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Colour Exercise 1

Over the next few weeks, we are going to have a play with some simple colour exercises. Some of them will be all about sewing, and some not about sewing at all. At the end of the few weeks I hope that you will have some new tools in your box the next time you think about a new quilt and where you want to take it.


In every single class I have ever taught over the last 25 years of my teaching career, at least one person has told me they aren’t good with colour. This blanket statement is usually dismally delivered, apologetically, and with a sigh of finality. I’ve got news for you all - you are ALL good with colour. The most important thing that I can teach you about colour is that there IS NO RIGHT AND WRONG.


Every single one of us gets out of bed in the morning and puts on clothing that looks nice together, and compliments our own sense of style. We know what we like to look at, and what makes a pleasing arrangement of tones when we see it somewhere or choose it ourselves. You all think those choices are made by someone else, and yes - usually the fabric or book cover or sofa cushion you’re admiring was designed by someone else, but you are able to look at that object or painting or flower or sunset and know what is pleasing to your own eye, and that is the first and most important step towards being “good with colour!” We all have it already within us, we just need to stop denying it and treating colour as some kind of magical unicorn we can never ride.


Despite my earlier protestations, spending the past few weeks thinking about how best to start this class with you has dragged me kicking and screaming back to the colour wheel. Despite my deep loathing of art teachers everywhere thinking that people will be magically able to process colour once they possess a little circle full of coloured wedges, I’ve decided that the colour wheel has merit. So we’re going back to basics.


I don’t want you to have to buy loads of things for these exercises and I definitely don’t want you to have to buy more fabric - but if you don’t have a packet of coloured pencils and some plain paper, I’d like you to pop out and get those things before we start. They don’t need to be expensive pencils and just plain copy paper or a note pad will be just fine - you probably want some paper that isn’t lined or gridded (for now). If you do want to invest in some nice quality pencils, I absolutely LOVE Palomino Blackwing pencils - I use their soft graphite pencils almost exclusively for drawing and their coloured pencils are absolutely lovely. They’re widely available, if you have a quick Google around you’re sure to find some near you.


Ok we’re going to start at the beginning, where fabric has almost nothing to do with what we’re going to learn. Colour theory is the study of colour families and their relationships. I don’t want this to get too technical, but lets start with what we all learned as kids. The basic colour groupings are:


Primary colours - true red, true blue and true yellow




Secondary colours - you can mix two primary colours to produce secondary colours.


Blue + yellow = green

Red + yellow = orange

Blue + red = purple