Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's all about Heart and color this month and DEB scoops us some Color talk

  Love color?  Yes!  Always know the perfect color or fabric to pick?  Uh, no.  Have sweat trickling down your neck, or sweaty palms selecting fabric for your next project?  Yep, there I am.
  I'm Debbie from Stitchin' Therapy and I do love color.  When I began quilting, I had absolutely no idea how to choose colors or fabrics for a quilt.  In my first class I was told to use a light, a dark, and a bright.   I never finished that quilt, I wonder why?  Today I  mainly do multi-print, multi-color quilts---scrap quilts and water color quilts--- because the colors make my spirit soar.
   Color is what I notice first about a fabric.  It will draw me in and influences how I react to a quilt made with it.   So before your eyes glaze over and you think "Here comes the color wheel talk, and all those words like complementary and analogous,"  relax!  I'm going to share a simple technique I learned from an artist turned quilter.   The class I took from her was not about technique or sewing. It was about selecting fabrics and colors.  I consider it my secret weapon to creating wonderful, colorful quilts.
 Here's a quilt in which I used  this technique for selecting  the fabrics.   I used 18 fabrics for this bargello quilt, but it all started with one fabric that  I loved.  I  followed the steps below to pick the other 17 fabrics.

Steps to selecting fabrics/colors
   It's a simple idea based on letting the fabric and designers do the work for you.   Find a focus fabric you love that has 2 or 3 colors in it.  The seventh fabric from the left was my focus fabric.....shades of purple to plum with blues and greens.  There's my palette!

 Now select  other fabrics that "play well and are friendly" with the focus fabric.
  •   Select a second fabric based on your favorite color in the focus fabric.  The color doesn't have to be an exact match.  My second choice is right next to it at position #6.
  •   Select a third fabric based on another color in the focus fabric.   My third choice ended up in position #10.  Notice anything?  My selections were a light, a bright, and a dark fabric scheme.
  •   Select a "friend fabric" for the second and third fabrics you chose.  Make it a shade lighter or darker for depth and variety.  
  •   And so on....Try to select fabrics that vary in scale (size of print), and value.  Tonal type prints are great "friend" fabrics.
  •   Finally, stand back about 6 to 8 feet from your selections.  Does anything jump out and not fit?  Replace it.  Look at the ninth fabric.....does it seem too dark?  Yes, probably, but the plum color was so striking with the other fabrics that I left it in to spice things up.  Rules can be broken!
  •   Is the collection of fabric all the same value and seem boring?   Note---Value refers to the lightness or darkness of the color you see.  The overall value of the fabric is as important as the color.  Using a palette of all medium value fabrics will appear flat and boring.  Adding a dark and a lighter value will greatly enhance your quilt.   If you are not sure of the value, take a photo, look at it on the computer.  Squint at it, or take off your glasses like me, and get it out of focus to see the value rather than the pattern and color.  Change it to a black and white photo, and you can easily judge the value.  It is so worth the effort to do this.  
 This is the same photo as the above palette converted to black and white.  I wanted to be sure the darkest values were scattered throughout my palette and not all in a clump.   Don't be afraid of using a dark fabric.  The dark values create depth and let the light and medium value fabrics shine.  

Selecting the dozen different batiks for this one was done in the same way.  
This smaller photo below of the first blocks made  gives you a closer look at the fabrics chosen.  Can you pick out the focus fabric that I used for the palette selection?  
Did you pick the fabric in the bottom left corner?  That was it....a beautiful collection of colors in it to chose from.  Using the focus fabric made it easy!

   Are you a traditional quilter?   In Summer of Love I used 20 different floral fabrics for the very traditional Jacob Ladder blocks. The bold yellow  is predominant, and required a careful selection of other fabrics to be successful.  I began with one floral featuring  lots of colors--including yellow.  Each of the remaining floral fabrics were selected because they picked up a color from the focus floral.  Some were on  dark backgrounds, and others were on  lighter backgrounds, and  2 had very blue tone backgrounds.  And in the end, all of them blended and worked well together.
   Show no fear when selecting fabrics for your next project.  Conquer your  fear about mixing colors and fabrics.  You have been empowered with the secret weapon for fabric selection.... Let the designer and fabric do the work for you.  And now,  you also have a great reason for building your stash.
  Thanks so much,  Madame Samm for letting me share my thoughts on color and how to make it work for us all.
Wishing you all a color filled day and happy stitching.


  1. A wonderfully colorful post! I always love the use of the grey scale to show if color scale is workable.

  2. I used to work in a Patchwork shop and if someone came in with troubles on choosing fabrics I would get them to find one fabric they really like and from there we picked the colours like you do.
    Thank you for sharing it sure will help a lot of quilters

  3. Thank you, I shall certainly use your tips for colour selection. Love the Jacob's Ladder quilt.

  4. Great info. Thank you very much. Hopefully this will help me because I am still learning the color choosing part and yea, color wheels and the big words that go with them totally freak me out. LOL It's like another language and in my mind on the same level as math. My mind screams and shuts down I swear.

  5. I SEW enjoy making the Jacob's ladder. Your color selections have inspired a new baby quilt for my colection plus a new baby quilt binding. Thanks

  6. Thanks for the color ideas. Plan to put your instructions into practice.

  7. Wonderful post, it's amazing how well that black and white trick works. Thanks.

  8. Good Morning Deb, timely, colorful and a great lesson on color. thank you for dishing us all up a colorful lesson.

  9. great color combo thanks

  10. beautiful quilts! I LOVE LOVE bargello and I love to do THAT!! haven't made a bargello in a long time, when I used to go to JoAnn's all the time, now I don't, I order 90% of fabrics online, so that might be tough. hmm unless I go with a whole line of fabrics... I love the twist on bargello too

  11. Thank you for the great information on choosing color. I am timid with color and often wind up with bland, safe quilts. Although, I admit, I'm afraid of the alternative; creating a quilt that is a clashing cacophony of color. I often throw in WOW or WOC for fear of using a background color that will overwhelm the pattern of the quilt. I have heard about picking a focus fabric and drawing the colors for your other fabrics from it, but until seeing your photos I didn't have a feeling for how it worked. Thank you. If my next quilt turns out to be a colorful success, I will certainly give you credit. If it winds up bland, I will have only my inner chicken to blame.

  12. Great job Debbie!
    Loved the post and seeing all of your beautifulbquilts again

  13. Your method is obviously working well for you - your quilts are striking. Thanks so much for sharing this technique with us. I always have trouble choosing fabrics so I'll try your way next time. blessings, marlene

  14. This is great, Deb --- this is my biggest fear when beginning a project! Thanks so much for a useful, informative post! :)

  15. Great information! I've also used the little dots on the salvage - each of those colors are on that fabric!

  16. Thanks for the color confidence boost. this is the way I pick colors it nice to hear that others do too. Your quilts are lovely.

  17. Hi,I lowe your Bargelo....
    The fabrics are lovely...

  18. Absolutely stunning quilts. They all very much have that wow factor.

  19. This is a great lesson. I love the bargello; I've always wanted to do one but I think it would drive me nuts!

  20. Those designers know what they're doing and using their fabrics as a jump off is great. I love mixing scale and value in my quilts and like you, am not afraid to find "friends" that are not exact matches--spices things up!

  21. Thank you all for the great feed back about my post. I really enjoyed putting it together and sharing what I love.


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