I love fabric, but picking fabric for a project can be agonizing for me. I think my love of fabric is precisely why it can be such a tough job to choose exactly what to use for any given project. Like any artistic endeavour, there’s no right answer for choosing what to use in a project, but sometimes that makes it harder to make a choice. Fortunately, there are principles of design that can guide and help quilters as they choose their fabric for any project. Let’s take a look at the fabrics McB chose, and the fabrics I chose for the Winter Star Runner pattern you guys picked for this Quilt-Along and I’ll talk a little bit about my process.
Breaking it Down: Choosing Fabrics for Your Project
When choosing fabric I like to break down the original pattern first and understand how the designer’s original fabric choices work to make the overall look of the finished project. For this table runner there are a mix of patterns and prints. The “border” on the top and sides are novelty prints with a Christmas theme [Fabrics A and B in the pattern]. The scale of the prints are large to medium – since these make up the largest pieces of the patchwork top a larger print works well here and establishes the “theme” of the table runner. The rest of the piecing is done with smaller scale prints that are tone on tone – this means that, from a distance, they look pretty close to solid. Since these pieces are smaller, a larger print would be tough to make out, and the colors stand out in a good contrast to the busier prints.
When you look at McB’s fabric selection, you can see, she stuck pretty close to the pattern. Her A and B fabrics are the most distinct patterns of the group – though she’s not a huge fan of novelty prints, so she ended up choosing fabrics that have a ‘Christmas-y feel’ rather than something with a Christmas motif. The scale of the print on the fabrics is different as well, which I think is going to lead to a little bit more understated look that will be nice. We’ll talk more about the fabrics I ended up with in a minute, but first, I want to talk about color.
Color Value and Choosing Quilting Fabrics
Let’s take a look at the grayscale for this pattern. A pattern grayscale can be a great guide to helping you match the look of a pattern when using completely different fabrics from the original pattern. You can read all about color value and fabric selection in our previous blog post about it.
Looking at this pattern’s grayscale compared to the original you can see that the darkest color value is Fabric A. Fabric B is the next darkest and is close to the sashing fabric’s value [Fabric C]. Fabrics D and E, used for the stars in the sashing and the background and center of the Ohio Star blocks, are actually the same value – even though they’re different colors.
Looking at McB’s choices in grayscale on the right you can she she’s followed the color values pretty closely – her darkest fabrics are A, B and C and her D and E fabrics have similar color values, though they’re different colors.
Following the concepts of scale, tone and color value can help you break down a pattern’s fabric selection and guide you when selecting your own fabrics – and as I’ll show you with my selections, it can also help you make completely different selections as well.
Using the Rules to Break the Rules
Now, I’m not exactly a seasonal quilt/decor kind of person. I love making the projects, but if I’m going to be changing my table topper it’s probably on a schedule that could be counted in years more than seasons. So, I wanted something that would look good and be a little bit more ‘modern’. So, I started tearing through our stash at work and my stash at home. I ended up finding two fat quarters in teal and red with somewhat coordinating prints.
Now, if I were following what we broke down before, I could use those prints as the A and B fabrics – they’re medium sized prints that coordinate well. The thing is, I feel like using solids and tone on tones for the rest of the pattern would look a little flat, so I pulled in some other prints and began playing around in Adobe Illustrator – a graphic design program I have because of the work I do, but EQ or another program would work just as well.
Here’s what I ended up with, after auditioning quite a few combinations. On the right, you can see the first two fabrics I found. Those helped me select the rest of my fabrics – the middle one had the reds and teals that worked with the chairs, the next two coordinate with the black and white from the first prints, but have a big contrast in value between the two of them. The final fabric is, obviously, just a solid red.
Now, let’s take a look at how I plan to place them in the quilt. The illustration on the left shows my plan – most of the time I wouldn’t lay it out like this, but for the sake of the blog, I went ahead and put it together. As you can see, by changing where I place the prints, and by choosing to have a different variation of color value, I have a bit of a busier design that pulls the focus to the center of the design.
Because the contrast in color value is still high between the black print and the white newspaper print, the stars still stand out, but the sashing and the stars on the sashing blend more with the other elements. By playing with color value and pattern scale I have a completely different look for the same project, but one I still feel looks good because of the choices I made with these basic design principles in mind.
Share With Us!
Now, it’s your turn. Pick out your fabrics and let us know what you’re using. We’re using a group on Flickr to gather everyone’s photos, McB and I will be posting there as we go along and we’d really love to see everyone’s progress. You can find the group here – https://www.flickr.com/groups/youpickquiltalong/. If you don’t have a Flickr account, you can create one by visiting www.flickr.com – it’s well worth signing up, there are plenty of groups for quilters and tons of inspiration and ideas floating around, it’s one of my favorite sites for finding images of what real people are working on with their quilting projects.
Don’t forget to introduce yourself in the comments below – and, if you’d like, share a little bit about your process for selecting fabrics. Then, upload your own picture to our Flickr group created especially for this quilt-along.
See you next week as we get into the piecing of the project and work on the assembly!