Last week in my Color is Key post, I covered picking out fabrics based on color and contrast and gave you some brief color theory tips. This week, I want to talk about what to do before heading to the quilt shop and what to do when you’re there to put these tips into action. I will also talk about fabric prints and background fabrics. So, let’s get started.
Tip#1: The first step is reading over your pattern and finding all the fabrics you need to gather from your stash or purchase. After I do that, I first look through my stash to see what I have and “audition” them by laying them out like this:
By laying the fabrics out like this, I can see if they all “play” together well. Stand back and look at your collection and see if a fabric stands out like a sore thumb. You can then remove that one and replace it with another. Do that until you like your collection.
One of my favorite things to do is “shop” my stash before going to the quilt shop when I’m starting a new project!
Tip #2: If you are interested in changing up the colors from those of the pattern’s sample quilt, make sure to do this before shopping. You can actually test out different colors using scraps from your stash. Choose the fabric colors you are thinking about and make a few test blocks.
By doing this before shopping, you will know which colors look good in the blocks you are going to make for the quilt.
Another way to find new color combinations is to copy or draw a picture of the quilt block that makes up the quilt and use colored pencils to decide on a color way you prefer.
At the Quilt Shop
So you have determined you need fabric, either to fill what is not in your stash or you have to buy it all. Here’s some tips for that.
Tip #1: You can do the same thing at the quilt shop that you did at home with fabric from your stash – “audition”.
You can do this with full bolts (like above) or fat quarters, if that’s all you need. Find a well lit area of the shop to stack or lay the fabrics together. Most fabric shops will have staff that can assist you in finding a space to do this… they want to sell fabric!
Tip #2: If you have a fabric you absolutely love, whether it’s one that’s from your stash or one you find at the shop, here’s a tip on finding fabrics that will go with it. I’ve shared this tip before so it may be a repeat to some of you but for new readers, look at the selvage of the fabric you have chosen. You will often see something like this:
See those dots of color? Those are the colors that went into making this piece of fabric. You can take that piece of fabric around the shop and use those dots to find a green, orange, red and blue that will go well with this fabric. This is often used by quilters when they’ve chosen a “focus” fabric. That’s the fabric they build from to create the color scheme for their whole quilt.
Tip #3: If you are buying fabric, buy a little more fabric than the pattern requires. I actually recommend at least 1/8 yard more. I automatically figure in extra fabric when writing my patterns but you can add a little extra fabric to my requirements too if it makes you feel comfortable. Here are the reasons I recommend that extra fabric:
- When squaring up the fabric, it’s possible to lose some of the length if the fabric was wound a bit wonky onto the bolt.
- If you like to pre-wash your the fabric, there could be shrinkage.
- Finally …. cutting errors. We all have them!
A lot of time, advice for choosing fabric focuses mainly on choosing the color print fabrics for your quilt blocks but doesn’t offer any advice on background fabrics, either for the blocks or the whole quilt. Here’s a few tips.
Tip #1: Do you want a light or dark background for your quilt? Here are a couple of my quilts showing the difference:
You don’t always have to use light tan fabrics for your backgrounds. For the quilt on the right, Sunset Sky, I used grey for the blocks and then a black print for the sashing for the overall background. You can also mix light and dark within the same pattern for more interest like I did in my pattern, Marbles & Jacks.
Tip #2: Block backgrounds can be played with too. Not only do you want the color prints in your block to pop, you don’t want the prints of the background fabrics to clash with them. Here’s an example in photos to illustrate this.
Here are fabrics that I want in my blocks:
Now below are these three fabrics paired with three different background choices.
The background on the left has a large, bold print that I feel will clash with the prints in the color print fabrics. If you want to use this background, I recommend choosing color prints with less prominent prints. Recognize that the background fabric will be the “star” in your quilt with such a bold print so make sure that is your intention.
The middle photo has background fabric that is a little better with a more subtle and blended print and, finally, the background fabric in the last photo has a smaller print that’s even more subtle so it does not clash with the large prints of the color fabrics. That’s probably the background fabric that would be my first choice for my blocks, although the middle fabric is a close second.
Here’s an example in two blocks that shows how the print sizes on the fabrics play together.
On the left, the prints of the background fabric and the color prints are about the same size so no particular fabric stands out. To create more contrast, for the block on the right I chose color print fabrics with different size prints. I also made the middle color print darker to create more contrast so the larger print on the purple fabric doesn’t completely overwhelm the block.
Finally, you can just have a lot of fun by making your block backgrounds scrappy, like in my quilt Seaside Cottage:
That’s the fun of a scrap quilt!
That’s it for this week! Leave a comment or ask a questions below and be entered into a drawing for the Seaside Cottage quilt pattern. The drawing will be on Monday, January 22nd. Good luck! **We have a winner! Congrats, Donna Logan!**