Choosing Fabrics for Your Quilt

When I first started quilting, choosing fabrics was the scariest part about the process. It seemed impossible to imagine what a stack of fabrics would look like when it was composed into a quilt - especially if I was ordering fabrics that I had never seen in person. Now it is my absolute favorite part of the process. Sometimes it is still difficult and sometimes I regret my choices, but I thought I would share a little bit about my process with you.

The Sunrise Katie Quilt

When I released my Katie Quilt pattern a few weeks ago, I thought it would be fun to make a new version using solids. I wanted to show the potential that the pattern has to be transformed into whatever I wanted.

(I will be sharing more photos of the finished quilt in the next week or two, as well as a full list of all of the solids that I used to make my quilt in case you want to make your own.)

My first step was to draft up the pattern in Electric Quilt. I have been using this software for about 3 years and it is fantastic. It doesn't have the flexibility that Adobe Illustrator has, but it has the advantage of being made specifically for quilts and it is MUCH easier to learn.
Sunrise Katie Original

There is a learning curve, but there are lots of tutorials out there to teach you how to use it. I start 100% of my quilts and patterns in EQ8. I have the Kona Cotton palette installed as my default when I open the program so that I can start designing with Kona. 

Even though having the Kona colors on hand is super useful, it is not 100% accurate and I ended up swapping out some of the colors for other shades once I started pulling fabrics from my stash. I tried substituting the colors that I actually used back into EQ8 and you can see that it doesn't look quite right, even though they looked right in person, so the colors appear a little differently on the screen.

Sunrise Katie Actual

Occasionally, if I am sick of sitting at my computer or if I want to do some coloring with my 3 year, I will use a coloring sheet or graph paper (this is my favorite notebook) to brainstorm ideas. If you aren't interested in designing electronically, these are both great methods. 


Here are a few other tips for choosing fabrics for your quilt:
  • Start with a fun backing fabric and choose a combination of fabrics that coordinate with the backing. I like to do this when I find a colorful print that I love - you already know that those colors go together well because they look great on the print.
  • Look up color palettes on Pinterest. 
  • Just stack a bunch of fabrics together and then add and subtract one at a time until it feels right.
  • Use several prints from a single collection and supplement with solids or basics.
  • If you want to mix collections but aren't feeling super adventurous, try mixing prints by the same designer or even the same manufacturer. They frequently coordinate nicely.
  • If you are sewing with mostly solids, invest in a color card. A Kona card is a good place to start.  
  • Just go for it and call your quilt "scrappy" if you don't like the result. Sometimes your quilt will not turn out like you wanted, but we can always learn from our projects!
I would love to know - do you have any tips and tricks for choosing fabrics for your quilts? Do you enjoy picking fabrics for your quilts or is it terrifying?



How to Choose Fabrics for Your Quilt How to Choose Fabrics for Your Quilt

8 comments

  1. I found you when I fell in love with your Constellations quilt in 2013. I still haven't made my own version :( but I still follow you and admire the patterns you are turning out today. Time and energy are all that stop me from making all of your quilts.

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    1. Thank you for your sweet comment! Time and energy definitely limit me too!

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  2. I have a great color sense, not sure if that’s the word. Sometimes I see quilts that have wrong colors and it actually bothers me a great deal. I can immediately see the difference in colors like blue with grey overtones or blue with brown overtones. Have no clue how I got this strong color ability but I have it. Absolutely no problem in picking fabrics.

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    1. That's great! Some people definitely come by it naturally, you are a lucky one!

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  3. One of the things I consider when choosing colors is, "Does this occur in nature?" If it does, I'll use it as a starting point for pulling fabrics. Most often, I start with a print that I really like and then find things that go with the colors in the print. I also like to check out layer cakes and pick out fabrics from within the line. It is more difficult for me to put together multiple prints that are not from the same fabric line.

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    1. I like that you start with that question, I hadn't considered that!

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  4. I usually start with a print I like and then pull different prints and solids that work with the inspiration print. I also use my closet for color ideas and nature. My favorite color is gray so I always try to get gray in all my quilts.

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