The Polaroid Sew-Along Guide: Choosing your Shadow and Sashing

The Polaroid Sew Along Color Theory

This post is a part of my series on color. For more posts in this series, click here. For the first post which gives a basic introduction to COLOR terms and definitions, click here! The second post which covers the color wheel and more in-depth theories can be found here.

This post is meant to work in conjunction with my Sew-Alongs. It is a place to start when choosing colors for your quilts. It was originally released as a part of The Polaroid Sew-Along 2017.

Next up in the series on color, I’d am going to talk a little bit about the thinking invovled when selecting color. This can be applied to your project for the Polaroid Sew-Along as you consider your background colors and shadows.

The Color Selection Process

The color selection process is different for everyone. Some folks “just know” what colors they want to go with, while others aren’t sure if they want to go with their initial thought. There is nothing wrong with spending some time playing with your blocks and thinking about your background, and shadows if you chose to incorporate them. Sometimes spending a little extra time on this part of the process will turn your project from something that you are ok with to something that you LOVE!

Internal Dialog

When you first begin considering sashing, you need to lay out your blocks in front of you. You need to take a little bit of time to play and explore with those blocks, and look for color relationships. As you begin to move your blocks around, you absolutely need to start an internal dialog with yourself.

I personally have a tendency to talk out-loud when I do this, but I’m also way beyond caring whether people think I’m crazy. My kids already know I’m nuts, and they attribute my constant conversation with myself as a side effect from my traumatic brain injury in 2012. I’ve got news for them. It started WAY before that, and a decade ago when I had my first child, I was thrilled because I realized (as I was walking through the food store talking to myself, baby in cart) that people would just assume I was talking to my kids! HA! Win win!


Anyway internal (or external) dialog:

What colors do my blocks have in common?

Is there any sort of relationship between the colors (relationships discussed here)?

If I have a wide range of colors, are there any colors that are more prominent? Are there any colors that are lacking?

How am I planning on organizing these blocks? Are they going to be tilted? Straight? In rows? In a circle?

Do I want a neutral background?

Do I want my background to create contrast with the polaroid frame?

Do I want my polaroids to almost disappear into my background?

Do I want the fussy cut squares in my polaroids to really POP?!

After asking yourself these questions, you may start to get an idea of where you want to go. It is ok to sort of flip-flop between two answers. Maybe you aren’t sure if you want a subtle difference between the frame and background, or if you really want it to pop. Maybe you can’t really find a relationship between the colors, but you can see that a few of your blocks have colors that you are really drawn to, and you’d love to have more of that color in your quilt.

Start Playing

Now I realize that not everyone has a wall of fabric, color samples, etc. That they can play around with. If you do, start pulling fabrics! Dump out your color chips! I really think it is important to “audition” fabrics at this point,  and I think that you can do this with whatever tools/items you have access to.

The Polaroid Sew Along Color Theory

For example, are your walls painted yellow? Gray? Do you have a brown couch? Blue sheets? What color is your shower curtain? Take your blocks and hold them up to items in your home. How do the colors of these items change the look/feel of the blocks. Do you like how it makes certain colors stand out? Or do your blocks fade too much into the background?

If you have colored pencils at your disposal, then try shading areas of a piece of paper with different colors that you are considering. Place a block in the center of the paper, and see how it interacts with those colors. You should be able to start weeding through some of your options!

Another option? Head over to your local home improvement store and snag some pain chip cards!

The Polaroid Sew Along Color Theory

Remember, use the color relationship guide to your advantage. Think about picking a relationship to work with. Are most of your blocks blue? Then why not work with a complementary color scheme and go with a peach or salmon background? Do your blocks have a lot of two colors in them that you could pick a background color that would create a triad color scheme?

The Next Step

Once you have a color family picked, its time to think about value. Remember, value is how “light” or “dark” your color is. Since the frame of the polaroid is typically white, you want to make sure that the value you chose is dark enough that you can still see the frame. At the same time, there is no “rule” that says you have to use a DARK shadow and a MID-DARK background!!!!! Why can’t you find a color that is subtle, but just dark enough to give some contrast to the polaroid?

The Polaroid Sew Along Color TheoryIf you are making a drop shadow, you need to make sure that you are considering what would happen to your color if it were suddenly shaded. If you are using a magenta background, would the shadow be gray? No, the shadow would be a darker value of magenta.

Note: The further apart the colors are in value, the more contrast you will have. In the image above, Lagoon and Capri are pretty close in value, where as Burgundy and Bright Pink are further away from one another and seem to pop more.

If your background hue is a neutral (gray, black, blue), then be aware that some neutrals read as “warm” or “cool.” You need to make sure that you are holding your shadow and background together and that they make sense with one another. A tan background would work great with a “warm” gray, but not necessarily with a cool gray. Play play play with your fabric!

Trust your Gut

A lot of people think, “oh man, I’m terrible with color.” I find that really hard to believe, especially because statements like this usually come after that person has admired someone else’s ability with color. If you are able to recognize lovely color combinations, that you are able to create them. It is all about having a basic understanding of why those combinations work. Even if you don’t have the time or energy into learning about color relationships, than just making a note or taking a picture of a color combination that you like and trying to recreate it yourself will help develop your color sense!

Remember friends, sewing and quilting is a process craft. If you are looking for quick gratification, then you need to be able to separate each part of the process out and learn to enjoy each step. It is about the journey, and taking the time to play each step of the way! Don’t sell yourself short by speeding through color selection. You may find you get a lot of enjoyment playing with color and making color selections!

Happy Sewing!!

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