TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Donna Hussain on Quilt Color Choices

When I decided to honor my husband’s Muslim heritage by making quilts with an Islamic theme for our home, I started collecting patterns from library books on Islamic art that could be used in quilt making. I now have several scrapbooks filled with patterns that might be used as border designs or sewn as patchwork or appliqué motifs. The inspiration for my quilt Islamic Mosaic was a sketch I found in an architectural source book of a tiled bath in the ruins of an eighth century palace in Jordan.

Islamic Mosaic by Donna Hussain

I immediately recognized that the main pattern of the bath was similar to the log cabin quilt block, but with a diamond instead of a square at the center of the block. The sewing proved relatively easy. However, the interlacing pattern in the bath decking, which I wanted for the border of my quilt, proved to be a challenge even when I simplified the design. After failed experiments with bias tubes, I decided to make cardboard templates of the motifs and appliqué them to the border fabric by hand.

When making Islamic Mosaic I was a relatively new quilter still struggling with color choices. Which colors were right? Which colors wrong? The bloom of a quilt store was intimidating. Fortunately, a quilt store near my house shelved bolts of fabric by manufacturer. Since each line of fabric was color-coordinated I had no difficulty picking out matching fabrics and accent colors for my quilt. Most fabric stores today organize their stock by color. This makes it much harder for a novice quilter to select a color palette for their first quilts.

Quilters gain confidence in their color choices through experience. I learned which colors I favor at quilt guild meetings during the Sew and Show portion of the program by jotting down the color combinations of the quilts that I liked. I keep a scrapbook of quilt pictures and magazine cutouts showing towels, sheets, rugs, and drapes with colors that please me. The pages are dog-eared from reference use. At quilt shows I make a first pass by walking quickly down the aisles stopping only when a quilt catches my eye. Usually it is color that draws my attention. When I see a striking multicolor fabric I buy a sample for my stash to remind me of color combinations that work well together. I lose interest if I start a project with colors I dislike. No pastels or thirties fabrics for me. I favor strong color, jewel tones.

My choice of the background fabric for the border of Islamic Mosaic was fortuitous. I didn’t anticipate that the color-bar fabric would add such visual interest to the quilt. Note how the changes in the background fabric from dark to light affect the interlacing design, pulling some elements forward while others recede. The effectiveness of a quilt can be a complete surprise to the quiltmaker.

California quilter, Donna Hussain has exhibited in major quilt shows around the country, authored books, and is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus.


1 comment:

  1. I love the top photo - the wonderful design, the patterns and the choice of browns and greys for the colorway. Really nice.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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