The Value of Value: Better Quilt Blocks

Old dog, new tricks. That was my theme this week as I made exchange quilt blocks for the 2013 Quiltmaker Scrap Squad.

You’d think by now I would understand how to make attractive quilt blocks. How to choose fabrics for maximum effect. How to give quilt designs the most impact.

checkerboardstar1opt The Value of Value: Better Quilt Blocks

My ho-hum Checkerboard Star block

But no. I made this ho-hum quilt block. It didn’t start out to be boring at all. The original block designed and made by Evonne Cook for Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Volume 6 was great! It’s called Checkerboard Star.

QMMS 120024 COOK The Value of Value: Better Quilt Blocks

Evonne Cook’s original Checkerboard Star block from Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Volume 6

I ran into problems when I used reds that were not distinct enough from each other. I finished up the block and posted it on the group’s Facebook page.

And it bothered me. A lot. I took it off the design wall and unsewed the checkerboard. I made a whole new checkerboard from 1.5″ squares in a much darker red.

checkerboardstar2 The Value of Value: Better Quilt Blocks

Much better! Checkerboard Star designed by Evonne Cook. Made by Diane Harris.

Oh my goodness. So much better! Look at them side by side to really appreciate the difference.

checkerboardstar1opt 300x298 The Value of Value: Better Quilt Blocks  checkerboardstar2 300x298 The Value of Value: Better Quilt Blocks

Here’s the lesson: Different parts of a design need to have enough contrast that you can really see them. This holds true for something with many colors and fabrics and for something with just one color, like my Checkerboard Star.

Contrast walks hand in hand with value: the lightness or darkness of a fabric, especially compared to the fabrics around it. Learn more about value by examining the quilt below.

P1110660 The Value of Value: Better Quilt Blocks

Learn more about value by clicking the image.

Going back to the red block for a minute, here are some things I did right:

checkerboardstar2 The Value of Value: Better Quilt Blocks

Can you analyze what I did right in this block?

  • There is plenty of contrast between the pale pink background and the rest of the fabrics.
  • I used several different sizes of prints. This is called “scale.”
  • The dark red fabric forming four star points has both very deep red and brighter, more medium reds and pinks. It serves to pull the rest of the fabrics together.
  • Red ranges from palest pink to very deep, dark scarlet. I used the gamut.

Your quilts will be more lively, more effective and more interesting when you learn to recognize these qualities and use them to your best advantage.

*     *     *     *     *

Get how-tos and the free block pattern for Checkerboard Star in this four-minute video on Quiltmaker’s Block Network.

QBNPromo E6 300x300 The Value of Value: Better Quilt Blocks

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:
This entry was posted in Quilting 101 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Value of Value: Better Quilt Blocks

  1. liz merz says:

    I love the pattern used. It is very important to try different pieces to see what pops. I am very happy to see the gorgeous shades of pink. Looks like a challenge but could be done. Thanks!

  2. Ann Gillett says:

    I really appreciate the lesson in picking colors, shades and values. It gives a good way to approach designing a quilt

  3. quiltfru says:

    Yeah , the second one is much better. I am quilting for a long time now, but I keep learning. That what makes it such fun. And you always have to use your brains. On the other hand you can relax, muse over things and get something done at the same time.

  4. Becky says:

    Thank you for sharing your “mistakes” as well as successes! It makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only quilter that has to keep relearning some lessons over and over! :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>