Several years ago, I decided that I would explore the world of fabric dyeing. It was in dyeing fabric that I really learned about color, and the difference between yellow-green and blue-green.
By mixing the colors to make the dye, all of a sudden the resulting colors make more sense, and now, many yards of dyed fabric later, it is easier for me to pick out colors for a quilt.
By actually seeing what color results from mixing 1/4 yellow and 3/4 red versus 1/2 yellow and 1/2 red, it all makes more sense.
What is interesting is that when I took the class, the teacher provided the dye to make the colors you see in the fabric samples below. I did notice that the red was a magenta color, instead of what I normally view as red. (The teacher called it fuscia.)
And the blue was more of a turquoise rather than a traditional blue. But, since it was all new to me anyway, I didn’t really question the differences.
It was just today, as I was once again pondering color that I ran across somewhat of an explanation for the difference. Not that this is a complete explanation, but it does offer some insight.
It turns out that this guy named Dr. Herbert Ives led AT&T’s television research during the 1920s and 1930s. Herbert’s interest in color began at an early age since his father invented techniques for color photography and the half-tone process. Those techniques made printing pictures in newspapers and magazines possible.
And Herbert created a color wheel made up of three “pure” colors. The true significance of all of this is that fabric dyes use the Ives Color Wheel, as was made apparent when I took the fabric dyeing class.
The three pure colors are: magenta, turquoise and yellow. The vibrancy of these colors individually is notable, and when they are mixed with each other in specific formulas, they create the most powerful and beautiful colors around.
Quilts made primarily with these pure colors immediately attract attention, whether they are displayed in a quilt show or your home.
As you choose colors for a quilt, you may want to keep in mind that intense colors can affect the mood of people looking at them. If you are making a quilt for a child that already has a high level of activity, you may not want to make it using pure colors because they would stimulate the child even more.
However, if you have a dull and boring room, like the all-around brown I had in my living room many years ago, adding pure colors will brighten up the room. In my case, it probably would have taken a truckload of pure colors to overpower the brown.
These pure colors, and their variations, are found in nature, and it is interesting to note that whether the colors are tints or shades depends on the season. I know, that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.
But, it works this way. A tint includes all of the colors between white and the actual pure color. Pastels are good examples of tints, and pastels are the colors of Spring – robin’s egg blue, peach, apricot, mint green, etc.
When you add black to a pure color, you get a shade of the color. As you can imagine, shades are the colors of autumn. When you add black to red, you get a rust color – shades of autumn leaves getting ready to fall from trees.
A tone is what you get when you add grey (not black) to a pure color. These are the colors of winter, and are generally calming colors. These colors are great for bedrooms and quilts for small children.
The real question in my mind is “who created the more ‘traditional’ color wheel? And why?”