Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Can You Do

With One Color? 

I chose red as the color I want to explore today.

When I think of one color quilts done in red I immediately think of redwork quilts - red embroider images in a setting of red patchwork designs. You probably do too.

This post isn't about that. It's about making monochrome quilts. Which is just a fancy way of saying one color quilts. But it implies the possibility of using different versions of the one color.

It is possible to make a patchwork quilt in which all the blocks are a single red color.

This is a quilt I quickly designed using Friendship Star and Shoo Fly blocks.

If you want my opinion, it's not a very exciting quilt.

But I think it could be made more interesting without adding other colors.

Black, white and gray are not counted with the rest of the colors. I guess that, strictly speaking, you could say they are colors but not hues; they are not part of the rainbow. Mixed into other colors they create tints, shades and tones of the color. As quilters we don't mix colors, but we can pick fabrics that are tints, tones and shades of a color.

If the above quilt were redone in tints, tones and shades of red, I think it could be much more interesting.

But first, a quick explanation of what tints, tones and shades are.

Add white to red and you get tints of red. The more white you add the lighter the red becomes. Add enough white and you get pinks.

Add black to red and you get shades of red. The more black you add the darker the red becomes. Add enough black and you get browns.

Add grey to red and you get tones of red. Light greys make light red tones. Dark greys make dark red tones. The result if often dusty reds, pinks and browns.

Now that we have an expanded palette of reds, the quilt from above can be recolored.

I like this result better. There is more variety, more movement, and more color.

Here is another example.

Notice how the medium reds join to form ribbons. The dark reds (browns) form a different set of ribbons.

We tend to see things that are the same tone, or close to the same tone, as being related.

We do the same thing with things that are the same color. If one of the set of ribbons was a different color, the two sets of ribbons would be more distinct.

However, using the same base color for the two sets of ribbons gives the quilt more unity.

For more about color you might want to check the following posts:
There's A Color Lesson InYour Tea Cup
You Aren't Just Choosing Colors, You Are Choosing Values
Something You Should Know About Color, Dark Yellow Is Olive Green


  1. the recolored quilt is quite stunning!
    thanks for the inspiration

  2. I suppose I am too much of a traditionalist. If the color had not been red, I might have liked the re-colored version better, but I adore red and white quilts. In addition, I found the recolored one with the same blocks to be visually confusing. It isn't that I don't like black in quilts, because lots of my quilts have black backgrounds instead of light. I did like the longer, narrower quilt, however, with the twisted ribbon look.

  3. Susan

    Thanks for your comments. It's nice to know what someone else sees when they look at one of my designs.

    I wonder if the recolored version was done differently if you might like it better. What if the white and black exchanged places? And then the black become a dark red-brown?