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Color Temperature

Fabric Fever: When Color Temperature is Cause for Concern

In these winter days, especially now, having a fever is cause for concern. Staying home and

Does you fabric have a temperature?

away from others gives me more time with my fabric, where temperature has also been on my mind.  Last year, I started teaching a monthly Zoom class on Color & Composition through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum and our color focus last month was about temperature.  Here is a bit of what we discussed…

What is Warm? What is Cool?

The exact dividing line between warm & cool colors has been an open topic for centuries.

various versions of color temperature

What is your preference?

Your preference likely depends on your medium: a digital graphic artist lives in a different color world than a fiber art quilter.  Here is what I work with…

my take on color temperature

Here are my play groups for warm and cool colors.

I also think of red and green as temperature neutral.  They can function with either play group, but will be the coolest kids in the warm group, and the hottest kids in the cool group.

color temperature - warm

What’s cool in the warm group?

color temperature - cool

What is warm in this cool group?

How is Temperature a Tool?

It’s a fact that warm colors advance and cool colors recede!  In a composition, we can create a sense of depth using temperature.  Warm colors will seem closer to us and cool colors will fall to the background.  Or do they?  Do we know this because someone told us, or because we have experienced it?  I say, “You don’t really own that knowledge until you test it out.”  

So, I created a series of simple compositions of a box on a background.  These are only  8 x10 inches, easy to make, and keep on hand for future reference.

Warm vs Cool – Round 1

First, here is a box in a warm color sitting on a cool color background. 

Does the box visually pop off the surface?

Now, here is the reverse: a cool color box on a warm color background.

What about this box?

If the concept holds true, the first version should appear to have more depth, and the background should fight for dominance in the second.  What do you think?

Warm vs Cool – Round 2

In my next experiment, I pitted warm and cool colors against each other in the same composition.  Using a temperature neutral color green for the back ground, I put a large and small box together in the composition.  Size will indicate to the viewer that the larger box is closer, but, how does color temperature amplify, or mute that message?  


Warm vs Cool in Pictorial Quilts

These examples are very dramatic, but the concept can be used in more subtle ways.  Color temperature is relative.  Even within the “Warm” or “Cool” color play groups, each color will appear warmer, or cooler depending on what color plays next to it.  For example, orange is cooler than yellow, but warmer than red.  Also, blue is cooler than green, but warmer than violet. 

I use this concept in all of my work.  Look through my genre and portrait galleries to see how warm tones advance from the cooler backgrounds.  When more than one person is included in a composition, I employ subtle temperature changes in flesh tones to make one figure more prominent, or appear closer than another. 

Which figure has the warmer complexion?

How does temperature amplify depth in this piece?

Experience is the best teacher

Now, if you really want to own knowledge of this concept, you need to conduct your own experiences.  It can be a simple as cutting out some circles of various sizes and colors, and then experiment with placing those circles on different backgrounds.  You don’t even need to fix them permanently.  Try one version, take a photo, rearrange, and take another photo.

If you try this, share a photo of your experiment with me:

Learn More About Color Concepts

Every month, I teach an online Color & Composition class through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.  We meet via Zoom on the 4th Saturday of every month from 1:00-3:00 (Mountain Time zone).  Each meeting is a chance to explore a color concept, a color scheme, and a composition concept.  Come every month, or participate when you can.  The cost is $20/ session. Click this link to join us.

Here is what we’ll be exploring at our next meeting on January 23:

Color Concept: Creating Depth

Color Scheme: Analogous

Composition Concept: Variety & Unity

Sign up for the next Color & Composition class with Lea McComas


Fused Applique Portrait Class

My Fused Applique Portrait class at CraftU begins March 7. There is still time to sign up. Here’s a link if you are interested:

Fused Raw-Edge Applique Portraits

 Here are some samples of portraits done with this technique:

portrait-Jim Lea applique portrait


Is Your Face in the Right Place?

I’ve just finished a new piece titled “Simple Pleasures”.  It features a young boy named Indigo who is celebrating his 6th birthday and is thrilled with his new plastic horse.  How wonderful to find such pleasure in something that has no bells, whistles, screens, login, or even batteries.

In this weeks video, I show you how to check the size, location, and dimensions of facial features so that the face looks realistic and well proportioned.

Golden Mean Calipers Pt 3: Facial Features

This piece was a chance for me to try a bolder color scheme.  I like the energy and vibrancy of it. Below are process photos to show how the piece came together.

Face and Hands

Face and Hands

Shirt and shorts

Shirt and shorts

Horse in Hands

Horse in Hands

Thread-painted face

Thread-painted face

Finished piece

Finished piece




Life Imitates Art.

deck view

View from the deck

Often we think that our quilting is just a hobby, but I’m here this week to tell you that it is more than that.  It is rehearsal for life.

Just the other day, I kiss my husband goodbye and send him off to the airport, then step outside on the back deck to breathe some fresh air, absorb some vitamin D, and appreciate the storm clouds building over the mountains.  I’m glad to see it’s going to rain because it’s pretty hot right now.  My bare feet are getting scorched on the hot planks.

A storm brewing

A storm brewing

I turn to go back inside and find that the slider has locked behind me.  After checking the windows and finding them all closed tight, I give a “you hoo” to my neighbors, but no one is there to hear.  This deck sits a mere 10-12 feet off the ground with no steps to get there.  Also, the spot with the least distance between deck and ground happens to be the place where we have stored some extra landscaping rocks, and a bucket where we put bags of dog poop until the trash man comes.  A sense of panic would like to rise up inside of me, but NO.

I stop and think, “What would Quilter’s do?”

deck drop

No good place to fall.

The answer: I must save myself.  I need to take stock of available resources and get creative: see what is in the stash, and find new uses for available items. I find chair cushions and drop them over the side on the spot that I determine is the best place to land. Unfortunately, cushions bounce.  I manage to create a ring of cushions that will soften my landing as I fall over after hitting the ground.  I climbed over the rail and hung from the lowest plank until I lost my grip.  Apparently, I too, bounce when dropped from the deck.  With some minor scrapes, a nasty gash on the ankle and a modest amount of swelling, I am earthbound once again.

Limping up to the front yard brings the new realization that I am still locked out of my own home.  We had installed a new garage door opener the day before, but didn’t get around to programming the keypad. Damn procrastination!!

Once again, thinking like a quilter, I knew that sometimes you have to rip things apart and put them back together. I can’t give further details on how exactly to break into my house, except to say that, that particular option no longer exists.

I’m going back to my studio where there is nothing to break but a needle and thread.


The Tale of a Tail

Too Much Tail

The tail is too big for the longer frame.

A you may recall, when I first loaded both of the horsemen panels on the longarm frame, the tail of the right panel hung off the edge.  At the time, I chose to ignore this and deal with it another day.  That day came.

The beginning of the solution involved removing both panels and reloading them one at a time.  This move actually solved two problems.  Thread painting the first horse caused that panel to draw up, in turn, making the second panel too loose on the frame.  The initial reason for loading both panels at the same time was so that the backgrounds could be stitched together, creating some continuity across both panels.  With that done, it is now obvious that that the panels will be completed one at a time.

With the second panel off the frame, I add extensions to the backing and batting.  When it is reloaded, I use clamps to hold that extension tight and in place while the stitching is completed. (sorry, forgot total a photo)

Boning to stiffen the tail

Boning to stiffen the tail

The next problem to be addressed is how to keep the tail from curling back or flopping forward when it is on display.  That solution comes from the notions department of my local fabric store:  polyester boning, typically used to give shape to a dress bodice.

This piece was finished with an artists facing, rather than a binding.  A strip of the boning was stitched into the bottom edge of the tail extension, then covered with the facing.  This seems sufficient to keep it in place.

Horse tail finished.

Horse tail finished.

Cover up with facing

Cover up with facing


“No” to the Nose

original nose

Original photo

When I thread paint, I rely on the thread to do the bulk of the work.  My technique allows me to blend colors and create subtle shading and contours, as if I were working with paint. In my process I find that there is an OTZ (Optimum Thread Zone).  Stitching below the zone creates what I consider dense quilting, and stitching above the zone overloads the fabric and causes it to expand and buckle.

With this in mind, I consider the facelift that is needed by my horse. As mentioned last week, the shape of the nose needs some adjusting.  However, having applied heavy stitching to the face already, there is a limited amount of thread that can be added without exceeding the OTZ. This means I need to get it right, right away.

In the original photo, the horse is moving his head as the photo is snapped, so it is blurred and doesn’t provide the details that I need.  It is off to the internet to find images of horse heads that face the right direction, at a similar angle, and in the right light.  I also look to reference books of paintings done by several Western artists.

sketch of nose on plastic sheet

sketch of nose on plastic sheet



Next, I place a clear plastic sheet over the face of my horse and outline its shape and key lines with a red marker.  That sheet is then set on a white background where  black lines  indicate where stitching is to be added or changed.  In this way, I can audition the additional stitching, erase, and redo as needed until it’s right.






Back at the longarm frame, I keep this plastic sheet handy and begin the facelift.  In addition to creating a more boxy snout, highlights were added around the nostril and above the eye to give them more depth.

Facelift results

Facelift results

First Face

First Face



A Horse of Course

I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but, as you might have guessed, progress did continue on the horseman.  In my race to finish it in time to submit to the Houston quilt competition, all available resources were diverted to making progress on this piece.  I did take some photos along the way and will share that progress with you in my next few blog posts.

Shiny and dull threads for this horse

Shiny and dull threads for this horse

This week, let’s focus on the stitching of the first horse.

I selected a variety of threads in the full value range.  This first horse is pretty dark, and if I think about what the horse would look like in real life, my thread choices would fall in the medium to dark range.  My analytical brain has to take over to pick the very lightest threads.  Because this horse is standing in water,  a selection of threads with dull and shiny finishes were chosen to differentiate between the wet and dry parts of the horse.

Often, stitching begins with the lightest threads, working toward the dark areas, but this time, I did the opposite. I can’t say why with certainty.  Perhaps it’s because the dark threads will complete most of the stitching and the lighter threads will add the finishing touches.  The first step is to make some broad, sweeping stitch lines to hold things in place.  That is followed by several passes, filling in more and more each time.

These photos show how the work progressed.

Stitching horse 0

Stitching horse 1

Stitching horse 2

stitching horse 3

While working up close, it’s hard to fully appreciate what is happening.  I have to rely on

Reference photo on the computer

Reference photo on the computer

what I know should work as I’m stitching.  I also keep my laptop near by with a reference photo on display.  It is always such a treat to step back and look at the work and be able to appreciate that it has come together as planned.  Sometimes, it’s even better, like the stitching along the neck of this horse.  That’s when I smile, pat myself on the back, and say, “Lea, you’ve done well.  You should have some chocolate.”

After a cup of tea and a few Thin Mint cookies, I had to admit that I was not thrilled with the nose.  More on that next week…


Too Cute, Too Late

Puppy Love, 6" x 8"

Puppy Love, 6″ x 8″

I recently did this thread painted portrait of my step-daughter Maya with our pooch, Coco.  
It was for a charity auction, but I made it a bit too big, so it needed to be redone on a smaller scale.  I wasn’t able to pull that off in time, so now, I get to keep this one, and another, slightly smaller, half finished version,  These may turn into Father’s day and birthday cards.


Plan Now for the Festival of Quilts, UK

The schedule of workshops and lectures for the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England has just been posted.  I’ll be presenting

Last year at the FOQ

Last year at the FOQ

on Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  Also, I’ll be submitting 2 of my quilts in the competitions.  I hope to see many of you there in the classroom or wandering among the quilts.  View the complete schedule and sign up:  FOQ Website

If you do sign up, find me on Facebook and let me know.

Colour Theory for Quilters -#313 (12:15, Sunday)

This lecture will address key concepts for quilters related to the selection and use of colour in quilting. Topics will include the following: The Colour Wheel: history and composition of the colour wheel; Colour Schemes: combinations that work, and
fixing those that don’t; Value: why light vs. dark is actually more important than colour; Temperature: the visual and emotional effects of colours and Proportions: some colours are timid, others are bullies, learn to manage them so that they all play well together. Suitable for any level.

Pictorial Primer #258 (1:30, Friday)

This lecture will serve as an introduction for those interested in creating pictorial quilts based on photographs. Topics covered
will include selection of inspiration photos: what to look for and what to avoid. The
lecture will address the following photo editing topics: cropping and the use of the “Rule of Thirds”, grayscale, posterizing, and resizing. Additionally, the lecture will address important concepts related to colour, such
as colour scheme, value, and temperature. Finally, the discussion will turn to elements of composition to include line, balance, contrast, and repetition. The lecture will conclude with a question and answer session as time allows. A copy of the lecture notes will be provided to participants.

Thread Painted Portrait #266 (9:30-4:30, Saturday)

Fans of The Quilt Show meet and celebrate

Fans of The Quilt Show meet and celebrate

The morning session will include a lesson on how to select a good inspiration photo and
edit it using digital software. Students will
learn the following processes: crop, grayscale, posterize, and resize. Although participants will be encouraged to bring a laptop with photo editing software and 2-3 digital photos with which to practice, it is not required. Also, 2-3 people could work together on the same computer. Written instructions for photo editing will be included in the class handout. The second lesson of the morning session will be an introduction to thread painting. Participants will stitch on a panel provided in the class

kit. They will learn to fill in shapes, blend and shade using multiple colours, create hard and soft edges, and use single line stitching to outline and add detail. The afternoon session will involve the actual stitching of a face. Skills learned and practiced in the morning session will be applied as participants thread paint an image, approximately 20 x 27 cm. Working from light to dark threads, they will fill in the basic shapes and contours of the face, add stitching to define the eyes, nose, mouth and ears, then finish with filler stitching for hair and background. Suitable for Intermediate/ Advanced levels. A supply list is provided, plus some materials will be provided, price £7 to be collected by the tutor on the day.


Does This Butt Look Big??

Too much off the edge

Too much off the edge

While fussing over the second horseman and I find a couple of problems with the composition.  I’m irritated by the horse’s back end hanging off the right side of the composition.  It seems to be too much.

Because I have already finished the background, extending it could be a problem.  Can it be done without creating a distinct line down the panel that is obvious and distracting??



horse butt after

Extending the water

I’ve got to try.  At this point, I think the key to the expansion project is to break up the vertical line.  As I add to each component of the background, I’ve got to stagger the additions of fabric.  The water is the largest area and most obvious, but I can camouflage that line with ripples.  Here is what I have at the end.  Let’s hope stitching hides the rest.

Try to ignore those black lines on the second photo.  I’ll explain them another day.