Friday, August 04, 2023

Quilting 101 - Choosing Quilt Colors: Tips and Techniques

Choosing Quilt Colors: Tips and Techniques

Choosing quilt colors can be one of the most difficult and intimidating processes for quilters, especially if trying to choose colors other than what is shown on a pattern. We share several tips for choosing quilt colors and selecting fabrics that can help the whole process go smoother and be more enjoyable.

Fabric Selection

Take a look around you- see that there is green grass and multiple colors of flowers. Use these colors as inspiration. A favorite quilt designer takes photos of a beautiful landscape.  She then takes the colors in that photo and creates quilts based on those colors.  One of our favorite creative quilters is and her annual Mystery quilts.  While NOT trying to reproduce her series, this is a great example of selecting fabrics.  Here is the 2022 Chilhowie Mystery Quilt

Select colors from the image for your quilt. Look at these great oranges that mess with the oranges in the photos.
ooooohhh, love those oranges....

Value - aka. Light, Medium, and Dark

You have probably heard about VALUE when talking about colors.  To simplify the 'value' of a color we think of light, medium and dark.  What does that mean? 

color value -gradation
Light to Dark Values                                                                          


What is medium? That’s the hardest to determine but once you know how dark your dark will be and how light your lights are, the mediums are shades in the middle. If your darks and lights don’t have enough contrast, it will be hard to find medium shades so be sure your darks and lights have a good range otherwise you won’t get that pop.

Box Store Paint Chips

We also share how you can get inspiration for fabric colors by going to the paint store. Auditioning colors next to one another use a paint chip sample card is much easier than trying to lay out bolts of fabric at a time. The paint chip sample cards also helps you see the different tints, tones and shades of a color and how they come together. Using a color wheel to choose quilt colors can also be a helpful option. The color wheel can show you which fabrics are complementary to one another and which ones may clash.

We then show several different combinations of fabrics and explains why they do or do not work with one another. She explains that when choosing quilt colors, it can be as simple as changing out one fabric from a group of many to make your colors pop and your quilt to look the way you want. She shows how adding a contrasting color or a brighter shade of a main color can act as a focal point whereas changing a background color can impact the entire design. 

There are a couple of ways to determine if you have the variety you need. Choosing the shades is not dependent on what colors you use. Yellows can be in all ranges, some greens are very light, reds might be medium or dark, even pinks have a range.

- Looking at the array of fabrics you’ve chosen (laid out on a table or rack still in whole cloth) through a red film or red glasses. This could handy to take when you are shopping bolts in the store.

-Use the black and white option on your phone’s camera. As each phone is different, you can ask Google or Siri to show how it works on your phone. You can take a picture or just use it as a viewer. That makes the tones pop as to what is dark and what is light. You may find that some mediums you picked out are as dark as your dark.

How to choose the colors:

Barb showing fabric selections
from an inspiration fabric.

- Inspiration fabric. Your first choice is often the fabric that inspired you to make the quilt. It can be floral, characters, geometric, etc. It is usually loaded with lots of colors. This could be your dark fabric or it might be a medium but from there you can choose something darker if you like but it will definitely get you started choosing colors in the range you need.

- Audition the fabrics by laying them out together. Tonia recommended leaving them hanging over a rod (or laid out) and looking at them periodically through different times of the day in what is likely different lighting, i.e. sunshine, low light, artificial light when you turn on the switch. Letting the idea perk in your head over time, is a good idea.

- Designers. Mary Ann suggested that the easiest way is to go with the designer of your chosen fabric and
purchase fabric from that line. Be sure to choose dark, mediums, and lights from within the several fabrics of the line (there can be many fabrics in a single line).

-Paint chips. At a loss of what will go with the purple you chose? Barbara brought paint booklets from Loews showing colors that look well together, from there you can also choose the individual paint cards that show the different shades of the same color. They’re free!

The discussion went on to Fabric themselves

- Quality of fabrics, quilt shop vs discount stores. Even within shops, use your hands for the feel of the fabric and your eyes when you hold it up to a window or bright area.

- To Wash or Not to Wash.

 No real consensus on this one in the group. Personally, I rarely pre-wash fabrics unless they are dense dark red or dark blue fabric.   If you do like to pre-wash, you might want to consider using a sizing by starching and pressing fabric before cutting.

More Info: To Wash or Not to Wash Quilt Fabric

Color Bleeding

- How to avoid bleeding for strong colors like reds and blacks. Strong colors might bleed, to avoid it you could pre-wash those colors. It was also recommended to wash your finished quilt with Color
Catcher. Use a couple sheets if you have a possible bleeder in the mix.

We briefly touched on cutting fabric but that will be in a future Quilting 101 discussion.

These are the enhanced notes from the presentation that Barb Morse did for selecting colors for a successful quilt.   Our chapter is participating in a Mystery Quilt in 2023.  We are providing lectures and demos for each of the steps along the way of creating a quilt.

** 2023 Mystery Quilt provided by Mike Hearndon of Quilting Sisters in Leesburg FL.

More Information:

Colors Explained - Way more info than you probably want about colors.  Very interesting read.

You may also be interested in:

This Quilting 101 series is a compilation of the demonstrations and lectures that we have been providing to the Mulberry Chapter of the Quilt Guild Of The Villages. (QGOTV) in Florida. We began this series with various speakers. Many thanks to Barb, Dale, and MaryAnn and Betty B. for their contributions. I have been taking the notes and turning them into blog posts to share with other quilters.

At Shadywood Quilts, we have been providing professional machine quilting for over 20 years. We use a computerized quilting system that gives you the highest quality stitch and pleasing patterns across your quilt.

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