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Selecting Quilting Fabrics Using a Color Wheel


Choosing colors to use in your quilt is another opportunity to observe the similarities that the craft has with "fixer-upper" projects undertaken by do it yourselfers. In this case, quilters can use a tool that has been employed by painters and decorators for many years; the color wheel.

What is the color wheel?

The color wheel is a circle-shaped piece of equipment that depicts several different colors that the quilter or painter can choose from. These wheels are printed on many different types of surfaces; in fabric shops there may be wheels made from solid wood or even metal; they are very durable and can withstand numerous touches and spins from all the people that handle it. Paper color wheels are less durable and are meant for personal use.

Some color wheels have more colors on them than others, but all color wheels will include the primary colors; red, yellow, and blue. These colors will be separated by an equal amount of spaces. The spaces in between the primary colors are the colors formed by mixing varying amounts of each color together; secondary colors )orange, blue, and violet) are located halfway between each primary color combination, as they are the result of mixing equal parts of each color.

The color wheel as a quilting tool

In any quilt there are going to be sections that draw the eye and stand out, even if the quilt uses only one color (monochromatic). Monochromatic quilts can use shades and tints to make particular pieces stand out, highlight, or recede.

As the most dominant of the pure colors, yellow is placed at the top of the wheel. The dominance of the colors is also determined by the amount of gray added to each color. Along the right side of the color wheel are the warmer colors. These colors will naturally draw the eye to where they are placed on a quilt, while the cooler colors on the left will complement and help to highlight dominant colors in a quilt with a multi-color scheme. Warm colors can even mean that darker patches on the quilt will recede, due to the natural progression of the eye.

The best use of your color wheel in your pattern will happen after you determine the type of quilt you want to make. Monochromatic quilts are the easiest; one color means that all you are dealing with are shades and tints, none of which are depicted on the color wheel. A color wheel is not really needed when it comes to these designs.

On the other hand, a color wheel is pretty important when it comes to analogous or complementary quilts (unless of course you are naturally gifted at color determination!). Complementary quilts utilize colors that lie directly opposite each other on the wheel; an example is a primary color with the secondary color created by mixing the other primaries. These colors can be used most effectively as borders.

Analogous quilts use colors that are located beside each other on the wheel. They create a natural blending, as each one has a color in common with the one beside it. The color wheel in this case is crucial in determining which colors are analogous with each other.

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to using a color wheel. It is simply a tool that makes choosing different patterns and color schemes easier for the individual quilter. Using one does not mean that you have to go out and buy a whole bunch of new fabric, and it certainly does not mean that you have to dye your own fabrics in order to use it. Instead, just think of a color wheel as a way to cut a lot of guesswork and time out of the process so that you can jump straight into the quilting without fear of the final work appearing out of synch.

Submitted by:

Jan Myers

Jan Myers is the author of numerous articles and books on topics from organizational development and leadership to quilting. It was her avocation, the love of quilting, that inspired the popular online membership site for quilters known as the “world’s largest quilting bee” at http://www.QuiltingResourceCenter.com.





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