My Complicated Relationship With Color

It’s pretty obvious to anyone who reads this blog or has known me for any length of time that I gravitate toward a muted color palette.

A few years back I treated myself to a color analysis. Afterwards, I was reminded of something the organization development guru Peter Block said in a lecture: Most people go to therapy, not to change, but hoping they will get confirmation. The result of my color analysis was definitely confirmation.

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I get a lot of unsolicited advice about branching out to more vibrant colors. Much of this leaves me grumbling about “the color police” and wondering why it matters to people I barely know what I choose to wear. It’s different when I ask for an opinion. Or at least I think so.

It’s been just over a year since I attended Sarah Veblen’s six-day workshop, Exploring Fashion Design: Design 1. That was a wonderful, but difficult experience for me. I was full of anxiety going in and I reached anxiety overload mid-way through the week. What got to me most wasn’t the stuff I was concerned about before I started (which was sketching and developing a personal croquis with everyone weighing in on the process). Instead, it was the exercises having to do with putting colors together. I just don’t feel I do it well and I’m amazed when other sewists combine colors, patterns and textures with great results. This is the sort of thing that, in the wrong hands can go horribly wrong and I’m convinced that any attempt I make at it will fall into that second category.

Of course, one of the reasons Sarah is such a gifted teacher is because she can zero in on the things her students are unsure about and challenge them to push those limits in a way that is not completely overwhelming. So, one of the exercises she gave me was to find fabrics I like in a color she has long believed would look good on me but I never wear. She calls it salmon. I call it coral. She gave me this assignment on the day we spent at the fabulous store, A Fabric Place. We selected fabrics for our exercises, Sarah cut swatches of them and we presented our assignments to the rest of the group at lunch and at the end of the day (after time for actual shopping, of course). Here is what I came up with for this particular exercise:

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These were the top three swatches once everyone looked them draped over my blouse so they could see them close to my face. (I can’t find that picture. Sorry.) At my request, Sarah and the class ranked them in order of preference so I could use them as a guide.

Since then I’ve bought fabrics in that general color – and sometimes beyond – but I’ve yet to do anything with them.

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I have plans for this lovely cotton I bought from Louise Cutting’s Cutting Line Designs last summer at the ASG National Conference (bottom center in the picture). I know I want to make another “campish” shirt out of it, but I didn’t get to it last summer. I’m hoping I’l get to it this summer.

This subject came into focus recently when I was working on a linen blouse to go with a bias skirt I’m going to make out of this pretty rayon challis from Stone Mountain & Daughter.

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The bright colors and high contrast are definitely unusual for me, but when it came to a color to wear near my face, I reverted to my usual blue.

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Unfortunately, I discovered some flaws in the blue linen when I was pressing it before sewing. There are streaks and little splotches that are quite a bit lighter than the rest of the fabric, as if the dye didn’t “take” in this spots. It isn’t a question of fading, because the swatch I tested and retested in very hot water and with a hot iron remained colorfast. I looked at the rest of the blouse-weight linen I have, but I felt that none of them would work as well. You know how you just get an image in your head for a project and can’t let it go? So, I took a risk and laid out my pattern pieces to avoid the problem areas, or so I thought. After pre-tucking in the places that needed it, cutting everything out and putting in the final tuck, I started to assemble. In my next pressing, I noticed another streak.

That started a search for another linen I could be excited about for this skirt. Of course, getting the right color online is a tricky proposition. Not everyone goes to the trouble of giving us Pantone colors the way Linda Podietz does on her site, EmmaOneSock.com (thank you Linda!). The result is that I now have an extra supply of linen for future projects. All are very nice, but none of the blues sang out to me. It was the disappointment over the one that didn’t work out, I’m sure, because this one is perfectly fine.

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But you can see that it’s darker than the fabric I wanted to use.
So I tried branching out into the coral area. At first I thought a bright coral might work because the flowers in the skirt are bright, but that didn’t quite cut it. Besides, it’s a medium weight and more suited to a jacket.

Then I found this cross-dye linen in just the right weight.

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This was my Goldilocks moment.

I can’t wait to cut into both of these fabrics and get this project back on track.