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Conquering the Colour Confusion

January 31, 2010

Deciding on the fabric selection for your quilt can be a daunting task.  And if you’re a beginner quilter, the process can actually be a bit frightening.  But there are some simple rules to follow that will help to make your choices a lot easier.  And using a color wheel will help in the process.

1. Pick a main fabric using colors you like.  Or, match the main fabric to the décor of the room.  This will be the focal fabric, the one that is most visible in the quilt.  The focal fabric should consist of a medium to large-scale print.

2. Once you have chosen a main fabric, pick out colors from this for the background and mixer fabrics.  Background fabrics are usually neutral or complementary colored fabrics with various pattern scales and color.  Mixer fabrics should be compatible with your main fabric, in small to medium-scale prints, and should have a relatively low contrast with one another.

3. Look at the color wheel.  This is a tried and true way to choose colors.  Pick colors that are adjacent or opposite on the color wheel.

4. Consider the color value of each fabric.  Does the fabric have a light, medium or dark color value?  You should have a balance within the chosen fabrics for your quilt.

5. Experiment first.  Use paper and pencil crayons to play with the colors of your quilt.  Or, experiment with actual fabric swatches.

Below is a quilt that follows these simple rules.  Note the colors yellow and purple are opposite on the color wheel, and green is a complementary color that is adjacent to yellow on the color wheel.  As well, there is a balance between the color values of the quilt, with a variety of light, medium and dark colors.

Now that I’ve given you some simple rules and tips for choosing colors for your quilt, I’ve heard said that there are no rules in quilting!  I’m testing that theory by creating a yo-yo quilt using fabrics from my scrap bag.   Not a single piece of fabric is going to waste – all colors, all values, and all patterns of fabric. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out!

Happy Quilting! ~ Heather

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