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Coloured Cabins - The Importance of Value

What do you value in your quilting? I'm not talking about how much you've spent on your fabrics and sewing supplies. I talking about the fabrics you use in your quilts.

What Does Value Mean in Color Theory? Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. It defines a color in terms of how close it is to white or black. The lighter the color, the closer it is to white. The darker the color, the closer it is to black.

Quilts by Jen has some great posts about colour. Check them out for more details.

So, when you look at your collection of fabrics in your stash, start thinking of them in terms of value. Play with some and sort them into piles of lights and darks. Then pull out your camera and take a photo in grey scale. Do you need to re-arrange some of the fabrics? Do some of them now look like they need to move closer to the dark side or the lighter side of the pile?

You are going to find that some of the fabrics won't fit into the light value pile or the dark value pile. We have some light blues in the middle of the dark value image that can easily be moved to the light value. There are a few that could be considered too dark for the light values. We can now start thinking of them as medium value fabric. Not quite dark and not quilt light.....don't get too worried yet about medium lights and medium darks. Sort the fabrics into 3 piles and again take a grey scale picture.

Another idea: take some of those 'not quite light enough' light and flip them over. I'll often use the wrong side of fabrics to tone down the darkness of the fabric. The 'too-dark' lights will be flipped over when I start stitching.

Value in terms of quilting patterns

We often see pattern supply lists asked for a light, medium and dark fabric. What does this mean? Pattern designers are giving us some way to add some visual texture to our quilt and to differentiate between the different piecing in our quilt. A beautifully pieced quilt all in medium values may not have as much visual punch as the same quilt made with a bit of value contrast.

Look at these sample quilts I've made using EQ8.

In this first sample I've used light and dark value colours in the Log Cabin blocks.

In the second sample I've replaced the dark value with medium value colours.

In this final sample, I've used medium value fabrics for both sides of the block.

Even though all 3 of the above quilts are beautiful, the higher value (light and dark) quilt really shows off the piecing pattern. This is especially true when you are using up scraps of many different colours.

When choosing fabrics for your next project, simply think in terms of light and dark values. Check the next post and see how you can easily use these light and dark fabrics in your next quilt.


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