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Inspiring Quilting: Elly's blog to boost your creative IQ

Yellow = Optimism

Yesterday, the hubster wanted to take a walk, and take in one of the last warm and gorgeous days of the year. Seeing how the gingko in front of our townhouse and the maple in back of it had just turned gorgeously golden, I ran to get my camera. Soon, I had a bad case of Yellow Fever: I couldn’t stop snapping wherever lemon, butterscotch, or canary turned up.  And Hubby was soon beating me to the Hello Yellow moments, pointing out the best shots, whether mellow yellow or mighty yellow.




Not all the yellow was flora, mind you. Still, the color endowed any item–no matter how mundane or humble–with zing.




















Didja get a load of that BRIGHT yellow house in my ‘hood? (How could you miss it?!) And at the risk of inviting more yellow puns or yolks, er, jokes, folks, it’s time to apply the Glad packaging of yellow to quilts. Here’s what that fab colorist, Kaffe Fassett does with yellow; this is Nona, from his book of a few years back, Passionate Patchwork:



And here’s Bouquet, by the wonderful, always thought-provoking folk artist, Ginny Smith:


The late, great, Jean Ray Laury knew a thing or two about yellow, as shown in this quilt she made of her commercial fabrics:


Here’s a sensational bit of whimsy from Jack M. Walsh III’s collection, as seen at the Morris Museum a few years back. Doesn’t the background color (ad)dress the happy dilemma faced by the artist’s daughter in getting dressed every morning? I seem to recall that the embroidered text repeats, “Does this look good on me?”  I truly regret that #1, it’s not in good focus, and #2, I don’t remember who created it…Can someone help me fill in the appropriate credit? And maybe I can get a good image from the folk artist, one that does this piece justice.

Let’s sashay on down the yellow brick road to my work. BIG surprise, and humble, yellow-bellied confession: I don’t look good in yellow, and even standing near it makes me look jaundiced. Sooooo, I have actually used yellow startlingly little in my quilts and my wearables! But since black and white makes ANY color rock, I did make a big yellow taxi tote:

Here’s where you can find the free directions. 

Or, take inspiration from any of the projects in my book, Unforgettable Tote Bags: 20 Designs too cool to leave in the car.

Or, bring me to your guild or local quilt shop to teach the workshop, Unforgettable Tote Bags. (You don’t have to use yellow.)

By now, I bet you’ve figured out the secret to using yellow. Even a little adds a dash of fun, joy, hope, cheer, sunshine. Pair it with its complement, purple (or lavender) to make it sing. Rev it up with red; cool it down with aqua. Go natural with shades of cream, or ramp up the star power with metallic gold and copper.

Here’s a couple of pillows I made for gifts –to bring some shine and sunshine to a comfy spot.


Anyone who has seen Sunflowers knows Van Gogh’s favorite color. Hey, skip the Van, Go Yellow! We all live in a Yellow Submarine, a Yellow Submarine, a Yellow Submarine…Now to dive into my next quilt project…and pick from among my photos to create an upbeat piece of quilted art. What’s your vote?







10 Responses to “Yellow = Optimism”

  1. English embroiderer, the late Constance Howard, with whom I was priveleged to attend a workshop years ago, taught us that absolutely every colour scheme must have at least the tiniest bit of a’yellow’ somwhere in it, to make it sing, she said. ie some value of yellow which could range from almost curry coloured through greeny yellows to orange yellows – some appropriate value of yellow. Even if it is just a few small embroidery stitches , or, in the case of quiltmaking it’s very easy to choose some kind of print with some yellow in it if you don’t want a whole piece of ‘yellow’, or include some very small slivers or tiny patches here and there. And I am sure she was right. I have problems whenever I see one of the technically complicated and marvellous quilts by a very well known north American quiltmaker who teaches, is published frequently, etc: her colour schemes are always brightly and strongly colured, but somehow lifeless and I am sure this is why – not a sign of any value of yellow.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for adding some sunshine to my day!

  3. Betty says:

    It’s a wonderful color. It makes al gloom go away. There is so much grey during the late fall and winter and a shot of yellow perks everything up. Makes one want sing and dance.

  4. Eleanor says:

    Comments like these are enlightenment and mood-lightening. Thank you for writing!

  5. Eleanor says:

    What Alison Schwabe said on email: Nice pics. At least a little of some value of yellow is essential to give any scheme ‘life’. It doesn’t have to be bright sunshine yellow, and a colour can be ‘relatively yellow’ when put alongside others in a piece and it is therefore at that time behaving as ‘a yellow’ even if away from all those other colours it is an odd kind of grey/yellow or some kind of curry colour.

    I could never wear yellow when young, but now I am older and only when I have a touch of sun in the summer, I can wear a nice canary kind of yellow – but even better are the citrus values of yellow.

  6. I have a love/hate relationship to yellow, susceptible to outside influence. Your post may push me over to the love side, at least for a while!

  7. Anita says:

    The photos make me homesick for the east coast and I can’t wait to move back. Arizona has lots and lots of yellow but it just isn’t the same. My favorite yellow quote is by Vincent Van Gogh, who said “there is no blue without yellow and orange.”

  8. Madeline Hawley says:

    I love all of your yellow photos, it must have been a fun expedition. I agree that a bit of yellow makes a piece sing. Personally, the color makes me happy. Enjoyed your blog.

  9. SandraB says:

    The quilt with the many small dresses was made by Rachel Brumer. I’ve been an admirer of her work for many years. The name of the quilt is Let Her. It’s pictured in the book, The Art Quilt. I wouldn’t consider Rachel Brumer a folk artist, IMHO.

    • Eleanor says:

      A late thank you for that response and for providing that credit. I remember being surprised that it is Rachel’s work, because I was so enamored with her very sophisticated, deeply meditative installation “Cover Them.” She used dresses there, too, but also stones, train tracks, ravens or doves, hands, and other references to the 10,000 French children killed in the Holocaust. Quite a difference to this light-hearted lenience to her daughter picking out what to wear to school!

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