Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Story of the Color Orange

Snow has been falling for over 24 hours now. I’ve chosen to wear wool socks today with green and blue dots. On a day like this, warmth is more important than the color! If my feet are freezing, I’m not comfortable when I’m designing or sewing—and that’s what I will be doing today.

The color orange is my current favorite for my quilts. On cold winter days, orange adds a little warmth to my house. So I thought I’d tell you an orange story. A few years back I made a wonderful orange quilt, its title is Wow! That’s Orange. You can read more about it on my website in the garden gallery.  Ann's web site I found a wonderful little striped fabric with lots of bright colors in it. You probably have seen it somewhere, or might even have some in your stash.

I decided to make the background of the quilt, the color orange. Then I chose the colors for the oversized coneflowers from the colors found in the little binding stripe. From the very beginning of this project, I knew that this fabric would be the binding.  I love stripes and plaids for binding. That extra diagonal touch on the edge just does something special. And…. binding cut on the bias lays flatter, and the corners turn better. My bindings are always cut on the bias. See my Creating Beautiful Bias Binding booklet.

The quilt was finished, and I was ecstatic about the results. Everything worked together, the orange; the bright flowers, the glowing centers, the quilting, the double inner border, and the binding. It was accepted at AQS Paducah. I packed it up, and sent it to KY, and waited for the results.  It got a ribbon, not as good as I had hoped, but it won something.  When my quilt arrived home I unpacked it, admired the ribbon, and looked for the judges comment sheet. When I read these comments it is always a moment of truth.  Sometimes they are good, sometimes they are right on, sometimes they are negative, and sometimes they’ve missed the point of the quilt. I never know what I will find.

My eyes scanned down the small sheet. The judges liked the quilt, they gave it a prize, but they didn’t like my choice of fabric for the binding!  How could this be?  The quilt was designed to have the stripe as the binding from the very birth of the idea? What do they mean? I was absolutely stunned. Here is a close-up of the stripe laying on the quilt.

I hung my quilt on my design wall, and there is was in all its colorful splendor. I loved it, everything was right. Or was it? I looked at it through my binoculars backwards, and backed as far away from the quilt as possible. The striped binding appeared muddy. How could I have been so wrong? I loved the stripes. Again, I’m stunned stupid.

I had been loving the colors and the stripes on that brilliant orange background, and I was too close. Kind of --I can't see the forest for the trees thing. Maybe I didn’t pin it up on the edge of the quilt, and view everything through the backwards binoculars. Usually I audition a number of bias possibilities before I choose one, but in this case, I already knew what it would be.

That evening, I took the quilt to my Racine Art Quilter’s group. I explained the situation; asked them to be honest with me; and vote. Should I replace the binding or leave it on? We studied it carefully, discussed the matter, and it was unanimous, they recommended I replace the binding. Their reasoning was, it looked muddy, not clear and colorful like the rest of the quilt. I had to agree with them.

The next day, I carefully removed the binding, what a job. It was so sad to remove that beautiful stuff. This time, I carefully laid out an assortment of oranges around the edges of the quilt. I pieced them together, and made a bias binding of 4 different fabrics. It looked good, and provided only a soft contrast to the edge. This time it wasn’t blatently obvious like the last. Everything was good.

Later that year, the quilt went to Houston. When it came home, I checked the judges comment sheet. They made special mention of the binding. They loved my concept of using different values of orange around the edges!  So it was worth all the effort.

I guess the moral of this story, is to always check every addition to your work, no matter how sure you are of your original choice. Look at it close-up, and from a distance. My favorite method is to use the binoculars backwards. Using a digital camera works too; and then look at it on your computer monitor too. Look at your piece in several types of lighting ; it impacts and changes all the colors and shadows.

You can be too close to your work and make some inappropriate choices. I did.

Anyone want 25 feet of striped binding?  I’d love to use it, but now this stripe scares me!


geni said...

Thank you for sharing this experience.
A great tip to use the binoculars backwards!
I am also very happy with the "Creating Beautiful Bias Binding" booklet and the small aluminum tool for measuring.

shout4joy said...

I don't know how many times I have to "throw out" the inpiration fabric for a quilt *sigh* I'm so glad to hear it isn't just me :)