Monday, January 23, 2017

A Lesson In Value & Fabric Choice and a Hop

Using Value to Create Brilliant Blocks

No Affiliate Link
Just a Smashing Review!

Before I start in with the fabrics, I have to tell you about this little machine. I bought a similar Brother a few years ago for my oldest daughter when she started sewing. Several people recommended it as reasonably priced, and a lot of bang for the buck. My first daughter said it was great so I bought one for the next daughter this year. She echoed her sister's feeling after using her own. So, needing an inexpensive machine for little money, I bought one for myself. This machine was under $150.00, and I will tell you it impressed the heck out of me. It's very, very lightweight, and was easy to pop out of the box, and start sewing. There were multiple feet included, and a hard carrying case, too.

I will admit that I didn't go through all the fancy stitches like my daughters did. They loved them, but I was purely interested in a machine that sewed a consistant 1/4". It does that well! There was little to no vibration when I worked on the kitchen table. That was also important. Winding the bobbin was a snap at the top, and getting the bobbin loaded was a cinch. Needle up/needle down and reverse were all good.

Speed is adjustable on the front of the machine, and the center setting was perfect for piecing. The foot pedal was easy to control. This isn't an affiliate sales job. I just think it's a great little machine for someone getting started, or a back up. I bought mine through Amazon. 

Blue with Blue
Pink with Pink

I love to sew on weekend vacations! I had an ancient sewing machine I took along, and it wouldn't keep up any longer. I was working on these nine patches a few weeks ago, and it was torture. I only finished two that trip, and put the fabric away. 

Kaffe Fassett is a wonderful fabric designer, but his textiles designs don't appeal to everyone. Some people will tell you "Everything he designs goes together", and others will say it can be tough to get right. I think I am in the second camp, but it's taken a long time to figure out why. I have always liked his fabrics, but would be disappointed at how many quilts done solely in his lines looked much the same. They were all lovely quilts, beautifully matched and well made, but so many of them looked a little 'flat'. I had a little of the fabric myself, but wasn't sure how I was going to avoid the same look. When Sandra from mmm!quilts and I both picked up some bundle mixes of Kaffe and other designers, I bit the bullet. They weren't just going to sit there and look pretty!

 At first I cut up these fat eighth bundles in blue and pink to sew a simple nine patch quilt, but quickly realized I could do some work in values along the way. Little did I know how much I'd learn.

The first blocks above were monochromatic. Blue/blue and pink/pink. The blue shows value between the fabrics, but the pink is just so-so. There's no wow factor.

Orange and Blue

The value difference are apparent. The light comes forward while the orange provides the background. Overall, though, it's not a great combination with the prints all the same size.

Using Three Fabrics In Each

The left block used all blues for the X, but the center is a darker blue than the corners. The prints are varied in size. 

Print size in the right block is varied from large to medium to small, but the values don't vary enough in the pinks to be effective. Squint and you really just see the center pop.

Using My Least Favorite Prints

I threw in some Moda Grunge this time around. Each block contains at least one fabric I wouldn't buy if it hadn't been in the bundle. The camouflage is really the bottom of the list in the top right, but it did a good job of creating a subtle block. Judging by value alone, it works better than the same dot used on the left with mostly Grunge. Did you see it's actually directional fabric as is the dot it's used with? The camo is set horizontally and the dot vertically.

Both bottom blocks have strong directional fabrics, and good differences in value. The one on the left is more subtle, though, than the one on the right.

I set the blue lattice prints all horizontally, but the stripes in the dotted fabric face the center. The red butted up next to the hand dyed blue center gives better value contrast than if I had set the pink sides next to it.

The right block is actually all pink. The black background gives the circle print the darkest value, and the center orange pops out as the lightest value in the block.

The Lightest of All the Prints

Sometimes the one print with the lightest value of all can be the hardest to work with. 

My overhead light cast a golden glow on these prints, but even so you can see the shell print stand out as the lightest value. (third from right, front row) The next is the farthest left print in the front row.

Keep pairing different fabrics until you find a combination that feels right. This one (two pictures above) turned into the 'least bad choice.'

Dots, Stripes, and Floral

I sewed this one together as it's laid out here. Can you see that I missed noticing the dots are actually directional? 

The top squares run horizontally--you can see a the dots line up looking left to right, but the ones on the bottom line up vertically. It's very apparent when I see the blocks all together.

Fade Out Block

Part of my goal was using all the fabrics at least once so I was pairing up some unusual combinations. When I had to find some way to use this fabric in the corners, it was very difficult. The strips were irregular, and there were dark, medium and light values contained in the one patch. Instead of turning the lightest stripe in, I turned in the darkest. It blurred the whole block, and the values, and gave it a wonkiness I rather liked. 

Conclusion: This is the best set of blocks I've ever made. I say this because I concentrated less on color, and more on value. No two blocks are really the same, and your eyes have to keep moving to take them all in. As one of my favorite quilting authors might say, "They would be hard to describe to someone on the phone." There are surprises, exceptions, and yet they are all nine patches. Individually there are some pretty ones and some dogs, but they work like an orchestra. Not everyone can play the cymbals, you know, but together they are playing a beautiful song!

The more I learn about pairing fabrics, the more I understand I know so little. 

Roberta Horton has written many books on quilting, and illuminates the lessons on value in Scrap Quilts: The Art of Making Do. I can't recommend any one book as the best--I have them all, but they are excellent tools if you take the time to absorb them. 

Charity Quilts

The charity quilts are still underway, and I'll be back to them tomorrow.

                                                         Coastal Mist Blog Hop

Coastal Mist Blog Hop
Starts Today!

Several months ago I was asked to participate in creating a project for a new fabric line through Island Batiks. The blog hop starts today at Tamarini's, and there are some quilty prizes to be had for entering. 

My post-- and a reveal of the art quilt I created for them go live Saturday, January 28 at midnight, and I hope you'll pop in then to see it. I'll keep you up to date here so you don't miss a single project or chance to win.

Come on, Doxie girls.
Grab an umbrella, and let's go sew!


babiesdoc said...

I bought the same machine on amazon last year. Just to bring to classes. at first I thought it was a little light and the table somewhat small. but then by big old janome had to go to the hospital and this brother took its place. It sews wonderfully , the stitches are perfect and I have used some of the fancier ones. I like every bit as much as my MC6500P

PaulaB quilts said...

This lesson on value using KF fabrics is so timely for me. My newest project is a bed quilt for myself. I'm using a collection of KF precuts I've accumulated on sale. I was lucky to take art classes as a part of an interior design program years ago. So I've always been aware of value in design. Thanks for your photo examples, which will help me to keep that lesson in mind during my design and fabric choices.

Teagan said...

I sewed on the older sister of this machine (Brother CS-6000) for 12 years. I just upgraded to a Janome, which is definitely nicer, but this brother really did a good job for the price (it was way more than 150$ when I bought it 12 years ago). I just recommended it to my Mother-in-Law who needed a newer machine for the occasional sewing project. Trying to quilt on this machine wasn't great, but most sewing did fine.

Linda @ kokaquilts said...

I enjoyed reading about how you worked through this Julie! After alot of hit & miss efforts, I found that 'contrast' is the key {be it colour, value, print size} and how the color of a fabric is not really known until it is actually playing beside it's neighbour! Still doesn't mean I get it right though!

audrey said...

Great post and wonderful looking blocks! It's such an interesting way to put blocks together, by value. One of the most valuable lessons for all of us quilters. Roberta's book is a great one! I've read it cover to cover several times.:)

Kate said...

I love Kaffe's fabrics, but boy they can be hard to use in blocks. A great post on color and design. Looking forward to see how this one worked out in the end.