I love this book! “Color Play” by Joen Wolfrom instantly rocketed to my top-five favorite quilting books of all time. I put off writing the review of this book for weeks because now that I’ve done it, I’ll have to put “Color Play” on the shelf to start working on something else. I hate to part with it.
One of the best features of Joen’s books is her ability to take a rather complex subject, distill it, and present it in a clear and extremely easy-to-understand format. She has taken all the hocus-pocus out of color selection and replaced it with a set of clear steps to follow. And she accompanies her explanations with wonderfully illustrative photographs.
Most books on color recommend getting your color combinations from nature. Then the book shows pictures of flowers. “Color Play” is no exception. But, unlike most books, “Color Play” tells you specificly how to do it.
Joen tells you first how to decide what colors from nature you are seeing and how to find them on the color wheel. Then Joen helps you understand selecting colors for your quilts using the color wheel method.
Ives Color Wheel
Joen bases her entire color discussion on the Ives Color Wheel, since it is the color wheel used for fabric dying. I used this color wheel in photography many years ago, so I was thrilled to encounter it again. Instead of the usual twelve color segments you find in most colorwheels, the Ives wheel uses 24 luscious colors.
Joen covers each of the 24 colors in a section of its own. She shows the color on the color wheel, its complement, its analogous colors, and the triadic colors. She displays color strips for the hue (the color from the color wheel), the tints (white added), and the shades (black added).
Then she goes farther to show the tones for each of the strips. A tone is made by adding grey. So you can see the greyed version of the hue, all the tints, and all the shades. You now have a complete reference of every look you can get in each color family.
Then, taking her color discussion beyond theory, she shows computer-generated quilts using the color combinations she just discussed. You can see exactly what she was explaining and how it affects the look of each quilt.
Joen has also created a handy tool in support to this book called the Ultimate 3 in 1 Color Tool. It is an excellent tool that will help you choose the perfect colors for your quilt. You can read my review of this tool here.
Mini Quilt Shows
Sometimes I find it hard to make that mental translation from the color on the color wheel to the color in a piece of fabric. Joen overcomes this by showing many fabric swatches in each color’s family. With “Color Play” as your field guide, you should be able to decide into what color category each of your fabrics will fall.
Joen does lots more in this color treasury than talk about color. She tells you how to use color to get effects like depth, luminosity, transparency, shadows, highlights and much more. Then she backs up her discussion with a fabulous array of quilts from many quilters.
The quilts, in many sections throughout the book, are like mini quilt shows. You could skip all the text and color discussion and still have a fabulously inspirational quilting book. Joen uses the quilts as examples of the principles she is teaching in each section.
In every section, Joen refers to many examples to show the technique that she is discussing. Actually, my only complaint with this book is that there are so many references that I was constantly flipping back and forth through the book. But I didn’t want to miss any of the examples, so I did check each reference.
If you want to learn more about color, this is the way to learn. If you have trouble picking colors, this book gives you a step-by-step process that takes the stress out of color selection. If you want to expand your color usage by trying something different but don’t want to spend lots of time working on something you won’t like when it’s finished, start here.
Joen Wolfrom’s “Color Play” is by far the best color teaching and color reference book for quilters on the market today.