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Tips for Choosing Fabric
If you have ever made a quilt you know that choosing the right fabrics and colours is the key to a successful project. It's where many people struggle. There are so many brands of beautiful fabrics today that it can be a challenge to decide which fabrics and colours work together. This is where a colour wheel can be very helpful but it leaves out much needed information.
Colour wheels on the face of it show you which colours complement each other and work best together. This is a great tool when you are selecting from one brand from a single collection of fabric. Why? Because the designer does the work for you. But what if you have a stash of fabrics that contain many different brands from many different collections and you want to make a quilt? What then?
How many times have you chosen fabric based on colour alone and when you started to put it together you suddenly realized it looked like a hot mess? That is because you left out crucial detailing in your planning.
What the colour wheel doesn't tell you is the colour value. Colour values run from light to dark and the interesting thing is that the value of a colour will change depending on the colours surrounding it. So for example, if you look at a solid black fabric. That fabric on it's own would be a dark value where as a grey could be considered a medium value and a white would be a light value. Simple right? Not so fast. If you take that same grey fabric and add a darker grey to mix, that medium grey suddenly becomes a light value in comparison. Don't get me wrong, there is no right or wrong values however it can make a huge difference in the outcome of your project vs expectations of outcome.
What do I mean? Here is an example of a quilt that I made for my father-in-law. I wanted something that was cheery but not overwhelming. I chose a Timeless Treasure Collection consisting of three colours; black, red and white. We also have two values whithin these colours. White is a light value and red and black are both dark values. Yes even though red is a bright colour it has a dark value which can be confusing however it is important.
When I started the quilt using just the three colours, I pretty quickly realized it was going to be too vibrant and hard on the eyes for my 89 year old father-in-law so I needed to tone it down. The obvious choice would have been to add more black and use it on the border right? Wrong. This would would have kept the value scheme the same making those reds and whites pop even more. So I grabbed the next best thing which was a grey with black tones. So here I added a medium value in comparison with the other values in my project. This significantly toned down the overall look of the quilt and made it much easier on the eyes. So you can see by this example how colour value is important for the overall look and feel of the quilt. When in doubt do a simple colour block with swatches of the colours you want to use in your quilt. It's very easy to put together. Simply cut up 2 -3 inch squares of the colours you want to use in your quilt and sew them in a block. You will be able to tell right away if something is a miss. This will save you time and money in the long run.
If you are confused about how to identify the value of your fabric choices try the
SEW EASY Colour & Tone Guide and Tonal Estimator has a little red square that you can hold up against fabric. The square filters out colour so you can see the tone of the fabric.