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Quilting and Color

colorful bolts of fabric

The first think you usually notice about a quilt is the color.  Color is powerful.  Different colors evoke different emotions. No color ever stands alone either.  It is affected by the colors that surround it.

Color is difficult for a lot of quilters.  There are so many colors.  Quilting terms for colors are usually lights, mediums and darks.  These are the value of the colors.  When we want contrast, we vary the value of the color.  Sometimes the color is not very important.

Colors range in intensity.  Purple has become a very popular color in the last decade.  How many shades of purple do you recognize?  There is lavender, violet, plum, eggplant, fuchsia, orchid and more.

The primary colors are red, yellow and blue.  The secondary colors are orange, purple and green.  Many quilters find the color wheel useful.

A monochromatic color scheme uses one color in different shades.

If you want a dynamic color scheme, look for colors that are opposite on the color wheel, like blue and orange.  That is a complementary color scheme. 

Most people know that red and green are complimentary colors.  The color wheel comes in handy when you want to use a color like yellow- green.  If you look at the wheel above, you can see that red-violet is across the color wheel and the complimentary color to yellow-green.

An analogous color scheme uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.  It is generally any 3 colors that are side-by-side on a 12 part color wheel,  as shown in the picture on the top of the page.

There are other schemes that get more complicated, such as the split complementary color scheme, which instead of using opposite colors, splits one side and uses the colors adjacent to the opposite color.  Then there are other schemes that use split colors on both sides further away from opposite colors.

One of the easiest ways to choose color for a quilt is to pick a print you love, and pull the colors out of that fabric for the rest of the quilt.  It it is quality fabric, it should have little dots on the edges of the fabric of all the colors in the print.

When you make a scrappy quilt you are usually more concerned with value than color.  Formal color schemes are for carefully planned quilts.  Scrappy quilts are usually more scrappy, and value is much more important.

Some quilts use a lot of white or cream.  Again, these tend to be more formal quilts.  Often the piecing is very elaborate in small areas, and then large areas are left empty for fancy longarm machine quilting.

One of the most common decisions you make with a quilt is whether you want to make it in Autumn colors, pastels,  jewel tones, or bright colors. 

I like quilts that are all one color, with a variety or prints, but most quilters like to use a variety of colors in their quilts, including white and black.

It works well to lay out a variety of fabrics, preferably on a design board, and take away the ones you don't like. Be sure and look at them from a distance, squint, or take off your glasses.  I have heard it said that if you like the fabrics you choose for your quilt, you will like your quilt.

Autumn colors all seem to work well together.  Yellow is a great blender of all colors.  Blues are the hardest colors to blend.

One last point is that if you are making a scrappy quilt, be sure every fabric has a friend.  You can put lots of different fabrics in a quilt, but you do need some harmony.  Be sure that your fabrics relate to each other.  In a true  charm quilt none of the fabrics are repeated.  There are enough prints that everyone is at home.

Color is fun.  Don't over think it.  Choose colors you like.  Remember that if you are making quilts to decorate your home, the beauty of a quilt is that if it doesn't look good in one room, you can move it to another or even hide it under a bedspread.

Eye Candy for Quilters

Pictures of Quilts and Projects


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Quilt Sizes

Buying Quilt Squares

Finishing Your Quilt