Finding Fresh Color Inspiration for Quilts

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Pink and Navy Pineapple Quilt Blocks

Inspiration for the color palette of a new quilt project can come from a variety of sources. I recently gave color selection some thought after I heard a fellow quilter lament that she had a hard time selecting and coordinating fabrics for quilts and that she ended up just using a lot of bundles of coordinating fabric. And, you know what? There’s no shame in that game! But, I think one of the easiest, eye-pleasing sources of color inspiration is designed objects, like clothing, beauty products, and furniture—anything that has been thoughtfully designed. That is, a designer (or team of designers) have spent a lot of time thinking through and trying different colors for the object. These objects are anything and everything, like packaging, clothing, etc. They’re readily available—pretty much everything you purchase or use on a daily basis has been designed. The colors used for a quilt project don’t have to match the designed object exactly. The colors on the object are for inspiration, not for copying, so this isn’t a meticulous way to go about choosing colors. Once you start seeing the colors used on everyday objects, you’ll discover there are endless sources of eye-catching inspiration.

First, designed objects have been, well, designed. A lot of thought and study went behind choosing the best graphics, colors, and words for the item. A shampoo bottle, button-front shirt, cereal box and more have all been carefully designed. This includes the colors that were and were not included in the design. The designer spent countless hours finessing the colors before it ever got into your hands. Even if it is something as simple as a candy wrapper, the person who designed it knows their stuff. They’ve studied color before and every other facet of graphic design. I know becuase I have worked at a design agency and sat through many meetings where just the right color was selected. Trust me, they’ve put thought into every detail, especially the color. So, why not use an object that has been professionally designed as a source of color inspiration for your next quilt?

These objects are everywhere. If you’re a quilter, or a crafter/creator of any sort, you have a sense of style. Chances are, if you head to your closet, vanity, or even your pantry, you’ll find an item that you love simply for its design. I’ve bought boxes of tissues because I liked the pattern on the box! You don’t have to go to a specialty or high-end store to find things you love—head to the beauty aisle of your grocery store and you’re sure to find a tube of hand cream with colors that speak to your taste. But, be forewarned, just because someone spent time designing it, doesn’t mean it is “beautiful.” Sometimes designers take a specific approach not because it’s eye-pleasing, but because there’s already a brand of shampoo with a green bottle sold in stores. Or they have to put “VALUE PACK” in giant, bright red font smack dab in the middle. (I speak from past work experience here!) Choose your inspiration carefully.

Finally, the fabrics chosen for a quilt that are inspired by a designed object don’t have to match exactly. Inspiration is a starting point, not directions to be followed or the quilt will self-destruct. Plus, there’s no way to ever find the exact match of colors, even if you’re a fan of solids and love using those little bitty swatches to plan colors. But this is one of the joys of creating: the freedom to break the rules, follow your gut, and find joy in it all.

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Liz Claiborne Pink and Navy Nightshirt

I recently made a set of four quilt blocks for my Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt using color inspiration from a designed object, specifically a nightshirt I recently purchased. I’m a function over form kind of gal when it comes to my nighttime attire. I found a Liz Claiborne night tee on clearance at JC Penny. I liked it first for the function: a loose, comfortable silhouette in a soft jersey knit. The pattern of the fabric was icing: a tropical print in navy blue and pink-salmon colors. I found this color combination to be surprising. I’ve never thought to pair navy blue and pink. But, a designer at Liz Claiborne thought to put them together! So, when I needed a second colorway for my pineapple quilt, I decided to use this nightshirt as inspiration and purchased fabric in similar colors. As you can see, the colors in my blocks don’t match the shirt exactly (I don’t think my iPhone capture the true colors of the shirt either). That’s okay. The quilt blocks have a similar eye-popping effect as the shirt.

Next time you’re stumped choosing colors for a quilt, use a designed object as inspiration. These objects are meticulously designed by a person who makes a living putting the principles of good design into practice. And, these objects are all around us! From home décor to the wrapper on a granola bar. Precision isn’t a requirement. Use the designed object as inspiration and feel the freedom of not having to use exact color matches. You just may find yourself using colors and combinations you’ve never thought to before!

T-Bud Co. Quilts Ohio: October Ohio Star

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October’s Ohio Star Quilt Block

I made October’s Ohio Star quilt block represent the colors of the changing leaves because I love this season in Southwestern Ohio. It’s not just the changing landscape, it’s also the changing weather. As a born-and-raised Alaskan, the heat of the summer is hard on me. Also, the bugs and insects that thrive in the heat are hard to handle. (There are very few large creepy-crawlies in Alaska—and there are no snakes!) Fall in Ohio brings cooler temperatures that welcome me outside.

Also, I consider this block my husband’s second or “real” block. While January’s block represents him, those shirts, his work shirts, aren’t really him. But fall? That’s him. We met in August after I had been in Ohio 8 months. Our first months of dating were spent taking advantage of the season: we went on a hike almost every weekend. We went kayaking. We went biking. When we went out to dinner, we ate outside. The cool weather made it comfortable.

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Detail of autumn-themed Ohio Star quilt block.

Every year since then, I am reminded how much fun it is to get outside with the ones you love. There’s the color show that the trees put on and the fun of discovering acorns, black walnuts, buckeyes, and Osage oranges, all things falling from trees right now.

These days, I don’t have too much time to go on long hikes and bike rides, but I have stumbled upon another joy of fall: mulching leaves. I firmly believe that leaves are not trash; they’re just future dirt. Since we got an electric lawn mower (so much easier to use than a gas-powered mower), I have taken over leaf duty. Instead of blowing them to the curb for pick up, I run the mower over the yard every time it gets covered in leaves. It’s satisfying to see the transformation. Also, it’s like going for a walk—repetitive work that gives my brain some downtime to just wander. And, while it’s a good exercise, since it’s cool, I don’t turn into a sweaty mess.

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Detail of October’s Ohio Star quilt block.

Making this quilt block felt natural. The fabrics came straight from my stash. Some were borrowed from previous months’ blocks, which will lend some consistency when I put the quilt all together. I wanted to include as many hues as possible to capture the variety displayed in nature during this season.

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October’s Ohio Star Quilt Block

Organizing My Quilts

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New storage bins filled with 2 of my in-progress quilts.

I recently decided that my office/sewing/crafting room needs to be about 1000x more organized than what it is. I’m slowly, but surely, tackling this task.

First up was organizing my in-progress quilts. I have 3 quilts that are in different stages of completion. One is clearly in need of being finished first and I have moved it to the front burner. The other two have been pushed to the back burners—or should I say, into storage bins? My Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt and my Down the Rabbit Hole Quilt are neatly tucked into these bins, but they won’t be forgotten!

The bins have EVERYTHING I need for these quilts. The Down the Rabbit Hole Quilt has an extensive pattern and lots of templates. All of this is at the bottom of the bin. All of the fabric I’ve been using is in the bin. The partially finished top and partially finished, unattached borders are in the bin. Ditto for the Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt—everything is in the bin.

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My quilting/sewing notebook.

To make it easier to quickly pick back up where I left off with these quilts, I started a quilting/sewing notebook. I’ve written each quilt or project at the top of a page and listed out what needs to be done. Sometimes I write steps out, work on the quilt, and then reprioritize the steps. Not a big deal. These are just quick notes to jumpstart progress when I’m ready.

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My notes on what needs to be done next with my Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt.

Organizing the rest of the room is going to be a slow process, but it has inspired a couple of things. First, I now feel a new motivation to HURRY UP AND FINISH a handful of projects that are in various stages of completion. (This, of course, doesn’t apply to those 2 quilts sitting quietly in their bins—ha!) I have an afghan that needs to be repaired. I have a quilt with binding that is falling off. I have half a dozen painted secondhand picture frames that just need to be reassembled. For some good old-fashioned organization, I’m ready to start seriously tackling these projects and moving them out of the room.

Also, I have discovered that I’m at willing to put a lot of other crafts on hold indefinitely. That is, I’ve always dabbled in this and that—paper crafting, painting objects, knitting/crocheting—but, I’m ready to simplify to make more time and space for quilting. Not that I have a ton of that kind of stuff, but it’s enough. Did you know that I’ve been toting around the same box of craft paper since I was in portfolio school? I mean, I graduated from that school in 2007! I think it’s about time I let my kids go to town with the paper. I have an awl from a short book-making stint. I don’t think I’ll be making notebooks anytime soon. Of course, this is a chicken-egg situation: did my desire to organize spawn the willingness to reduce my craft supplies; or is my craft-downsizing motivating my organization? I don’t know, but I’m rolling with it!

 

Starting My Quilt Portfolio

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The spine of my portfolio. Using one of my quilt labels made labeling the portfolio easy peasy!

I started a quilt portfolio this past summer. In it are the whopping 2 quilts I’ve finished this year. (Sorry, the chicken wall hanging didn’t make the cut.) I created a quilt portfolio simply so that I can have a record of what quilts I’ve made. I also want a permanent, physical way to show my quilts to others, even if the quilts are no longer in my possession.

There are a couple of factors that led me to start a portfolio. First, I went to portfolio school, where I studied advertising copywriting and learned to keep a portfolio of my work. So, it feels natural to keep a portfolio of my other creative work. That’s a huge reason for this portfolio.

But then, there’s social media. I’ve used social media to chronicle and record my creations and life, but recently, I’ve had a change of heart. This year, I deleted approximately 145 posts from this blog. (Did you notice? Ha!) I also deleted the first blog I ever wrote—like, completely took it down. Every day I fall less in love with Facebook and while Instagram is my go-to social media platform, I realize that 1, 5, 10 years from now, I may fall out of love with it, or make the decision to abandon it completely. Social media is a great way to share creative work, but I want something that isn’t going to get overcrowded with ads or have a distinguishable shift in usage. When is the last time you couldn’t access a physical photo album (which a portfolio essentially is) because you lost your password, or you couldn’t flip to the pictures you were interested in seeing because it became filled with ads and other junk?

Because of this, I set out to create a quilt portfolio, something simple, but something that would capture the patterns, colors, and stories behind my quilts. I started in PowerPoint. I’m not a graphic designer by any means, but that doesn’t matter too much to me for this project. I laid out the best pictures I could get with my iPhone (once again, I’m looking for snapshots, not necessarily polished photos), and then wrote out the details and the story behind the quilt.

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My first finish this year: Dazzling Pineapple Mini Quilt. The layout is simple and gets the job done.

I had the pages printed at one of those office-y places and then I glued on swatches of the fabric I used for one of the quilts. This is one of my favorite parts. While my photos and the printing may not have captured the true colors of the quilt, these swatches do. I got a snazzy 3-ring binder from an office supply store and slipped the portfolio pages into sheet protectors and snapped them in.

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My favorite part: swatches! The stitching here was my quick study for when I did the real thing on my Welcome Blanket Quilt.

It’s going to be a slow-growing portfolio—ahem, there are only 2 quilts in there. But, so what? This will give me something to look back at and remember what I’ve made. I also like to think that if someone wants me to make a quilt for them, they can flip through this and get an idea of what they want. Who knows?

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I picked this binder for the quilt-esque pattern in bright colors.

Do you have a quilt (or other creative) portfolio? How did you make it? Do you feel any ambivalence towards using social media as a way to record your creations? Tell me in the comments!

Fixing My Chicken Wall Hanging

Sometimes my first attempt isn’t my best. (Surprise!) Five years after making it, I have finally fixed the droopy top of the chicken wall hanging in my kitchen.

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Sagging top–you can even see the middle hook!

I started this chicken wall hanging back in 2012 and maybe finished in 2013. It’s all a little hazy. The pattern is “Ditzy Chicks” by Sharon Berna of Redbird Designs. I love the pattern because I love chicken décor in my kitchen. I enjoyed starting this wall hanging because I began when my mom was visiting and we picked out the fabric together and she even helped me do the appliqué. Buuuut, this felt way more like a craft project than a quilt, probably because I wanted chicken décor for my kitchen, not because I necessarily wanted to make a quilt. (I have since changed, of course.)

As an amateur, I stitched plastic rings to the top of the back “wherever seemed good” and then stuck a trio of Command hooks on my kitchen wall. Well, the top 2-3” have always drooped. It took me so long to complete the darn thing and a whole lot of motivation, I just ignored it, until recently, when I decided to remedy the droop—or, at least, decided to attempt to remedy.

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The plastic rings before: stitched on only at the bottom.

First, I took the wall hanging off the hooks. It was dusty—hello, it hadn’t been touched in 5 years! So, I popped it into the washer. Luckily, I’m in the prewash camp, so I didn’t have to worry about colors bleeding or shrinkage. Of course, it still came out a bit wrinkly. That just adds charm, right?

Next, one by one, I snipped off each plastic ring and raised it so that the top of it was about 0.75” from the top of the wall hanging. (I did a bit of measuring, math, and testing to ensure that the wall-mounted hooks wouldn’t show after the wall hanging was up.) I stitched the rings down at three points: 90, 180, and 270 degrees. (I feel hella-fancy describing it in that manner, by the way.)

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The plastic rings after: stitched down at 3 points.

After all the plastic rings were repositioned, I added one more thing: one of my brand-new quilt labels! Sure, this is NOT my best work (please don’t look at the quilting—what was I thinking?!), but I think it’s important to label your work. For me, it feels even more so, since I have kids. My 3-year-old son immediately noticed that this wall hanging was gone when it was in the wash. He asked why I took down the chickens. This piece of handmade décor is being ingrained in his childhood memories. With any luck, I’ll get to hand it down to one of my kids.

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Fancy new quilt labels!

And, with any luck, this chicken wall hanging will stay up on the wall another five years when I decide to wash the dust off again!

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Ta-da! The non-droopy, not sagging wall hanging. Of course, now it’s a bit wrinkly from the wash. I’m going to consider that “charm”…at least until I’m motivated to steam it. 😉