If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile (or, let’s face it, for only a few weeks), you’ll know that I have a hard time combining colours in my quilt designs. When sketching on paper, I tend to use only one pen colour (usually black); occasionally I’ll branch out and use a second colour if it’s absolutely necessary to see the details of the design. When using Excel or Electric Quilt, I’ll limit my colour palette to maybe two or three colours.
Over the past two years of Sunday sketches, I’ve slowly realised that I can’t focus on design and colour at the same time. In part, this is just how my brain works: I generally don’t like lots of bright colours or patterns around me, because I find them too stimulating and distracting. But it’s probably also a function of the tools I’ve learned to use for quilt design – my favourite gel pens don’t come in that many interesting colours, colouring in Excel requires too much fussing around with colour wheels and RGB values, and Electric Quilt… well, EQ8 has a lot of colour libraries and fabric options, but I’ve yet to figure them all out.
I often mention my inabilities with colour and my need to find a way to learn how to use colour better. So I was thrilled to receive an email from Steph Skardal a few weeks ago about Quiltfill, a very useful new quilt colouring tool.
You might recognise Steph as the winner of QuiltCon 2018’s ‘Best in Show‘ award for her quilt ‘Going Up’, which featured flying geese-like shapes using log cabin blocks with super-skinny strips. I saw the quilt in the travelling QuiltCon exhibition at this year’s Australasian Quilt Convention, and was struck by the simplicity of the design and the complexity (not to mention the technical precision) of piecing such long narrow strips.
In addition to being an accomplished quilter and photographer, Steph is a software engineer who’s interested in quilt design tools. To address some of the shortcomings of existing software, Steph created an online tool for colouring quilt designs.
QuiltFill lets you colour in quilt and block patterns from Steph herself, Kim Soper from Leland Ave Studios, Brooke from OhsewBrooke, and Caroline Hadley from Geometriquilt (that’s me!). In response to Steph’s request, I gave permission for QuiltFill to feature several of my Sunday sketches. Steph converted my drawings into digital designs that can be easily coloured using a palette of Robert Kaufman’s Kona Cottons (other designs use Riley Blake’s Confetti Cottons and New Stripes collections).
A lot of quilt design tools have drawbacks – like high cost, a steep learning curve or specific technical requirements – that make them unsuitable for, or unavailable to, many quilters. QuiltFill is free to use and you don’t need to register or create an account to get started. You don’t need to read a 256-page manual to figure it out (I’m looking at you, EQ8). You don’t need to download an app. Just get online and start clicking! It’s easy to change the colour palettes by selecting single swatches or redefining the colour pie. You can undo (or redo) changes, and save your work to an image file that automatically downloads to your computer.
It’ll take me awhile to break away from my monochromatic tendencies, but QuiltFill makes it very quick and easy to play around with lots of different colours. I really like how you can see all the Kona Cottons together, so it’s easy to pick out related colours to create gradations from light to dark or dark to light (this would also be handy for making rainbows).
I also like the ‘randomize’ option, which picks out a palette of random colours, showing me combinations that I wouldn’t normally think of (because I need all the help I can get).
I’m not normally brave when it comes to colour, but QuiltFill makes it easier to try weird combinations. If I don’t like what I’ve selected, a click is literally all it takes to change it.
I only ever sew straight lines. I tried a drunkard’s path block once – yes, just one curve, just one time – but otherwise, my sewing is limited to joining squares, rectangles and/or triangles. Which means my designs tend to be limited to squares, rectangles and triangles too.
I’m sure I’ll eventually settle into curves, in both my sewing and my designs. I’m not averse to them; I just feel like I’ve still got a lot to learn about straight lines before I venture into new territory. In the meantime, it’s interesting to see how many shapes can be constructed using only straight lines.
If you’re celebrating Christmas today, Merry Christmas to you and yours!
This week’s design explores a theme I’ve been thinking about for a while: a regular unit that ‘deteriorates’ from one side of the page to the other, creating an entirely new pattern.
The pattern’s a bit MC Escher-like, a bit like Islamic geometric designs. (If you want to see some amazing Islamic geometric designs, check out Eric Broug‘s book on this topic, conveniently entitled Islamic Geometric Design. His School of Islamic Geometric Design website also has a ton of information and resources, including step-by-step instructions on how to produce your own designs.)
I think I need to work on the transition from top left to bottom right a bit more, to even out both sides of the pattern. I’m not sure how this would work with fabric; I like the idea of retaining the lines to define the units, but that would probably require careful thought (and even more careful paper piecing).