Monday, August 17, 2020

Purple vs Indigo vs Violet

Purple, the August RSC 2020 choice. Eager to jump in and not get behind, I pulled out the scraps and stitched up that pinwheel and a few spares in no time.

purple scrap pinwheel quilt block by QuiltFabrication

These are quite lovely, in deep rich purples, aren't they? 

While those purple scraps were out and scattered everywhere, I thought I'd go ahead and make the indigo and violet blocks, the 'I' and the 'V' for my rainbow version of Celilo. Keeping up with the ROY G BIV theme here.

indigo and violet scrap quilt blocks by QuiltFabrication

Looking good and scrappy! But I will admit, I had a bit of a color panic in choosing the right fabrics for indigo. 

So, what exactly is the color indigo? It's the color that sits between blue and violet in the visible spectrum, the 'I' of ROY G BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). It's toward the purple side of a rainbow.

rainbow with clouds

Personally, I think it's pretty darn hard to see, so I would lump it together with violet.

Being that I'm not much of a purple fan, I've never really given much thought to what's indigo, what's purple, and what's violet. It's all purple to me, with some fabrics having more of a blue cast, and others having more of a red cast.

But wanting to stay true to ROY G BIV for the Celilo quilt, I pulled out my favorite color cards for help.

3 in 1 color cards for choosing colors in the purple family

Though hard to see in this picture, indigo would probably be what they label as either blue-violet or violet. Notice it's not labelled indigo. And what they label as purple is more violet. 

Which leads me to think that those who designed the color wheel were thinking in a way that just makes so much sense. Now I know nature should rule, but the color wheel makes for fascinating study.

traditional color wheel tool

There's the primaries - red, yellow, green.

Then the secondaries, colors that result with the mixing of any of two from the previous list. That's orange (red+yellow), green (yellow+blue), and violet (blue+red). Notice that it's 'violet' not 'purple'.

Then there are tertiaries, the colors in between a primary and it's secondary. Starting with the yellow primary and adding green, we get yellow-green or add red for yellow-orange. For blue, adding green gives blue-green while adding violet yields blue-violet. For red, there's red-violet and red-orange.

The color wheel makes beautiful sense, to me at least. And it correlates fairly well with ROY G BIV, except that 'I' part. Did Isaac Newton need a vowel in there for it to make sense??

Comparing the two color systems, they each have red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. But indigo on the color wheel? Where's that?

I suppose the case could be made for it to be blue violet, which is a tertiary color. If so, it's the only tertiary color in the ROY G BIV sequence. Such an honor, but so confusing!

Wanting to really have indigo represented in my rainbow Celilo quilt, I did a bit of searching for indigo examples. This block is probably the best, not quite blue and not violet (or purple, for that matter).

indigo fabric

Compare it to this violet example, which is closer to what we see in a rainbow.

violet flower

Ah, now I have some direction for sorting the indigo from the violet in my scrap pile. But alas, there's no indigo, only a bit of violet, and plenty of 'purple' in those scraps. It seems purple is the catch-all term for anything containing a mix of red and blue.

Now that I know what I'm looking for, I head to my 'purple' storage bins, searching for indigo, or fabrics with a leaning toward blue. And I find these:

indigo or blue violet fabrics

not blue, not violet, or even 'purple', but close enough to be considered indigo.

Happy to find what I was seeking, off I went to make both indigo and violet block parts for the rainbow of Celilo.

indigo and violet scrap blocks for Celilo


See the difference? Indigo on the left, violet on the right.

I feel so smart today, having taken the time to really examine ROY G BIV, the color indigo, and the color wheel. Now that I know just what indigo is, I'll search out those bluer 'purples' when putting together another rainbow quilt. 

In the meantime, when a quilt calls for purple, I'll probably still put the indigo and violet together in the same purple color family, as it's just easier that way. And if you look closely at the pinwheel block below, there's a wide range of color in there, though very little indigo. That's the separate block on the left.

purple scrap pinwheel block by QuiltFabrication

Feel free to lump your blue-purples and red-purples into one color family and call it purple - I won't mind. But if a rainbow quilt is in your future, stay true to ROY G BIV and take the time to search out indigo in your stash.

Happy Quilting!

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  1. And just to confuse the issue my brown dog is named Indigo. (Indie-go in - Indie-go out.) Thanks for the color lesson, I've too often just lumped them together and had to take a couple out in finished quilts because they were "backward" of the rainbow. Nothing like having a 5 year old to point it out! LOL Thanks again, j

  2. Good job with the colors, pretty blocks.

  3. Very interesting blog today. I love following you, you make me think of so many things that would never enter my mind, really. I would really like to delve into this more for myself, to see what I have, besides purple, and as soon as my life gets off the turnstile I will. Thanks again.

  4. I always thought that the color indigo was named after the plant that it came from, though I've never seen an indigo plant. I'm too lazy to look it up, but I think it's a tropical plant from India or China. Maybe Newton just really liked the color!

  5. Hi Susan! What a great explanation. I've never a purple fan, but have had to sew/quilt two queen-size purple quilts for my niece. The first time, I made her come and pick out the fabrics. I simplified it for her to the warm-tone purple versus the cooler-toned purple. Her choice but only she knew which one she liked most. Thanks for linking up! ~smile~ Roseanne

  6. Beautiful, however you name them :D - and it's blue-purple and red-purple to me because I am easily confused! Interestingly, colour wheels only have 6 colours, not the seven in the rainbow. I believe purple was split into its two tertiary colours for primarily spiritual reasons. Seven is a good number, six is a bad number, white signifies good and therefore must be made up of seven colours etc. Sir Isaac Newton was a genius but also a product of his times just like the rest of us.... By rights the rainbow has many more distinguishable colours than just seven :)


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