Colouring Books

This week is all about colour. Perfectly appropriate with a fresh dusting of snow outside. Although, don't fool yourself, there is a lot of colour in a winter day.

Elle asked for my favourite colour books. Colour books are not all the same. Considering colour theory transcends the medium of the maker and is fairly standard, this is somewhat surprising.

When it comes to quilt books and colour, the variations seem to come in the communication of the theory. I think this is great because people learn differently and one book may sing to you and fall flat for another reader. Okay, that may be personality, but when it comes to colour, it is probably more about how the message hits you. It isn't any fault of the writer either. It is all about what you, the reader and quilter, respond to in a book.

At the top of the list for me is Fun Quilts Quiltmaker's Color Workshop. They do provide a few short pages on colour theory, then launch into concrete examples of 15 different palettes. They aren't grouped according to analogous, complementary, split complementary, etc., like so many other books. Rather they talk about a concept, mood, or inspiration. Each palette includes a real quilt, illustrations of the colours used - including demonstrations of the proportions used - and where they fit on the colour wheel. Then they include illustrations of what happens when you change proportions or vary the colour choices. Finally, they suggest exercises or workshop ideas for the individual or group. And this is for each of the 15 palettes.

I think the way the book is written can appeal to many different types of quilters and learning styles. It is incredibly detailed in discussion and in visual illustrations. It isn't a book you are going to pull out to see if this green goes with that purple on the colour wheel. It is, however, a great book for pushing you to examine your colour use and to encourage you to play with fabric and colour before you even bring out a needle and thread.

Another great book to push you through some challenges is Color and Composition for the Creative Quilter by Katie Pasquini Masopust and Brett Barker. This one isn't just about colour, they also cover layout, balance, and composition. Moving the reader through a whole bunch of exercises, they really encourage the personal adaptation of the concepts. It does follow the typical colour theory discussions, but with discussions on composition it is set apart from other books.

This book is also full, really full, of examples. Student work, quilts, photos, and drawings. even if you didn't do a single exercise, it too is also a good reference book. It is also full of tips and detailed explanations/inspirations for expanding your concepts of colour and composition.

Another book that takes the lesson approach is Color for the Terrified Quilter by Ionne McCauley and Sharon Pederson. This book is full of photos, illustrations, and basic lessons to get you playing with colour. There are examples and 11 quilt projects also included. Keep in mind that the projects are all pieced and would likely be considered traditional quilts by many. But they are quite striking in their simplicity and easily adapted to your own fabric sensibility and design preferences.

There is a big difference between this book and the Pasquini Masopust/Barker book. McCauley and Pederson's book is probably going to feel more familiar to the average quilter. That is, the ones who are happy making lots of quilts, complex and simple, modern and traditional. The Pasquini Masopust/Barker book is probably going to appeal to the art school grad or art quilter. They are both doing very similar things, but the layout, visuals, and communication provide a different tone to the books. I don't think one is necessarily better than the other in the material content of the book. Grab them both from the library and see what I mean.

Finally, there is always Joen Wolfrom. I used to steal her Color Play book from a quilting friend until I felt pretty confident in my understanding of colour. Visual Coloring is great for people who don't want to worry about colour theory though. Take a picture, an image, some graphics and pull the colours from that. Nature or the designers are both pretty good at making sure what is there works together.

Wolfrom features heaps of examples and a few patterns to illustrate her point. In all honesty, though, the discussion on what she means by visual coloring is short. What else could she say, though?

So, which is the right book for you? That's hard to say. I do think many beginners, and even us experienced folks would benefit from a good resource book. I own the first two books and do pull them out regularly. I fully admit that there is still a lot to learn.

A modern quilter who is ready to take steps into design and moving beyond single fabric line quilts would probably like Quiltmaker's Color Workshop the best. The quilts themselves are probably more appealing to a modern quilter.

Don't, however, discount a book just because the quilts in it aren't your style. Take cues from the presentations, lessons, and whether you actually learn something from the book. Colour books aren't necessarily meant for inspiration. Think of them as textbooks or reference materials.

Have I missed a favourite of yours? Have I thoroughly confused you with my insistence on using the letter U in colour?