using a focal fabric to choose colors for a quilt
[ Monochromatic Quilts ][ Quilting Tips ]

Choosing colors for quilts

Choosing a color scheme for your next quilt project may be a nerve-wracking process for some quilters.  I recently heard that one person lets the shop staff choose her fabrics because she has no confidence in her own ability to select a pleasing color scheme.

Don’t be afraid of color! Yes, there are some theoretical principles at work but most often it is a gut instinct.  Do you like it?  Great! Feel free to sew with abandon if the palette makes you happy.

If you want more guidance than “Do what feels right,” here are 3 tips.

  1. Stay within one color family, adding black or white for contrast.

Working with a monochromatic palette takes some of the guesswork out of the equation.  Look at a tree…there are many shades of green all on the same plant and they play nicely together.  Remember to look for light, medium and dark tones to heighten the contrast and the visual elements in your quilt.


This group of fabrics in the teal family shows a variety of shades as well as differing size prints.  Note that the dark fabric on top may become light depending on how small the pieces are cut! I take the primary color from the background or dominant shade in the print of multi-color fabric.

2. Take a digital picture and look at values with the B&W filter setting.

If you can’t quite tell where the line between medium and dark falls, a black and white photo may help.  If the fabrics blend together, they are too close in value.

OK, you might notice I cheated a little bit with this purple selection…not much contrast in the light/medium when viewed in B&W. I rationalize this choice because of the placement of the fabrics in my quilt.  I think they play nicely together so I can bend the rules to suit my preference 😉

3. Take some hints from the selvedge of your main fabric.

Those little dots on the edge can inspire some color choices you may not have considered. Sometimes the unexpected splash of a wild color gives your project the zing it needs to come to life.image Just by looking at the green fabric in the background, you may choose only from that color family.  Take a closer look at the selvedge.  The green on the left blends with the circles numbered 3, 15 and 16.  Do you see any dark purple?  Maybe not at first, but those dots at 6 and 11 encourage us to add this to the mix.  And the pop of yellow with dots 13 and 14 will add some interest as well.

Be bold in your color selections, and remember to Enjoy, Experiment and Excel with your quilting!

For more examples of specific color palettes, check out my book Monochromatic Quilts: Amazing Variety available on Amazon!


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