Does Your Surface Design Do the Tango?

Recently on the Quilting Daily Facebook page we asked what color you couldn’t get enough of right now. Blue and greenparticularly peacock blue and lime greenwere mentioned over and over again.


tangerine tango fabric
Does tangerine tickle your fancy?
Variations on Pantone’s Tangerine Tango.
(Image from Luana Rubin’s Color
Inspirations column.)

Blues and greens are perennial favorites in fabrics and surface design. I love them, too. But, would you be surprised to find out that several people respond to our question with “orange”?

When Pantone first announced the 2012 Color of the Year was “Tangerine Tango,” I heard as many boos as yays. I think when many of us hear “orange,” pumpkins and plastic chairs from the ’70s come to mind. But I find the more you experiment with a color, the more possibilities you find for it in your fiber art.

Recently Luana Rubin, co-owner of, and a chairholder of the Color Marketing Group. (CMG, an international color and trend forecasting group), talked about 2012’s color in her online Color Inspirations column.

“When Pantone announced the 2012 Color of the YearTangerine Tangothey knew it would spawn a wide range of orange hues,” writes Luana. “This happy and vivacious color has been reinterpreted in floral, fruit, and butterfly shades that are absolutely dripping with personality!

“As our eyes become accustomed to this energetic color, it is moving from an accent color, to being the main focus in prints and color blocking. When it is mixed with analogous color palettes, it steps into the spotlight and makes a statement that can’t be denied!”

fabric marbling surface design jo fitsell
Two examples of Jo Fitsell’s marbled surface design fabrics.
The blues and oranges
complement each other.

I find that juxtaposing a bit of orange with those much-loved blues and bluish-greens makes both colors stand out (which makes sense, as they are complements on the color wheel). Think of a batik design with bright oranges and blues with black crackling.

Conversely, if you put different shades and tones of orange together, the effect can give a bright color like Tangerine Tango a gentler presence.

Studying the color wheel can help you figure out what combinations you like best. But sometimes, you just have to practice and play.

  • If you have some orange in your stash, pull out the fabric and pair it with different colors. Try not to pre-judge: try orange with pink, peacock, eggplant, chocolate brown, or gray. Better yet, toss a few scraps on your floor or worktable and see let the combinations surprise you.
  • If you don’t have orange in your stash, use a paint chip sample. Hold it up next to different fabrics to see how the hue works with colors and patterns.
  • Another way to try out a new color is to paint or stamp it onto fabric swatches. Or, start with a plain white piece of fabric and stamp or paint other colors along with the new color to explore different combinations.

Jo Fitsell is an artist who balances color theory with experimentation in her surface design. Jo creates marbling on fabric with thinned fluid acrylics. Because the process can’t be completely controlled, she allows herself to be open to serendipity, and gets stunning results.

You can open a new world of color and surface design by playing with the technique Jo demonstrates in the Quilting Arts WorkshopTM video “Marbled Fabric Surface Design: Working with Floating Paints, Stencils, & More.”

P.S. What do you think of Tangerine Tango? Yay or nay? Do you use orange in your fiber art? Leave your comments below.

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19 thoughts on “Does Your Surface Design Do the Tango?

  1. Oranges of every hue happily mix with almost anything,especially reds! Check out a packet of sari silk fibres to find out just how well these vibrant colours suit each other. If you like Bollywood then throw the colour wheel away as they do in India and enjoy yourself. The results are magical and they can NEVER be too over the top!
    The Indians definitely do not thin their dyes down as the colours are so bright they almost hurt the eyes! (And they bleed!) Just like wild flowers in bloom, there are no rules about colour, though the green leaves and stalks do help keep things harmonious.
    Whats good enough for nature is more than good enough for my dye pot.

  2. I’d happily do the tangerine tango anyday. Orange is my favorite colour and frequently used in my quilts and smaller quilted projects like table cloths and cushions – and in shoes and bags and scarves. I should probably add a few new fabrics to my stash before they go out of style again. Hate when that happen. Working with oranges will keep the blues away anyday.

  3. All around agreement. I will always gravitate to blues first. But, I do love orange. I just finished a bag that has a bright orange lining and am about to start another one that features a bright orange print and an orange metallic , the metallic is an Indian batik. Oddly, the older I get the more I find myself adding orange, blue, green, and white to my wardrobe.

  4. Oh, I just love orange! It has always been my favorite color. Memories of schooldays when everyone was giving their favorites one a vote and I proudly declared orange, always brought many surprised looks! I hope this anoucement brings many new lines of “tango” orange fabric to the shelves.

  5. For me, I ADORE tangerine, but then, I’m pretty partial to a lot of colors. Tangerine with some punches of lavender, bright purple, and magenta can really sing, but then, I’ve never been accused of being subtle.

  6. Orange is a fantastic color. It has been one of my favorite colors next to the various shades of brown and yellow. Since I work with a lot of Kimono silks and other asian style fabrics, one can not miss the various shades of oranges they used. Some of the other colors it is often paired with is unbelivable. I have some that is paired with grays, brown, blues, green and even pink. Pink is my least favorite color. I just did a pillow case for ConKerr Cancer pillow that had very bright orange flowers on a field of blue and the top part of the pillow case was done with a shade of orange that matched the flowers.

  7. I recently tried the marbling technique on some fabric out of my stash. One of the solid colors I had was orange. I used green and red and yellow and then in between those circles i used black with white inside. It almost looks giraffe-ish. I wish there was a place to upload a photo. Anyway, i was surprised at how much i liked the orange. It really did make the other colors stand out.

  8. Yea for orange! As I sit here in my bright orange top and think about all the orange in my stash, I give it a two thumbs up.
    My daughter recently painted her quilting room orange and yellow–very cheery!

  9. I love orange. In my first house was a sun room/porch that we painted orange. A turquoise couch was in the living room. (Perhaps we should have had the couch on the porch.) My mother, who went to Parsons School of Design way back when, told me I should never mix blue with green, nor red with orange. I guess she was taught not to use analogous colors–though she might have determined this on her own. However, I love both these combinations, and have steered more and more in recent years toward the latter.

  10. I recently was making a crap quilt — putting tgh. squares that were individually multi-colored on a black background — and I found that orange (which has never been my favorite color) was “the new black.” Everything goes with orange — the fall colors, yellow, rust, brown, copper; the spring colors, light greens yellows, pinks, violets; the summer colors, other oranges, yellows, some reds, darker greens; and winter, white, black, greys, violets, ——– it’s just amazing.

  11. For many years I would enter a fabric store and look at the great wall of fabric–the color orange in any form was missing. Thank goodness times have changed! As a teacher I covered my room with Garfield posters and gave orange hall passes…so no surprize that orange trims blocks in children’s quilts, blossoms in garden appiques, embellishes African mask art quilts and of course is the star color in the Halloween costumes, wallhangings and table runners.

  12. For many years I would enter a fabric store and look at the great wall of fabric–the color orange in any form was missing. Thank goodness times have changed! As a teacher I covered my room with Garfield posters and gave orange hall passes…so no surprize that orange trims blocks in children’s quilts, blossoms in garden appiques, embellishes African mask art quilts and of course is the star color in the Halloween costumes, wallhangings and table runners.

  13. In the 80s you could not get any kind of orange fabric except in the very traditional calico lines. And this continued well in to the 90s. Also in the fashion world, orange was missing. I was so happy that oranges started coming back in in the late 90s – I bought every one I saw at first!! And now we seem to have a fashion and design world who takes delight in ALL colors and that’s the way it should be. I like to see all colors used in all kinds of combinations. But I am partial to orange…

  14. Tangerine Tango!
    Yes please! I find shades of Orange, or tangerine if you prefer, to be vibrant, energetic and warming.
    Maybe it’s because I live in a sub tropical climate: Maybe not!
    But I enjoy adding shades of orange to my quilts and landscapes….even if it is only a smidgeon of colour.
    It adds interest and life and provokes comment.

  15. Love, love, love orange – all shades – patterns, florals and bits of solids. This specific color adds so much energy and a dynamic flair to any composition. To me, it is the new red! Happy that orange is not only for Halloween and autumn – too fantastic a color to be limited to one season/holiday. In fact, orange has been and continues to be my daughter’s favorite color and now her daughter is catching the que.

    Bonnie aka bubbee

  16. I have been a pink, purple, blue and green kind of girl most of my life… Reds and oranges rarely have found their way into my work unless to make items to sell for Fall and Christmas, and then they were never my favorite pieces.

    Just this summer a I have been finally getting back to fabric painting, and have found myself playing with hot pink and bright orange! The shade of orange I have ended up using the most is like the Tangerine Tango… I like the sunnier shades on the yellow side of orange. For me while growing up, pink and orange was a horrible combination, and now I am finding myself drawn to that combination… I still am not a fan of red… red paint is only used to create the many shades of pink I like to play with (along with the orange). It’s funny how my taste in colors change. I still am in love with my usually softer shades of pinks, purples, and especially blues and greens, but have been enjoying the bright clear colors I have been playing with lately… Thank goodness my “rocks and mud” frame of mind has passed for the most part 🙂 For too long, everything I painted seemed to end up muddy, dirty browns and murky greens…. that seemed to start when the creative blahhhs set in…