Studio Stories, Tips & Tricks

Lucy’s Quilt & Colour Theory Tips

We made this quilt for our friend Lucy when she went to University. Lucy’s quilt is so bright, my husband runs for his sun glasses, but it makes my heart dance. I love how the intense saturated colours fall into simple ordered chaos as the bold floral prints are flanked by stripes on each side and plain squares in the corners.

The stars of this show are the Juki TL QVP Mini straight stitch and the Juki 2200 QVP long arm machines. Although the Juki TL QVP Mini straight stitch is my personal favourite for machine quilting,  it also makes quick work of piecing with it’s fast speed and even stitching.

Juki TL QVP Mini straight stitch sewing machine

Bold fabrics call for simplicity in the piecing

We used lots of different fabrics to create Lucy’s quilt.  Many are familiar Kaffe Fassett fabrics, while others are similar in style and tone. These wild intense highly-saturated florals are kept in check by the simplicity of the piecing.  Lots of loud bright fabrics could just dissolve into noise. But this quilt is saved by the simplicity in the piecing. The simple piecing allows the complexity of the fabrics to shine through in all their brightly coloured glory.

We only used  three block types – a larger 9 inch square, a smaller  3 inch square and a  3 inch by 9 inch rectangle. By following some simple rules we were able to maintain a satisfying look and still use all those crazy, bright and loud fabrics!

Ordering the Chaos

The three blocks should be used with three types of fabric. The larger squares are cut from fabrics with large, floral patterns.  The smaller squares are all brightly coloured plain fabrics, allowing breather moments between the different patterns. Think of them as full stops at the end of a sentence. The rectangles are all stripy fabrics, cut so that stripes run perpendicular to the length of the rectangle. The stripes almost act like fences separating the larger blocks of vibrant colour from each other.

We put lots of thought into the arrangement. We wanted the colours to be spread evenly throughout the quilt often using the stripes to harmonise contrasting colours.


Use quilting to emphasise what you already have

Sometimes a quilt is all about the quilting, sometimes it’s all about the piecing. Lucy’s quilt is all about the colour. The fabric’s already doing a lot of the talking. So we used the quilting  to amplify the voices already present, rather than adding new ones. We used a slightly different line design for each block type so the texture would highlight the different block types.

Ordered Chaos detail quilting

Lucy’s quilt was quilted by Emily on the Juki 2200 QVP long arm. For the larger squares, we used a large swirling, feather based pattern, complementing the large floral prints in these blocks. In the smaller plain squares, we used a simple spiral swirl, which could be taken as the simplified version of the larger pattern. The swirls work well in the squares as they fill the space and emphasise the centralised nature of the square, which is naturally a static shape. In the stripy rectangles, a kind of uniform stipple was used to highlight the stripes and give them texture, emphasising the movement in these blocks.

Busting the neutral thread myth

In this quilt we used a brightly coloured tri-lobal polyester with a 3 inch colour change. Believe it or not, for this quilt it acts as a neutral thread, particularly if we define neutral as a thread that doesn’t show. A grey or cream thread would have stood out on this brightly coloured quilt. But the bright variegated Fantastico thread blends in beautifully! We used a Fantastico thread with yellow, orange, lime green and pink called Flower Power #5043 and it just seemed to melt straight into the fabric, giving just the right texture. Fantastico is brilliant for long arm and any machine quilting; we think it’s, well…  fantastic.

Ordered Chaos

Lucy loved her quilt!  It’s keeping her warm and cosy as she works towards her nursing degree. I loved the quilt so much that I had to make another. What fun to choose a few more of my favourite bright fabrics, add a vibrant thread, a dash of know-how in the quilting, and an element of fun. The result is another lovely quilt which is rich in colour and texture, but still simple and satisfying. It all comes from building intensity around three simple pieces. We like to think of it as ordered chaos!

bold colour simple design ordered chaos