Choosing Fabrics for Your Quilt – Part One

So, you have a quilt pattern you would like to make and now the hard part–choosing your fabrics! Where do you start? There are just so many amazing colours and patterns of fabric out there, so it can be extremely difficult to pick out just a few to make a particular piece. And choosing just the right colours for your piece can make the difference between a quilt that is nice and one that is a work of art. But choosing your colours doesn’t have to be an agonizing process. In fact, if you take a few simple steps, it could be very easy.

This post will be the first in a 3-part series about colour in quilting. Here you will see an overview of the basic concepts involved in choosing fabrics for your quilt.

A good method to use is to start with something for inspiration. It could be an object in the room that the finished quilt will go in, it could be a panel that will be used as a centrepiece, or it could even be one specific fabric that you would like use as a focal point. Then, from that inspiration, start to pick out fabrics to contrast, match or complement it.

It is important to use variety in your quilt — variety in scale of pattern, colour value and texture. The main visual aspect that your brain will pick up on is value of colour, meaning how light or dark the colour is. Value should be given the most consideration, even (surprisingly) over colour hue. Make sure to intersperse light and dark colours, not just different hues, like blues or oranges. For example, a medium blue and a medium orange can have the same value, and so they will not appear to have much contrast. A light blue and a dark blue–or a dark blue and light orange–will be more striking when side-by-side due to their difference in value.

A blue and orange fabric side by side. Notice how when we look at the same image in black and white, they both appear to be similar colours of grey–they have very similar value.

A light blue and a dark blue side by side. When we take out the colour, they still appear very different because they have contrasting values.












One thing I find really helps to get an overall feel for your colour choices is to really stand back to look at the fabrics you’ve chosen as a collection. It is sometimes difficult to grasp the overall effect your choices will have if you are too close. Try laying them out on the floor or using a design wall (see left). Then you can look from across the room to get the whole picture.

Design Wall

Reducing Glass: A great tool to help look at your use of light, dark fabric and colour/design selection.


A design reducing glass is a wonderful tool to look at color balance, fabric values and pattern layout. It shrinks a quilt design so you can see how it looks from a distance and allows you to see design flaws that may not be apparent close up. Attached loop for hanging on a cord or chain.

When shopping online on the Flare Fabrics website, you can use the ‘Design Wall’ feature to see what combinations of fabric look best together. You can then check out directly from the Design Wall to purchase the items that you determine work well together.

Don’t try too hard to match everything. It’s often the unexpected combinations that make for the most interesting finished product. Go with your gut and put together combinations that YOU like!

Important colour terminology:

Hue – another word for colour
Intensity – brightness of the colour
Colour Value – How light or dark a colour is
Tint – the addition of white to a colour
Tone – the addition of grey to a colour
Shade – the addition of black to a colour


Stay tuned for the next post in this series, that will focus on colour value.

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