Color Theory

"Star Sampler" The first quilt by Kristen Banks.

By Kristen Banks

When I started quilting, I was just sure that all I had to do was pick colors that I liked, and all my quilts would magically turn out exactly how I imagined they would look in my head. I just knew I would create these beautiful masterpieces that I would love and cherish and everyone would “Ooh and Ahh” over.

I was a little frustrated when after completing my first quilt, I realized it didn’t look anything like what I had wanted it to. Although it was pretty, it wasn’t anything like I imagined it would be, and I didn’t exactly know where my vision had gone wrong.

I had never made a quilt before, but I was pretty sure choosing the colors was going to be the easiest part of the whole process. I signed up for the class, got my supply sheet, and eagerly began picking my fabrics. It said to begin with picking a “theme” fabric. This was the fabric that I would plan my whole quilt around, and in my mind would represent what my quilt would look like.

I was told it should have a pattern and multiple colors to draw from for the other components of the quilt. I would then choose all of the other colors for my quilt from this theme fabric as accents. In this particular quilt I had to choose seven different fabrics.

I picked a pretty blue green fabric with gold and maroon accents and large paisley’s all over it as my theme fabric. I imagined my quilt would be predominantly blue with a little maroon and gold. For the other fabrics I chose a couple of maroon fabrics, a couple of blue fabrics, some cream colored fabrics to lighten it up, and gold for the sashing. I worked on the quilt top, block by block, for several months.

When it was finally finished and put together I stood back to admire my work. I was kind of shocked to see that the color I noticed most was the gold. I had never intended to make a gold quilt.

Now, you’d think after staring at these fabrics for months that I would have realized that sooner, but I didn’t. Although, I had stared at these blocks for months, I had only just put the gold sashing in between them at the very last, and I had done that all in one day. So, this was the first time I was seeing the big picture altogether.

I like gold, but it was a lot of gold.

No one told me that whatever color you make your sashing, that is going to be the color of your quilt. Because that is the color running through your whole quilt, it’s what your eye is going to go to first, and it’s going to pull that color out of all the other fabrics as well.

It took me a little while to really like that quilt, because I was so disappointed that it didn’t turn out the way that I had planned. I had this lovely picture in my mind of how I wanted my quilt to look, and this quilt that I had made just didn’t measure up. I had made the quilt for myself to go in my bedroom, and I just kept thinking, “I didn’t want a gold quilt.”

One day I was looking at the quilt, and finally just had to come to terms with the fact that this was the quilt I had made. It wasn’t the quilt I had planned or wanted to start with, but it was pretty and it was mine. I had fun making it, and I wouldn’t give for the friendships I had made in the process. I had learned a valuable lesson on how to pick my fabrics, and if I wanted a blue quilt I could just make another one.

But I decided I wasn’t going to feel bad about that quilt ever again. True, it didn’t meet my expectations, but maybe that didn’t matter. Maybe it was me that needed to change, and not the quilt.

Since it wasn’t my favorite at the time I didn’t hesitate to use it regularly. I didn’t treat it like an heirloom or something that was going to be dear to my heart. Over the years I’ve been surprised to walk into my room and see it spread out over my bed, and think, “Boy, that sure looks pretty in here.”

I’ve even dared to wonder if the gold wasn’t the best choice after all, it might not have looked as good with more blue. And lately I’ve even thought, maybe I should retire this one from everyday use, because I love it so much and I’d hate to wear it out.

And just like that, the thing that was a disappointment and didn’t measure up, has become my pride and joy. The quilt is the same, it has not changed, but I have.

In the years since I’ve made that quilt, I endured hardships, lost loved ones, and walked away from a car accident that most people don’t live over much less walk away from. I don’t view the world the same way anymore, as I did back then. I don’t come up with theories and expectations and then try to make everything in my life measure up to them. I simply try to live to the fullest, and enjoy each and every day of the life that’s been given to me.

Sometimes I make mistakes, or I wish I’d done something differently. Now, instead of letting my own expectations color or taint the experience for me, I make the best of the situation. If I need to, I make the necessary corrections or adjustments to allow for a more desired outcome in the future.

I’m sure I won’t stop making mistakes, or being disappointed now and then. But I’ve learned not all mistakes have an unhappy ending, some turn into blessings in disguise, and learning this lesson has left my outlook on life nothing short of golden.

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