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How to choose fabric for your patchwork quilt

Choosing fabric for your quilt can be one of the most fun parts of making a quilt, or the most daunting.

One of the common phrases I hear at ‘Patchwork With Gail B’ where I work is “Oh, I’ll know what I want when I see it”.  When you consider there are over 10,000 bolts of fabric in this shop, you could be looking for a long time!

I suggest you think about it before you go shopping to avoid being overwhelmed.  What is your favorite color?  Do you like florals? Geometric designs? Batiks? Plains (like Amish quilts)? bold colors or soft colors?

Types of fabric

This will give you a place to start and the sales assistant will be able to guide you to some appropriate fabrics.

When you are beginning quilting, I suggest you start by choosing a patterned fabric in your favourite colour, that way you will enjoy working on your quilt, and you will adore it for a long time when it is finished. Then you can choose some complementary fabrics to go with it.

Perhaps the easiest way is to choose other fabrics in the same Range.  Usually manufacturers design a “Range” of coordinating patterns and colours around the same theme including large and small patterns and several colors.

If you choose your fabrics from the same Range, you know they will all work in together in your quilt.

If you can’t find other fabrics in the same range, look down the edge of your chosen fabric (which is called the selvage) and you will see the designer’s name, plus several little numbered circles.

Fabric Selvage

These contain all of the colored dyes that have been used in the printing process of that fabric.  You can use these color spots to match with other fabrics to go with your main fabric, once again knowing that if you use those colors they will definitely go together.

When selecting fabrics, choose a range of small, medium and large prints for contrast.  Also remember that depth of color is important.

Size of pattern on fabric

If you choose a mix of light, medium and dark prints you will have good contrast and the quilt you have chosen to make will have life e.g. a quilt made entirely of pale pink, medium sized floral fabrics could be very boring.

Add in some deeper shades, perhaps some green, and maybe some spots or stripes, and suddenly you have a quilt that is interesting.  These are safe options that you can be sure will work.

Spots and Stripe Fabric

Color Wheel Complementary ColorsIf you want to be more adventurous, learn about the color wheel and try some different color combination’s e.g. a “Complementary color scheme” has colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel like purple and yellow or blue and orange.

Quilts made from these colors can look stunning and vibrant.

When you are choosing colors, make sure you “audition” them.  Take the bolts off the shelf and test them together, take one away and see if it looks better or worse, put in a darker one, or an accent color.

Take away any which don’t “go”, it may be something as simple as the fabric having a cream background instead of white.

If the shopkeeper doesn’t like you taking bolts of fabric off the shelves, go to another shop where it is OK.

As a sales assistant I would prefer to put away extra bolts of fabric, than see a customer go away not entirely happy with her purchase.

And do ask for help if you can’t decide, but don’t let yourself be bullied into choosing something you are not happy with.

While it is ultimately your decision, sales assistants are there to help you with opinions, to suggest options you hadn’t thought of, and just maybe to go away and find that elusive bolt of fabric that is “just right”.

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4 Responses

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  1. Sharon Keys says

    This is great thank you Sherryl for such a clear explaination

  2. Sherryl says

    Thanks Sharon… so glad it was helpful :-)

  3. Kassie O'Driscoll says

    Thank you for this post. Very helpful. :)

  4. Joanna says

    thank you – this was very helpful

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