Value-able Lessons from Ruth’s Linkin’ Logs

Value for a quilter means the lightness or darkness of a fabric, especially in relation to the fabrics that surround it. Contrast is the amount of difference between the fabrics.  The ideas of value and contrast go hand in hand.

It’s worth your time to learn about value and contrast in your quilts—so take time to experiment, to make mistakes and to play.

pwhigh Value able Lessons from Ruths Linkin LogsThe fabrics in the blocks above have a lot of contrast or “high contrast.”

pwmed Value able Lessons from Ruths Linkin LogsThe blocks above show a medium amount of contrast. You can still see the Windmill but it’s less dramatic.

pwlow Value able Lessons from Ruths Linkin LogsThe fabrics in these blocks have little contrast or “low contrast.” The Windmill doesn’t stand out starkly. If you put these into a quilt, they might even get lost.

When Ruth Wasmuth made her Linkin’ Logs quilt (see this post), she demonstrated a good understanding of value and contrast. Here is Ruth’s first version of the quilt.

P1110712 Value able Lessons from Ruths Linkin Logs

She wasn’t happy with the amount of contrast in the interlocking rings. You can see that while there is some contrast, there are places where the rings almost become lost because the values are very close.

Ruth decided to make a second version, seen below. When you’re working with just one color, you have to s-t-r-e-t-c-h your definition of that color to get enough different values.

P1110660 Value able Lessons from Ruths Linkin Logs

When we began the Linkin’ Logs project, I pulled some golds from our stash to send to Ruth. At the time, I was surprised by how much variety there was to the idea of “gold.” I pulled fabrics that seemed to be brown, tan, taupe, copper, sunshine and butter, to name a few. I wondered if some of them would even be useful, they seemed so far off from “gold.” But I sent them anyway, knowing that Ruth could choose to include them or not. As it turned out, many of them were useful—the lesson here is to expand your thinking around any color you are using.

How do you expand your thinking? Like this:

reds1111 Value able Lessons from Ruths Linkin LogsRed includes fire engine, pink, rose, mauve, burgundy, wine, orange-red,  red-violet, rusty red, barn red…you get the idea.

blues111 Value able Lessons from Ruths Linkin Logs

Blue includes sky blue, navy blue, ocean, gray-blue, Williamsburg blue, baby blue, midnight and so on.

Just for practice, choose a color from these basics: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.

• Think of all the variations of that color you can, as I did above for red and blue.
• Think of how the variations look and list descriptive words.
• Visit a paint department and pull some color chips for further inspiration.
• Dig into your fabric stash and pull every fabric that might qualify for this group.
• Leave the fabrics laying or stacked together for a few days and observe how they interact. • Use everything you’re seeing in your next quilt project.

P1110660 Value able Lessons from Ruths Linkin Logs

Be brave with your color and fabric choices, as Ruth was. In the end, her quilt would still be readily described as black and gold. She understood that “gold” (or any color) means a lot of different things when it comes to fabric, and her quilt works beautifully because of that.

About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email:
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10 Responses to Value-able Lessons from Ruth’s Linkin’ Logs

  1. Janet says:

    Very interesting, I am saving this to my special place so I can pull it up if I have questions.

  2. Debbie says:

    Thanks for showing the contrasting illustrations. The first quilt was pretty, but the second quilt was definitely better. Getting the values right made all the difference.

    I’m currently using stash to make patched hearts. Each heart is in a different color family, and I was a little skeptical when deciding what to combine. “Is this really green/pink/whatever” is something I asked myself several times. But seeing the finished hearts, it really is coming together beautifully.

  3. juanita says:

    Thanks so much. i am needing this information now as i choose fabrics from my stash to make a batik quilt.

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  6. PJ says:

    The pictures illustrating each thought help so much!

  7. Karlene says:

    Enjoyed reading this. Ruthie’s quilt is so pretty–must be “value”-able.

  8. Donna Amos says:

    Diane, A great article and examples of values in colors. This is something we can all learn from. Good job!

  9. Cecilia says:

    Thank you for this “lesson” in value. It really explained what I need to look for when choosing fabrics for contrast.

  10. Ruthie says:

    What a great post.

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