It’s been about three dozen months since I moved to California and joined the Flying Geese Quilters Guild, where I met Bridget Paley, who gives me dozens of eggs, whose colors I matched to the circles here by carrying crushed eggshells captured in clear packing tape through local fabric stores.
So this awesome friend of mine from the Flying Geese Quilters Guild has chickens. When her chickens lay more eggs than she can use, she gives them away. In March she gave me and two other members of the guild each a dozen eggs. We three recipients conspired to make quilts based on our eggs. Our goal was to finish them by the next guild meeting. So how do I get from a dozen eggs to a quilt?
The most unique thing about the eggs were their colors. I lined up my eggs by hue and value.
The top left egg falls squarely in the orange hue. It has a high value and a low chroma. Working with GIMP, I found this egg to have a hue of 41 which is really pretty much dead center in the orange spectrum, a saturation (vaguely translatable to chroma) of 62 on a scale where 0 is neutral gray and 100 is as full of color as color can be, and a value of 64 on a scale where 0 is black and 100 is as light as orange can be and still be orange of this hue and saturation.
The second egg from the left is ever so slightly more yellow than the first egg. Again, it has a high value and a low chroma. In HSV language that's 43, 66, 67 - so more yellow, higher saturation (less gray), and higher value (lighter).
The third egg from the left in the top row is more yellow than the second, with a chroma between the first and the second, and a value lower than either of the first two. In HSV: 49, 64, 59. This egg is an excellent example of how yellow at a low value is often misleadingly named "army green."
The egg in the second row of the third column is actually pretty spot on in terms of its placement in the correct hue column. According to GIMP, the hues of this egg and the egg above it are exactly the same. How awesome am I? OK, it's a weird talent to be awesome at, but still. This is even more impressive given the drastically lower chroma and significantly higher value. In HSV: 49, 42, 71
The egg in the third row of the third column is also pretty amazingly accurately located. It's ever so slightly more yellow than the two eggs above it. Again, it has much lower saturation than the eggs above and a higher value. In HSV: 50, 32, 77.
The egg in the fourth row of the third column is exactly the same hue as the egg above it (so ever so slightly more yellow than the top two eggs in this column). It is crazy low chroma and high value. In HSV: 50, 19, 87.
The fourth egg from the left is a bit more yellow than third column of eggs. We're definitely at the yellow end of the orange spectrum. It is very close in saturation and value to the third egg from the left in the top row. In HSV: 53, 64, 60.
The fifth egg from the left is slightly more yellow than the egg to its left. It has a slightly lower value than the egg to its left. The big difference is saturation - this egg is more gray than its neighbor to the left. In HSV: 55, 56, 59.
The egg in the second row of the fifth column is exactly the same hue as the egg above it. Dude, I rock hues! Like the trend in the column of eggs to the left, this egg is lower in saturation and higher in value than the egg above it, though that difference isn't as drastic as it was in the second row of the other column. In HSV: 55, 51, 62.
The egg in the third row of the fifth column is exactly the same hue as the other eggs in this column. It continues the lower saturation, higher value trend. It's pretty close to the saturation and value of the second egg in the other column. In HSV: 55, 42, 67.
The egg in the top row of the sixth column (also known as the top egg on the right) is, apparently, my downfall. It should be in the fifth column. It's the same hue as all the eggs in the fifth column. More specifically, it should be between the top egg in the fifth column and the second egg in the fifth column. In HSV: 55, 53, 60.
The egg in the second row of the sixth column is the yellowest of all the eggs here. It's not smack dab in the middle of the yellow spectrum, but it's a good deal closer to the center of the yellow spectrum than it is to the center of the orange spectrum. It's saturation and value are closest to the egg in the second row of the fifth column (i.e., the egg to the left of it - so that's a good arrangement). It's value In HSV: 58, 47, 61.
Now, knowing my proclivity for The New Munsell(R) Student Color Set, it comes as no surprise that I tried to match the eggs to swatches from the color charts. What did come as a surprise is the total impossibility of doing so. The 5YR chart is WAY too red to approximate even the farthest left egg.
By way of comparison (and an interesting demonstration of how GIMP's HSV is NOT equivalent to Munsell's HVC not controlling for photographic distortion), the closest HSV hue number to the most orange egg is 28 (which was only the hue number for the two farthest right chips in the second column from the top - if HSV = Munsell, all the hue numbers should be the same). This is twelve steps more red than the HSV hue number of the least yellow, most orange egg (41).
I had better luck with the Hue 5Y chart. The chip third from the left in the second row had the highest HSV hue number. It had an HSV of 52, 61, 73, which is closest to the fourth egg from the left (53, 64, 60). All of the eggs to the right of that egg were too green for any of the chips on the Hue 5Y chart.
The eggs in the third column had the same HSV hue number as the second chip from the right in the top row, but they don't look very similar because the saturation and value of the chip are 74 and 82. The range of HSV saturation numbers of that column of eggs was 64 to 19 from top to bottom row. The range of the HSV value numbers was 59 to 87 from top to bottom.
The lowest HSV hue number I could find on the chips was 44 on the farthest right chip on the third row from the bottom. The second egg from the left had an HSV hue number of 43. However, like the comparison in the previous paragraph, the egg color doesn't resemble the chip because the saturation and value of the chip are 73 and 44 whereas the saturation and value of the egg are 66 and 67. In this case the saturation of the chip and the egg are closer. The top egg on the left is too orange for the 5Y chart and not nearly orange enough for the 5YR chart.
Not capable of leaving well enough alone, I had to test the two rightmost columns of eggs against the Hue 5GY chart. The lowest HSV hue number I could wangle was the chip in second column of the top row: 72, way more green than the eggs in the fifth and six columns, which all had HSV hue numbers of 55.
"Why go through all this?" I hear you cry.
We perceive colors differently based on context. If we really want to identify the colors of things, we have to do some work. While running a picture of these eggs through Big Huge Labs' Palette Generator will generate uniform swatches, it's not the end of the color identification process. A bunch of HTML color codes and color swatches with names like "sycamore" don't really get you anywhere. But analyzing the hue, value, and chroma can tell you a lot more.
For example, these eggs, which I thought were orange and green, are actually yellow. This is HUGE! Imagine if I selected a color scheme for a quilt based on my inaccurate assessment the the eggs were orange and green. I'd have to go with a triad of orange, green, and violet, or a tetrad of orange, green, red, and blue. The actual color of the eggs isn't even in there. I'd go shopping or dyeing and lay out my fabric next to my egg pictures and be radically disappointed. Or even worse, I make the whole quilt in that color scheme and then when I set it next to my egg pictures I realize it's just totally wrong. Those two scenarios sound a lot less artistically satisfying to me than spending some time up front to get to know the colors before I buy or dye a thing.
I thought they were all very high values, but actually they run from 59 to 87. Value is the workhorse of quilt design. Knowing the value range of my inspiration eggs can help me incorporate a broader range of values in my quilt than I might based on my inaccurate perception that the eggs were all high values.
I thought they were all very low chroma, but actually their HSV saturation numbers run from 19 to 66. Again, doing a little color work offers me a much wider range of saturation possibilities than my inaccurate initial assessment.
I could take this numerical analysis even further - using the distribution of hue, value, or saturation numbers to help me decide the amount of each fabric to include in my quilt. For example, only one egg has a saturation anywhere near as low as 19, 32. Then there's a cluster of three in the forties, another cluster of three in the fifties, and a cluster of four in the low sixties.
If the most interesting thing about these eggs is their color, then it's worth taking some time and exerting some effort to get to know their colors. Maybe knowing the top left egg's HSV numbers are 41, 62, 64 isn't intrinsically useful. But spending time really getting inside those colors can help me make the best use of them.