Threadbenders Quilt Shop

Threadbenders Quilt Shop
Threadbenders Quilt Shop

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Black backgrounds: As Bright As it Gets

McCalls Night Light Pattern
We've been talking about backgrounds for a while. Most quilts use muslin cream or white fabric for the background. But what happens if you don't?
Dear Jane Quilt (Civil War Reproduction Fabrics) 
Let's look at two Dear Jane Quilts. These are exactly the same paper pieced designs in two different color ranges. This is the quilt made with civil war replicas.
Dear Jane with brights and blacks by Chantal Guyon

This is the quilt with a black background. 
Do I now have your attention?
Quilt made from Laurel Burch Fabric

Most people think of black as funereal and depressing. It may be true about black dresses, but it's not true with quilts. Any time you want your colors to shine, bring on the black.

Amish Quilt From Diary of a Smart Chick

It's not a new idea either. This Amish star is a pre-1940s  quilt. The Amish quilts of that time often featured black backgrounds. The colors positively glow against the black. They knew the value of bright color against deep black.

Albert Hoffman's Orbit by Maria Shell at Tales of a Stitcher

Even thread work glows against a black background. The only color on this awesome stitching is the thread itself. The denser the stitching, the deeper the color.

Meredith's bright and black quilt from Girls in the Garden
 Actually that's what makes a black background so effective. Most exciting art celebrates contrast in some way. You can have contrast in colors, or in print sizes, or in value, the darkness or lightness of a color. Nothing is darker than black. So it contrasts everything around it, making even duller colors shine.

So, don't be afraid of the dark. The next time you want to make a knock-your-eyes our quilt, get out the black fabric and expect to be blown away

Friday, March 28, 2014

White or Cream or Something Between: Backgrounds

Peg's Ohio Star
We've been talking about backgrounds. They do matter. In fact they make every color shine. Is white really white? Is cream all that different? Of course they are. There are really good reasons to choose what works best with your other quilt colors.
from Blue Square Quilting
White is always crisp. It's showy. It gleams a bit. 
From Sweet Home Northwest
White makes things look a big faded, which does the 30's look.
On Etsy
White is a great accent. These eyes pop because of the white.
White does well with blues, greens, crisp cool colors.
From A Quilt is Nice
But it also brightens a scrap quilt.
What does cream give us?
From Pots and Pins
Cream makes a soft look.  It's a quieter gentler background.
From Fat Quarter Shop 
It makes an instant antique.
on Etsy
And it's always a soft companion to beiges and browns.

Peg's Fabric

Back to Peg's quilt. That very cool green paisley looks white in the quilt. Why? Because it's always in relationship to the other colors and fabrics.
Use white for a 
Blue or 
Bright Look

Use Cream for 
Homespun or
a frontier look.
And make sure you look at both, with your fabric when your choosing. The colors are always in it, together.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Backgrounds: A Jewel on Velvet

blue and off white
For the next several posts we're going to talk about backgrounds. We spend a lot of time looking for patterns, and searching for the right pattern. And we know there needs to be a background color of some kind. Probably white. How important can it be?

How important can it get! Your background color is the velvet your other colors shine out from. It makes a HUGE difference in how our colors look together.

blue and black
There is an illusion that only your pattern colors count. But, in truth, colors are always seen in relationship with each other. We perceive them as different with different colors around them. We usually perceive one of them as being the background and the other as the foreground, but that perception can shift in a heart beat.

The old saying about 
fabric selection is
"You can pick one  fabric for your lover. And then every one else has to dance with him."
blue and khaki

It's true. Find one color or fabric you are head over heels in love with and every one else has to show them to their best advantage.

It's also true that white isn't white and black isn't exactly black. Walk into the paint store and you'll find at least 50 different whites at least. 

Do you need all of those? 
Actually yes. Different whites will change how you see your color combinations. Ecru and Khaki are also neutral. And they change the look completely!

For the next couple sessions we'll look at how we pick up backgrounds, what they accomplish for our finished quilt, and how to pick the prints that will make your lover shine.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Labeling Quilts: The Back Story

Do you label your quilts? It's not a question for people who compete their quilts in contests. but many beginning quilters don't feel a need. Certainly the person you made it for will know who you are. Why put a label on the back?

One of the catch phrases of the time is to "Use your words". 

Has this happened to you? You've just wandered through the thrift shop or an antique show and somehow you found an amazing treasure: a quilt from another time. This was some woman's treasure, and now it's in your hands. Don't you want to know her story? Why she made her quilt? Who she made it for? Did she collect her fabric for years or did she buy all new for this quilt? Was she smart enough or respectful enough of her work to label it so we know? If she'd used her words, we would know so much more about her, than just her quilt.

A quilt really is a historic document. Many women have written in their stitches. Not in words, but you do know something of them just from their quilt. But how much more if she'd only used her words?
Of course we always want to know. And a label may be the only way we do know. 

Believe it or not, someone who finds your quilt will want to know too. Always sign your work. I sign mine in my quilting as well as with a label in the back. A label is like pinning a note on your 5 year old's coat, just in case. You probably won't need it, but it's never a bad idea. It's part of your story, the quilt's story, the story of the person who you made it for.

We have some amazing label fabrics. There's a perfect space for your name and your story, in some great sepia frames. If you stabilize the label with freezer paper, you can either write on it, or put it through the printer. Isn't that better? We all want to know who made that fabulous quilt.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cabin Fever: Log Cabin Quilts Gone Wild

Found on Ebay
We've been looking at the log cabin block for a couple of posts now. What we've learned is that even though it's made with rectangles and straight seams, it functions visually as a half square triangle. But what happens when you walk past that?

Good Gracious is it Monday Already by Pamela Thiele
You get some very wild geometric quilts that are modern as can be.

Modern Log Cabin Showed by Christina  Quilts Blog
Part of that comes from the willingness to be wonky and unexpected.
by Cath Hall at Wombat Quilts
To use really different colors in  different ways,

by Amanda at Three and Three Quarters
to Fussy Cut,

Pattern From Fons and Porter

Or really thinking differently about your placement,
You'll find the log cabin block is as wild as your imagination.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Designing Ways: Half Cousins, Log cabin and Half Square Triangles

half square triangle
 Last time we talked about the log cabin block functioning as a half triangle block. We're going to show you how that works.
We have our half triangle block. It's the building block for many more complicated block, but for now we're going to call it a quilt block on it's own. It's 2 45 degree triangles sewed together.
log cabin

Here's our log cabin. No triangles in sight. Instead it's made of straight rectangles.But the effect is so similar that you can use them interchangeably.

How does that work in a quilt block? You can take any quilt block and swap a log cabin block for a half square triangle. Really!
Straight Furrow half square triangle
These lay outs are both called a straight furrow pattern
Here's a classic half square triangle version,
Here's the log cabin version.

And just if you thought they didn't mix, here's a quilt using both.
Functionally they are absolutely interchangeable.
That means that any pattern using half square triangles can instantly become a log cabin, or visa versal
Here's several examples

Barn raising hst
Barn raising log cabin
Ohio Star hst

Log Cabin Star
How can you choose?Here's a comparison.
Half square triangle                         Log Cabin
Bias pieces                                     Straight grain piecing
Quicker piecing                               Easier piecing
Graphically simpler                         Graphically complex    

Can you make a mistake? Don't be silly. It's all part of the fun dance of design.               

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cabin Fever: The Very Variable Log Cabin

Log Cabin Pattern from Generations Quilt Patterns
The log cabin block is one of the most classic building blocks for quilters ever. And it's a wonderful optical illusion. It's made from straight, squared off strips sewn in straight lines. But because of the color choices, it gives us a great half square triangle look.

Which means that any block  you can make out of half triangles, you can make with log cabins. With no triangles.

Why? it's all in the color choices. Actually what makes the biggest difference is contrast. There are two sides to each log cabin block. They can be divided into bright/pastel

Amish Country Lanes Quilts
color/neutral, dark/ light, 
Capital steps
or bright/dull contrasts. But to get the triangle illusion, you need a strong contrast between the two sides. - 650 × 634 - Search by image
Log Cabin (Courthouse Steps variation), Maker unknown,
Once you've got a set of log cabin blocks you can play like a kid with colorforms. They can make just any half triangle block you want, without that pesky, bias, stretchy seam.
We'll look more at some of the very cool things you can do with log cabins in the next couple of posts.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Designing Ways:Stars out Tonight

Ohio star from
Are there stars out tonight? Almost every quilter I know did an Ohio Star at least once. And if you haven't, maybe you should.
You might be saying, "That may be the oldest quilt block out there. Why would want to do something that traditional?" You might find yourself mistaken about that.

Somehow the Ohio Star has always given quilters new ways to play.

Pattern from Multipatch, Inc.
Why is that? Partially because the components are not that hard. You have 4 quarter triangle squares and 4 plain blocks. That sounds pretty simple. It is. But the possibilities are endless.
Found on

Changes in colors
by Angela Walters.
Changes in size

Changes in design have kept it going strong and fresh for a century and a half.
Why? Because a block is just made up of squares. And you can make your square out of anything you like. It's a three grid ( 9 patch) block. Any where you like you can change out one of those nine patches with a different piece of the puzzle.
Here's a  small collection of Ohio Star variations.

Found on
It's a universe of stars out there. The Ohio star one of the best. Peg is working on an Ohio Star right now. Come on in and help her play with it.