Use Surface Design Technique to Explore the Emerald City

Last year when Pantone announced its Color of the YearTangerine TangoI was a fan. I like cheerful, sunny colors, and this one hit the spot for me. I could see using it in different modes, from fabric to embroidery to surface design techniques.

soy wax batik surface design by ginny eckley
The blues and golds of the batik fabric created by Ginny Eckley mingle to create different shades, including green.

This year, emerald is Pantone’s Color of the Year. At first, my heart sank a little. Dark green? Not my favorite. When this color becomes ubiquitous, as tangerine did last year, how will I cope with the flood of emerald on everything from fabric to tableware?

But then I thought back to the advice Luana Rubin, co-founder and president of and a member of the Color Marketing Group (CMG, an international color and trend forecasting group), gave last year in reference to Tangerine Tango.

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

Her point was that you can interpret a color many ways, with a variety of shades and tints. And you don’t need to let it take over: a little can go a long way enhance the other colors with it, especially when you’re talking about quilting and surface design.

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

If you have some emerald in your stash, pull out the fabric and pair it with different colors. Try not to pre-judge: try emerald green with pink, spring green, taupe, or gold. Better yet, toss a few scraps on your floor or worktable and see let the combinations surprise you.

If you don’t have emerald in your stash, use a paint chip sample. Hold it up to different fabrics to see how the hue works with colors and patterns.

Another way to try out a new color is through fabric painting. Start with a plain white piece of fabric and stamp or paint other colors along with the new color to explore different combinations.

Try fabric dyeing techniques like ice or snow dyeing using a dark green dye, complementary or analogous colors, and a fat quarter of plain white fabric. See what develops as the colors melt and combine.

Actually, “practice and play” is good advice for any aspect of fiber art: don’t close your mind to a color (or an idea, pattern, or fabric) because you think you don’t like it. Try it out in different ways, and you might find a new favorite. Surface design is an easy way to do that, because you can practice on a small amount of fabric.

In her Quilting Arts WorkshopTM Surface Design with Silk Screens Soy Wax Resist & Fabric Manipulation, fiber artist Ginny Eckley demonstrates surface design techniques including screen printing, dyeing, and shibori-style fabric manipulation that can help you explore the range of one hue as well as how colors can enhance each other in patterns. Watch a preview of Surface Design with Silk Screens Soy Wax Resist & Fabric Manipulation to see how easy and fun it can be.

P.S. What do you think of emerald? Are you thrilled? Lukewarm? Or do you stick with the colors you love regardless of trends? Leave a comment below.

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Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog

10 thoughts on “Use Surface Design Technique to Explore the Emerald City

  1. Green is my favorite color to work with, but I am not crazy about the “emerald” version unless someone is giving me an actual emerald. I do love the versions of green that happen when you mix it with a little yellow or blue. Add a bit of red to tone it down, and it is just delicious.

  2. Emerald green is more stimulating to me than tangerine tango was. I can wear emerald, so it isn’t presenting a mental obstacle. I have lots of greens in my quilting stash, and periodically go hunting for more. I thought I would NEVER use neon green. Now, everything has a little dash of it somewhere. Same with purple. I didn’t particularly care for purple until I did an entire purple project, and came to the realization I like blue-purple. It is red-purple I don’t care for, but they both sneak into projects now. Maybe a small “total immersion” project is just the ticket to get over the hump.

  3. Emerald Green is one of my favorite colors – it was used in our wedding party’s clothing even! I’ve made many quilts with various colors of E. Green. I used a dark EG with deep pink, white, and various other colors in those fields to make a queen size “Trip Around the World”, I’ve used several different shades of green with EG to make an original “Family Tree” where I actually made a “tree”, complete with branches and several shades of green leaves. (I donated it to a family reunion, complete with areas for signatures under the tree leaves, then auctioned it off to one lucky winner.) EG is terrifically versatile! I shall certainly make something(s) with it this year! Jeanne Femrite

  4. I have never liked green as such. I obviously use it for leaves etc, and it does sometimes make an appearance in y quilts but it is never my first choice. If I have to buy some I try for a fabric with multiple shades/tones of green so I can use it for lots of things without buying any more.

  5. I think that emerald green would be fantastic paired with white in an Hawaiian-style quilt. Also any project with an Irish theme. For a springtime quilt, you could envision a field of flowers and do a quilt with emerald green and all of the bright colors found in flowers.

  6. Emerald green and plum are delicious, and very earthy! I love it batik especially lovely with tangerine as a background fabric, emerald and the right yellow. Yellow is the one that is hard to find the right soft yellow in batik.

  7. I find that creating a piece that is one color lets me explore the range that color can offer me for future pieces…I try to concentrate on values instead of the color when I am doing this…then I get to work with dimension and form as well as learning the nuance of the color I have decided to use….a good way to get to know colors you think you don’t like and to revel in the colors that you do like.

  8. LOVE,LOVE GREEN!! Emerald green is my class ring – high school alma mater colors were ORANGE & GREEN (for the Orange groves of the past’s agricultural industry). I am equally fond of Mint Green and paired with emerald green there is a nice balance.