Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Beginners Unite! Choosing Fabrics and Color

For our second stop in the Beginners Unite! A beginner's quilting series, we are going to talk "Choosing fabrics and colors."

I have two previous posts on color here and here. It's a topic that comes up all of the time in quilting, because it's important and because we all question our choices at one time or another, or in my case every time. The color combination you choose can make or break a quilt. We've all done it. Picked out a pattern, picked out fabrics and started on the quilt. Then, we can barely finish it, because though the colors were pretty together in the shop, once cut up and stitched together they've become a whole other monster. So. How do we combat this? I'm no expert (I will show you my most recent fail), but I will share a few tips, and hopefully you will find them useful.

Print size

 When choosing fabrics with large or small prints, keep in mind the size of the pieces you will be cutting. Fabrics will read differently depending on the size of the print. A large print in a small unit could read light or dark, it will depend on where the print falls. I like to take the fabrics I am choosing and frame off the size my unit will be. If you do this, make sure to do this to different areas of the fabric, you won't always get the same value from each piece.


This is an important word in choosing your fabrics. Many of my patterns call for Light, Medium and Dark fabrics, and are even broken down further to Light A, Light B, Medium A, Medium B, etc. It is very important to make sure you are getting these values right, which isn't always easy.

To me this looks medium.

Here it looks light.

 Until I took this picture, I thought the large purple fabric was the lighter.

A fabric next to one fabric looks medium, but next to this one looks dark. How do you choose correctly. From this class I learned to make a chart for all the colors and get their different values.

Another trick I use a lot is to take a picture on my cell phone, and turn it to black and white. Now this piece that I thought was medium, definitely looks light. I highly recommend doing this whenever you are picking out fabrics.


I think we can learn a lot from studying collections that have already been produced. What types of fabrics do they include? Usually there are a few large prints and then some smaller prints, maybe some stripes and/or dots. There are multiple color options in each collection, and there are usually some value options as well. Mixing up your print selection can be a good thing, but again, pay attention to the size and the value of each piece you choose. You don't have to have a solid for each quilt either, some of those small prints read as a solid when placed next to others.


Have you ever noticed the little dots along the selvage of your fabric? Those little dots contain each color and value in the fabric piece. This is so handy for shopping! Use those pieces to help choose more fabrics. You can use the whole piece of fabric, but many times our eyes don't see that little bit of blue in the middle of the flower, or how the molted red gives us a beautiful shade of brick red.

I love these little flowers.

My Frayed Edges OOPS!

Here are a couple of not-so-great fabric choices I made when picking fabrics for the cover of my Frayed Edges pattern.

Now, I'm from Minnesota, so Go Gophs! However, this might have been too Golden Gopher-y for me. I loved these colors in the shop, I was thinking fall color, but once I started piecing then together, it was no longer love. In face, it's still sitting in pieces in a tub in my sewing room.

The sad part is, I made all of the half square triangles first and didn't realize until I started making the squares that I didn't like what was happening. Lots and lots of half square triangles.

The good part? I ended up with this beautiful blue and white thing of beauty.

In this version, I have this awesome green. Love this green, but can you imagine this with eight more blocks? Blindingly beautiful, and not necessarily in a good way. I think I will finish this one as a pillow.

The red was a little calmer, still a little busy in my mind, but better.

Do you have any tips to share, please add them in the comments! What about a color catastrophe? I think it's good for others to see, we all have one once in a while. :)

Happy Stitching!

1) Intro - May 2 
2) Quilting supplies ~ What makes the process easier - May 9
2a) Side Trip ~ Maintenance - May 11
3) Choosing fabric and color - You are here  
7) HST - Half Square Triangles (My one true love) - June 13
8) Flying Geese - June 20
12) Adding Borders - July 18
13) Sandwich that top - July 25
14) Quilting - August 1
15) Binding - August 8
16) Labels  - August 15


  1. I love the greyscale photo trick. I use it all the time. Especially on fabrics that are a little busy and hard to tell. There are all kinds of different opinions on color out there. What one person loves, another may find obnoxious. Be confident in your choices if you love them is what I say. :)

  2. I have read that tip many times but do you think I've ever tried it? Shame on me! I really NEED TO! I am enjoying your series of posts for beginners. I hope it brings you lots of new traffic!

    1. I love it for deciding where to place blocks, too. For whatever reason it shows up better in a picture. I'm so glad you are enjoying the series so far. :)


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