Tips and Tools Tuesday – I Have a Pattern, Now What?

Of all the aspects of quilt making I struggled with as a beginner, I’d have to say, for me, choosing fabric was the hardest.

I just didn’t know where to start, or how to build.

A stash?

I had none. Nothing. I’d made clothing for my family, household items, and recovered furniture. But, those things only required ONE fabric each.

I knew NOTHING about putting fabrics together. I didn’t even know how to start. How many fabrics should I choose? Which color do I put where? My head was swimming!

Then I learned about a “Focus Fabric”.  A main fabric that acts as a road map, if you will. Ooh, or a treasure map! Yeah, let’s go with treasure map!

If you are just starting out on your quilting journey, go to a fabric store and pick up a bolt of fabric that you like. Don’t think about why you like it, just that you like it. Place the fabric bolt on your buggy. (That’s what we call a shopping cart here in the South. 🙂   )

Okay, now, what I am about to tell you is the SECRET to learning how to choose fabrics that go well together.

The designer has done the work for you!

Let’s take out our imaginary magnifying glass and search for the clues that will make our quilt a treasure! Take a closer look at the colors that the designer of the fabric used to create the design. Be a fabric sleuth. Ask yourself some questions. How many colors did the artist use? How many shades of each color? Which colors are used the most?  Which color do I see the least? Which color is used in the background?

Let me give you an example. Take a look at this fabric. Let’s pretend that this is the bolt of fabric you chose from the shelf and is now resting on your buggy.

I chose this fabric because it makes me happy.  I especially love the shadowing on the gingerbread cookies, the cookie jar, the hand-held sifter, and the measuring spoons. That subtle difference adds such dimension to the figures. Now, let’s do some sleuthing.

How many colors do you see? I see gold, red, blue, green, dark cream, off-white, and brown. Seven colors. Which color do you see the most of? The dark cream. Is each color evenly dispersed throughout the fabric design? Which color catches your eye first? Probably the red. It is a warm color. Warm colors appear closer, or advance, while cool colors, such as the green and blue, recede, or seam farther away.

Actually, there is an eighth color. Can you find it? It’s black. The artist used a fine black line to outline each component of the design.

Take clues from how much or how little of a color he or she chose to use. If the quilt pattern has small pieces, consider using the red in those positions. Here are some “bolts” of fabric I chose to use with the gingerbread men for a Christmas Table Runner I am planning to make.

Wow! That red sure jumps out at me. It doesn’t look quite that bright in real life. Think about how much of the red the artist used in the original design.  Using the colors in the same ratio as the artist can really make a dramatic difference. In the photo below, is the red, so, “In your face!” now?

But, let’s choose another red and see if that one blends a little better. This one actually has little black flecks in it. They look brownish or dark red in this photo, but, they are really black. Hmm, that picks up the black from the outlines. Cool!  The tiny leaves in the cream-colored fabric on the left are light brown, while the cream-colored fabric on the right has tiny gold swirly things (That’s a technical term, right?) all over it. Either would be pretty as the background fabric.

Which red do you like?  Either would be pretty.

Did you notice that the fabrics I chose are not EXACTLY the same shade as what is in the Focus Fabric? The colors don’t have to be exact, just close. In fact, the finished quilt will be more interesting if the you DON’T exactly match the colors.

Here are some other examples of a Focus Fabric and its’ support team.

Notice the various shades of rose, green, and gold. Did you notice the little bit of grey? I would never have thought to put grey with those other colors, but the artist did. And, the overall effect is beautiful! See what I mean by, “The artist has done the work for you!”?

These are the fabrics I used in my soon-to-be-released-pattern “In The Garden”.

Except the grey. In my pattern, there were no pieces small enough to use the grey. I included it here just to show that, used in a smaller portion than the other fabrics, the grey looks nice.

Here’s another group of fabrics. I used these in a mystery quilt.

Since the artist used yellow as the background for this fabric design, I used yellow as my background fabric in the quilt.

Because the artist used the rose color sparingly in the fabric design, I used the rose in small increments in my quilt.

Discovering the “clues” in a fabric’s design can lead you to confidently choosing fabrics for your quilt “treasure”.

Today is a good day to become a fabric sleuth!

And, a good reason to go shopping!

Have fun discovering the “clues” in the fabric for your treasure!


6 thoughts on “Tips and Tools Tuesday – I Have a Pattern, Now What?

  1. Helen Glover says:

    Just the way I do it! But i never thought about using the amount of color that you actually see in the focus piece. Great advice! Thanks for the tips. Helen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.