Three Ways to Choose Quilt Colors

In Quilting 101*, we learn that designs are built on contrast. When it’s time to choose quilt colors, many quilters start out with a dark design on a light background. Gradually we learn to use a wider range in our color palette and medium fabrics creep in. Visit the Quilting Room with Mel for an informative discussion about finding medium values for your quilt colors. But, planning a quilt can be difficult, so let’s take a look at some modern quilts and learn how to choose quilt colors.

*While there may be class out there with this title, I use the title in jest!

Choose Quilt Colors for Contrast

The idea of contrast is built in to the color wheel, and it is one reason I love rainbow quilts that show off all the colors!how to choose quilt colors

Mother Nature has done the theoretical work for us – Red and Green are complementary, and we can add a splash of interest with another color such as pink, orange or yellow.

The shades of each color must work harder when a quilter chooses a black background. Colors have to be much brighter to contrast and allow the design to POP.

Dear Jane quilt with black background

What happens when you don’t have a single color background? The light, medium and dark values within a color family have to really work well together to make the design shine.

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Color Choices from a Quilting Rockstar

I was blown away when I saw Tula Pink‘s Radiance quilt, featuring her new Slow & Steady fabric line.  Let me try to analyze this beauty and the lesson it can teach us for how to choose quilt colors.

tula pink quilt colors

At first glance, you see the solid diamonds as a rainbow. Look closer, though, and you see a variety of prints mixed in too. The diamonds are shades of red, green, pink, white, yellow and orange, set on a mix of backgrounds in blues, purples, turquoise, grey and black.

Tula Pink's great sense of color for quilts

The result is mesmerizing as your eye follows the flow of colors as they rise and fall across the quilt.

Lesson – Whole color families, not just 2 colors, provide contrast in your quilt.

Color Blocking as a Quilt Palette

Another brilliant quilt featuring saturated colors is Star Light, Star Dark by Jessica at the Quilty Habit.

color block example from QuiltyHabit.com

Rather than set colorful stars on a consistent background, Jessica shows us how to choose quilt colors with the color block style. Each section is monochromatic, featuring a dark star on a lighter background or vice versa. The color saturation and variety of block sizes make Star Light, Star Dark a gorgeous example of modern quilting.

Lesson – keep it all in one (color) family and try a color block quilt

Keep it simple with just one color

Another method to help choose quilt colors is to pick one color family and make a monochromatic quilt. The placement of light, medium and dark fabrics are critical to the design in a monochromatic quilt.  Purple Angles by Mary McElvain features a paper pieced block.

how to choose colors for a monochromatic quilt

By changing the position of fabrics within the block, you can highlight a cross or a ring.

how to choose colors for a monochromatic quilt how to choose colors for a monochromatic quilt

 

 

 

 

Lesson: Monochromatic quilts have amazing variety!

Let’s continue to experiment with color selection in our quilts. Choose an unusual color or gradient for a background, or try color block and monochromatic palettes. Change the position of light, medium and dark fabrics in your block to discover alternate designs. Most of all, enjoy the creative process!

 

Free Motion Monday – Pinwheel fillers

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Rainbows and Quilts just go together!  Many years ago, I was in an online fabric swap and each person was assigned a color.  The swap host collected everything and then sent out this beautiful collection of rainbow shades.  The fabric was cut in charm squares, which made it easy to turn into a Twister quilt.

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I laid out the colors from light to dark, and I had enough squares to make two rows of each color, so I alternated the gradient with each row.  Once I had the squares sewn together, I grabbed my Lil’ Twister ruler  and cut it apart again.  It was so fun watching the pinwheels appear!

 

The reward for chopping up a quilt top with the Twister ruler is the bonus squares.  I put some of the leftover scraps to use in the corners, keeping everything in proper ROYGBIV order.

My Garden Twister Pattern also features the Lil Twister Ruler!

Then it was time to choose quilting designs.  I spent alot of time on Leah Day’s website for inspiration!

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Then I made little rainbows in the background by echoing small curves:

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Here are my names for the quilting designs.  Each column of color had its own unique free motion design:

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It’s been quite a while since I quilted this wallhanging.  I remember tying off and burying hundreds of thread tails, so I think I was insane and started each pinwheel from the center.  I will have to revisit these designs and see if they can be modified for a continuous line design.

Please share some of your favorite quilting projects.  Do you keep the quilts you make or give them away?