How to Choose Fabric for a Quilt

Kimberlee Tanner

Starting a new quilting project is always exciting, but how do you pick out the fabric? This week we are going to talk about 3 different aspects to look at when picking out fabric for your quilting project. We will talk about scale, value, and color. With some simple tips and tricks, you’ll soon be picking out fabric combinations you love.


Fabric Scale

When a designer creates fabric, they create a repeat design that covers the entire piece of fabric. These designs can vary from large to very small. The size of the design is considered the scale. When picking fabric for a quilt, you want to consider the pattern and the scale of the fabric. If it is an identifiable design, make sure that the scale will fit inside the pieces cut for the quilt pattern. If you have found a print that has a very large scale, you will want to find a pattern that uses large pieces of fabric to allow you to utilize that print the best. If you are making a quilt with lots of little pieces, choose fabrics that you can cut up into small bits and not lose the overall look and feel of the fabric.

When looking at scale, you will also want to vary the size of the prints in the quilt. Two fabrics with very similar scale prints can compete with each other. Pick one or two larger prints for the focal points and then choose smaller scale prints to accent it.

Fabric Value

When we talk about value, we are referring to how light or dark something is. A quilt with everything the same value can read as flat, especially if they are similar in color. By choosing different light and dark fabrics, you can add depth and interest to a quilt. The more limited the color palette, the more important to add different values.

Fabric Color

The last thing we are considering when picking fabric is of course the color itself.

Most prints will have a little key printed directly on the selvage. This will show you what colors are used in that print. You can easily use this key to match other fabrics for the quilt. When choosing different prints, keep in mind the scale and value.

Another approach to picking color is to look at the basic color schemes on the color wheel. You can choose a monochromatic color scheme and go all the same color, or pick three colors next to each other for an analogous color scheme. Another winning choice is to go with a complimentary color scheme. Some of our favorites are red and green for Christmas, or Red-Orange and Blue-Green as it reminds us of the ocean.

As you are making final choices for a quilt, if you just aren’t sure about a certain fabric and if it matches, try taking a photo. I’m not sure why it works, but often, when looking at a quilt or fabric selection through a photo, any fabric that really stands out or doesn’t go well tends to stand out more than looking at them in person.

Music by bensound.com

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