I walked into my living room yesterday and  it seemed as though I was in a space I had never been in before.  Something was suddenly, vastly different from every other day I have spent in that space.

It took me a minute or two to realize what it was: the leaves on the tree outside my window had changed from green to gold.  Not only was I seeing a different color in the windows, but when the light shone on the golden tree, the light in the room turned to gold.  Everything took on a magical glow, everything looked different.  This happens for what seems just a moment each year — the tree turns gold overnight, and then within a few days the leaves have all fallen.  It happens so suddenly and lasts such a short time that it always catches me by surprise.

In my previous career as a photographer, I learned to pay attention to the color of light, because, as I was reminded yesterday, different types of light have different colors. 

Sunlight changes with the time of day and the time of year: sunrise and sunset are often red or pink.  Midday is clear and white.  Cloudy days are bluish.  Autumn days are gold.  Winter days with snow are white.

Indoors, tungsten light (from a regular lightbulb) is reddish orange.  Flourescent light is green.  If you have old photographs, look through photographs taken indoors without flash and you’ll likely find some reddish ones and some greenish ones.  It was because of the lightbulbs in the room.  (Most digital cameras today are set to automatically compensate for the type of light in the room, so digital photos will rarely show this.)

“Daylight” lightbulbs have bluish glass that helps to correct the red emitted by the tungsten bulb. Special color-corrected lights such as Ott lights are designed to emit a pure, white light that simulates daylight.  These are the best choices for room and task lighting in your sewing room or studio when daylight isn’t available.

Even with “daylight” bulbs, light reflecting off painted walls in a room will cast that color over other colors in the room.

The color of light affects how you see color in the fabrics you choose for your quilts.  When choosing fabrics, look at all the colors together in the same light.  When you go to the fabric store, take the fabrics you are considering, so you see the new fabrics in the same light with the ones you’ve already chosen.  Look at fabrics in daylight in the middle of the day for the truest color.  Also look at them in the room where you will use or display the quilt to see how the light there affects the colors, along with the paint on the walls and the other colors in the room.

Learn to recognize the effect of light on the colors in your quilts and you’ll become more confident in your fabric choices — whether you are just beginning or are already a master quilter.