Lessons In Color: Creating a Color Wheel Part 2!

quilters color wheel

HI Friends!

How are you coming along on your color wheel?  I’ve been working diligently on mine with the fabrics here in the shop.  Here’s a peek at mine! DSCF0599

As you can see I have lots of colors left to go before this wheel is complete.  There’s no rush.  This whole process is a process of discovery, remember?

Have you thought about those questions I asked of you in the first part of this lesson?  Did you come up with some other questions I didn’t include?

If not and if so, that’s okay, we’ll re-cap them right here and we’ll give you a chance to chime in with your own thoughts.  Don’t be shy, if you have a question, just let us know in the comments section below!

So here goes:

1. Are there lots of missing colors on my wheel?

Did you find this exercise interesting to see just how many colors you have?  I know I did.  I use this to help me fill in the gaps here in the shop and save me tons of time browsing my vendors’ inventory in order to get right to what I actually need.  I’m a start-up so time is money to me.  The quicker I can do this task the better off I’ll be and hopefully keep me from purchasing inventory that I don’t need.

What about you?  Were you able to fill out the wheel?  If not, don’t worry.  I’m not here to tell you you have to fill in every spot on the wheel.  It’s not necessary to have every color known to man and is perfectly acceptable to have only what you love.  If you love blues (like me) but don’t care for purples then that is okay!  Trust me, the more quilting, crafting or sewing you do, the more that, in time, your collection will expand.  I believe this exercise will better prepare you for your own color journey and help you make the right color decisions the next time you shop!

Which leads us to the next question…

2. Do I have multiples of the same color?

For the quilter, crafter or sewer, you may realize that the reason you have certain colors in your collection is because you naturally gravitate to them!  At this time, I want you to take a step back and realize something about yourself.  The colors that you have multiples of are the colors you love.  It’s that simple.  That may or may not be obvious to you but on the other hand were there any surprises for you?  Were there colors that piled up that you didn’t think about?

For me, I love blues, greens, and teals!  In my personal stash I know I have plenty of these colors to keep me busy for some time.  But I also have lots of pinks and reds, colors that I do use but are really not my own personal favorites.  I know I have them because of projects I’ve worked on in the past and I’ve kept them because I know how valuable they are when designing new projects.  But what about some fabrics you couldn’t fit into the wheel.  That’s the next question…

3. Are there any colors you have a hard time finding a place for?

So?  Did you come across fabrics that you didn’t know where to put them?  Were they neutrals, flesh tones, browns, tans or blacks?  I know I have plenty of those and don’t worry.  I’d like you to hold on to those as our plans here for this color wheel are to bring in all those neutrals into the background.


So, what’s the next step?  When you get to a point that you’d like to start sewing these fabric samples onto your wheel start by layering them and sewing them down like so…DSCF0602

Here you can see that I’m sewing the top and the bottom.  Just keep layering and trimming, sewing, layering and trimming.  Here, in the blues…DSCF0601

I have the whole section filled in and am ready to trim and sew.

This lesson and project isn’t a race but a learning experience.  We’ll check in each month on the progress and bring new lessons in color.  Color and color theory is fun and one of the most enjoyable aspects (at least to me!) of planning a project!  I know many people have trouble and lack confidence when it comes to color so if you haven’t started working on your own color wheel…there’s always time…please jump in!

More next month!


Lessons In Color: Creating a Color Wheel

Hi Friends!

As a fabric shop owner, one of the things I find challenging is making sure my shop is stocked with fabrics in a wide range of colors and options.  Like you, I also shop for fabrics (albeit on a grander scale), and more often than not I have to shop for these fabrics without the aid of having the fabric in front of me!   If you shop on-line, that sounds familiar doesn’t it?

You too are shopping to fill in the gaps of your own fabric collection, or starting from scratch and coordinating for a new project.  Or maybe you have something that is nearly complete and you need to find that perfect fabric to see it to the end!

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to communicate in color?  Well there is, it’s called the color wheel!  Though I must warn you, not all color wheels are the same.  I have found that the best color wheel for quilters (and sewers too) is the 12 slice pie version with gradations from light to dark.

quilters color wheel

Much like a painter’s color wheel, the Quilter’s Color Wheel has 3 Primary Colors (Red, Yellow, Blue) and 3 Secondary Colors (Orange, Green, Purple) and then the 6 in-between colors, or Tertiary Colors which are a mixture of the Primary and Secondary (Red-Orange, Orange-Yellow, Yellow-Green, Green-Blue, Blue-Purple, Purple-Red).

When a painter creates a color wheel they start with a pigment and by combining white to the pigment they will Tint the pigment down to the lightest value they can create.  When they add black to the pigment they work the value scale in the opposite direction creating Shades until reaching nearly all black.  A painter also has the advantage of mixing complimentary pigments together to produce neutrals.

We quilters and sewers however find ourselves in a very different situation. UNLIKE a painter, we can’t just mix a color, rather we have to SHOP!  Our fabrics come in a vast array of colors and every single time we make choices, in a shop or within our own fabric stash, we have to decipher the color code.

For many a new quilter, sewist or designer, this is where the blood runs from our faces, eyes glaze over and we are left in a haze of aimless wandering.  We don’t know where to turn or how to choose a fabric.  We test bolt after bolt and sometimes spend hours trying to come up with a mix that works.  Sometimes this can be so very frustrating, not to mention extremely time consuming!

To solve some of this dilemma, the fabric industry helps us out with several solutions:
1. Coordinated Designer Collections (All the fabrics work with each other.  Great if you know what you want to make and you buy the fabrics at the same time, or can find the fabrics!  Good luck once these fabrics begin to sell out, most fabric manufacturers have limited inventory and once most of the collection is sold the fabrics are closed out.)
2. Pattern Kits (These are great too, but what happens if you made a mistake and you need more?  Pattern kits usually do not have much room for error)
3. Color Stories such as ‘Color of the Year’, ‘French Country’, or ‘Beach Comber’  (These are great places to start too!  With a color story you can narrow your focus to just a few colors…but you still need to find those colors!)

So let’s start at the beginning with our own fabric collection.  Let’s first discover what we have.  This is where it gets fun and I promise you once you’ve done this exercise you’ll begin to see your own collection in a whole new way!

First I want you to print the Quilters Color Wheel .  This is a .pdf file that will print on 12 pages.  The wheel is in color so be sure to use a color printer and not a black and white (I know, sounds obvious, but that is important).

Next, tape the 12 pages together…DSCF2007

…and trim


Now the fun part!  Start cutting swatches from your fabric collection and layering them into the color wheel…DSCF2010 DSCF2012

Take your time.  In fact, this step will take quite a bit of time but there’s no rush!  Really study the colors in your fabrics.DSCF2013

Pin the swatches in place.DSCF2014

Eventually we’ll sew these swatches down but for now just pin.  Work through your collection until the entire color wheel is covered.  During this process ask yourself the following:

1. Are there lots of missing colors on my wheel?

2. Do I have multiples of the same color?

3. Are there any colors you have a hard time finding a place for?

As we work through our wheel I’ll address some answers and solutions for those questions.

Ready to get started?  Great!  Now go and start your own Quilter’s Color Wheel!