assembling a palette

design, fabric


It’s kind of like making dessert. Assembling a palette of colors that I’m going to use in a quilt is like making a really yummy dessert. It takes a bit of time and concentration but as I’m working on it I’m really enjoying the process of putting it together and can’t wait to see the finished product. I could assemble palettes everyday for the rest of my life and never tire of it.

When Bill and I teach design and color classes we try to get students to decide on a source of inspiration or a Big Idea. Sometimes, however, it’s all about the fabric. I’m working on a quilt now that uses the beautiful, suede-like cottons sold by Cherrywood Fabrics. (By the way, I have no relationship business or other with the folks at Cherrywood. I just like their fabric.) The fabric is really expensive, compared to the standard $10/yd quilting fabric we use in most of our quilts, and the color selection is limited so I had to really strategize when I ordered. Cherrywood has 4-Step and 8-Step packs of preselected palettes or you can buy individual fabrics but it is hard to assemble a palette yourself online given the vagaries of computer monitors. I loved some of the Cherrywood palettes but wanted to mix it up a bit so I ordered the Grab Bag of miscellaneous 6”x9” pieces of fabric. This turned out to be a really good decision.

What is hard about assembling a palette is trying to have the colors be unified enough that they look good together without having them be predictably matched. You want a little zing here and there. You want there to be some subtle shade changes that give depth. You want some difference in value, some richness and some unexpected hues. That’s what I got in the Grab Bag.

What I really love about this particular palette is that it feels so of the moment. Color experts often point to natural or earthy colors during recessions. Remember the harvest gold and avocado appliances of the 70s? What I love about the Cherrywoods is that while they are a little desaturated compared to some of the print fabrics in stores now, there is a depth to their colors that I find reassuring somehow. In these troubled times these colors feel as though they will weather the storm well and still look timeless and colorful in the years to come when the wars are over, parents can pay for college again, retirees can afford their prescriptions, people have moved back into their homes and good workers have found new jobs.

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