A Passion for Color
If you love fabric, then you probably share a passion for color. From rich solids to vibrant prints, perusing the fabrics in a fabric shop is like being a kid in a candy store. We all have colors that we are personally drawn to-for me it’s saturated oranges, teals, and greens. So recently, I’ve been challenging myself to move out of my “personal color palette” and comfort zone and sew with neutrals. It’s really interesting to see how this changes my perspective on a project when it’s not about in-your-face bright color but instead about more subtle design details. Experimenting with colors outside of your comfort zone can open you up creatively in so many ways.
I am constantly inspired by artists and designers that display a fearless approach to color. Mixed-media fabric artist, Alisa Burke, is one such artist. She combines a playful approach to color with easy surface design techniques and dynamic free-motion stitching.
And she truly uses her sewing machine with artistic abandon. She customizes plain fabric with paint, simple printmaking, and machine embroidery, then sews them together in a style that evokes collage and graffiti for a uniquely layered look.
One of her keys to maintaining her spontaneous approach to color is keeping a color journal. She documents color observations, makes notes of colors she likes, and combos that catch her eye. Her journal includes photos, paint swatches, fabrics, and papers that inspire her, and she uses it as reference when she is selecting colors for her next creative project.
In her new book, Sew Wild: Creating with Stitch and Mixed Media, she offers this great tutorial on making a Swatch Journal so you can document your own color explorations and inspirations.
Make a Simple Swatch Journal
I create simple fabric books to store all of my swatch inspiration and I sew inspirations to each page over time. This journal is easy to make and could be altered to fit a variety of different themes and projects. These instructions result in a journal that’s about 7¼” x 11″ (18.5 x 28 cm) when closed.
1. Quilt fabric scraps to an 11″ x 14″ (28 x 35.5 cm) piece of batting. Add a layer of backing and binding if desired. Fold the finished small quilt in half to make the outside of the book.
2. Fold about 20 fabric scraps and paper pieces in half to create pages. You can make them uniform by starting with 11″ x 14″ (28 x 35.5 cm) pieces or vary the sizes.
3. Lay the fabric scraps and paper pieces on top of the inside of the book, lining up the folds of each piece with the fold in the book cover.
4. Using the sewing machine, sew straight down the fold through all layers with a zigzag stitch. This is the spine of your journal.
5. Now you can start adding content. Use the sewing machine or handstitching to sew inspiration swatches of fabric or paper to the pages.
6. Organize the pages by color themes, patterns, and textures. Create tabs on the pages to separate the themes.
Are you inspired yet? I guarantee a swatch journal will motivate you to use colors in exciting new ways for your next sewing project. If you need a creative jumpstart, check out Sew Wild for more exciting mixed-media sewing projects and techniques. The book also includes an instructional DVD of Alisa showing how she achieves her unique design style through her signature techniques. She will definitely get you inspired to explore color and sewing in new ways! In the meantime, keep challenging yourself to expand your color horizons and make something wonderfully unexpected.