Monday, October 3, 2011

Value and Scale

What's all this talk about 'value' in quilts?

It's not the dollar value I'm talking about. Value is the most important factor when selecting fabrics for many quilt patterns and especially important for Give and Take Appliqué, the technique that is the subject of my new book, Give & Take Fabric Appliqué. And what about 'scale' - not the one we avoid stepping on!

Value refers to the relative lightness or darkness of fabric. The key item in this statement is the word "relative." This means that you need to compare one fabric to another to see if one is lighter in value or darker in value. Looking at a fabric by itself cannot tell you its value. Here are pictures of pairs of fabrics. Which one is lighter than the other one?
Value - Blues
Two blue fabrics
Value - Blue  & Turquoise
Blue and turquoise fabrics
It is easy to answer the question for the first pair of fabrics. The fabric on the left is lighter than the one on the right. In the other pair, it is a little trickier. The different colours of the fabrics makes it more difficult to decide. What if the colour wasn't there? Would it be easier or more difficult to determine relative value?

Here is the same picture converted to grayscale - only shades of gray are used in the picture. This time it is easier to see that the fabric on the left is the darker one.
Grayscale Fabrics
Grayscale fabrics
Value plays a very import role in Give and Take Appliqué. If there is low-value contrast (that is, the values are very close) the design wll not be visible. For this technique, I suggest you use fabrics where it is very easy to determine which fabric is lighter and which fabric is darker. Subtle value differences will not be as effective.

How does Fabric Scale influence fabric choices?

Scale refers to the size of the design. Small-scale fabrics are generally prints that duplicate the design elements in a regular pattern. Large-scale fabrics commonly have large areas of background colour or large motifs that are predominately one colour. If you use large-scale fabrics in Give and Take Appliqué designs, the appliqué shapes may include both light and dark values. And this can obscure the design details.

The pictures below show how best to use large-scale prints for Give and Take Appliqué.
Large-scale multicolour fabric
Large-scale multicolour fabric
Poor (left) and good (right) background choices for the large-scale fabric
Poor (left) and good (right) background choices for the large-scale fabric
The design pictured above is the first 'learning' project in the book. Imagine a New York Beauty-style design with NO curve-piecing and NO paper-piecing.

Give & Take Fabric Appliqué makes it SO easy. See more pictures of quilts from the book below and then order your autographed copy here.

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