It’s never a bad time to talk about color. Choosing the fabric for a quilt project is often a sticking point for many quilters, beginners and experienced. I hope some of these tips and information can help ease a bit of that stress!
Decide in advance how many different colors you want to use in your quilt. This will save you time in the quilt shop. The time to decide is before you get there. When you are in the store, pull out the chosen bolts and stack them on a counter or table, view how they look together.
If you’re considering pre-cut fabrics at the store or at home, this is what it looks like:
By doing this you can see how the fabrics work together and pull out the ones that “stick out like a sore thumb”.
Have you ever chosen a focus fabric but were stumped on what fabrics you wanted to pair it with? Simply check the selvedge! You will find a series of “dots” with the colors that were used in printing the fabric.
Use these as suggestions on fabric colors that will match!
Learn the difference between shade, tone and tint and how that effects the contrast between your 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.
This comes in handy when planning contrast of your fabrics you choose for a quilt or block. If you choose colors all very close in shade or tint, there will not be much contrast:
The block made from this stack of fabric will be really pretty, but the design will be subtle because they are so close in shade. But, look what happens when I replace a few fabrics:
I replaced the dark green with a lighter green (a tint) and I replaced the dark blue with a lighter blue (also a tint). Now, the design of the block will be more noticeable.
Don’t be afraid to use a color wheel when choosing colors! The wheel helps you determine which are cool colors and which are warm colors. It also helps you to see how colors you choose will contrast with each other.
If you want high contrast, choose colors on opposite sides of the wheel. If you want less contrast, choose colors close to each other on the wheel. Red, yellow and orange are the “warm” colors and blue, green and violet are the “cool” colors.
Here are two blocks I have in the same quilt, one is cool and one is warm:
You can make a quilt all cool colors or all warm. Or you can alternate between cool blocks and warm blocks for high contrast!
Mix warm and cool colors in a block for some real fun!
In the above block, I’ve mixed a warm color, red, with two cool colors, purple and green.
So, are you ready to tackle picking out the fabric for your next quilt? I hope my blog post has helped to make you more confident in the quilt shop!
Leave a comment below about your color fears or triumphs and you will be entered into a drawing for the issue of American Patchwork and Quilting with my latest design, A Common Thread. This project could give you some practice in picking fabrics and colors!
Also included in the give-away is my pattern, Scrappy North Stars!
Now that one will really give you the opportunity for choosing colors! Drawing will be held on Tuesday, November 12th. **We have a winner! Congrats, Ellen!**
Happy Fabric Shopping!
Victoria Miner says
Your color hints are great. I usually use warm colors in my quilts, so definitely try to have some variety by using different shades and tints. Also I like to put in a little bit of cool color here and there. I’ve discovered it make the quilts look much more interesting.
Mandy M says
Great tips, thank you!
Barbara Jansz says
Your blog tips are so helpful. Love the Common Thread pattern and it looks like it will be fun choosing the colors for it. Will make a great Quilt of Valor.
I enjoy learning about choosing colors, which is difficult for me (I’m getting better, tho!). When in the LQS, I’ve found that having natural light from a window or doorway at the shop is a great help and can really make a difference.
Thank you for the tips on choosing colors. I like the saturated colors of fall and also love a scrappy quilt, but am unsure what to mix with the fall colors to make the quilt pop. Your Scrappy North Stars was just added to my list of ‘make soon’ quilts.
Ruth Vogt says
I struggle with color. So your tips were very helpful. Thank you
Renee M. says
I don’t struggle with color because that’s the part of quilting I love but I do work at it , sometimes very hard to get the look and feel I am hoping for. Nature is my color inspiration for most of my quilts but I occasionally go to just fun colors.
I struggle at times choosing colors . Thank you for your helpful hints
Debbie Miller says
I love color! Thanks so much for all the great tips. I once made a crazy quilt with different blue, green and purple scraps at a retreat. After getting the blocks sewn together and on the design wall, there was a light green that stuck out like a sore thumb. I took all of those pieces out and replaced them. When I hung the quilt top back up-there popped out an odd blue. I took all of them out. Thank goodness-it worked after that for me as my friends said I would probably change all the fabrics one at a time!
bobbie rumler says
thank you for the tips, they’ll come very handy….I love tiny blocks the more pieces the better….
Connie F says
I found your color information very helpful, because I tend to select colors in the same range and end up without that “pop” that a quilt needs. This makes me excited to start pulling from my stash for the Northern Star quilt pattern.
Diane Hamilton says
WOW! Thanks for all of the great tips, I learned a couple of news ones and appreciate you sharing your knowledge. I have a great quilt shop in Golden CO that helps me with color choices. I was recently picking out colors for a quilt and was leaning too much to similar colors that didn’t have a lot of contrast when’s fellow shopper pointed it out. I then changed a couple of material. I always appreciate someone else’s insight. Thanks
Paige Burgard Keating says
The Tip for choosing colours by looking at the salvage strip was new to me; thank you. That really helps and it’s right there while you’re in the fabric shop too.
Lyla Peterson says
I like the idea of using the color wheel while picking colors for your quilt. I have had a lot of free time after work lately, so I have been thinking about sewing a quilt for my guest bedroom. I think I will go for an analogous color scheme with blues, reds, and purples.
Kate Hansen says
It was helpful when you said to learn the difference between the shade, tone, and tint. My sister is giving birth to her daughter in a couple of weeks, and I want to make a baby blanket for her as a gift. I’ll make sure to keep these tips in mind as I search for quilt fabrics to choose from.
Shammy Peterson says
It made sense to me when you said that you can save time when you decide in advance the number of colors that you want to use in your quilt. My mother will surely find this helpful because she mentioned this morning her interest in shopping for grunge basics that she can use on her quilting projects. I will ask her to consider your tips so she can wise decisions on choosing the right fabrics.
Glad I can help!
Olivia Smart says
I liked your advice to decide how many colors you want to use for your quilt in advance. I’ve been thinking about making a quilt for my new grandson. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind while I start planning.