Last week I mentioned the use of “reflective surfaces” to add interest to a photograph–that seems a rather obvious action when using a camera. How do we add “reflective surfaces” to our quilts? There are multiple answers with complex variations! Let’s explore some of the the possibilities.
Silk fibers have a natural sheen. Let’s start with my 2015 quilt “Downward Mobility”, 32″ x 32″, which began as a “modern nine-patch” challenge. All these silk fabrics are recycled from thrift shop garments. Notice how the quilting is clearly defined on the pale green. The white silk is dupioni silk which does not have the same reflective sheen as most other silk, but it is washable.
I discovered the second quilt at a flea market. I was drawn to the vivid colors of the silk and the fine hand quilting on this small wall hanging. I’ve named this quilt “Color Study”. The bright colors set against the black background make each square glow like a jewel. However, if you squint, you will see that the lightest rectangle found in the lower right section glows. Can you see the “reflective surface” here? Yes, the lightest section of your quilt will draw the eye–especially if there is a high contrast with the surrounding area!
The value of “value”! Lights stand out, darks recede.
This simple observation has taken me years to really comprehend! “Value” refers to the lightness of darkness of a particular fabric or group of fabrics. The tricky thing about that basic definition is the changing reality of how one pairs that fabric. Its value is strongly influenced by its surroundings! More on this later. Let’s focus on the observation that light areas of your quilt will become a reflective surface and stand out!
In “Journey to the New Normal” our eye is quickly drawn tho the lighter paths created with the split nine-patch blocks I made. Yes, the strong, rich colors grab their share of attention, but without that strong contrast of the light paths the vivid colors would blend together. This is my original design for the challenge I initiated at the Modern Guild in 2016. Our challenge was this phrase, “Too precious to cut, but we will!” Each of the outer border fabrics was precious–so glad they worked together in this exploration. By modifying the basic construction of the split nine patch block I was able to turn the triangle of that block into the squares that punctuate each block.
“Windfall”, another of my quilts from 2016, resulted from a slightly modified pattern from talented teacher Sujata Shah. You can readily see how the lightest “blades” of this “Windmill” pattern keep your eye moving across the surface of the quit challenging you to find the rhythmn. The color theme is loosely a blue, purple and white grouping. I was not pleased with the color combinations until I added the dashes of deep red. Note that the lights appear in both the blades (foreground) and in the background areas making the rhythm more unpredictable, yet still interesting. 46″ x 58″
Silver Taupe (left) and Copper Rose are part of the series of five quilts I made in 2015 exploring the delight of playing with these low-volume taupe fabrics. Working extensively with medium-range values (the entire family of taupe fabrics), made it obvious how essential the clear light fabrics were to creating any pattern capable of drawing the eye! In Silver Taupe the ombre fabrics of the border demand attention as the value moves from lights to darks in an asymmetrical pattern. You can see how in Copper Rose (right) the light squares draw your eye strategically down each of the diagonal lines from upper right to lower left.
Pumpkin Treat (right) depends on small dashes of white in the plaid background and in the white yarn of the crocheted squares. The vibrant white appears as a reflective surface amid all the deep dark colors. This small wall hanging is composed of a variety of thrift shop finds including the tiny crochet “granny squares” similar to those my mother would make from her leftover yarn. Mother also made delightful Halloween costumes for us, so this quilt is one more tribute to her!
“Color gets the credit, value does the work!”
The unknown quilter who first used this quip was a wise quilter! Life for a quilt comes through the play of one element against another. Color, shape, value, and texture all play a part in the visual impact. Creative use of light is an essential tool for every quilter. The more we play around with the elements, the more fun we can have!