Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gardens of Dreams: the art quilts of Vyvyan Emery

It's Day 5 - and the finale - of our exotic flower quilts series, and we wanted to share with you the inspiring original art quilts of Vyvyan Emery.

It's a Marvelous Night for a Fern Dance, 43.5 x 31", by Vyvyan Emery, at Rosewood Quilts

Vyvyan lives in the mountains of western North Carolina, an area noted for its many cultural opportunities and its abundance of  fine arts, textile arts, and music.  Surrounded with so much natural beauty, she takes great pride in corporating the joys of nature into her quilts which she both sells and enters into quilt shows. We love these appliqued ferns, whose leaves gently undulate as if they are listening to music. Notice how the jewels tones really "pop" against the deep black background. This quilt won first place in the small professional category at the Mountain Quiltfest in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Garden of Dreams, 47 x 58", by Vyvyan Emery, at Rosewood Quilts

On her Rosewood Quilts blog, Vyvyan notes that the placement of the main caladium leaves in this quilt were done from a photo of her garden,  then she filled in the rest of the details with her imagination. Notice the careful juxtaposition of   patchwork monochromatic blue tints and shades which provide the contrast between the night sky and the day sky in the background.

Native to the Amazon River region of South America, the vibrantly colorful tropical caladium is grown from a bulb and makes a stunning addition to a window box, border, or patio. It can be planted in a container and grown indoors during the winter, then moved to a patio or terrace for the summer. The brilliant reds and pinks with the contrasting green make this exotic plant a perfect and original subject for a quilt.

Lotus Garden, 30 x 30", by Vyvyan Emery, at Rosewood Quilts

"Lotus Garden" is a landscape quilt which uses the traditional Far East inspired color of indigo blue to provide a rounded portal to a scene so serene and ephemeral, that we feel rested and refreshed each time that we view it. Giant lotus flowers float in languorous splendor while in the mist, a large rock rises protectively from the water. Note the use of the split-complimentary colors of blue-red, spring green, blue-green, aqua green, and aqua blue, which really bring the lotus flowers to the forefront of the quilt. A strand of reeds helps bridge the gap between the timeless beauty of the scene and the stately inner and outer border of the quilt. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow: We'll wrap up this exotic flowers series.  Later this week we're beginning a special June feature (you won't want to miss it !)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Quilt Inspiration Classics: Memorial Day

~ We interrupt our exotic flower quilts series to honor our fallen heroes. ~
Throughout its history, the United States has remembered its military heroes in many ways, with plaques, parades, statues and memorials. The Home of the Brave Quilt Project was started to continue that proud tradition.

Home of the Brave Quilt, by Jean Loken

"We are a nationwide movement dedicated to honoring the fallen heroes of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq by making and presenting homemade quilts to their families. We want to show our gratitude for their service and provide a measure of comfort to their families with our quilts."

The quilt is modeled on a Civil War Sanitary Commission Quilt, one of the five remaining quilts of its kind still in existence, which is now held by the Lincoln Memorial Shrine at the A. K. Smiley Library in Redlands, California. 

Above, we're showing three beautiful quilts made by Jean Loken, who is the Coordinator of the Minnesota Chapter of the Home of the Brave.  For information on the heroes who received the quilts, visit the Minnesota Fallen Heroes web pages.  To contribute to the project with a donation of money, material or time, visit the national project's home page.

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave... while the land of the free is the home of the brave. ~ The Star-Spangled Banner, 5th stanza, by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Credits and links:  The images are shown with the generous permission of Jean Loken. This post first appeared on May 29, 2010.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pieces of paradise: the floral quilts of Eileen Sullivan

It's day 4 of our exotic floral quilt series, and we're so excited about this collection. If you've ever wanted to make a floral quilt, but are not that enthused about applique, then these quilt designs are made for you.  Eileen Sullivan has created a series of foundation-pieced patterns for some of our favorite tropical and native flowers: waterlilies, birds of paradise, daylilies, dogwood, and many more. Here is a sampling of her stunning designs.

Waterlilies, 29 x 23", by Eileen Sullivan, at The Designer's Workshop

Waterlilies are among the most beautiful flowers in the world.  These flowers captured the attention of French Impressionist Claude Monet, who created a series of approximately 250 oil paintings known as Water Lilies (or Nymphéas). The beautiful quilt shown above is adapted from Eileen Sullivan's award-winning quilt, "Remembering Monet". Elements which extend into the borders are pieced as part of the overall design. The pattern contains complete instructions, practice sections, and one full size freezer paper foundation.

Birds of Paradise, 24 x 36", by Eileen Sullivan, at The Designer's Workshop

We love birds of paradise... and we are amazed by the perfect detail of the flowers and leaves in Eileen Sullivan's quilt. Even the veins in the leaves are pieced (click on the image to see the detail !) Eileen explains that "foundation piecing makes the sharp points of this exotic flower a breeze".

Dogwood, 25 x 29", by Eileen Sullivan, at The Designer's Workshop

Our favorite memory of dogwoods comes from a springtime trip to Yosemite National Park, when the trees were in full bloom. The delicate white flowers seemed to glow as the sun filtered down through the trees. The quilt shown above features blossoms, leaves and stems that appear to drift in the breeze in this classic styling of a world wide favorite.  We also love the choice of border, which looks just like a natural wood frame surrounding a painting.  The dogwood pattern includes the complete directions and Master Pattern for the project shown above, as well as a 10" single flower block !

At The Designers Workshop you will find foundation-pieced patterns for so many favorite flowers... we'll name just a few: christmas cactus, day lilies, peace lilies, pansy, hollyhock, magnolia, and morning glory. Printed freezer paper foundation sheets eliminate the tracing step and are included in each pattern. In the catalog you can also find such handy items as Foundation Piecing 101: A 16 page booklet that will walk you through all the steps necessary to take the mystery out of foundation piecing (six easy 3” blocks move from simple to more complex).

Image credits:  Images are shown with the generous permission of Eileen Sullivan.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ellen Lindner, Adventure Quilter

It's day 3 of our Exotic Flower Quilts series ! We've been admiring Ellen Lindner's photo-inspired quilts ever since we featured her Apple Still life (see our 2010 article on harvest quilts). Ellen Lindner's quilts ranges from pictorial still life to modernist abstracts, and she works in a freeform collage style which lends a natural look.  In addition to creating original art quilts for sale, she generously shares her techniques through workshops, videos, e-books, patterns, and online classes at her website, Adventure Quilter.

High Ti, 20 x 25", by Ellen Lindner

The ti plant was introduced to Hawaii and New Zealand by Polynesian settlers, and the tropical plants grow well in warm climates like Florida. High Ti is one of Ellen Lindner's newest photo-inspired quilts.  Her fabrics capture the colors and the variegated textures of the ti leaves. You can see the detail of the raw-edge collage and the machine quilting, below.

High ti, detail, by Ellen Lindner

You can also see the original photo that inspired the quilt at Ellen Lindner's Art & Creativity blog and at her Adventure Quilter Newsletter. Also check out Ellen's award-winning Ti Plants A-Glow -Glow, which was featured in the book 500 Art Quilts, by Lark Press.

Ripening, 51 x 33, by Ellen Lindner

In December, in Florida, the Christmas Palm Tree berries slowly change into the colors that give the palm its name. Ellen Lindner's beautiful quilt, called Ripening, was made with cotton fabrics, using raw edge collage and machine stitching.

For more information on Ellen Lindner, and for tips, classes and other resources, check out her website, blog and newsletter (also note that she has an online Color Class starting this Friday.... May 27 !)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The art of Brenda Yirsa: exotic flowers in fabric

Brenda Yirsa is a pastel artist and oil painter whose work depicts landscapes, portraiture, and abstracts of Montana and the American West. She has designed quilt patterns for Bigfork Bay Cotton Company based on her original paintings. Her love of Western themes is revealed in her American Icon (cowboy) and Blue Paint (horse).   Today we're featuring Brenda's gorgeous flower quilts, which include birds of paradise, plumeria, poinsettia, hibiscus, iris, and more.  Her floral designs create a sense of depth through shading and layering of the fabrics, making us feel as if we can reach out and touch the flowers.

Bird of Paradise, 23.5 x 31.5", by Brenda Yirsa, as seen at Bigfork Bay Cotton Co.

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) has always been one of our favorite flowers, and this quilt captures its beauty. The genus Strelitzia is native to South Africa, and is named after the duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the birthplace of Queen Charlotte of the United Kingdom. The common name  is "bird of paradise", because the flower resembles the avian bird of paradise.  The orange flowers of Brenda Yirsa's design are striking against the purple-and-green backdrop (color lovers will note the perfect triadic color scheme).  Bigfork Bay Cotton Company offers the bird-of-paradise quilt pattern, or a complete fabric kit.

Plumeria, 19.5 x 24", by Brenda Yirsa, as seen at Bigfork Bay Cotton Co.

Plumeria have a glorious fragrance, which makes them a popular flower for Hawaiian leis. The flowers are most fragrant at night in order to lure sphinx moths to pollinate them. However, the flowers have no nectar, and they fool their pollinators; the moths transfer pollen from flower to flower in their fruitless search for nectar. This system seems to work for both plumeria and moth, since neither of them is endangered ! We love Brenda Yirsa's plumeria applique pattern, which captures the beauty of the flower and its glossy green leaves (a plumeria fabric kit is also available).

Poinsettia, 21" x 23.25", by Brenda Yirsa, as seen at Bigfork Bay Cotton Co.

If you've ever seen a poinsettia growing in the wild, you know that this is truly an exotic plant.  The poinsettia plant grows as a shrub or small tree, which can reach a height of up to 4m (16 feet)!  The plant bears dark green leaves, and the colored bracts—which are most often flaming red - are actually leaves. Brenda Yirsa's poinsettia pattern reminds us of the wild plant in the tropics; the reds and greens of this quilt look perfect against the sophisticated black-and-white border.

For more information on Brenda Yirsa's original artwork, please visit her website, www.yirsa.com. For a complete list of Brenda Yirsa's quilt patterns and fabric kits, visit the Bigfork Bay Cotton Company.

Image credits: Images are shown with the generous permission of Brenda Yirsa.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Exotic flower quilts: Paradise Stitched, by Sylvia Pippen

Today, we begin a five-part series on quilts featuring exotic and unique flowers. To kick off the series, we are featuring several quilts from an outstanding and prolific designer, author, and teacher, Sylvia Pippen. Join us, as we sail the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii and Australia, lands of magnificent natural floral beauty.

Plumeria floating on water, 22 x 33, by Sylvia Pippen, at Sylvia Pippen Designs

Sylvia has so many fabulous quilt kits and patterns on her website - Sylvia Pippen Designs - that it's difficult to select favorites. However, we were enchanted by the exquisite appliqued pinks, peaches, corals, and magentas of the delicate plumeria flowers as they rest gently on a water background. Unconstrained, the flowers extend from the water, into the border batik. Silvia has made this quilt so life-like by the swirls of Japanese sashiko stitching which follow the curved applique background, thus replicating the ripples and undulations of a quiet pond. As a time-saver, the sashiko embroidery design is already screened onto the background cloth,  so all you have to do is follow the dashes printed onto the cloth in order to complete the stitches. Included in this kit is the Hoffman turquoise batik for the borders, water, and binding, along with sashiko thread and beautiful color-washed fabric for the plumeria.

 Blue lady orchid, 14 x 18, by Sylvia Pippen, at Sylvia Pippen Designs

This quilt block kit  is part of Sylvia's new quilt and new series on Flowers of the Outback, featuring six  Australian wildflower designs. We love how this cerulean blue fabric is gently tinted with pastel streaks to make it appear as if the orchid blossoms are streaked with sunlight.   Sylvia is preparing for a teaching tour of Australia in October/November 2011, where she will give classes and seminars on applique and sashiko techniques. The black Kona cotton background fabric is included in the kit and really makes the vibrant orchids just pop right off the quilt. We think that black is a great neutral when working with high-chroma, pure jewel-tone colors, as it provides a perfect contrast. Sylvia also sells the pattern for this quilt without the fabric, so that you can make a 20 x 24 wall quilt of Blue Lady Orchid.

Heliconia with bamboo, 31 x 38, by Sylvia Pippen, at Sylvia Pippen Designs

Heliconia flowers, with their bright pointed leaves, are an important source of food for hummingbirds in the tropical rainforest. The sashiko bamboo design provides a graceful sturdy backdrop for these exquisite blossoms in shades of orchid, pink, and pale yellow. Note the magenta, fuchsia and orchid inner border of this quilt, which glows against the black Kona cotton and reflects an eye-catching color scheme of fuchsia with yellow, orange-yellow and pale green. This "Heliconia with bamboo" quilt can be seen at Sylvia Pippen's Gallery; there is also a heliconia fabric kit in "sexy pink".

Paradise Stitched: Sashiko and Applique Quilts by Sylvia Pippen

Having lived in California, New England, and having sailed in her own sailboat across the Pacific Ocean to her current home in Hawaii, Sylvia Pippen is living a fascinating life. In addition to being a very gifted designer and teacher, she is also a wonderful author, as you will see when reading her book, Paradise Stitched, from C and T Publishers. It provides numerous ideas for creating beautiful quilts by combining sashiko stitchery with applique, including tips for fabric selection and patterns. Also, check out Sylvia's first book,  Asian Elegance, which she co-wrote with her mother, Kitty Pippen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Quilt Inspiration Classics: Hawaiian Quilts

We think the construction and design of Hawaiian quilts is fascinating.... do you like them too? Today we're bringing back one of our favorite Quilt Inspiration posts.  These gorgeous quilts are also in keeping with next week's theme of exotic flower quilts. Come along with us on an island adventure !

Long ago, the Hawaiians learned to make their own cloth, called "tapa" by pounding Mulberry tree bark and fibers tightly together. They colored it with natural dyes from their environment and sewed it into bed coverings, using thin, twisted vines and needles made from fish or bird bones. When the 19th century missionaries brought cotton to the Hawaiians, they transferred their skills onto cloth, using large pieces of fabric, instead of small patchwork squares. Today, Hawaiian quilts are still made in the wholecloth style, with vibrant curved patterns painstakingly hand-appliqued with thousands of tiny stitches. The applique fabric is usually folded into fourths, then cut into intricate shapes, as one would cut snowflakes or conjoined dolls from paper.

Royal Symbols With Border, by Deborah Kakalia

Every June 11, Hawaii celebrates King Kamehameha Day, in commemoration of the esteemed 19th century monarch who united the islands under one government. Here is a quilt by famed artist Deborah Kakalia, which honors past Hawaiian Royalty. There are four crowns which pay tribute to the monarchy, along with four "kahili", the feathered scepters or staff carried by the kings and queens as they walked in procession. This is a regal and elegant quilt, which the artist presented as a gift to The Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

Nanahonua (Angel's Trumpet Quilt), by Deborah Kakalia

Another magnificent work of art from Deborah Kakalia is her Nanahonua quilt, or Angel's Trumpet quilt. The Angel's Trumpet tree produces large, colorful, bell-shaped flowers, reminiscent of celestial trumpets. Nanahonua means "earth-gazing", an apt name since the Hawaiians learned to smoke the Angel's Trumpet leaves as hallucinogens. However, one would have to be perfectly sober to create a quilt this intricate and precise, which almost looks like a beautiful lace handkerchief.

For Kulaniakea, by Nalani Goard

Nalani Goard, who is the granddaughter of Deborah Kakalia, has designed and constructed many lovely quilts, so this fabulous talent obviously runs in the family. Here is a quilt that Nalani created for her brother, Kulaniakea. She writes that he wanted a design of pineapples and guava for hospitality and strength. Nalani's work is an excellent example of large, leafy quilt patterns which reflect the lush vegetation of Hawaii.  Nalani also offers design instruction, quilt kits, and finished quilts at her Hawaiian Quilting website.

Na Ulu O' Hawaii (Breadfruit Quilt), by Nancy Lee Chong, at Pacific Rim Quilt Company

From the Pacifc Rim Quilt Company comes the pattern for the esteemed and venerable breadfruit. The breadfruit tree is a symbol of abundance and an ancient legend tells us that those who make Ulu their first quilt will always enjoy prosperity. Above, the round shapes of the breadfruit form a "ring of plenty" around the star created by the intersecting branches of the tree. PRQC offers a wide variety of Hawaiian quilt patterns, kits, fabrics, videos, and notions.

Breadfruit(Ulu), Wall Quilt, 18 x 18

Tiki Master, which sells all things Hawaiian, recently featured this arresting dark green and white wall hanging of the breadfruit pattern. The rounded breadfruit here are easily seen here at the base of the outer leaves of the tree. It is said that one day in the 19th century, some Hawaiian quilters were outside, working on pieced patchwork, when one of them noticed that the sun behind a breadfruit tree was casting a fascinating shadow on the grass. The shadow of the breadfruit tree interested them so much more than patchwork, that they immediately went to work on creating a wholecloth image of that shadow. Thus, the first truly Hawaiian quilt was born.

Hawaiian Applique 2008 by Kerry Marksbury

Here's a quilt which is as lushly green and refreshing as a Kauai rainforest. This four block quilt is a variation on the traditional Hawaiian wholecloth quilt. Kerry Marksbury has created a fabulous quilt with blocks depicting the auspicious Ulu, dignified sea turtles, pineapple plants, and tropical blossoms, possibly Hibiscus. The lighter green scalloped middle border provides eye-catching detail to the blue/green batik outer border and block motifs. Notice the innermost aqua border, which provides a fanciful grasslike fringe effect to complement the emphasis on flora and fauna. For more fascinating quilts, please see Kerry's Quilting.

Lava Flow by Cydney Brooks

Using custom dyed Ultra-Sateen fabric from Jeanette Viviano at Jeanette's Fabric to Dye For, Cydney Brooks creates a tribute to another of Hawaii's natural wonders, the volcanoes of the Big Island. Jeanette and Cydney collaborated on the fabric colors, and Janet Fogg quilted this vibrantly colorful work.  The orange and gold glowing embers and flickering flames of the center medallion give rise to the swirling, meandering trails of lava as they make their way down the mountainside to the ocean. This is an exquisite use of contrasting colors, as the orange applique seems to pulsate with movement against the serene aqua background.

Hibiscus Fire by Carol Kamaile

A gorgeous quilt inspired by the islands' beloved Hisbiscus flowers is Carol Kamaile's "Hibiscus Fire". Carol is a well known quilt artist, whose creations were displayed at the San Jose, California, Museum of Quilts and Textiles in August, 2010.  Native to Hawaii, the hibiscus plant comprises thousands of varieties, in all flower colors from delicate white, through bright pink, pastel pink, coral, yellow, and red. It is interesting that Carol has made the center of her medallion golden yellow, as the yellow Hibiscus is the State Flower of Hawaii.

Hawaiian Yams by Hawaiian Style Quilts

Allen and Ipo Camara are the owners of Hawaiian Style Quilts, which provides magnificent custom quilts, tailor made to the customer's request. On this elegant gray and white large bedspread, with its artful matching accent pillows, you can see a clear example of the traditional outline stitching done on Hawaiian quilts. The quilting pattern carefully follows the outline of the applique shapes, starting out as parallel lines and turning into concentric rings, until all the background is filled up. Also known as "echo quilting", outline stitching helps give Hawaiian quilts their lively sense of motion and energy.

Books:  For more fascinating patterns, ideas, and instructions, please see the following books: Hawaiian Applique by Vicky Fleming, or Hawaiian Quilting: Instructions and Full Size Patterns for 20 Blocks, by Elizabeth Root.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What makes this color scheme work?

As you can probably tell, we're fascinated by color. A great color scheme is often obvious - we recognize it immediately.  Consider this Gee's bend quilt by Willie "Ma Willie" Abrams.  Do you like this color scheme?

Roman Stripes variation quilt, by Willie “Ma Willie” Abrams, ca. 1975. Corduroy. Courtesy of The Collection of the Tinwood Alliance; photography by Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Now, what makes this color scheme work?

First let's consider color value.  This quilt has a mixture of light, medium and dark values.  Almost every quilt artist has noted that this is a hallmark of an effective design!  The orange-yellow has a light value, while the chocolate brown has a very dark value, as seen on the gray scale below.

And regarding color: it seems to us that there is a clever combination of analogous and complementary colors within the quilt.  Here is one section, which includes complementary hues of aqua blue and orange-red:

while other sections feature analogous hues of orange-yellow to yellow-green:

Each section of the quilt has a color scheme that is harmonious by itself.  Their sophisticated use of color makes the Gee's bend quilters so impressive.  Don't you think we can learn a lot by studying their quilts?  Here are two books we've been enjoying:  The Quilts of Gee's Bend- Masterpieces from a Lost Place, and Gee's Bend:  The Architecture of the Quilt, published by Tinwood Media:

Image credits and links:  The color analysis was done with Moda's Fabric Matcher. The Roman Stripes variation quilt was shown at the Museum of Fine Art in Houston; you can read about the exhibit in an article by Alvia J. Wardlaw, curator, at Antiques and Fine Art.

Friday, May 13, 2011

What do you think about red, yellow and blue?

In the previous post we showed red and blue quilts, and mentioned that ivory and/or beige is a great complement (better than white, in our humble opinion).  Even a hint of yellow is enough to round out a predominantly red-blue scheme, as shown in this wonderful scrappy quilt by Will Vidinic of Will's Quilts in Paris :

It's amazing how often we see red, yellow and blue in classic quilts.  Consider the vintage Spanish-American war quilt shown below (seen at auction), which we like better than flag quilts done only in red, white and blue...

...and this vintage crib quilt which uses just a hint of yellow in the strips separating the orange and blue blocks:

and the famous Gee's bend denim quilt by Annie Mae Young, which graces the cover of The Quilts of Gee's Bend (published by Tinwood Media):

and what do you think about this early 20th century Afro-American quilt seen at auction? The blue dots at the intersections really cool down this fiery color scheme :

Many 20th century artists explored variations of red-yellow-blue, including Piet Mondrian, Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, and Ellsworth Kelly.  Ellsworth Kelly created his famous Blue Yellow Red IV in 1972:

In the past, we thought of red-yellow-blue as THE primary colors, as on the Itten Color Wheel. However, RYB is a historical set of primary colors that predates modern scientific color theory (see RYB color model). Using RYB as primaries yields a relatively small gamut, in which, among other problems, colorful greens, cyans, and magentas are impossible to mix, because red, yellow, and blue are not well-spaced around a perceptually uniform color wheel. For this reason, modern printing processes, as well as color photography, use cyan, magenta and yellow as primaries (CMYK, where K is black). We're training ourselves to use the 24-part Ives color wheel, which is based on CMYK (see Color Play by Joen Wolfrom).  Here is a split-complementary scheme that features blue with its orange-yellow complement in the middle, and additional warm hues on either side, as shown on the Studio Color Wheel by Joen Wolfrom :

Many artists and quilters still work with Blue-Yellow-Red as primaries.  But as Joen Wolfrom points out:  "If you use red, yellow and blue for your complements, you're two steps off. That doesn't make an ugly quilt, but you could use the right color wheel and it would be stunning rather than okay."  We would love to know if Ellsworth Kelly has changed his view of Blue-Yellow-Red in light of modern color theory (Kelly was born in 1923, and is now 87 years old).  Let us know what you think !

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What makes this color scheme work?

We're intrigued by red-and-blue color schemes. What makes these colors work together? Red and blue are neither complementary nor analogous colors, yet they can be beautiful together... but only if the right hues and shades are carefully chosen. For example, here is a stunning mariner's star quilt by Judy Mathieson. Do you like this color scheme ?

Scarlet and Indigo, 16 x 16, by Judy Mathieson, for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative

The names "Scarlet and Indigo" have an almost mystical connotation. The deep shades of red and blue remind us of the famous Rothko painting called "Number 207", below:

Number 207, aka Red over Dark Blue on Dark Grey, 1961, 92.8 x 81.2, by Mark Rothko, as seen at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive

Is this "scarlet" is a true red, or more of an orange-red, or a blue-red?  The online color thesaurus suggests that "scarlet" is equivalent to coral red and "indigo" is equivalent to blue-violet.  To check it out further, we did an online color analysis of the "Scarlet and Indigo" quilt using a handy website called Kuler* ("kuler" is pronounced like "color", not "cooler").  On Kuler, you can upload an image and obtain exact color values for different portions of the image.   Here is the result for the "Scarlet and Indigo" quilt (click on the image to see the detail, including RGB, CMYK and hex values):

Comparing these RGB and CMYK values to the Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool by Joen Wolfrom, we can see that "indigo" is a very dark shade of true blue (blue plus black) while "scarlet" is a deep shade of orange (orange plus black). These hues are not complementary, but we think they are beautiful in these dark shades. The navy blue is so dark that it "reads" as a neutral; in the Rothko painting it looks black.  Perhaps that's one key to the success of this scheme.

What about red, white and blue... do you think they go together ?   Many flags use this color scheme, such as in this striking vintage quilt top seen at auction (below).  This quilt has plenty of white space, which was used to separate the blocks and avoid visual overload.

We like red, white and blue in flags, but we've seen examples where the blues and reds clash or where the pattern is too brilliant.  What do you think of the combination of periwinkle with red in the fabric below?

And what about this cerulean blue and orange-red combination, below ?

The color combination above just doesn't work for us... cerulean blue's complement is yellow-orange, not red-orange, so this combination seems to clash. Also, you'd think that white would be neutral, but we just don't like white with orange-red.   (It's not that we don't like orange-red per se; it looks stunning in combination with aqua blue, as shown in the fish quilt in our complementary colors post).

As an alternative to white, we love blue and red with gray. For example, consider the combination of dark navy blue with scarlet in "Waves" (below) by Beth Carney at Beth Carney Studio :

A combination of blue and red with cream, ivory, or beige is also an option, as in the Celebration of Freedom quilt by Judy Laquidara, shown below.  The center star is set on a white background, which makes it stand out, while the star blocks are surrounded by a warm beige.

Actually, the beige in the above quilt is a tone of golden-yellow (golden-yellow plus gray), which explains why this quilt is successful: it is really a three-color or "triadic" color scheme with tones of red, blue and yellow.  For more examples of quilts with triadic color schemes, stay tuned for our next post.

Take-away points and notes to self:

- Consider using a dark (navy) blue as in "Indigo and Scarlet" and "Waves", or muted (grayed-down) blues and reds, as in many civil war quilts.

- Remember the complementary pairings:  blue-violet with golden yellow; blue with orange-yellow; cerulean blue with yellow-orange; turquoise with orange; and aqua blue with orange-red. Use the ultimate 3-in-1 color tool as a guide to fabric selection.

- When using blue and red together, consider substituting ivory, beige or gray for some or all of the white, as in "Celebration of Freedom" and "Waves".

Finally, we'd love to know about any blue-and-red or red-white-and-blue quilts you've made, and why they were successful!

Image credits and links:  Judy Mathieson's website can be found at Judy's Place.  "Celebration of Freedom" by Judy Laquidara was first shown in our Celebration of Freedom post; you can find Judy Laquidara at the Patchwork Times.  "Waves" by Beth Carney was first shown in Quilters Remember September 11.
*Note that the Kuler website uses a traditional color wheel, for example, where red is opposite or complementary to cyan. In our complementary colors post we discussed why it is better to use the Ives color wheel.  As mentioned above, we first assess CMYK values using color extraction tools like Kuler, then use the ultimate 3-in-1 color tool to find the best complement.
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