Posts Tagged ‘color’

Heat and Shape: Mad Scientist/Artist at Play!

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

cycada song2Somewhere in my family background, there has to be a mad scientist somewhere. Either that or a wild woman who was brewing some very odd teas. 

I’ve been a dyer for over 30 years now. It’s not all of what I do. It’s never really been the focus of what I do. But my work would have been much less rich without it. 

I’m also incapable of measurements. Not in cooking, not in dyeing, not in any way. If you just can’t pour it in and hope for the best it’s probably not going to happen on my watch.  Soups and stews, yes. Much better at bread than cake. It’s all a dyslesics view of the measuring cup. It’s a sugguestion, a guideline. Don’t ask for accuracy.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love  experiments.So I was delighted when I got a package of Heat and Shape. 

I’ve pasted in the information for you. Of course, it never occurred to me to do trapunto. 

Heat & Shape is a revolutionary heat-activated batting that allows the home crafter to create unique, 
rigid, three-dimensional fabric designs.  There is no need for water or messy chemical additives, Heat & Shape is non-toxic and is activated with only heat and pressure. Heat & Shape can be easily 
cut with scissors or a rotary cutter and, prior to heating, can easily be sewn through using standard
needles and thread.  Due to the nonwoven nature of Heat & Shape it will not fray at the edges like 
Woven stabilizers.  

Ideal as a hidden stiffener to add stability and crispness to handbags, tote bags and
placemats.  Let your imagination run wild with fanciful masks, costumes, millinery, boxes, bowls, flowers 
and ornaments.  Heat & Shape is mold and mildew resistant and is machine washable and dryable.

Quilt Heat & Shape into some of your favorite fabric, lightly steam and you have what we call
“Poor-Man’s Trapunto”; a beautiful stipple  effect as the Heat and Shape crisps and shrinks as you steam!

I found myself thinking, Leaves! So I cut a bunch of leaves and shaped them and veined them with the iron and the heat. As you heat them, they shrink and take on the forms around them. It’s like shrinking felt that can be molded and marked and seamed.

When I got done they were fearfully white. But they were polyester. It’s been a long time since I played with Rit, but Rit is one of the dyes that is formulated for all kinds of fibers. 

crockpot 2It was like my old college days. We used what we had.At that time Rit was it. Rit responds to vinger, salt and heat and I used a lot of both of those. I put it in the Crockpot and left it for two days. It remains to be seen whether the mix of purple and green made that brown or whether I singed them. But theydiyed leaves are very, very fall like.

dyed leaves 2

dyed leaves 3



They’re currently pinned to the Cidada quilt that is in process on top. I’m excited to see what they’ll look like with veining and stitching all over them.















You’ll find Heat and Shape at InnovativeCrafts.Com. Even though it’s polyester, we’ve proved it will dye with heat, salt vineger and Rit. Although, there’s a rumor that it could be made in rayon.  Which would dye with cold water procions. The mad scientist in me is completely overjoyed. cycada song detail


A Summer School Gift for You

Sunday, August 18th, 2013
color outside the wheel.indd_Page_01

Color Outside the Wheel An Ebook for you!

We’ve had a great week. I hope you’ve learned some great new ways to approach color, past picking the colors off the wheel. I need to thank Caryl Bryer Fallert, Kathy Weaver, and Susan Shie for letting me explore colors in their magificent work.

french toast

French Toast, Susan Shie

Robo Sapien Agent 4

Robo Sapien Agent 4 Kathy Weaver

Feather Study 1 by Caryl Bryer Fallert

Feather Study 1 by Caryl Bryer Faller

 I need to thank Monique, Kleinhans, Rebecca Dorian Brown, Lauren Strach, Joan Davis, and Roberta Hoover Ranney for letting me put them in places of honor on the refrigerator gallery.


I have the answers to your tests here. Not that that matters. The real test is, does this change how you think? What you choose? And that’s as much a test for me as for you. But here’s your answers.

Color cast is
C. whether colors lean towards the sun or the shade.

2. The color wheel is
C. a map of color relationships.

3. Differences in value
A. help us sort things visually 

4. We all recognize the same color names
B. False

5. Color temperature is about
 C. Both

6. Color theory works the same for mixing colors as picking colors.
B. False
7. All blues are the same.
 B. False

8. Everyone sees color the same way
 B. False

9. Differences in hues are
 B. differences in light and dark

10. Contrast
C. Pops out the figure from the ground

11. You should never use a color your hate.
 B. False

12. Color theory is
 B. A theory that works up to a point. C. 

color outside the wheel.indd_Page_01As a gift to my students. I’ve packaged up this class in an ebook you can enjoy and work with at home. Thanks for being such good students. And go color off the wheel. You can download it at or click the picture for a link.

Next week I’m exploring the new box of Inn Fuse that Innovative Craft sent me so I can do a demo for them. And, of course, for you

Thread Magic Summer School: Color Outside the Wheel Pop Quiz

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

893 for the bees pleaselFor the last week I’ve talked about color, not just in terms of color wheel but what we do with our color choice past the wheel. My hope for you is that you’ve come away with new thoughts about how you might choose color, play with color and color way outside the lines and outside the wheel. I hope it makes you try colors you love, colors you hate and colors you just don’t know yet. I hope it makes you braver and bolder. And I hope you show us all.

Here is your test. You don’t need to pass it on to me. I’ll put the key in to tomorow’s post, with my Summer School gift to you. I’ve put together a free ebook from what we’ve studied here. I hope to have it posted up tomorrow.

Name: Class: Saturday, August 17, Total Possible Marks: 12 Test  

1. Color cast is
A. Made of plaster
B. Dark or light
C. whether colors lean towards the sun or the shade.

2. The color wheel is
A. a pretty chart.
B. everything we know about color.
C. a map of color relationships.
3. Differences in value
A. help us sort things visually
B. are scary
C. make things look muddy

4. We all recognize the same color names
A. True
B. False

5. Color temperature is about
A. Warm and cool colors
B. Color cast
C. Both

6. Color theory works the same for mixing colors as picking colors.
A. True
B. False

7. All blues are the same.
A. True
B. False

8. Everyone sees color the same way
A. True
B. False

9. Differences in hues are
A. differences in intensity
B. differences in light and dark
C. differences in colors

10. Contrast
A. Should be kept to a minimum
B. Is only for hues
C. Pops out the figure from the ground

11. You should never use a color your hate.
A. True
B. False

12. Color theory is
A. A scientific fact.
B. A theory that works up to a point.
C. A Victorian concei

Your real test isn’t here. The real test is when you pick your next colors. Choose something marvelous.

Thread MagicSummer School: Color Mixing vs. Color Picking

Friday, August 16th, 2013

672 Willow lEven though we’ve been looking at dyers and painters, we’ve been exploring color combinations. We’ve learned that the most exciting combinations offer us contrasts either in hue, tone, temperature or cast. Those contrasts help define our figure and separate it from the background. That separation gives the mind and the eye a way into a composition, a way to make immediate visual sense of what is going on.

All that falls to the ground when we start mixing colors.

 dye cupswI’ve always let the dye houses mix my colors for me. They do a much better job, and I’m constitutionally the right person to do it. It would assume I could measure something. That hasn’t happened since 1969.

But once you put one dye color on top of another color, you’ve mixed them, planned or not. And that same excitement that happens with contrasts in color combinations is instantly blended into a brown of some sort.

I know a lot of unhappy dyers. Unless you really like brown, this is a downer.


color picking

Picking primaries


Mixing from Primaries

Mixing from Primaries




Willow is an example of a great deal of purposeful mud. I love the browns in her, and dyed them largely from complements.



759 Blossoms in Moonlight detailThread Color is about picking rather than mixing. So the color choice rules apply. Brown is enriched in this bunny with greens,burgundies, teals, oranges, purples and olive greens, all complements but separate because each is a separate thread. The eye blends them in your mind, but their separation holds the colors true and bright.

Ellen Anne Eddy's Dye Day Workbook cover front for web tnIf you want more information about color mixing you’ll find it in my book




Dye Day Workbook, available in print on or on my web site.

It’s available as an PDF on my Etsy store Raid My Fabric Stash


 joans refrigerator

On our Refrigerator today, we have Joan Davis, an amazing Hawaiian quilter who’s work reflects the beauty of the island. You’ll find more of her amazing work on her facebook page at






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This is our last day of Thread Magic Summer School. Tomorrow there will be a test. It is only a test.

I do think it’s fun at least to measure what you’ve gotten out of it all.

Sunday I hope to have a little gift for you for coming to summer school and making it fun.



Thread Magic Summer School: Contrasts in Temperature

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

860 fall koiChanges in color temperature make very dramatic contrasts.  We talk about warm colors and cool colors on the color wheel. Traditionally the color wheel is divided into cool colors

Cool Colors

Cool Colors

warm colors

warm colors











Those colors used in an unbroken arc are analogous colors. They’re smooth, lovely and very pretty. The warm colors speak of sun and fire, and sunsets.
















The Cool colors speak of water and greenery and soft filtered light.

There’s not a lot of tension in analogous color. It’s gentle soft color.

But if we take cool colors against warm colors, we find ourself in a visual thermal shock. Cool color against warm pops images off the background every time.

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Use intense temperature differences to separate out figure/ground images. Bright or dark, they define the difference.

On the Refrigerator

We have the awesome work of Monique Kleinhans, from Kailispell, Montana. You’ll find her wide prairie visions at her web site Ladybug’s Cabin at Paint, Metal And Mud Gallery, and teaching at Glacier Quilts, in Kalispell, MT.

monique refrigerator 2r
















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Thread Magic Summer School: Contrasts in Tone

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013


Cyborg Female 3- Amusing Disorder

Cyborg Female 3- Amusing Disorder

Our color master today is Kathy Weaver.

Tone is the dark side of colors. In dye and paint a color can be darkened either by browns, blacks or by the complement of the color. Tint is the lightening of colors either with white or water. 

We somehow fear the dark. We sometimes forget the  colors that dark or muddy. But diamonds show up best against a black cloth. Darks are our shadows, our depths, the underside, the forest glade and our art is sorely limited without them. 

Pastels offer us a pale world, a shadow delicate mist.  I find it hard to go there. I want all my colors bright. But bright colors gleem against a pastel background. In both cases it  is a contrast in tone that focuses us exactly onto the art and lights our excitement.

Kathy Weaver has created a quilted world of robots that have always astonished me. She’s color master, part for her choices but largely for her painted imagery that jumpstarts her work. And she knows how to work contrast to make her images shine.

I’m also going to introduce you to one of my favorite online tools. Big Huge Labs is a site that has all kinds of free and fabulous photo tools. This is their swatch generator. It’s an easier way to look at the colors in a piece.

Here is one of Kathy’s works and a swatch list of the colors she used.

Robo Sapiens, Agent 5 has a glowing yellow robot against a deeply toned set of bars.

In Robo Sapiens Agent Four, we have the contrast of this wild pink robot against a beige netral.

Robo Sapien Agent 2 glows against the darkly toned background.

When we look at the swatches we can see the contrast in tone, the light and the dark. In all cases, she chooses the difference in tone to accentuate the figure from the  ground.

The figure is our focus. But if it do the same as our background, our ground, the eye has to somehow figure out where it is. Making a visual obvious distinction between the figure and the ground pops it all into view. And making it with differences in  contrast is a clean and clear way to that.

Cyborg Female 1- Complacent Nature

Cyborg Female 1- Complacent Nature

It doesn’t matter whether we choose a lighter or darker backg round. The difference itself, either way sets the figure fore and center in our perception. Cyyborg Femail has yellow arms that echo her background. But the difference in the tone pops her out against it. She glows against the background because there’s a contrast.

Fire Slinger glows against the dark because of the differences as well, although this time she’s gone to the darker contrasts.

Fire Slinger

Fire Slinger

And Invader has both soft background and foreground, but she lets the edges darken enough to pop the contrast.



Explore more of Kathy Weaver’s fabulous world on her web site at

Or you can learn from her at her classes coming up at Arrowmont, September 29th through october 5th. Here is the website info. workshops/venueevents/196-kathy-weaver


Make your images pop by choosing differences in tone when you pick backrounds. Go light. Go dark. Go different!

Laurens refrigerator

On our refrigerator today we have Lauren Strach from St. Joseph, MI. Lauren’s nature quilts have attracted attention (and prizes) both locally and nationally. Her work sings with color and contrast!

















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You’ll find more of Lauren’s fabulous work on her facebook page at

Thread Magic Summer School: The Magic of Contrasts

Monday, August 12th, 2013

bradford fantasy 1Our color masterist today is Caryl Bryer Fallert.

What all art creates is a series of contrasts, in some form or another. Color theory is one way of describing those colors. We joke about plain white canvases being art because we know  that even as an art joke there’s no drama there. The ability of art to change how we think, how we feel, how we live is the point of it all. Good art changes the world. But to do that it has to demand our attention. It does that by emphasising contrasts.

We can build contrasts in a number of ways. Color is only one. We also have contrast in value, in saturation, in size, in color cast and temperature. All of those scales give us a way to separate the elements of our work. The most important separation is between field and ground.

color wheel  pattern 3When we look at the color wheel we have the map of how colors (Hues) relate to each other. The closer they are to each other the less tension there is between them. The further they are, the more tension and the more potential excitement a combination has.The colors farthest away from each other are called complements. They’re the electric voltage to most art, and they’re what we’ll look at today.

Perhaps the finest quilt color master of our time, Caryl Bryer Fallert is a master dyer and quilter. She has a gift for astonishing color, that usually encompasses the whole color wheel. All those complements at once are electric. The tones and the saturation on these colors are relatively even. All of the drama is in the change of the hues, the colors themselves. And she’s always dyed her own fabric.

These pieces romp through the whole color wheel. Doing that they place all the complements against each other. This is a winning combination, visually and at shows because it always grabs  attention.

Once we start picking and choosing colors off the wheel, the complements still s are the king combinations of these. If we are a little more aware, we can catch a bit of the feeling we get off them. We like them because they offer strong visual stimulation.

Here’s some of Caryl’s work that encompasses complementary combinations

We can also take an arc of the color wheel and focus on that. Those are analogous colors. Here are some amazing pieces of Caryl’s focused in the blue/green arc.

Caryl’s astonishing work can be seen on her web site at, at her studio in Paducah, KY and in art collections and museums across the country. Make sure you see the amazing body of work she’s continued to graced us with.

We’re used to thinking about color strictly as hue. But tomorrow will look at differences in saturation and how they make it easier to separate field and ground, background and forground.

rebecca refrigerator 4On the refrigerator today we have Rebecca Dorian Brown, the creator of Dreaming Girl Highway. Rebecca is also a master colorist and she let me put up these lovely images. Dreaming girl is a series of 78 images out of her life and time set in a deck of Inner Vision Cards. Her media is computer driven and she is a master at generating depth and drama out of pixels and vectors.

Rebecca’s amazing cards are available on her web site at Make them your visual snack on your way past the refrigerator.

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Would you like to be on the refrigerator too? Send me several quilts and your contact/web  information at

Dyeing for Threads

Monday, July 8th, 2013

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday I threw 288 threads into the washer. I had to. I’d dyed them

dyed threadsI’ve never gotten over dyed threads. I started dyeing threads 15 years ago. These are #5 weight pearl Cottons. They work brilliantly in an adjusted bobbin case. And they. dyed like champs. Someone asked how I dye thread, and how it washes out, so here you are.

Of course you have to wash them out. There is no trick at all to dyeing thread. Add color. There you are.

Washing them out. Not so easy.

lumps in the washerEnter the less than lovely lump. These threads have been twisted into lumps and stuffed in black nylon stockings. Once they’re tied, they’re going no where bad. Throw them in the washer with synthropol and softener on the last wash, and you get.

Thread lumps!thread lumps

Once you cut away the stockings, it get’s much more exciting.




thread on shower hook wOnce the thread is out of the stocking, you control it with a shower curtain clip. These are getting hard to find, but they do show up at Lowes. Put them on a hook and hang them up to dry.

Altogether, this is what this batch looked like.




Most of these are for me. But I am putting a small quantity of them on sale at Etsy as kits of three threads in  dark, light and shocker/shader collections.  You’ll find them on my Etsy shop at

Ellen Anne Eddy's Dye Day Workbook cover front for web tnWant more information about dyeing threads? There’s a section on thread dyeing in my book, Dye Day Workbook, available on Etsy as a pdf and available on my web site and on as a paper book. 

Here’s what the threads looked like.



I put them in packages of threes, perfect for embroidery, bobbin work, couching, crazy quilting and hand stitching.

They come in

  • Stone Grey
  • Growing Greens
  • Blueberry Blue
  • Aqua Waters
  • Ripe Reds
  • Tangerine Dreams
  • Glorious Mud
  • Olives
  • Sunflower Yellows

I’ve dyed for thread. Wouldn’t you?

Spinning the Color Wheel: A Photoshop Journey

Sunday, June 9th, 2013


I’m obsessed with color studies. Of course, my favorite present, even as a child was a color chart. I still feel that way. But what I’ve found over the years is that it’s the relationships between the colors that set my heart pitter pattering.

Once you get past the physicality of how you do your art or craft, you find yourself needing to expand somehow. Usually that takes a question. What if? How? Why do we always? Most great or even mildy interesting art asks a question and works through the answers. You can see artists of all kinds ask questions. What if it were really bigger? Upside down? My dream view? My nightmare? Blue instead of yellow? All of that changes our perspective on what we’re doing. And I think, personally, that the change of perspective may be the basic reason for it all. If we see our world as different, then it is. If we can get someone else to see the world differently, then we’ve really changed them at least.

The hard and exhausting thing about this is that often it takes years of work to ask and answer those questions within your work. Sometimes that’s worth it. Sometimes it’s a way to avoid doing anything important while you play in a corner.


Enter the computer age. Instant spelling, communication and in some ways, instant art. One of the coolest tools on the computer is  the computer program Photoshop. Even in it’s lighter versions, it’s the go to program for digital Phototography. It’s a golden oldy. I don’t know anyone who knows Photoshop. But I’ve been learning what I call tricks with Photoshop. Within it is an endless set of tools to manipulate color and shape. Sound like anything we know? As I’ve worked on books for myself and others I’ve needed to know more than just how to size my pictures.

So I’ve been taking classes on, which is a tutorial service on the internet that offers a mind boggling range of videos on anything you might want to learn. This is what happened when they showed me the slider bar on the hue menu. I’m not going to show you how to do this, because it’s simply sliding the  bar around. I want you to see what happens to colors when we change the hue, but the relationships stay the same. And it does an instant abstract just by being colors you don’t expect.

Remember that peoni?


I could have spent the last 6 months making this peonie in these colors. It might have been worth it to me. I still may. But I got to see the changes without that time spent. I picked the  colors directly from the photographs rather than matching them to the wheel. The orange and lime ones are the ones that send me moonward. But then again, I’m always ready for orange and lime. But it’s the relationships that stay pretty constant. What would happen if I did that to the same bug? 

I’m not sure if I learn as much this way, but it seems that I do. I don’t think we know exactly how it works to learn something intellectually and visually, but not through the manipulation of materials.  But it’s six months of experimenting in 20 minutes. That was worth it.


Howard Schatz wrote an amazing book called Botanica, which I believe are a number of photoshop like images slid through different color waves. It’s mind blowing and very good for getting you out of the notion that roses are red and violets are blue. is also mind blowing. I invite you to check it out and see what neat thing you can learn today.

And I hope to see you on the journey.


Ellen Anne Eddy



Lessons from My Garden:Color Musings

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

804 Allium and ButterflyMy garden has gone bersonkers. Perhaps it’s all that rain. Or my friends who morris dance in it from time to time. One of the things I enjoy most is the cycle of change measured by my flowers. The garden starts as yellow daffs, goes through a multicolor, but mostly red tulip phase, and then lands in the purple part of May/June


peonie 2This is the time of peonies and alliums.

I have regular peonies.  But they take a back seat to the Chinese peonie trees I put in years ago. They stand as a tree and have spectacular 6-8 inch blooms in pinks, purples and reds.

alliumAlliums are a huge purple  garlic bloom. How could you go wrong? Add another  color peonies and the garden starts to sing in purple.

purples chart wWhy is it so exciting? A look at the color wheel makes it plain. We”re playing with complements again. But on top of that we have colors on either side. So we have an analogous color combination  as well. The colors make a split analogous grouping which really is my favorite way to play. You get all the smooth colors from an analogous color arc and the excitement of a complement group.

Remember that  the color wheel is not just about mixing color. It’s not just red and blue make purple. Instead, it’s a mapping of color relationships.  We respond to the relationships of color, who they are next to each other, much more than we respond to one color or another separately. And we can spin the dial to create to reproduce that relationship with another set of colors entirely.

Next time I’ll take you for a spin on the color wheel using Photoshop as our guide.

Wanting to build your own pattern free quilt garden? Check out my book

Thread Magic Garden Until then, make sure you bathe in the colors.



Ellenisms: Artistic Aesthetics

Friday, November 16th, 2012

They say you can’t really teach art. They’re really right. What you can teach is art tricks and drafting skills. And you can teach basic rules anyone can violate any time they don’t work. 

So teaching aesthetics  really doesn’t work. What you do is expose people to what you see as a wonder and let it take them where it will. Most of this is about color. A bit of it is about design. All of that is just a toolbox for seeing things differently.

With that in mind, there are things I say, just to open the doors a crack on that regard. 

  • Break the match instinct. You’ve matched thread all your life. You want it to show up here. Pick the brightest thread  you can find that will shine against your backdrop.

  • Complementary colors are the definition of excitement. And you can’t have too many. If you’re bored, add the complement.

  • Use a shocker and a shader in your color choice. A darker color anchors your piece and puts it into dimension. A bright shocking color gives it a final shimmer that puts it into the light.

  • A three legged stool always stands. Designs with three elements balance almost automatically.  It’s easy design.

  • Built a visual path. Create a path for your eye to follow and your eye will move through your work. It will make your work seem to move too.

  • Design so that your piece is as exciting up close as it is at a distance. Details and design are both vital. Detail brings excites up close. Good design brings them in.

  • Hang it up and look at it. You’ll know in six months. You don’t see a piece in whole until you hang it on a wall and look at it for a while. Unless you’re in a crushing hurry it’s always worth doing that. Especially if it’s large.
  • Build a frame and break out of it. We crave structure. We celebrate release. if you build a frame into the work and then break out of it in the design, it gives you both feelings at once.
  • All art depends on contrast. You have contrast between hues (basic colors), shades (darks and lights), and casts (golden, blue, clear and muddy). You can create contrast with colors, textures, shapes and sizes. Without contrast your eye has nothing to grab onto. Everything is sadly the same.
  • Of course all of this works except when it doesn’t. Which is so true to everything I say it all the time.

Art tricks are just tricks. They’re easy ways to think about building your personal aesthetic, the rules that really work for you. And they’re the only ones that count.

I teach a lecture called the Visual Path that walks people through this pretty simply. If you have a group that would like some real design tools, it’s a good starting place.

 I teach color theory on all classes. Can’t do it without it.


Mary Jo Bower: A Color Riot

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012


Red River Valley

I met Mary Jo when I first came to Chicago in 1979.  I went to work at Vogue Fabric in Evanston, perhaps the best fabric education available at the time. Part of that was getting to see the stream of astonishing fabric people, artists, designers,quilters, seamstresses and creative souls. Mary Jo was one of the best of those. I’ve watched her art bloom into a full color riot. Here’s what she says about her own work.

For Amber Waves of Grain

“As an artist working with color in fabric, paper and threads, my goal is a vibrant, animated and vigorous art wall quilt.  My medium challenges me to translate into a nonverbal art quilt the power of my soul.  I use bold colors, shapes and dimensions using artist dyed and commercial over-dyed fabrics and scraps from various places including sari and upholstery shops, thrift stores and used garments.


I work from an idea, a photo, a Gentle Curvespainting or a scene that captures my imagination and creates a mental image to represent some aspect of the inspiring theme. I lay out all the fabrics that may or may not work with the theme; e.g., green for the fields or maybe red for the fields. The goal of each piece is an abstraction so colors need not represent reality. Freeform organic images are randomly cut and grouped on the design board until they begin to express the mood I am seeking. I continue to work intuitively allowing each piece to determine its own path and direction. Each wall quilt has at least three layers; the pieced top that is layered with many pieces, the batting which  gives the quilt  shape, direction and contours when embroidered and  quilted;  the backing which completes the art quilt.  My work is being influenced by traveling, distressed buildings and barns that have weathered the times, and destruction wrought by wars.”


Morning Song

Her work bursts with wild lunatic energy. Mary Jo  is a maniac riding a color wave. And I love it.

You’ll find Mary Jo’s work on her site at 

Facebook page at

 Pictures at Pinterest

Falling into Fall: In Search of Fall Color

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Last night’s  hard wind and rain brought the cool that’s been promised by the leaves’ turning.  There’s patches of color up and down the highway.  Mostly maples at this point.  The browns will come in later with the oaks, and the elms are in  between wth a fanfare of yellow. All time is spiral in nature. And it’s always announced by the colors. You know what time of year it is without a calendar. Just look up at the trees and the sky.

What makes those fall colors so fabulous? When we get them on the wheel, it’s  pretty clear. If we look at them from a distance we have a split analogous wheel We’ve got the reds and the greens complementing each other. But here nature’s blended them into different browns as well.

Whenever I teach dyeing,  I get someone who says to me “I hate brown. I don’t want to dye any browned out colors.” That’s an aesthetic and it’s a choice. It’s not even a bad choice. Most of us can easily be seduced into clear colors.  But as you dye fabrics and threads, you come to realize that different complementary pairs make different browns an that the shades between them are amazingly rich and moody. The owl was done with around 3o different hand dyed threads shaded with complementary pairs in different combinations to celebrate brown. It’s much sexier that you thought, isn’t it?

In the micro view it’s a little simpler. Were you wondering why there’s pink in that wheel? It’s there in those leaves. But the green and red sizzle against it and it slides in with that soft orange.

Fall into the colors of fall! All those colors against the browns are warmth against the coming cool.




Ilini County Stitchers

Monday, July 30th, 2012

 just had the nicest visit with the Ilini County Stitchers in Champagne/Urbana, Illinois.

This is a guild I’ve visited before. There’s nothing nicer than coming back to a guild you’ve taught at. Firstly, they’ve told you they like you by asking you back. I don’t know a nicer compliment for a teacher. But secondly you get to see the wonderful ways they’ve grown.

This is an arty guild with a lot of passion for new ideas. So you can only imagine. And they didn’t disappoint me. 


 They did three classes .Guilding the Lily is a class where we take a great print and embellish it with beautiful straight stitch thread work.

Thread Magic Mastery is where we work with every kind of thread.



Bobbin Work Flowers is a little class where we make bobbin work applique flowers with lovely thick threads. 

Here’s some of the fabulous things they did!

Heaven’s knows what they’ll do next. I can barely wait to see! 

 If you had a teacher you loved in class, consider more classes or retreats with them down the road. As they say you can’t walk into the same river because the river has changed and so have you.  But the new things you’ve learned and that they’ve learned help you reach a whole different level.   And your new people in the guild will be thrilled with their new skills too. And isn’t that what class is all about?

You’ll find the Ilini County Stitchers  at their web site at

The Illini Country Stitchers hold regular meetings on the second and fourth Thursday of each month except in November (second and third Thursday) and December (second Thursday only) at 7 PM at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, 905 S. Russell St., Champaign, IL. Visitors and Guests are always welcome. What a fabulous heartland guild!




Thread Magic Summer School: Hand-dyed Threads

Monday, July 16th, 2012

We’ve talked about the commercial thick metallic threads. They’re yummy.As your asking yourself, “What more could you need?”, think of this. They don’t come in very good variegations. 

Variegated thread is sort of a mixed blessing in almost all the commercial threads. There are two basic types. There are threads variagated through rainbow colors. These make great stippling threads. The color changes carry your eye across the surface and they’re very interesting for that. But they’re miserable to shade with. Who, over the age of three, wants a random rainbow colored anything? It’s a serious limit. 

They also come with small variegations, that range around one color. Again, it’s a limited effect. Finally you’ll find pearl cottons that range in value from white to the darkest tone of the color. This works for flowers, but for anything else, it looks like it fades in and out. These threads were never made to shade solid images.

#5 weight pearl cotton

This is why I dye thread. I’ve learned that the best way to color an image is to have a range of colors, light to dark and then to add a shader for weight and a shocker for interest. With thinner threads, you pick your colors one by one. But thicker threads fill up quicker and don’t have enough space to let you do that. So when I dye my own threads, I dye in that range and a shocker or shader( sometimes one color works for both purposes) so that thread will automatically shade as I stitch.

The threads I dye are #5 Pearl cottons. They’re made from mercerized cotton and dye beautifully! And they’re already washed out and needle ready( I wash out all my red threads an extra time, just to insure their color fastness). Slightly larger than the #8 metallics, they are a perfect thread for bobbin weight work.

You could dye smaller or larger threads. It’s a matter of taste. But it helps that #5 comes in a dyers hank( a loop of thread, as apposed to a wound up spool).

It sounds complicated. But the dyeing makes it a simple coloring exercise. And I never stay within the lines, so I don’t see why you should either.

Pearl cotton and metallic mixed

You put these threads in an adjusted  or bypassed bobbin and stitch from the back. The results are spectacular.  I used to believe that you shouldn’t mix pearl cotton with metallics. Boy was I wrong. It’s trickier for shading but incredibly lovely. I often add either black  or iridescent white Candlelight  for details and to outline.

If you wish to dye your own pearl cotton, it’s very easy. There’s a whole how to section in my Dye Day Workbook. You can also order pearl cotton from me. Email or call me and we’ll set up a box where you can pick what you want and send back the rest. 

We’re almost through our summer school sessions. We have two lessons left and then it’s time for the pop quiz. Bone up, review and get ready.

Hydrangea Happening: In Search of Color

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

When I was visiting  the Mountain Lauren Quilters down in Georgia, I saw the most amazing hydrangeas. We have hydrangeas up north. I have some annabell hydrangeas that threaten to swallow the whole side yard. But not like these.

I was in Clayton Georgia, half up the mountain, where these women take their gardening seriously. And their hydrangeas are a thing of legend. Part of it is the warmer zone allows for blue lace caps and other wonders. Part of it is just passionate gardening on steroids. Both Lynda Doll and Kathy Booker had astonishing gardens with hydrangeas to die for.

Which left me wondering….What is it about the color of hydranges that turns us all inside out?

So we’re going to put it on the color wheel and look.



First off, they’re blue and there isn’t a whole lot of real blue in a garden. Lots of purples, pinks, reds, oranges and greens. So the ones that are merely blue are a wonder just for that


But most of them aren’t just one color. They flirt with all the purples and pinks to either side.

And this one adds just a dab of yellow in the center. It’s as if it were buttered. Yumm!

Here it is on the wheel. We have an analogous range of purples, blues and pinks, with that yellow complement to the purple sparking across the wheel. No wonder I want to play with this combination. I think, next dye day they really will be colors to dye for.


 Wondering how you might do this as stitchery? This roundish form, covered with a great hydrangea range of colors in garnet stitch does the job pretty well.

Before the heat starts to simmer today, go out in your garden and see what colors catch your heart. Go feed your eye.


Cheesecloth! The Cotton Sheer

Monday, June 18th, 2012

It’s such a good thing people don’t generally look in my washer. They would need medical attention pretty fast, and perhaps that’s just as well. There’s a large quality of the embodied question.”Just what is that?”

This is a cheesecloth lump. As advertised, it’s a lump of cheesecloth, tucked carefully into a nylon stocking so it doesn’t unravel and trap the whole washer in threads. Is this some special fabric we’ve never heard of? No. You probably put it on a turkey breast last Thanksgiving. 



Even open it’s a bit of a mystery for folk. But you  can see the colors. Cheesecloth is one of the appliquer’s and dyers best kept secret. It’s a cotton sheer that dyes beautifully, can be ironed like cotton ( with a pressing cloth) and is fabulously textured. What it does best is sheer bright color behind stitching.


Here it makes the background behind these great mushrooms





This great flower is cheesecloth in two shades. All the other coloring is the thread work.


These soft leaves are cheesecloth with polyneon thread stitched in different colors on

different sides.

How do you dye cheesecloth? It dyes just like cotton. The trick is not in dyeing it. It’s in washing it out. Like every other bad boy, you can’t let it play with others. Stick it in a nylon stocking, tie it up and your good to go.

I apply cheesecloth with Steam A Seam 2, iron it down thoroughly and stitch it with abandon.

Sheer, bright, lovely,  cotton and  completely addictive, add it to your applique stash.

If you can’t find it, or dye it, I do make it available for folk. Email me and we’ll set up mailing you a box of it. 

Dyeing without the Red Menace

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Piney Dragonfly


Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.

It used to be that I never dyed anything without certain dyes in the house. Clear yellow, turquoise, plum, blue violet, lemon yellow and fuchsia.If I was out of any of those, I ordered dye. Even if I was out of only one.

Did I ever order one color of dye? Don’t be silly. That would be horrific in shipping costs. So the need for one $4 jar of dye would really quickly turn into a $75  exploration of new colors. It was fun. The economy was stronger and I was teaching much more often.

Now that I’m home more in the studio, my dyeing has changed. I dye more just for myself and much less often. And when I found myself out of fuchsia dye last week I rolled my eyes, shook my head and dyed without it.

It’s fascinating how one color changes the whole pallet.

Piney Dragonfly is dyed using fuchsia, along with hot pink, cotton candy, yellow green, forest and dark green.


three point landing

Three Point Landing was dyed without fuchsia.The reds here were done with basic red, mixing red, strong orange, raspberry, amethyst and scarlet.


  They call fuchsia the red menace for a reason. It bleeds. Not a little. Not sometimes. Stuck pig style. In the most peculiar pink if you have a white spot in your fabric for it to land on. Some people like it. For me, it’s an almost automatic cause for an  overdye.

Leaving out the fuchsia meant that I didn’t have any bleedover. Who knew? Nothing is good or bad less thinking makes it so.

If you want more information about dyeing fabric The Dye Day Workbook will walk you through my sponge painting methods  to wild wonderful fabric, with or without fuchsia.

Big Huge Labs, New Toy!

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Some while back, Dale Ann Potter just showed off this very cool online toy from Big Labs called a Color Generator.

How many times have I looked at a project I was trying to explain to someone and said,  “Well, here’s the colors.”  I went into Photoshop and guessed as best I could. 

This is so much better. Big Huge Labs has this color generator that can be plugged right into Photoshop. How cool is that?

They also have a mosaic tool, a puzzle tool, a badge tool, and a way to make magazine covers, calendars and endless other publications. Wow said backwards.

Dale has her excellent work on her site, but she also is superb at finding neat and cool things the rest of us should know about and maybe don’t. Her site is at where you’ll also find her blog.


Painless Color Swatches!

Primarily Speaking: In Search of Primaries

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Three Point Landing

When I go in search of primaries, it’s not about elections.  I don’t mind being covered in paint, dye, or garden dirt, but some messes are just too much for me to deal with.


Primaries are the building blocks of color. They’re separate entities that really hold their own. Like distant foreign countries, they exist within their own boarders, owning and sharing nothing with each other.

Source: via Ellen Anne on Pinterest

How does that work out visually? They really stand out in a crowd.

All of these quilts have that crisp red, blue yellow primary edge that signals the eye and the brain to separate images and to hold them bright and bold. Have you noticed  that green acts as a neutral here?

The next time you want your colors to shout out loud, pick primaries!

The primaries we worked with here are pigment primaries. For more information about other kind of primaries, see my blog post called Primarily Confused.

Three Point Landing is part of the art collection of Jan Stewart, who is a fabulous sculptor and mixed media artist herself. You’ll find her work on her blog and at her face book page .

As an addendum, Alison Schwabe suggested a number of articles you might find helpful about color. You’ll find them on her blog on her web page at

Roses White and Red: The Coloring of Roses

Monday, March 19th, 2012

We all grew up with this lovely bit of Alice in Wonderland! How fun! And sort of edgy. The Red queen demands her roses red. But we all know that roses come in all kinds of colors. We don’t quite have a true black or blue rose yet, unless you count the silk offerings, but the rose world is not confined.


Roses red and white

But even if we are talking about red and white roses, reality demands more than just red and white coloring. Why?



A rose in a blue background is full of blue reflectio


I’m sure that’s not a revelation. But it’s true. You’re white rose in moon or sunlight looks very different. Silver edges. Blue and purple shadows. Green streaks. Call the rose doctor? No. it’s the magic of shade and shadowIt’s true of red roses in the sun as well. Streaks of orange, pink, purple and green give us dimension. Without that we have a flat blob of color, not a lovey rose.

But here is the heart of the mystery. The color of everything in your quilt is shaded and formed by the color of your background. Is it blue? Then everything is in that blue light.



This rose needs its oranges, purples and greens against the copper/grey background.Is it an odd sunlit grey? Again, it’s all colored by that.






This is all true unless you go into something abstract, at which you get to choose your heart’s delight. But do know, when you choose wildly, that itself abstracts your rose.



What colors should you choose? Only you can tell. But here’s some tips

  • A wide range of colors gives you much more dimension. Red or white, pick colors that give you lots of darks and lights within that shade.
  • White is white, but just white is a blob again. Use pastels, and dark shaded purples and greens for drama. Or use iridescent thread or gold or silver. Strangely enough, they often register as white.
  • Thread is a tiny element. You can use a lot of very bright thread and still have a subtle effect. So go wild!
  • Almost all flowers have streaks of green. Why not? Another excuse for lime!
  • Ignore color names. You’re talking about something non-verbal. So think with your eyes only.
  • Choose your colors next to each other, and if possible in the same light they’re be seen in.
  • Use complementary colors for deep shading. Very dramatic.

Most of all, don’t permit the color police in your head. Color outside the lines and be as wild as your heart.

You’ll find a whole chapter about coloring flowers in my book Thread Magic Garden on my web page at You’ll find   many of these rose quilts, ready to bloom on your walls, in the gallery section. I hope your garden is blooming too!


Iridescent who?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

I don’t do white sales.  I don’t do white.  I bring in white fabric, but I promptly dye it. Usually in as bright a pallet as I can. Things don’t stay white around me very long. Even with large bottles of Clorox in the laundry room.

But  I do do moonlight. So many of my quilts are set at night. No. I’m not a vampire.The garlic, thank you, is always my friend. But I do take St. John’s Wort, and I should not be out in bright sunshine. 

So when I might want white I reach for the things that are iridescent. 

What make fabric and thread iridescent? It’s not exactly hide of the nagua, but it really is a relative to Naugahyde.It’ s a fiber called Lurex. Wikepedia defines Lurex as “the registered brand name for a type of yarn with a metallic appearance. The yarn is made from synthetic film, onto which a metallic aluminiumsilver, or gold layer has been vaporised. “Lurex” may also refer to cloth created with the yarn.”

It first showed up in the early seventies as a kind of slicker fabric. Now it’s in all kinds of threads and fibers, perfect for fiber art.

Where can you find it? All over my quilts! I love it.

Iridescent threads:

There are all kinds of lurex threads from many different companies, in many different thicknesses.

Madeira puts out several lines of iridescent threads under their #30 weight Supertwist Line. These are Astros. They have a base color mixed with rainbow blue, yellow, pink and green underneath.


These are a Supertwist Opalescent.They have a less obvious but still 

brilliant softer Lurex shine.



YLI does a # 8 weight metallic thread called Candelight that is a neon bulb on a quilt.




Razzle Dazzle, by Superior is another #8 weight metallic in a whole different line of iridescent colors. They’ve done some magnificent flecked shades.

Sulky Sliver is still the most shiny thread ever. It’s a simple Lurex flat strand.




Angelia and Crystalina Fibers are clouds of Lurex that you can fuse into a sheer surface.




And Smooch Paints are a pigment you spray on.


Can you use iridescent in your quilt? It washes, in case you were worrying, but it does tend to be a bit scratchy. My work is made to warm people from the wall rather than in their laps, so I never worry. And I couldn’t be without it.

You’ll find Angelina and Smooch Paints at Embellishment Village.

You’ll find Supertwist at Madiera USA.

You’ll find Candelight at YLI.

You’ll find Sliver at Sulky

You’ll find Razzle Dazzle at Superior Threads.

And you’ll find glowing lovely iridescent light all over your work when you use any of these.



New Toys! Smooch Paints

Friday, February 24th, 2012

hand and wing background

I live in dread of new toys. And I LOVE NEW TOYS. It is a conflicted thing. What I really live in dread of is distraction. I can be whisked away by some new product and nothing gets done for weeks except odd little experiments. So often I bring home new things and they sit and percolate for a while.







smooch paints

I brought home these cool Smooch Paints from the AQS Des Moine Show where I was teaching. They have a hand sprayer and you use them with stencils, if desired. They clean up with soap and water and set with a hot iron. There’s a glittery component in them.



hand stenc

I added some very cool stencils I love this grouping of henna like hands.





ladybug and background

ladybug and stenciled background

You’ll find Smooch Paints at Embellishment Village.  They have endless and fabulous toys on their site and at many different quilt shows.

Primarily Confused

Friday, January 27th, 2012

People often tell me they’re confused by color.

It’s no wonder! Color can be daunting. One of the biggest confusions is  that when we go outside the art/world color wheel we get told some very confusing information.

If you’re coloring the universe, Paint, Web, and Print are three different destinations. They also have three different coloring wheels. 

The color wheel we know and love doesn’t really change. But the primaries do.  So when you get asked, what are the primary colors you need to know what world your in.

Paint, crayons and art supplies:

These are pigments. The primaries for pigments are red, blue and yellow.

Pigment primaries

Computer Screens:

These colors are mixed light. The primaries for  mixed light are red, blue and green. You’ll see those on every picture setting. That’s what RBG means.

computer/tv screen primaries

Print is different:

Print primaries

Printers ink have a separate place for black. Which  is why you see them listed as YMCK . The K stands for black


Dye has two sets of color primaries. They have a different color cast. One leans a bit to the sun, and the other leans a bit towards the shade. They don’t seem vastly different, but if you wish to have colors with a cool cast you use one set of primaries, warm cast the other.

Warm Color Primaries

Cool Color Primaries









Don’t be confused. There are all kinds of different ways to look at primaries, but it all depends what universe you’re in. Look around. See where you are. Then you’ll know what you’re primarily looking at.

We’ll talk more about primaries at another time. But it seemed worth  clearing that up first.

No More Color Police:Creating Flower Colors

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

 “Roses are red. violets are blue. Angels in heaven know I love you.” Down in the valley

 What color is a flower, actually?

In spite of everything your kindergarten teacher told you, it’s not a simple answer. If she made you color all your roses red, give me her name and I’ll go have a little chat with her. Or better still, you might want to tell her that she can’t live in your head anymore without paying rent.

That’s not a white tulip. Nor is it really red or yellow. It’s a wonderful swirl of a number of great colors. Leaving any of that out is a loss. But how do you do it in fiber?

We have two great tools. Well, we probably have hundreds but these help with this.Hand dyed fabric has all those great streaks. It’s a great way to start a flower.

Machine embroidery also speeds us on our way.The wonderful thing about stitching flowers is that thread really is minutia. We can slip in that dash of green, that edge of orange or purple that flowers either do have or should.
When Mark Lipinski asked me how important color was on his show this week and why I put so much emphasis on it, I almost fell of my chair. Color IS the media. We see everything through the color and the texture. You can here that conversation on Mark’s Creative Mojo  show, December 14th.

Thread Magic Garden has a full chapter on creating colors for flowers. It’s a magical thing. And you can do it too.

In Search of African Violet Colors: Anatomy of a Color Study

Monday, December 5th, 2011

I love that purple and gold combination. It makes me think of African Violets, my favorite inside flower.

I know I’m out of season, but all this rain makes me think of this song, and that makes me think of violets. They come in endless colors, all of them gorgeous. So let’s go to our color wheel and figure out why.

We have some great complementary action here! The purple and the yellow are zinging off each other, with some analogous purples on the side.  Of course it’s irresistible.

Here’s how that translates into a quilt. The metallic threads soften the yellow a bit, but they still play against each other. And the sweep of darker and lighter purples to either side makes it a richer combination.
Wrapping it up:
African violets are a great complementary purple/yellow color scheme, enhanced with some analogous purples on the side. If they make your heart happy, see what happens when you put oranges with blues. The color wheel shows us the relationships of these colors. Similar relationships will have similar effects. It’s a great way to stretch your palette.

In Search of Peacock Colors: Anatomy of a Color Study

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Confessions of a color junkie. I get drunk periodically. Not on alcohol or ice tea or even ice water. But I do get drunk on color. Every so often I find myself swimming in a color combination that is just plain intoxicating. It hits me viscerally. Color is visual emotion. It’s a language all its own.But just because I find a color combination exhilarating doesn’t  mean I understand why.

Whenever I find a color combination I can’t leave alone, I like to work with it until I understand it.I’ve always loved peacock colors. I don’t necessarily feel like quilting a peacock at this time. But the colors…..
So I went in search of peacock colors. Dyeing fabric is one of the best ways to understand color. So I went out to dye some peacock colors.

Peacock colors have always mystified me a bit. They’re an analogous range (a row of colors in a line) but there’s something odd about it. When I charted it out on the color wheel it began to make sense.

That’s when I find it’s time to chart it out on the color wheel and to see why these colors do what they do. The color wheel is a family tree for color. It shows how colors are related to each other. The basic color is teal, with bright blues, purples and greens. But fooler is that olivey chartreuse  green. It’s a dulled out  sun color in a range of clear cool colors. In another way, the contrast in the combination is the olive that leans towards the sun while all the other colors lean to the shade.
No wonder it’s so exciting.

So this is what i dyed!

Mystery solved! I used an analogous range of procian dyes including turquoise, teal, robins egg, chartreuse, jade, cayman island green, and sun yellow. The chartreuse is the olivey contrasting sun color. I stalked the wild  peacock. Now those colors are mine!
 Don’t be afraid to hunt for the big game: the fabulous colors that rock your world and move your furniture. Use them, chart them, put them where they can excite you and illuminate your world.

If you want to explore more of the world of sponge dyeing and how the color wheel works, check out my book, Ellen Anne Eddy’s Dye Day Workbook. Not just a dye book, it explains why the colors do what 
they do together visually. It’s available on my site at

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