Like PB & J, coordination and quilting go together. What is coordination? One of the definitions you will find in the dictionary is: the organization of the different elements of a complex body or activity so as to enable them to work together effectively. Well that sounds like something we do when quilting all the time! Whether it’s fabrics, blocks, borders or a combination of all those things, coordination makes the quilt sing. Even scrap quilts! Let’s get started talking about this.
Block & Border Choice
One of the times to consider coordination in quilting is in choosing the blocks for your quilt. Also, if it’s a one block quilt, coordinating an interesting border can be used to set off the blocks in the quilt. Consider these three quilts below:
These are all one block quilts. But by doing interesting settings with the blocks and borders, they are unique in their own way. The quilt on the left, Marbles & Jacks, achieves an interesting look from the change in background color. I coordinated it by having the star in the center of the block opposite from the block’s background color.
Follow the Stars in the center is all the same block too! By just rotating the blocks in different directions, I created an interesting pattern with the black checkerboard accent. This creates another thing that comes from coordination… a secondary design.
Finally with an on point block setting, like in Homestead Hearth on the right, plain blocks and then a pieced border from the same fabrics as the blocks is another type of coordination. The plain blocks between the pieced blocks and the border help to set off your colorful blocks and the pieced border frames everything and draws you eye back to the blocks.
More so than in a one block quilt, coordinating blocks in a two block quilt is a fun way to achieve a the secondary design I mentioned above. To get a secondary design, you need to choose two blocks that will make another design appear when they are pieced into a quilt top. My quilt Twinkling Log Cabin is a good example of this. Here are the two blocks that make up the quilt:
So here’s the quilt with the blocks put together. If you stand back from it and concentrate on the light portions of the log cabin blocks, star designs will seem to appear to your eye.
Also, if you don’t know there are the two blocks on point that make up the quilt before it is shown to you, the quilt looks like it has nine large center blocks with an interesting pieced border like below:
Looking at it that way makes you see a completely different quilt. Now that’s some interesting coordination!
Another time to consider coordination is when you choose the fabrics. Color and contrast are not the only things to consider. We often look at the colors of the quilt on the cover of the pattern and work to find something close (or sometimes the exact fabric). You won’t always be able to find the exact fabric used in the sample because fabric companies often elect not to reprint a certain fabric. This is when you want to consider the print and scale of the prints, as well as the colors, in the original because the print can be as important in re-creating the quilt.
Here’s an example. The fabric on the left is the original fabric in a quilt I wanted to reproduce. However, that fabric was not to be found anywhere, so I chose the fabric on the right.
I managed to find a fabric about the same shade and with a print similar in scale. The print isn’t quite as tight as the original, but they read close.
Coordination also comes in to play when you are choosing the fabrics to make blocks. If you have a larger scale print in one of the fabrics and want that to stand out, choose fabrics with smaller scale prints so they read more as solids. Here’s an example:
Imagine if this fabric above was the fabric for your blocks, in different colors but with the same print. Now I need a background fabric. Here’s a couple of my choices:
Which one would you choose? I would go with the fabric on the left since the print is more subtle. Some of the print is the same size as in the focus fabric, but since it’s spread out more and the print is lighter, they will work well together. The fabric on the right should be used with a focus fabric with a more subtle print that reads more like a solid, in my opinion. You might disagree… that’s what makes quilting so fun!
My basic advice is to coordinate the prints so they don’t battle with each other. Here is another example. The focus fabric on top is pretty wild, so any other fabric in the block needs to have prints that are more mild. Especially if you want that top fabric to stand out.
Here are two blocks in one of my quilts side by side. Study the print sizes in each block and you can see how print coordination can change where your eye goes.
In the block on the left, most of the prints are the same scale except for the dark blue. The scale is bigger and spread out more so that helps make that fabric more of the focus of the block. The block on the right is a little more “alive”. The dark brown smaller print for the star makes it stand out, but the large print in the purple fabric also draws your eye.
So, I hope this little lesson in coordination in quilting is more clear than mud. LOL! These are just “rules” I have followed throughout my years of quilting. You can adopt these or not. It’s up to you! The main thing is to have fun coordinating blocks, borders and fabrics and making a unique creation!
Leave a comment below with your questions or thoughts. I will have a drawing for a copy of my Twinkling Log Cabin quilt pattern on December 12th from those who comment. **We have a winner! Congrats, Lynn Hyman!**
Shirley Stille says
Thanks for the tips, I’ve always struggled with colors/prints…my downfall..LOL
Thanks for the great info. It is very useful.
Lynn Hyman says
Great explanation of fabric coordination!
I love your lessons you share with us and this one is no exception. Thanks!
Love this! I have always tried my best to coordinate the scale of prints and colors in my quilts but, knowing a few tips will make for a prettier end result. Thank you🤗
Picking fabrics is hard for me so I really like how you describe your process. Seeing your examples is extremely helpful!
Donna Hanneman says
As always, great tips!
Nancy Wells says
Love getting tips! Some are new, but others confirm what I know. ALL are useful!
Ann Roberson says
Deanne, another great, informative post. I always love how you put colors and fabrics together. Thanks.
Thanks for the great tips. Very helpful information for choosing the ‘right’ fabrics and colors to make beautiful quilts.
Brenda in Iowa says
I always enjoy your blog posts. I’ve learned a lot from you. Thank you so much.
Jenedel Wilcox says
This is excellent information. I tend to focus on color and contrast, but your examples bring coordination into clear focus as a consideration. I’d like to share this with my quilty friends. Thanks for this post.
I like how you explained what to look for, and it makes so much more sense to me now. I’ve got a few quilts planned and this will make fabric choice easier.