Beth Markel

Oh hail, no!

Posted on April 25, 2014 by Beth Markel

First, I spoke too soon about spring’s arrival!  There were tremendous storms here in Michigan last week, including power-outages, 4” of snow, and hail.  Perhaps I should focus on the hail, which sounded like marbles being thrown at our deck, but is also a herald of changing weather.  Come on, Spring….


For the most part, I make modern quilts, and I’ve had many people in the last couple of years ask if my busy quilts start with scraps…and the answer is yes, sometimes, and no, sometimes.  They often start as long expanses of strips sewn together like we all made when we constructed our first 9-patches, years ago.  However, some of the very busy, “loud,” crazy piecing that includes numerous fabrics started out in my scrap pile, because I hate to waste fabric.  Everybody needs a scrap bucket.  Since I’m not locked into a “style” I can use what I like, manipulating colors, prints, plaids, solids, florals, batiks, and everything in-between.  My color theory is often pulled from my years of gardening.  If you walk into a really beautiful garden, the colors usually all work really well together.  A gardener with a good eye made that happen.

For example, there are many, many shades of green that starting out I would not have put together.  Now I can usually make all shades, hues, and intensities work together for a harmonious piece…because I know that evergreen, citron, and kelly can all be made to play nice together.  Sometimes it means having a neutral (black, white, beige, gray) between the green shades, but if you look around the garden, really look, each green takes on different hues depending on whether it’s in direct sun-light, diffused afternoon sun-light, cloudy daylight, shade, deep shade, or twilight.

Fresh Scrap Buckets

Beginning of 2 new Scrap Buckets

As artists, we can use the same principle.  When you use many different shades of the same color in a quilt, whether traditional or modern, you can create harmony, as all of the shades will “talk” to each other.  Again using the garden as an example, when you walk into a beautiful, blooming garden on a sunny day, you don’t say, “I can’t stand the shaded areas under the tall trees, because the hostas are a different color than the hostas in the sunlight.”  They are very similar shades of green, but one is in the sun, making the green brighter, and one is in the shade, adding gray to the color of green.  Because they are different shades of the same color, it makes it more interesting to look at…like eye candy.  If you have been timid or unsure of your own color eye, start by making small and/or simple pieces and just experimenting with different shades of the same color.  Develop your voice, and own the colors you choose.  Not everybody will like your choices.  THAT’S OK.  Some people will love your choices.  That’s OK, too.  But choose what YOU like, and then expand on those choices.  It’s one of the ways we grow as artists.

An easy way to get started is by sorting your fabrics, very light to very dark, and working your “color eye” to look, really look, at the colors in-between.  This takes some practice, but if you sort your colors by family, you’ll develop a richer voice when you choose shades and hues, and understand the differences.  Here is part of my workroom stash…

Shades of green & blue

 Finally, I put this together when I found out a girlfriend is having a baby next month.  There are some who begin doing art quilts and modern quilts who eschew the “traditional” patterns.  What I say on my home page is true…I have a deep love and respect for the art of quilting…and these perfectly pieced 1″ squares would make my mama and grandma proud!

 Anna's Crib Quilt

Do what inspires YOU!




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