5. Remember there is no right answer!

How many colours are there in the world?  Scientists say about 10 million.  So that makes for a LOT of colour/value combination options.  Don’t stress over it.  If you like it, use it.  You’ll never find a palette that EVERYONE likes.  {It’s impossible.}  So… Let it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door! {Wow, those lyrics really fit!}

Tara Faughnan String Star Quilt
String Star Quilt – Image credit: Tara Faughnan

Further reading:

If you would like to continue learning about colour value, here are some resources that I have found helpful.

See you back here in a week for the next episode in this {thrilling} colour extravaganza!

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