Quilt Pattern Planning Sheets: Designing Quilt Projects with Color Value

An example of a grayscale pattern planning sheet with a pattern from the book Thimbleberries® Scrap Quilts

There’s a new, free tool we’re starting to offer for some of our recently released books. While talking to quilters and shop owners we discovered that one of the hardest parts of creating a quilt design from a book is envisioning the quilt in different fabrics. Using fabrics that are very different from those shown in the book can be daunting for some quilters.

To help with planning your quilt project we’ve created our “grayscale pattern planning sheets” . The sheets are free to download, and located on the book’s product page on our website. At the moment, they’re only available for a few titles, but we’re creating more with each quilt book we release. You can use the sheets to collect fabric swatches, write notes pattern or fabric scale notes, and more. Every sheet also includes a grayscale illustration of the quilt pattern in the book. Why grayscale? Well, that requires a little bit of information regarding the concept of color value.

Color Value, Fabric and Quilt Patterns

There are three things to consider when talking about color as an element of design. The first is hue. Hue is color in its pure form – when we say “red”, “green” or “blue” we’re talking about the hue of a color. The second is intensity. Intensity describes the purity of a color, and is related to saturation. The third element is value – and that’s a key to understanding how to create the same quilt with a different color selection.

“Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. Value describes color as it appears in a black and white photograph. As you make your fabric selections, you’ll see that their values are relative to each other, depending on how they are placed in a quilt.” (– First-Time Quiltmaking)


Value can be tricky. At its most basic, value describes the relative lightness or darkness of a color – the lighter a color’s value is the closer it is to white; the darker a color’s value is the closer it is to black. Depending on where you’re from or who you’re talking to you may hear the word “value” used to describe color as it ranges on the color scale, but when it comes to design, value is about the relative amount of gray or black in a color.

By looking at the values of the fabrics you’re planning to use in your quilt you can see how the fabrics will interact. Of course, that all depends on the quilt you’re making, but in general the higher the amount of contrast in the values, the more dynamic your patchwork will look. Value helps when you’re planning a quilt with fabrics that differ from those in the book.

Planning Fabric for a Quilt

grayscalesheetstogether Swatches of fabric are attached to the pattern planning sheet and photo editing software is used to convert the fabric images to grayscale. You can achieve the same effect by simply copying the image in black and white with any basic photocopier.

The swatch in the bottom right-hand corner is a creamy white. This has the lightest color value, while the green/brown print above it has the darkest color value. While I originally thought I would use them both in the patterh I can now see their relative values are nearly identical. If I keep working on this group of fabrics, I would take out one of the yellows and replace it with a lighter value fabric to match the variation in color values in the pattern – maybe a light brown.

Planning the color and fabric for your quilt  is part of the process, and these pattern planning sheets are a fun way to experiment with color and design.

As of the date of this post (11/14/2013) these sheets are available for the books Thimbleberries® Scrap Quilts and Mosaic Tile Quilts (click the book titles to visit the product page and download the sheets)

Let us know what you think. How will you use the pattern planning sheet to help you plan your next project from one of our books? Does this seem like a tool you would use? Tell us in the comments below!


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