I’ve written about color choice when choosing fabrics in past blog posts, but it’s always good to come back to this topic since fabric is a key ingredient for your quilt. Choosing the fabrics based on color, contrast, how they play off each other are things to consider when shopping. So, let’s talk about color!
Picking Fabrics – Color
The first thing most quilters think about when picking out a quilt pattern is “what color fabrics do I want?”. If you are a regular blog reader, you know I like scrappy quilts and their “chaos” where sometimes there’s not an urgent need to think about color choice. But other times, like you, I may want a more uniform look, so that’s where careful color choice comes in. In my scrap quilts, I will often add in one uniform color that ties things together, making it not look as chaotic. Here’s two of my quilt patterns below that do that:
For Follow the Stars, on the left, I used a black element that moves diagonally through each quilt block to add some uniformity. In Loop-d-Loop on the right, the black star units settle down the riot of color in the other pieced units.
Another tip when you are picking fabrics for a pattern, you do not have to use the color scheme used by the designer. This opens up your choices of patterns. If a designer has a pattern with a sample made in Civil War Reproduction fabrics, like mine, you can still use that pattern even if you don’t like those fabrics! Just sub in your favorite genre of fabrics like 30s or batiks. Here’s an example of one of my quilt patterns in my favorite fabrics and then re-made in a different genre of fabrics:
On the left is my pattern, Blooming Stars (from my book Scrap Quilts Go Country). I used my typical Civil War Reproductions. On the right is the same quilt pattern made up in bright fabrics for a high school graduate. See how you can play?
Here’s another example. On the left is my pattern, Mill Country Sky. I used the classic cheddar background, often used in quilts from the 19th century era, and other reproduction fabrics. On the right is this same pattern, made by a quilter who purchased the pattern, in lighter color fabrics!
So hopefully, these examples keep you from shying away from quilt patterns with samples in color schemes you don’t like. You can make it your own!
Picking Fabric – Contrast
Another thing to consider when picking out fabrics, other than color, is the contrast between the fabrics. Contrast is important in enhancing your design. If you want the design of the blocks and the quilt to be subtle, choose fabrics that are close in contrast. If you want a quilt where the design stands out, choose fabrics with high contrast with each other. Here’s a little color theory and a visual on this concept.
Contrast is achieved by considering the value (tint or shade) of the each color you choose. For example, pink is a tint of red where maroon is a shade of red. This photo below shows that:
Knowing the difference between shade, tone and tint and how that effects the contrast between your fabrics can go a long way in helping you choose fabrics.
- Shade is taking the pure color, for instance blue, and adding black to it to make it darker, for a dark blue.
- Tint is taking the pure blue and adding white to make it lighter, making a light blue.
- Tone is adding grey to a pure color to make it less intense. Most colors around us in the world are tones of pure color.
Here’s an example of auditioning fabrics for contrast. This first stack of fabrics below has pieces very close in shade so there is hardly any contrast:
Use that selection above for a “quiet”quilt. Now look what happens when I replace two of the fabrics with colors that are a lighter (tinted) version of the same color it replaced:
See the change? This will make elements of your quilt pattern more enhanced so it will stand out. So far I have used all “cool” colors. Look what happens when I remove two of those fabrics and replace them with fabrics that fall into the “warm” category:
There will definitely be more “fire” to this quilt!
To help you with picking out fabrics using the contrast concept and choosing between warm or cool colors, don’t be afraid to carry a color wheel with you to the fabric store.
The 20″ line on the cutting mat in the photo shows you the dividing line between warm and cool colors. Notice how the colors next to each other on the wheel have less contrast between them than colors further away. For the highest contrast, choose colors that are opposite on the wheel.
So now that we’ve covered color and contrast in fabrics, you’re ready to go shopping for that fabric, right? Next week I will cover more color tips including fabric shopping tips and “auditioning” the fabrics.
See you next week!