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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.