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Scrappy Color Mixes

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Color Theory is an art and a science. Science teaches that colors communicate with each other when we say colors “match.” According to science, our eyes send a message to our brain. Our brain picks up the wavelength combinations from the reflecting light and translates them to what we call color.

When creating a scrappy quilt, we are looking through lots of colors and prints while trying to combine them so it looks like we did it on purpose. Most of us organize our scraps by the color that shows the most in the fabric. Generally, we start with three Primary Colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue. Then we add Secondary Colors, made by mixing the three primary colors: green, orange, and purple. Then we add in Tertiary colors which are the colors we get when we mix all six of the primary and secondary colors leaving us with colors like blue/green or red/violet.

Below I placed a sample of a color wheel.

When picking from scraps you are working from a lot of colors and prints of all sizes. So how do you pick the scraps for your quilt? First, pick your focus fabric. There are two very easy ways to pick just the right scraps to go along with your focus fabric.

For a bold combination you could pick three colors that form a perfect triangle on the wheel. For example, magenta (the color of the year), a lighter orange and aqua. This mix is bold. If I want to take it down a bit, I could play with background fabric, until I get a solid or low volume fabric that takes the punch down a little. But first I would play with the tone of the color. To dull the color, designers add grey. A tetradic color scheme has 4 colors forming a perfect square, evenly spaced on the wheel. An example of this would be navy, green, orange, and red. Again, we can tone it down a bit by playing with the tint this time making them pastels. Designers do this by adding pure white to the color.

While you could look through a color book for help with tint and tone, there are two ways that are even easier. The first way is looking at the selvedge of the fabric you love the most. You will see the name of the designer, and just after, you will see a series of colored dots. These dots tell you which colors work best with your favorite fabric. The second way is a trick that Maru from ‘About Material Girls Down Under’ taught me. Go to Pinterest and type in “color palettes” as soon as you hit return, you will see hundreds of color combinations that help you match your scraps.

Next week we’ll continue to learn about the other colors in your quilt.

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