The Colors of the Rainbow Contest inspired me to create a short primer on color theory, demonstrated through an easy sewing project.
Color is made up of 3 distinct elements: Hue, Value and Saturation.
Value is another aspect of color and describes how light or dark it is.
Saturation refers to how pure and intense a color is.
For quilt artists, value differences can be as important as differences in hue.
In this instructable, you will learn how to make a quilted bag using different values of a single hue to create contrast, variety and visual interest. Despite being monochromatic, your bag will display color gradation.
You will make this bag using 6 fabrics of differing value from a single hue on the color wheel - any one of ROYGBIV. I've made 3 samples of this bag, in 3 different hues - Blue, Indigo and Violet. Indigo is a blue-violet (it is between blue and violet on the color wheel and on the visible spectrum). Despite the name indigo, it is more violet than the blue we commonly associate with the blue in blue jeans which comes from the indigo plant. I made the indigo bag first, then made a blue one with a few more bells and whistles. After making these 2 bags, I made a 3rd slightly larger bag in violet, so you can see the bag in 3 adjacent colors on the color wheel: violet, indigo and blue.
Step 1: Choose Fabric and Gather Materials
You will need the following fabric:
- 16" X 7 1/2" rectangle of lining fabric
- 16" X 7 1/2" rectangle of batting
For the outside of the bag:
- Small pieces of 6 fabrics, ranging in value from dark to light, all in the same hue. (See next step for exact measurements, but a 2 1/2" strip of each fabric is sufficient except that you will need 1/4 yard of the darkest fabric).
You will also need:
- a rotary cutter, ruler and cutting board, or a ruler and scissors
- access to an iron and sewing machine
I used a Color Tool at my local quilt shop to help me choose fabrics which were all in the Blue Violet (Indigo) Hue for my first bag. The photos show the color cards for Blue Violet, as well as for Violet, and the related fabrics which I used in these two bags.
Step 2: Cut Fabric, Batting and Lining Pieces
Cut lining and batting into 16" X 7 1/2" rectangles.
Arrange bag fabric from the darkest to lightest. I will refer to the darkest strip as Fabric 1, continuing the numbering to Fabric 6 which is the lightest.
Cut the following strips:
Fabric 1 (Darkest) - one 4" X 7 1/2" strip
Fabric 2 - Cut two strips, each 2" X 7 1/2"
Fabric 3 - Cut two strips, each 1 3/4" X 7 1/2"
Fabric 4 - Cut two strips, each 1 1/2" X 7 1/2"
Fabric 5 - Cut two strips, each 1 3/8" X 7 1/2"
Fabric 6 - Cut two strips, each 1 1/2" X 7 1/2" (this will be partially covered by trim, so will end up thinner than the Fabric 5 strip)
Note - for the Blue bag, which has a boxed bottom, I cut the lining and batting 2" longer, and cut Fabric One 6" X7 1/2", because the "boxing" which makes it more 3D takes up some of the fabric.
Step 3: Use Quilt-As-You-Go Method to Join Pieces
- Draw a line in the exact centre of your batting
- Place the batting on top of the wrong side of the lining and iron them so that they stick together
- Draw a line in the exact centre of your darkest fabric (Fabric 1)
- Centre the darkest fabric over the centre line of the batting/lining layer. Sew through all 3 layers on the marked centre line of the fabric to secure the fabric to the other 2 layers
- Place one of your Fabric 2 pieces on top of the Fabric 1 strip, right sides facing, with the raw edges lined up
- Using a 1/4" seam, sew down the Fabric 2 strip, attaching it to Fabric 1, the batting and the lining
- Unfold Fabric 2 and iron it open
- Add the other Fabric 2 strip to the other side of Fabric 1, sew, and iron it open
- Add Fabric 3 strips to your Fabric 2 strips in the same manner
- Continue in the same way, adding Fabrics 4, 5 and 6
- You now have all the fabric pieces joined together, and also joined to the batting and lining. The seams you have sewn to "piece" the fabric have also "quilted" the fabric, i.e. joined the top, batting, and lining together.
- This method is often called "quilt-as-you-go" since you are quilting while piecing.
Step 4: Trim and Sew Side Seams
- Trim quilted rectangle so edges are even. Once I trimmed my rectangle, it was 7 1/4" X 15 1/4".
- Fold rectangle in half, right sides together, and sew 1/4" side seams, starting from the bottom folded edge.
- Trim again, close to stitching (about 1/8" away), then zigzag stitch over the seam to finish the raw edge.
Step 5: If Desired, Box Bottom of Bag
If you want a bag that is more 3D than 2D and that will sit up on its own, you can "box" the bottom of the bag. I did this with the 2nd bag I made (the blue bag). The blue bag has a white lining, which makes these instructions easier to follow. Note that the side seams are finished with dark blue zigzag stitching.
With the bag inside out: fold the bottom of the bag, with one side seam (zigzagged seam) centred over the bottom edge of the bag, to form a triangle at the bottom corner. Measure 3/4" in from the point of the triangle and draw a line across the base of the triangle. Sew along this line. Repeat at the other corner. You have now boxed the bottom of your bag.
Finish by cutting off the excess triangle of fabric and zigzagging to finish the seam.
The last photo is a side view of the finished bag, showing the effect of "boxing" the bottom. I also added an interior pocket to this bag.
Step 6: Add Strap
- Cut fabric for strap. For a cross-body shoulder bag, I cut a strip 45" long and 2" wide from the darkest fabric.
- Iron strip in half lengthwise.
- Unfold, and fold the long raw edges in to meet the first fold in the centre, ironing down one side at a time, trying not to iron over the fold line. Once both sides have been ironed towards the fold, fold the strip in half again along the first pressed fold line and iron. You now have a 1/2" wide strip, with the raw edges neatly ironed under.
- Sew very close to the edge of this long strip - about 1/8" from the edge. Do this along both edges, so the strap is securely sewn down along both edges.
- Pin one end of the strap to the bag on the inside, at the side seam, with the raw edge of the strap flush with the raw edge of the top of the bag. Note that the strap will be inside the bag (this is counterintuitive - see photo). Making sure the strap is not twisted, put the rest of the strap inside the bag, and pin the other end of the strap to the other side of the bag. Sew the ends of the strap in place.
Step 7: Finish Top Edge of Bag by Sewing Binding Strip Along Edge
- To make the binding, cut a 2 3/4" wide strip, about 16" long, from the darkest fabric.
- Finish one end of the strip by folding about 1" under, wrong sides together, and iron in place. You can skip this step if you've cut your strip so that the selvedge is at one end, and it's an attractive selvedge.
- Fold the strip in half lengthwise (wrong sides together) and iron.
- Pin raw edge of your binding strip against the raw edge of the outside of the bag.
- Sew in place, with a 3/8" wide seam, starting about 2" from the end of the strip with the finished end.
- Once most of the binding has been sewn in place, tuck the unfinished end of the strip inside the finished end. Finish sewing these last few inches of the binding to the bag.
- Turn the bag inside out.
- Fold the finished folded edge of the strip over to the inside, enclosing the unfinished top edge of the bag.
- Pin in place. Pin the straps in place so that they will be caught in this stitching and will be facing upwards.
- Sew the folded edge of the binding in place on the inside of the bag by machine, close to the edge.
Step 8: Wear Your Bag With Pride!
You are done!
If you wish, you can hand sew a snap to the top of the bag as an optional closure.
Enjoy your bag - and think about making one in each hue of the visible spectrum - ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet). Only 4 more and I will have one of each hue!