Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bloom Bloom Pow Quilt-Along: Planning Your Design

Welcome to the first post of the Bloom Bloom Pow Quilt-Along! I'm so excited to get started! (More information about this quilt-along can be found in the Introductory post.)

One of my favorite things about quilt-alongs is not that you don't just learn how to cut up your fabric and piece it back together again—you can also learn about design. And design, of course, really happens in the planning stages. So that's what we're going to discuss today—how to plan our your quilt and combine fabrics to make the most of this particular design. Really fun stuff for design nerds like me. : )

(I know many of you purchased a Bloom Bloom Pow fabric bundle, which means you have exactly the same fabric as me. If you're planning to mimic my quilt and color placement, this design-planning post probably isn't crucial for you. But if you want to make any changes to my design, such as the colors used, prints used, or color placement within the quilt, this post will give you a framework for doing just that!)

Probably the single most important element to think about in this quilt is value. (Just in case you don't know, value refers to how light or dark a fabric is.) In this quilt, value makes the "flower petals" (the spoke-like things) pop out at the viewer, while the shaded background recedes and gives the flowers a bit of depth. So, regardless of whether you're using Pearl Bracelets or any other line of fabric, it's crucial that you get a handle on the value of the fabrics you're using.

Let's start by looking at this lovely photo of my Bloom Bloom Pow quilt bundle, available from Westwood Acres. (Photo courtesy of Amanda.)

I think it makes sense to group the fabric as follows: Dark, Medium, or Light. With the subtler print of the Pearl Bracelets line, I think it's fairly clear which Pearl Bracelet colors fall into which value categories. But a trick I often use to make value easier to spot is to look at a black-and-white picture of fabric or a quilt layout. So here's the same photo of the Bloom Bloom Pow bundle in black and white. The dark and light values are much more obvious now, aren't they?

From there I separated the Pearl Bracelet prints into the following groups:

Dark colors
Cosmonaut, Grape Jelly, Persimmon, Watermelon, Swiss Chard, Meyer Lemon, Basil (7 prints).

Medium colors:
Verbena, Frosting, Juniper, Lilac, Pond (5 prints).

Light colors:
Citron, Glacier, Ice Skate, Peach, Cotton Candy (5 prints).

Obviously, value is all a matter of degree. I was on the fence about some of these—Meyer Lemon and Basil could easily have been in the "Medium" category, while Verbena and Frosting could possibly have been "Dark." Just because I separated mine this way doesn't mean you have to, so if you're using Pearl Bracelets but would like to make some changes to your value stacks, I say go for it. : ) And you don't need to have the same number of prints in each of your groups that I do (7/5/5), although I don't recommend straying too far from that ratio.

Once you have your fabrics sorted by value, we'll be using those groups to decide which colors go where in the quilt design. The "darks" will always be flower petals/spokes in the Bloom Bloom Pow design, and "lights" will always be the shaded background in the block. "Mediums" can be used in either spot. Some flower petals/spokes will be medium, and some shaded backgrounds will be medium, depending on what they are paired with.

So the next step is to think about fabric pairings. Each hexagon-shaped flower block is made up of six triangles. Each block has one color for the flower petals (Persimmon in the example above), one color for the shaded background (Peach in the example above), and white. The important thing here is that your flower petals are darker than the shaded background. So, dark flower petals can be combined with a medium or light shaded background, while medium flower petals can be combined only with a light shaded background.

My advice is to try out pairings from your selected fabrics/value groups and see what looks good together. Let's take Watermelon, for example.

Watermelon looks great paired with Peach ...

... or with Cotton Candy.

And as you can see, Cotton Candy looks great with a lot of things—Frosting, Lilac, and Watermelon.

But even when choosing from the correct value groupings, not all pairings may work. For example, Watermelon (dark) paired with Frosting (medium). It sounds yummy enough, but I didn't think there was enough contrast in that pairing for it to work. (That's probably because Frosting was one of those borderline colors that could have been either Dark or Medium.)

So that's it for this week! Check out the fabric you're planning to use for this quilt, separate it into value stacks, and decide which color pairings do and do not work. Once you do that you'll be ready to cut your fabric next week! And don't forget, bundles are still available from Westwood Acres if you want to quilt along with us—the Throw-Size bundle is here, and the Baby-Size bundle is here. 

Bloom Bloom Pow Quilt-Along Schedule
March 21 - Introduction
March 28 - Design strategy
April 4 - Cutting your fabric
April 11 - Strip-piecing instructions
April 18 - Cutting the triangles and deciding on a layout
April 25 - Piecing the triangles to complete the top
May 2 - Quilting and finishing

If you would like to grab the Quilt-Along button for your blog, please do. And don't forget to post photos of what your quilt-along progress in my Flickr group—and yes, fabric stacks count as progress! : ) See you next week!


Alexandra Eckert said...

I can't wait to get started! Over here in Germany we still have snow! I still haven't decided on fabrics... But I have many ideas :-) Thanks for starting this QAL

Cheryl in Friendsville said...

I'm not doing Bloom, bloom, pow with you - I have WAY too many other projects to finish. But it looks wonderful - bright and Spring-like! I'll be following along closely to see the finished project.

Kelly Vetch said...

Yay! Day 1. I really needed this post actually as I am using a group of fabrics from my stash. I just realized that I have 4 different pinks pulled that are all the same value. They are all pretty, but not if I had cut them up next week and wasted them. I'm going to do a much more thought out pull now! Thanks :)

Cameron H said...

I appreciate this post very much, as I'm going to try to do this QAL from my stash. I wonder if you have any words of wisdom about the scale of the prints. Should we try to keep the scale the same and just concentrate on the value contrast, or would contrasting the scales help (or hurt!) the contrast if we're not using identical prints?

ChristaQuilts said...

So clever to make a gray scale picture of the bundle!

Sara (My Semi-Creative Life) said...

I've been going back on forth on whether to participate in this. Well you got to me today :-) I'm heading over to order a baby-sized bundle!

Jenny Squawk said...

I'm in. I need some mindless piecing and you've practically did all the pragmatic work for us. Just the fabric selection. Is the pale white a solid or coming from the light stack?

Sharon said...

Thank you so much for all your tips. I wish I could purchase the gorgeous fabric but since I have a very large collection of fabrics I am going to use from my stash and with your tips that might help me to pick out good color choices, thanks again.

MsMidge said...

I'm freaking out about my fabric selection....which I have no idea about! I can't afford more fabric at present, and really do have quite a bit in my stash, so need to somehow pull something together! Aghhhhhh!!!!

MsMidge said...

PS. Do you have a button widget for us bloggety bloggers to pop on our blogs? :)

2sew4fun said...

I m in using mirror dot collection that Amanda so kindly put together for me! Can't wait to get started! Love the gray scale picture plan!

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

love your pieced hexies, I'm making some too, different from yours though

ChonaHomegrown said...

Well- I'm going for it. My first time quilting along on a project. BTW- can someone link me to the way to add the button to my blog? I'm only four days old at blogging! Thanks! said...

Lee - we've got 17 we'll have an extra one if we're pairing them up? What am I missing?

Lee said...

Well, you're not necessarily pairing them up one-to-one. As in my example above, I'm pairing the light pink as a background with several different medium- and dark-value prints: dark pink, lilac, and red. So if I have two blocks with red petals, I might pair one block with light pink and one with peach. Then I'll do a block with lilac petals with light pink background. And the lilac, since it's a medium, can also be used as both the petals AND the background—if I'm using it as a background, I would pair it with dark purple. So as you can see, it doesn't really matter how many prints you have or if you have an odd number—feel free to mix it up as much or as little as you would like! : )

Also, FYI, you are a no-reply blogger, so I'm not able to email you to reply directly to your question. If you would like to change your settings so that you can receive email replies to blog comments, visit the following posts to learn how to do that: or

And let me know if you have any more questions! : )

I am Just One Mom said...

Count me in for a Queen sized spread! Just did a twin without the shading petal element and now I am hooked on equilateral triangles!
Thank you very much for your perfect timing, taste, and talent... wowzers!

Audrey said...

Wow what a educational post, thank you so much!

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