Add luster, luminosity and depth to your quilts

February 19, 2013

Choosing fabric for quilting projects is a major part of the fun and excitement. Walking through the rows of bolts at the quilt shop is like gliding through a rainbow. How can a person not get a happy glow when at the end of that rainbow, a “treasured” quilt awaits?

You can add richness to your quilts using fabrics that create the illusions of luminosity, luster and depth. Quilter Joen Wolfrom defines each of these characteristics in the following manner:

Luminosity: the relative brightness of something, giving the illusion that it glows with light.

Luster: the effect created when light reflects evenly, without glitter or sparkle.

Depth: the impression that objects in the foreground and background have distance between them, relative to the point of view.

If you want to make some part of your quilt appear to “glow with light”, that area must be comparatively small in relation to the entire piece. If it is too large, the impact of the luminosity will be diminished. To appear luminous, the fabric does not need to be an especially bright color, as long as you follow this rule: for an area to appear radiant or luminous, that area must be purer in color – closer to the color on the color wheel – than the other colors in the area surrounding it.

Compare the quality of luster to pearls and opals. You see a glossy sheen and richness in the stones. You can accomplish the same effect in your quilts! To make areas of your quilt lustrous, you must still pay attention to their color wheel relationships. Lustrous areas of the quilt should be small and the fabric should be a pure hue – one that’s close to the color as it appears on the color wheel. The magic happens by surrounding that pure area with fabrics that appear dim, dark, or shadowed in comparison. The transition should happen by moving from that pure-colored hue to a dark, rich shade in several steps. The pure color will appear bright and lustrous, even fluorescent.

Creating the illusion of depth involves a little more understanding about the relationships of objects in your line of sight and the implied distance between them. To understand the concept of depth, let nature guide you. Gaze toward a horizon and notice what happens to the colors in the distance. Distant hills appear grayer and lighter in color, making them appear misty or hazy. Closer objects look darker at the base, and then gradually lighten in color as they rise. To incorporate the illusion of depth, use many gradations of your colors, placing darker, more intense shades in the foregrounds and lighter, grayer tones in the backgrounds.

Landscape quilts are great ways to study these concepts. Snap a photograph of a landscape near you, and then have fun walking through the rainbow of colors at your local quilt shop. Follow these guidelines to create a quilt that looks like you could step right into the painting!