SFQG: Christine Barnes Lecture

Barnes' Color Wheel
Barnes' Color Wheel

Christine Barnes spoke at a guild meeting last Tuesday. I got the notice and decided I would attend. My mom is still moving, so she couldn’t go with me. I have long admired Ms. Barnes work. I really enjoyed some work on luminosity done by her students, which I saw at the Monterey Quilt Guild Show. I’d like to sign up for that class. Barnes was teaching it at the Peninsula Quilt Guild last week, but work was crazy, so I couldn’t take off and had to miss it.

At the meeting, while waiting for the lecture to start, I went up to peruse her patterns, displays and other materials. I was impressed with her color work, but also with Ms. Barnes as a person. She came right up to me and started talking to me like a normal person. She came across as very real and not at all egotistical. She wore violet jeans! 😉 We talked about the magazine articles she had written or which had been written about her. One article had a picture of her kitchen, which is white and chartreuse! It was gorgeous. She also showed me a magazine I had never seen before: Fabrications. It is a UK publication and I will have to check it out.

Speaking and Showing
Speaking and Showing

Christine has degrees in Costume Design, Textiles and Journalism. She lived in Palo Alto for years and was an editor at both Sunset Books and Martingale. She has taught and lectured about quiltmaking for more than 10 years, including 7 or 8 years at Empty Spools / Asilomar. She has a new book coming out with C&T called The Quilter’s Club. During her entire lecture, I got the impression that she LOVES fabric, loves making quilts, really enjoys working on her projects and just has fun. I loved that!

She calls the color wheel a magical tool for quilters, because it helps a quiltmaker go past using the focus fabric to add color to quilts. In her travels, she has found that many of the preeminent quiltmakers use a color wheel so often that they have one posted on their studio wall.

“Magic fabric” is a concept that Ms. Barnes talked about and uses in her work. A magic fabric is a fabric that makes blocks glow. They are shot with light, often gradated, create ethereal effects, have vitality and life to them. Often hand-dyes and batiks fit into this category. Chaos can reign if one includes too many magic fabrics in a block or quilt. They are side dishes in your projects, a place for your eyes to rest. She uses magic fabrics as backgrounds pretty often in her quilts.

Elin Noble, of Massachusetts, daughter of Maurine Noble, creates beautiful hand-dyes, which Ms. Barnes mentioned frequently. I had no idea, so I’ll have to go check out her work. We were warned that Noble’s fabrics are not cheap.

She talked about luminosity, transparency and depth as effects. She also gave examples of her use of those effects. Value was something she gave a simple definition for: value is about light, medium and dark fabrics; how light or dark a fabric is. Christine Barnes said that value creates the pattern in a quilt and creates a sense of depth. I have heard value described in different ways. I kind of like this definition, but need to think about it and look at some quilts with this idea in mind. Some other information she uses:

  • temperature: how warm or cool a color is – red, orange, yellow are all warm and come forward. Cool colors recede and include blue, green and violet.
  • intensity: saturated, pure, clear. Not about color.
  • proportion has an effect on the impact of the quilt.
  • Ms. Barnes thinks a lot about how light hits color when she is choosing fabrics.
Wash of Color
Wash of Color

She had some other things to say about fabric, which I thought were interesting:

  • stripes with gradations (especially batiks) can organize a design especially when there are a lot of curves in your block or quilt.
  • woven plaids can be luminous
  • bringing a little color into a neutral quilt can create success;
  • in general, brining in little bits of other colors will make a quilt/project sing
  • when in doubt, throw in some black and white (her friend, Velda Newman says 90% black, 10% white)

Christine Barnes obviously loves fabric. She knew designers and fabric lines. She appreciates hand-dyes, but also uses commercial fabrics. She also knows her way around a sewing machine. She spoke about using partial seams like it was a no problem technique. YAY!

One thing I LOVED about Christine’s lecture was her concept of cheap thrills. One cheap thrill is mitering a striped border so that the corners end up with a chevron kind of look in the corners of your quilt. Another one of her cheap thrills is making large simple blocks and then cutting them up into quarters and put different parts back together in different ways.

Most of the quilts she showed were geometric, but Barnes showed us one quilt which was an abstract depiction of Kilauea volcano. It looked to me like a quilt showing cloud cities. I liked seeing that she was not stuck in her ways and was stretching herself in other ways besides just color.

Her color wheel was made from P&B Basics fabric and has 12 segments. You can buy one from her website.

Speaking and Showing Quilts
Speaking and Showing Quilts

I am really glad I could go to this lecture. I really enjoyed myself.