Monday, 16 February 2009

Neutrals: a Fresh Look

One of the best fresh ideas I gleaned from the Superior Threads Seminar was Heather Purcell's take on neutral colors. For those of you who don't know, Heather is a colour wonder woman. She designs the thread colours for all the Superior Thread ranges. And a big part of that is finding out early on what new fabric ranges are coming out and making sure that she has the right colour-ways of thread to match. Pretty neat eh?
Back to neutrals...when we think of neutrals - colours like, grey, taupe, buff, brown, muddy green and maroon come to mind. Not terribly exciting. I'm more of a bold colour person so the idea of only using neutrals never made my heart sing. But we all know of some frugal soul who only uses neutrals and claims that they're suitable for piecing and quilting any project.
Heather had a quilt on display that was pieced in a variety of yellow fabrics. But the borders were added later by just such a frugal soul. She used a grey thread to piece the squares in the border corners. This quilt has become a teaching tool because when you look at it hanging on the stand, the grey line of the piecing thread in those corners, jumps out and smacks you in the face. We think of grey as a classic neutral but in that yellow context - it wasn't. Neutrals should blend in and it didn't - it stood out.

Heather's take on neutrals is that context is everything! We should always consider piecing and quilting thread against the fabrics we are using. So take the wrapper off the spool and unwind some thread and lay it against the selection of fabrics in the quilt. You'll be amazed. Some thread that you're sure would work won't and others that you never would have considered will be perfect. Thread and fabric belong together. We should always make thread choices alongside the fabric we're using.

Heather's definition of neutral is a thread that disappears against the fabric. A neutral colour is a thread that just doesn't show. And in a bright quilt, a neutral colour is going to be bright! So the next time you think about neutrals consider, Day Lily, or Indian Paintbrush, SubLime or Pop Art Purple. There is a huge difference between the block of colour on a spool and the line of thread against the fabric. Taking the trouble to unwind the thread against the fabric will make a world of difference.
Almost always, we want the piecing thread to blend in with the fabric, that's why there are so many colours in the MasterPiece range of Superior Threads. With all the wild and wonderful fabrics currently on the market, just a few neutral threads would never do!

1 comment:

Trudi said...

Martha, thanks, this is very informative. I think I'm going to have a look at my piecing with fresh eyes now. I'm with you on the quilting standing out, admitted there is a time and place for 'neutrals' that blend in, but bold is beautiful!

I love the pictures, they are very inspiring :o)