A Learning Experience in Color: Developing a Color Wheel Quilt Part 2

Jenny W. Clark of Luna C Designs © 2004

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About two years ago, the idea of developing a color wheel quilt became an important phase in my crazy quilt life. Once I had decided I wanted to “do” a color wheel quilt, there were immediately several design decisions that had to be made before continuing. Some of these consisted of questions like:

  1. What fabrics should I use?
  2. What colors should be part of each block?
  3.  Should there be an additional unifying theme besides color?
  4. The usual questions of block size, borders, backing etc were also a part of the design decisions.

The first quest was to find appropriate colors in fabric to match the colors on the Three Value Color Wheel (or the 12-Color Color Wheel as it is sometimes called). I needed more than just the 12 colors to represent the wedges on the color wheel because each block would have to have pieces or patches of color to make up the block. For example, the yellow block would need a variety of yellow fabrics in different values and intensity. Out the fabric stash came. Quickly I realized that a good bit of shopping would be needed to find enough of the right fabrics to complete 12 different blocks with fabrics in varied hues, value, and intensity and yet all yellow fabrics on the yellow block, all yellow-orange fabric on yellow-orange block and so forth. Ahhhhh the pain of it – shopping and swapping for that much fabric! Bravely I sallied forth and began the quest.

Then it occurred to me that doing a block in all yellow or green fabrics might be one thing, but what about the embellishments. Quickly I realized I had another major design decision. Would the embellishments be only the color of the designated block or would I use other colors to bring some interest and variety. After a good bit of study and consultation with friends and family, I decided to use the color of the block, the two analogous colors (the ones on either side in the color wheel) and the complementary color (the one opposite the color on the wheel). Example: the analogous colors for violet are blue-violet and red-violet; the complementary color is yellow. Now a plan was beginning to take shape. Shopping became even more important! I had to have enough beads, buttons, trim, silk ribbon, dyed lace, threads, etc. in the appropriate colors to complete the 12 blocks following this theme.

Just as I began the quilt, I decided to add one other unifying theme to my colors and blocks. I would do a fruit in the appropriate color for each block but in cross stitch on 16 count Aida cloth. I had just added a much larger dimension to my project, but one that would end up adding a unique feature to the quilt that would make the extra work worthwhile. For a fun project, try naming 12 different types of fruit in the colors of the 12-color color wheel. I did fine through the yellows, oranges, and reds. Even the violets were easy but ahhhhhh blue green – now there is a challenge. The CQMagOnline.com list pitched in to help me. I could not think of a blue-green fruit. One of the members came up with gooseberries as an answer. Another member had a pattern in cross stitch of gooseberries. This quilt has become a community project and much more fun because of that feeling of fun and fellowship in designing this project.

The cross stitch designs of fruit were completed, the 8-inch blocks were patched with their appropriate colors, and the fun of embellishing began. All of the blocks are embellished except for the last one, yellow-green. That one I am working on now. It’s fun to get the blocks out and place them together to see how this quilt will come together. I plan to use black (because it contains all colors) silk dupioni as the border and backing for the quilt. Stay tuned as this quilt comes together and we’ll happily share the final work with you sometime in the future (a mystery date for all of us – especially the quilt maker).

The following is a detail of the color choices and limitations for each block:
Blue-violet block – The block consists of blue-violet fabrics. The embellishments are blue-violet, violet, blue, and yellow-orange, the complement of blue-violet. The blue-violet fruit in cross stitch is the plum.
Yellow-orange block – The block consists of yellow-orange fabrics and the embellishments are yellow-orange, yellow, orange, and the complement blue-violet. The fruit in cross stitch for the yellow-orange block is a peach.


Red-orange block – The block consists of red-orange fabrics. The embellishments are red-orange, orange, red, and blue-green, the complement of red-orange. The cross stitch fruit for red-orange is the pomegranate
Red block – The block consists of red fabrics. The embellishments are red, red-orange, red violet, and green, the complement of red. The cross stitch fruit for the red block is the cherry.

These four blocks were first seen in Part 1

Yellow block – The block consists of yellow fabrics in a variety of values and intensities and the embellishments are yellow, yellow-green, yellow-orange, and the complement violet. The fruit for the yellow block is the lemon.
Orange block – The block consists of orange fabrics. The embellishments are orange, yellow-orange, red-orange, and the complement blue. The fruit worked in cross stitch for the orange block is, of course, the orange.
Red-violet block – The block consists of red-violet fabrics. The embellishments are red-violet, red, violet, and yellow-green, the complement of red-violet. The fruit used for the red-violet block is the raspberry.
Violet block – The block consists of violet fabrics. The embellishments are violet, red-violet, blue-violet, and yellow, the complement of violet. The cross stitch fruit for the violet block is the purple grape.


The author and quilt maker is not an expert in color. She has received several classes in color theory and relied heavily on her library of crazy quilt experts who address color theory in their books and articles.


Of particular value was the book on color by Susan McKelvey. In 1997, the author attended classes in color theory taught by Ms McKelvey at the Sewing and Crafts Exposition in Orlando. Her book, used for resource material, is as follows:

McKelvey, Susan. Color for Quilters II. Wallflower Designs, Millersville, MD 21108. 1993. ISBN# 0-9639963-0-4



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