Sunday, January 17, 2016

Choosing Fabrics for Your Quilt

Sometimes when you see a pattern, you can imagine the fabrics you want immediately. When I designed my Modern Patchwork quilt, I could envision how many teal fabrics vs. black and white fabrics the quilt should have about half of each. I then added the black and white border to make tone down the amount of color. I also could easily see that all the prints needed be small as the pieces were small, yet there should be a variety of designs to help break up the small patterns. I made sure to include floral fabric, stripes, small dots, and more. To break up the busy fabrics, I also put in spots of solid black.

The Modern Patchwork
It was harder for me to see what fabric I wanted for my Blossom Quilt. The flowers needed to be a bright color, and the flower centers looked like they needed to be bright yellow, plus the bright green spots, and all this surrounded by bright white. The whole quilt seemed like it would end up being bright. To help tone down the colors, I chose a more orange yellow for the flower centers, and for the chain blocks I got a darker purple. Both of these quilts had smaller pieces in them, so the fabrics had to have smaller prints.

Blossom Quilt
Here is one way to see how fabric will look in the square size you need for your quilt before actually cutting it. Draw your desired quilt square on a piece of paper. Cut out the area around the square, leaving about 1/2" of space between where you are cutting and your drawn square. Cut out your drawn square. The negative space inside you square is how big your quilt square will be. Lay this on your fabric and move it around, look at how all the parts of the fabric design show up in that size.

This first fabric I put my quilt square frame on has a very versatile print. The flowers are small so they show up well in a small square, yet the amount of white space in the fabric would also make it good for larger squares.

First fabric.
The next fabric I tried is also good for small squares. However, it has less white space in it, which could make the fabric appear dark when a large square is used.

Second fabric.
This fabric at first appears good for this square size, but when you move the square to a different section, you only get yellow parts of the fabric, and no pink flowers.

Third fabric.

Third fabric.
The last fabric is my favorite, yet it is also the worst for small squares. The flowers are much too large, and the white space between the flowers is also too large.

Fourth fabric.

Fourth fabric.
I ended up making a whole cloth quilt for this last fabric.

Fabric color depends more on your style. It is best to include a light, dark, and medium fabric. How many different colors you include is up to you. Quilts don't always need a ton of colors. These next two quilts are examples of using very few colors.

Adding as many colors as possible to your quilt is fun and can definitely turn out beautiful! The actual color doesn't matter so much as the value. Take this table runner for example. The little squares contain green, purple, yellow, and blue. Each color is slightly on the dark side so they contrast nicely without clashing.

This next table runner varies less in color, and more in pattern.

Notice how the green fabric, while different from the red in both color and print, uses the same red colors for it's flowers. Also, look at how the red fabric has small hints of green in the leaves. Next, the gold fabric is the same color as the faint gold highlights in the other fabrics. This is how almost all designers design fabric collections to be.

In summary:

  • Choose each fabric pattern according to the size of the pieces in your quilt, and consider what patterns each fabric will be next to. Placing a small patterned floral fabric next to multiple other small floral fabrics can make a quilt look busy and all the fabrics can run together.
  • Add as much or as little color as you want to your quilt. Keep in mind not only the primary colors of the other fabrics, but also the colors of the details in the print. This can help you coordinate fabrics and also get good contrasting colors.
  • Color value is the main thing to pay attention to. Bright pink will contrast nicely with a bright green, but a salmon/orange pink wouldn't coordinate well with a dark forest green.
Of course, there are no specific rules in quilting! It wouldn't be as fun if all quilters followed rules. These are just some tips to use when you just can't decide what fabrics you want for your quilt. Happy designing and quilting!

The patterns for some of the quilts shown are available in my shop here.


  1. Thanks for your ideas regarding selection of fabrics. This is the point in creating a quilt where I am stuck. Today I have spent several hours enjoying your blog and have learned a lot. The scrap quilt blocks are quite an inviting place to begin to use this information with my gobs of scraps.

    1. I am so glad you are enjoying reading my posts! I have been having fun coming up with my scrap block designs and sharing them with other quilters. Thank you for coming to my blog!


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