New to Quilting?

If you are brand new to quilting and don't know where to begin, start with the posts in September 2011 (look in the blog archive). The first four posts cover basics such as choosing equipment, choosing colors, how to sew 1/4" seams, how to use a rotary cutter, and how to press (not iron) your block during construction.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Choosing Colors

Choosing colors is really hard! And I am not an expert!

When I first started quilting I picked one fabric that I loved (I call that my main fabric, feature fabric, or theme fabric), and then choose a background fabric as the 'canvas'. I brought my my main fabric with me to the fabric store so I could pick other fabrics that use either the same color(s) or coordinate with that fabric. I always used the background fabric in each block, and I often used the main fabric in each block.

Now I often have a background fabric or a background color, and then work with color families.

In each block you need a light (or background) fabric, a medium fabric, and dark fabric to provide contrast in your block and your quilt. You can often use the same color with different hues (light, medium and dark) or you can use a color family to represent the light, medium, and dark.

Yes, I know, very confusing! And I am NOT an expert! Feel free to post a comment if you have any suggestions.

It is easiest to pick one fabric that you love and a background fabric. Then pick two other fabrics that you think look nice next to your main fabric.

Crystal's quilt is going to be blue and white, so I gathered up all the blue scraps of fabric that I have. We are using a background of Kona 98 (slightly off white) and lots of blue scraps of fabrics.

Clockwise from left to right: dark blues, medium blues, light blues, white (background fabric which will be used in all the blocks)
In the photo above you can see that I have lots of dark blues. We'll have to add more medium and light blues to our stash as we go along. We can take her favorite dark, medium, and light to the store with us and find other blues that look good with the ones that she already has picked out.

Leftover scraps from Tim's quilt. Clockwise from top left: black (background used in all the blocks), red, orange, yellows, purples, and blues. The red, blue, and purple were often the dark fabric in the block, the orange and yellows were the mediums and/or lights. There was also a teal that I ran out of that worked well as a medium or light fabric.
Easy color choices would be red, white and blue. The white-ish on the left is the light (or background) color, the red provides the medium, and the blue provides the dark. Christmas is another easy color combination: white (background) green as the dark, and red as the medium.
This line of fabric was created so that they all match. Not much value difference in these, the top left is definitely a dark color, but much of the rest is medium color values.
Clockwise from the left: all different off-whites for the background colors (they are all very similar in color but all have a bit of printed pattern to provide visual texture), yellow provides a good medium tone, brown, green and red (depending on what color it is combined with in the block the red can either be a medium or a dark)
The blue provides the dark value, the yellow is a medium tone, and the white is the light. In this block the yellow is used as the background fabric and the white is the light.

In this block the white is the background, the green is the dark fabric, and the yellow is the light .
In these blocks the basket part of the block is dark and the flower part of the block is medium or light.
The block on the left has a definite dark, medium, and light as well as the background color white. The block on the right is all mediums as well as the background color white. The block on the left is much nicer to look at because the pattern is very clear and visually pleasing, while the block on the right just doesn't look quite as nice.
If it seems confusing, that's normal! Make it easy on yourself and realize that not every block is going to turn out perfectly, not every quilt is going to be perfect, and you are going to learn alot along the quilting journey. Quilters almost always learn something new with each quilt they make. I know I do!

If you don't want to 'mess up' or 'waste fabric' then take a deep breath and realize that there are no mistakes--only unwanted results. If you learned something from the block you just made then it was a success and worth the time spent.

Here's something to make you feel better: I just tossed one completed block into the garbage because I measured wrong and it turned out too small!

Here's a link with a tutorial about color theory for quilters:
Color Basics for Quilters

Here's a video on making your own color wheel with your own colors:

A video describing color value ("You know what you love, you know what colors make you happy, go with those colors"):

Choosing a theme fabric:

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