Meet Christine Barnes . . . Give Color a Try and Enter the FREE Book Giveaway

A few years ago, I taught a workshop at one of my local guilds. While there I was fortunate enough to have Christine Barnes as my hostess for the duration of my visit. I think we had met briefly in passing at other quilting venues, but I never had an opportunity to spend time with her. She is a delightful lady and an accomplished quiltmaker who is passionate about color and has written a best-selling book on the subject. I learned that not only do we share a love of quiltmaking, but also both pamper ourselves with cashmere socks! Don’t ask me how we managed to move from the subject of quilting to socks, but I remember that we both slipped out of class early in order to check out the specialty sock shop located across the street from the quilt shop. What a fun day we had.

I can’t tell you how often I hear students say “I’m just not good at color.” I think it’s safe to say that many quiltmakers feel challenged in the area of color. I’ve touched on this subject before in previous posts but feel that it’s important enough to explore from another angle, so to speak. I always enjoy learning how different quilters deal with the same subject. I always learn something new and hope you will feel the same after reading this interview I had with Christine. Enjoy!

What is your background in color and design?

I’m often asked how I got into teaching and writing about color for quilters. Like almost every other quilter, I began sewing when I was very young. (One of my more “memorable” projects was a doll quilt filled with cotton balls, because when I asked my grandmother what was inside a quilt, she said, “cotton.”) Degrees in textile and costume design and magazine journalism led to a career writing books on color, decorating, remodeling, and soft furnishings for Sunset Books, as well as four quiltmaking books, and tech editing many more. My latest book, The Quilter’s Color Club (C&T), was released in spring 2011. I’ve been published in a number of quilt magazines, including American Quilter (Jan. 2012), American Patchwork & Quilting (Oct. 2011), McCall’s Quilting (Jan./Feb. 2012), Threads, and Fabrications, a British quilting magazine. I feel lucky to be able to do what I love for a living.

Christine's book provides all the information necessary to make your quilts sparkle with color.

From my teaching experience, I feel that color is one of the most challenging aspects of quiltmaking for many quilters. Do you agree and if so why?

Yes, most quilters feel challenged, sometimes overwhelmed, by color, but that’s because they haven’t had any real exposure to basic color concepts. Without the opportunity to learn, it’s hard to grow in your use of color.  The good news is that a sense of color can be learned through observation and experimentation. There ARE rules, and they really work! I like to say that it’s more about practice than talent.

What is your advice to students who would like to improve their color choices?

Consider getting together with a small group and starting a “color club.” Then begin to work with the basics—value, temperature, intensity, and the color wheel—and analyze and critique each other’s work. A small group gives motivated, like-minded quilters a place to study, experiment, share, and discover new ways to think about and work with color. You’ll see your work evolve, I guarantee.

Note: Christine’s book gives guidelines and helpful hints for starting a color club. The terms (value, temperature and intensity) may be new to some of you so I asked Christine to share her definitions along with some images.

Value is about the lightness or darkness of colors. She typically describes value as light, medium, or dark, but of course, there are endless variations.

Light, medium and dark value swatches of blue-green.

Temperature is about how warm or cool colors appear. Yellows, reds, and oranges are considered warm; blues, greens and violets are thought to be cool (red-violet and yellow-green can be either, depending on other colors in the mix.)

Samples of cool colors on the left and warm colors on the right.

Intensity has to do with the brightness or dullness of colors.

The swatches on the left are more intense (brilliant, saturated), while those on the right are low intensity (dull, muted) versions of the same colors.

How do you approach a new project? Do you have a pattern in mind, a color scheme, or perhaps a collection of fabrics?

Sometimes it’s a desire to play with a certain color or colors—I have my current favorites—or a new fabric that I just have to have. Right now I’m working with a lot of solids, especially shot cottons. I’m always buying fabric without a project in mind, just because the color is wonderful. Then when I’m putting together a new quilt, I have what I need and love.

If there was one piece of advice you could offer our readers who are interested in improving their color choices, what would it be?

Keep working! Make mock-blocks, quick cut-and-paste color studies, to see how the colors and patterns interact. You just can’t predict how one fabric will play against another until they’re cut into pieces and placed side by side. Usually, if something isn’t working, it’s a value issue—the lightness or darkness of color. I tell my students that “value does all of the work, and color gets all of the credit.” Also consider “magic fabrics,” those that have a sense of light coming from underneath the surface or from the side. These fabrics are the secret ingredient in transparency, luminosity, and luster.

Note: To read more about “magic fabrics”, transparency, luminosity and luster, sign up to receive her newsletter, Christine’s Color Connection.

Sample swatches of "magic fabrics" used in the "Transparent Circles" quilt.

In "Transparent Circles", value creates the illusion of lighter, transparent circles floating above darker background squares, or darker circles floating above lighter background squares.

Do you ever get “stuck” on a project? If so, what do you do to work through it?

Oh yes, I get stuck. But I take concrete steps to make something work, auditioning fabric after fabric in mock-blocks or on my design wall. I pin up fabrics and look at them throughout the day. I work with the values in a block to make the design “read” and create the illusion of depth. If the fabrics are mostly warm, I balance them with cooler colors. To a muted scheme, I add a fabric with bits of intense color to liven it up. And if I’m still stuck, I try fabrics I think might not work, because they often do. (This is especially true when choosing a border fabric.) Working, really working, with color stretches you, and you’ll see the results in quilts that you love!

"Elegant Circles" by Christine Barnes.

To read more about Christine, learn about her workshops, books, and patterns, visit her website, where you can sign up for her color newsletter, Christine’s Color Connection, and learn about her “Magic Fabrics, Special Effects” retreat at Lake Tahoe in June.

Many thanks to Christine for sharing her expertise in color. Thanks also to our good friends at C&T Publishing who have donated a copy of Christine’s book for one lucky reader…and Christine has autographed it. Just let us know by end of day Friday, April 27 why you would like to receive a copy. I will announce the winner in my next post on Tuesday, May 1.

Happy creating everyone.

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66 Responses to Meet Christine Barnes . . . Give Color a Try and Enter the FREE Book Giveaway

  1. Pingback: Artistic Alchemy Part 1: Quilter Christine Barnes Visits SHWS |

  2. Chris b says:

    I enjoyed reading this interview very much. Christine’s “voice” makes a lot of sense to me. Her explainations seem very clear I hope I win her book.

  3. Kris Jacobson says:

    I would like to have my quilts stand out in a crowd. I have been working with scrappy quilts to challenge myself on value and I am working towards a controlled scrappy to try for the pop. I would like to win Christines book to see if I could start a color club amoung my quilting friends

  4. Laurie Spear says:

    I would love to win this book for a few reasons. The first is I am one of those people who says “I’m not good with color”. When I put fabrics together they don’t feel right and it takes me along time to figure it out till I can say this is ok. The second reason is I would love to bring the book to my bee of 15 wonderful women, and start a color club. I think this would be fun and it would be helpful for many of us who struggle with our color selections. Once we become better at our color selections I am sure all of our personal projects and our donation quilts will improve.

  5. sandrabruce says:

    Just wanted to say Christine is a wonderful person in addition to being a great quilter and colorist. Her quilts are most amazing in person! I feel lucky to live in her area and be a friend.

  6. sandrabruce says:

    Christine is a wonderful person in addition to being a great quilter and colorist. Her quilts are the most amazing in person! I feel lucky to live in the same area and be her friend :-)

  7. Kristin M says:

    I love any color book. I find the small differences designers use sometimes make a great deal of difference in my understanding and implementing projects. I love the terms used in this article as they make sense to me : )

    • Christine says:

      Thanks, Kristin, for your comment about the terms. Once quilters grasp them (especially value and intensity), they can work with those aspects to make more satisfying quilts. I wish everyone could win the book!

  8. Mary Mac says:

    I usually get out lmy color wheel to help me then ask other opinions. I just can’t seem to make my first thought count. I do and redo. I think this book would be a great help.

    • Christine says:

      Hi Mary, thanks for your comments. Once you see how to work with value and intensity, the color wheel will make a lot more sense and help you more. If it makes you feel better, I experiment a lot, though much less than I used to. My artist uncle says “intuition is experience.” That is, through practice, you gain experience, and that turns into something we call a good “color sense.” Keep at it, and have fun a long the way :-)

  9. buntyw says:

    Thanks for a great interview!
    Colour choice is the hardest thing for me – I’m off to sign up for Christine’s newsletter!

    • Christine says:

      I hope you find lots of useful info in the back issues (which you can get to from the home page of my website or from the newsletter itself.) I’ve devoted an issue to each of the three terms—value, temperature, and intensity—plus info on “magic fabrics” and “new neutrals.” I love it all, and I never tire of thinking about color :-)

  10. Nancy says:

    I really need to learn about color

  11. Peggy says:

    No matter how much we learn about color…there is always more to know. Christine is an expert with the ability to present the information about color is clear, concise ways that are easy to grasp and put into practice. That’s why I would love to get her book.

  12. Chris Chambers says:

    Color choices have always been the hardest part of quilting for me. This year’s resolution is to become more confident about color.

  13. Kathy Boice says:

    I really struggle with colors so have stuck mainly to scrappy quilts where most anything goes. I have made it my goal to learn about using colors and improving my quilts.

  14. wandaspn says:

    I am a newbe to quilting and I cant afford everything at once. The material and notions are first on my list and this book will be on alist way down. I am interested in reading the book because I know it will help me in quilting and also in oil painting which I also started back up. I would love to win the book, but whoever wins it will love the bookk the way it sounds. Thanks for the chance.

  15. Pam Cope says:

    It sounds like a great book… I tend to buy colors that I like, so I don’t usually end up with enough contrast. It would be great to learn more.

  16. Kathy Howard says:

    The book sounds like it would be a great help to me as a quilter and since I’m dabbling with fabric design, it should help me with that, too.

  17. Janet Hartje says:

    I am mostly self taught and I think I could use another resource. This looks spectacular.

  18. Linda E in AZ says:

    I just love to play with colors, so this looks like a great book!

  19. Karyn Bruck says:

    The information in the article made me want to know more! It sounds as though Christine has a real handle on color and makes it all a bit less threatening, a lot more enticing!

  20. Maggie Howell says:

    I think this book explains colour so well! I really would love to win it.

  21. Wanda says:

    I suck at picking out colours! I could really use this book. I enjoyed the post.

  22. Laurie Bay says:

    I have finally learned to read my quilt books. The cover tells me that this bok would be read before it went on the “pile” . I am a believer in “the color makes the Quilt” ……I have even learned how to do the exercises! I would feel better about starting to use my very large stash pile if I felt better about how I would use the “colors”!

  23. Pat Hersl says:

    I need it. Simply enough, I’m in that boat of okay most of the time but still making colors mistakes that I know I shouldn’t. I’ll take any help I can get!

  24. Nancy says:

    I think the book sounds like it has something for everyone. I still can’t get the idea of how value makes or breaks blocks, the answer may be in the pages of the book.

  25. willa says:

    As a math major, I have always thought that color fit into a mathematical system. Even some of the terminology is the same. If we have gifts in art, for me it was color. I could always carry a specific shade in my mind and get thread and more that matched–exactly every time.

    Color is fun and I would enjoy reading and working through this new book. For sure!

  26. lisa says:

    I’d love to win the book. I keep telling myself color is your friend sometimes it works sometimes not I think its a value problem

  27. Ralitza says:

    I love colour and feel it as energy and power. Colour makes things bretah and spaces special. I would love to learn something new as I enjoy exploring and experimenting with color. I do it intuitively thogh and would love to see how a structured and deep study as this in the book might change my perseption for colour.

  28. Sorcha girl says:

    I certainly agree that it takes practice to “color” a quilt and it takes risk to step out of your comfort zone with colors not normally used. I’d love to win Christine’s book to practice with her advice.

  29. Phyllis O'Connor says:

    Christine is coming to my guild and I will be taking her workshop. I would LOVE to win her book.
    Phyllis O’Connor

  30. Donna Keating says:

    Would love to win Christine’s book.

  31. Joanna says:

    What a great post! Thanks so much. Would to continue studying color with the book!

  32. vivoaks says:

    I would love to win the book! I don’t have a huge problem with color, but you can always learn more!! Thanks for the opportunity!

  33. Sandy says:

    When a quilter writes a book on color you know it’s just filled with beautiful fabrics and quilts that inspire! I’d love adding this book to my collection!

  34. Sally says:

    I would love this book…. I think I have a good eye for color, but not really when you look at her work & the work of so many talented quilters like yourself. It looks like it would be a beautiful book to learn the skills of selecting the right colors. At the price of fabrics these days, we all need to choose wisely! Thanks Laura.

  35. Peggy O'Connor says:

    i love color and the play between colors. It seems there is always something new to learn about color. I would love to win the book to learn more.

  36. Karin says:

    Color really is a challenge for a lot of us. I would love to learn more and perhaps try my hand at one of your quilts. I especially like how you use stripes.

  37. Kathie L says:

    In the past I’ve sewn with a lot of Civil War Repros. Now I’m more attracted to the modern palette and designs, and color is more important than ever. Looks like just the book for me. Kathie L in Allentown

  38. debbiesther says:

    I really liked Christine’s other book, Color: the Quilter’s Guide, and I’m sure that this one will be even better! I didn’t know she has a newsletter. I just signed up for it and will be looking through the archives.

  39. Lisa Cristwell says:

    I too would love to win this book! As a newbie quilter, this would be a wonderful help!

  40. pam says:

    all right – i think i’m finally ready to take the plunge… i’ve been VERY intimidated by the whole color “philosophy.” i’ve been faithfully following your encouragement posts and this one is the one that will get me moving… i’d love to have christine’s book to start the process moving.

  41. soozeg says:

    I would love to win Christine’s book. Any help in color design is welcomed by me!
    Thanks for the drawing!

  42. Debbie says:

    While I’m better at color than with my first quilt, I still struggle with color on each one. I would love to have more confidence in putting colors together!

  43. Lynn says:

    What a wonderful give away! I don’t think I can ever learn too much about color theory and reading/studdying this book would add to my knowlege. Of course I would have to practice too.

    • Christine says:

      Yes! Practice turns into experience, and experience blossoms into something we call a “good sense of color.” Thanks for writing, Lynn. It’s been so much fun to see the comments

  44. Karen Duling says:

    This book would be a wonderful addition to my quilting library. I love working with color and am anxious to learn from Christine’s book.

  45. Linda Stone says:

    I am in love with the color wheel! I have found that whenever you are struggling with colors, the color wheel will solve the problem every time. The book would make a lovely addition to my library. Thanks for this opportunity.

    • Christine says:

      Thanks for writing, Linda! The color wheel is an awesome tool, isn’t it? Once you can “place” a color in a fabric on the color wheel (olive is a dark-value of yellow-green, for example), then you can use the color wheel to choose and audition a group of colors (yellow-green, blue-violet, red-orange, for example, a “triadic” combination). I continue to be amazed and delighted when I see what students do with the color wheel.

  46. elaine says:

    VALUE, TEMPERATURE AND SPECIAL EFFECTS. what a great way to find the best fabrics. i will have to read christine’s tips for a good fabric audition using value, temperature and special effects. laura, you are correct when you say you often hear us moaning about picking fabrics. i have enjoyed all the tips received through the seehowwesew blog. thanks!

  47. sellison18 says:

    I’d love to win a copy of Christine’s new book. I’d love to know how to replicate the wonderful effects she creates through her use of color.

  48. Martie says:

    Excellent information in this article. Thanks for sharing this! I’d love to have a copy of her book…

  49. Carol says:

    I have little experience with color and would like to become more expert with the many choices one can make.

  50. Connie says:

    I would absolutely love to win Chrintine’s book on color. I need to learn so much about color and her retreat sounds wonderful! Thank you!!! Connie in California

  51. NJLewis says:

    Always looking to improve my design skills. This book would surely be helpful.

  52. Carol says:

    I seem to be ”lucky” with color. I pull out my stash and oogle it and move fabric around, put a quilt together and the colors/combos/effects work. I would like a strategy. I enjoy fiddling with my fabric stash, but sometimes it would be nice to just go to the colors I want with a plan.

  53. Pat says:

    Color choices is one of the major challenges for me, as well as balancing pattern scale in a quilt design. Anything that can help me with this is most welcome. Thanks for a chance to win this great book!

  54. Barbara says:

    It is such a revelation when you finally have colors right in a project. Unfortunatelyt, it does not happen often enough and I would welcome another learning experience with Christine’s book. Thank you for the insightful interview.

  55. Arlene says:

    When I retired I joined a local group making charity quilts for kids in regional hospitals. As several of us voiced the same “color phobia” issues, we started a monthly group meeting where we study color…obviously we need Christine’s new book! The quilts we jointly make are donated to our Comfort Quilts charity. It’s all good.

  56. Sally says:

    I have a picture of ‘Elegant Circles’ in my sewing room. This book is on my list!

  57. Linda V. says:

    I love how Christine makes her fabrics ‘transparent’ – I’d love to learn how to do that.

    • Thanks for your comment, Linda! Working with transparency is all about value and intensity. You needs lights, mediums, and darks, and for the most convincing effect, the intensities of the colors should be consistent. The September 2011 issues of my color newsletter is about transparency. You can access the archived issues on the home page of my website. If you live in Northern CA, I teach two transparency workshops. Give transparency a try—it’s so much fun!

  58. I just bought a color wheel and am ready for the next step! Exciting quilts like Christine’s seem sooo beyond my reach….

  59. Audrey K. says:

    I struggle with color and would love to win this book! I signed up for Christine’s newsletters and look forward to learning more about using color. Her quilts are awesome!

    • Thanks so much for signing up, Audrey! As I said earlier, you can read more about transparency in the September 2011 issue of my newsletter. You can access back issues on the home page of my website.

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