Trying to ignore color and just study contrast is not an easy task. When looking at fabrics in a store or from your fabric stash, try these techniques to determine the contrast or value. Select possible fabrics for a project, then perform one or more of these tests to see if you’ve included enough contrast in the group. If you need more contrast, substitute lighter or darker fabrics until you have a variety of values.
1. Try squinting. Closing your eyes slightly limits the amount of light they receive and reduces your perception of color, so contrast becomes more evident.
2. Use a reducing tool. Purchase a reducing lens or a door peephole. These tools reduce an image, making color less obvious and contrast more apparent when the fabrics are viewed. Taking pictures with your phone or looking through a camera also works in this regard.
3. Look through red cellophane. This technique conceals the color and allows you to see the continuum of values from light to dark.
4. Make black and white photocopies. Photocopying completely masks color and can give an indication of contrast between and within pieces of fabric.
Fabric is essential to every quilter’s life! We buy it, we hoard it, and we spend a ton of time thinking about it. From the initial fabric choices of our quilt, to piecing, to adding the binding, fabric is so important — and can enhance your project (or make you shake your head at your design wall). And although we work with fabric all the time, sometimes it’s hard to know which colors and prints will make a beautiful quilt that you’re proud of! A Flair for Fabric: Creative Sewing Projects from the Designers at Henry Glass is an amazing resource for fun projects, as well as tips for mixing and matching fabrics with success.
Published by Martingale and compiled by designer Linda Lum DeBono, this book features 14 beautiful projects by Henry Glass designers. Each designer gives a peek at how they design fabric and provides several tips on choosing fabric and matching colors. Plus, six in-depth lessons throughout the book give greater insight on how to make your fabrics play with each other and solves some common problems with fabric choice. Here’s a look at a few of the projects from the book.
Starburst Maple Delight by Janet Nesbitt and Pam Soliday
Funky Flowers by Heather Mulder Peterson
Days Gone By by Little Quilts
All royalties from this book are being donated to Red Cross.
Here’s tips for choosing fabric from the staff of American Patchwork & Quilting and Quilts and More magazines:
“I’ve been challenging myself to break my tried-and-true fabric selection habits — one large-scale print and three to five smaller scale prints that generally match the colors in the larger print. As part of the challenge, I’ve chosen solids as backgrounds that aren’t a color pulled from the prints. I’ve also combined bold larger-scale prints in a quilt, tossing aside the “does that match?” voice inside my head. These little changes make a difference and teach me a new lesson every time.”
–Linda Augsburg, editorial content chief
“When selecting fabrics for a project, I like to start by choosing a simple and controlled color palette. For inspiration, look around you at the objects you surround yourself with. Color combinations can be drawn from a favorite piece of artwork, a book cover or even a favorite outfit. I was once inspired by the packaging on a Starbucks coffee bag!”
–Elizabeth Stumbo, assistant art director
“Color choice depends on the size block I’m making. I like to make small blocks – ideally 4 or 5 inches square. When making smaller blocks it is better to choose fabrics with fewer patterns and colors. Because fabrics get cut into small pieces, a large scale print with lots of color looks very different when it’s chopped into tiny pieces. If you want to maintain definition in your pieces, choose fabrics that have a tone-on-tone or a mottled appearance. Batiks are also great choices when making small blocks. They are tightly woven and pieces are less likely to fray.”
–Jody Sanders, editor of Quilts and More
“I love scrappy quilts, so I usually go overboard by choosing WAY too many fabrics when I’m gathering fabrics from my stash for a new project. But I purposely try NOT to limit myself, because even though I may have gathered three times what I need, I always end up further refining the selection a few days (or months!) later when I come back to start cutting out the quilt. That way I’m still left with plenty of fabric for the project I’m working on.”
–Elizabeth Beese, senior editor of American Patchwork & Quilting
“I find color and fabric inspiration in collections. I love the colors in collections of Aurifil embroidery floss. Using the threads as a visual guide, I select matching solids and prints from my stash. Then I fill out the basic collection with lighter and darker, more saturated/less saturated fabrics.”
–Jill Mead, editor
“Let the fabric designer do the work! Buying fabric from a single fabric collection ensures that your fabrics will not only match, but also have a variety of prints, scales, and colors to work with. If you need to add fabric from your stash, look at the color dots on the fabric selvage to guarantee that whatever fabric you pull will match perfectly!”
–Lindsay Fullington, assistant multimedia editor
Follow along with the blog hop! Each blog will have a fun fabric giveaway and great tips for choosing fabric!
Tuesday, November 18: Launch at Martingale’s Stitch This! blog
Wednesday, November 19: Dana Brooks
Thursday, November 20: Leanne Anderson
Friday, November 21: AllPeopleQuilt.com (It’s us!)
Saturday, November 22: Janet Nesbitt
Monday, November 24: Linda Lum DeBono
Tuesday, November 25: Anni Downs
Wednesday, November 26: Kim Diehl
Friday, November 28: Jill Finley
Saturday, November 29: Amy Hamberlin
Monday, December 1: Margo Languedoc
Tuesday, December 2: Little Quilts
Wednesday, December 3: Lizzie B Cre8ive
Thursday, December 4: Heather Mulder Peterson
Friday, December 5: Jacquelynne Steves
Saturday, December 6: Wrap up at the Henry Glass blog
In the February 2015 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting, designer Jean Wells teaches us how to expand our piecing horizons with a new technique — freehand curved piecing — and shows us how to play with color. The editors were so excited to learn this technique and create their own projects. See what they made below and share your own creations inspired by Piece & Play using the hashtag #apqlearnalong on Facebook and Instagam. And follow along with new projects and inspiration at www.allpeoplequilt.com/learnalong.
CORRECTION: If you order the Palette Box fabrics from The Stitchin’ Post as shown in the February issue of American Patchwork & Quilting, you will receive 1/4 yard (fat quarters) of the solids instead of 1/2 yard solids and 1 yard of the theme print for $65 plus shipping.
Elizabeth Tisinger Beese, editor of American Patchwork & Quilting
Elizabeth says: “I had so much fun making this pillow! I’m not an art quilter at all, so I was a little intimidated by the improvisational nature of this technique, but I ended up getting addicted to it! (I was only going to make a pincushion but got so wrapped up in this that I made the entire Four-Patch Pillow!). I chose my Palette Box by starting with some multicolor batiks that had an interesting mix of brown and pink combined with bits of coral, orange, and green.”
Jill Mead, editor
Jill says: “I find color and fabric inspiration in collections. I love the colors in this collection of Aurifil embroidery floss from a stitch kit from Moda Fabrics. It makes me think of spring. Using the threads as a visual guide, I select matching solids from my stash. Then I fill out the basic collection with lighter and darker, more saturated/less saturated solids.
Lindsay Fullington, assistant multimedia editor
Lindsay says: “I started with a fat quarter bundle of the Hadley collection from Dear Stella. I chose one colorful print and pulled in tone-on-tone teal, purple, orange, pink, and brown to pull out colors from the main print. The darker teals play nice with the lighter pinks. The brown tones the bright prints down and offers an unexpected color to the palette. I loved playing with color placement and the freeform cutting technique. It felt so creative to cut without a ruler and use colors outside my normal palette! It was a very forgiving project and I felt like I could experiment without fear of failure!”
Each month, we highlight the books we’re reading in the office. The holidays are coming quick! These books are full of festive holiday and winter projects, and also make great gifts for any sewers on your list!
Celebrate Christmas: 22 Festive Projects to Quilt and Sew
Spread holiday cheer with 22 fabulous projects! This beautiful book features inspiring Christmas and winter-themed projects as well as a table runner for Hanukkah. From smaller projects like ornaments, stockings, and pillows to larger wall hangings and throws, this book is full of projects for decorating your home and creating gifts to suit any taste.
Cozy Quilts: A Charming Blend of Wool Appliqué and Cotton Patchwork
By Tara Lynn Darr for Kansas City Star Books
Nothing adds warmth and texture to quilts like wool appliqué. Tara Lynn Darr shows you how to spice up your quilts with a cozy mix of wool hexagons, stars, blooms and more. This charming collection of 11 small scrappy quilts is a great way to put your scrap basket of cotton and wool fabrics to use. No matter your taste in appliqué, you’ll find the perfect project in this diverse medley of designs.
Red, White & Quilted
By Linda Baxter Lasco for AQS Publishing
Twelve traditional patterns from antique red-and-white quilts become fresh ways to enjoy the classic color combination. See ideas for beautiful quilting to highlight white space and escalate your quilts to heirloom quilts. A gallery of even more red-and-white beauties tops off this beautiful book.
A Quilt for Christmas
By Sandra Dallas for St. Martin’s Press
It is 1864 and Eliza Spooner’s husband Will has joined the Kansas volunteers to fight the Conferedates, leaving her with their two children and in charge of their home and land. Eliza is confident that he will return home, and she helps pass the months making a special quilt to keep Will warm during his winter in the army. When the unthinkable happens, she takes in a a woman and child who have been left alone and made vulnerable by the war, and she finds solace and camaraderie amongst the women of her quilting group.
Here Comes Winter: Quilted Projects to Warm Your Home
By Jeanne Large and Shelley Wicks for Martingale
Make your home cozy all winter with decorative projects ranging in size and shape from pillows and banners to wall hangings, table runners, and lap quilts. Inspired by the frosty winters of Saskatchewan, Jeanne Large and Shelley Wicks showcase whimsical designs that are enchanted. This cheery collection is packed with 19 festive projects showcasing fun wintertime motifs including Christmas trees, lights, reindeer, snowmen, and snowflakes.
Memories of Christmas Past
By Betsey Langford and Carolyn Nixon for Kansas City Star Books
Celebrate the holiday season with this festive sampler quilt dressed in the classic yuletide colors of red and green. Based on traditional designs, each of the 12 sampler blocks features a Nine-Patch twist. Searching for a creative holiday gift idea? Use the blocks in six smaller projects.
Fabrics: Holiday Hoot Flannel collection by Deborah Edwards for Northcott
Make a list and check it twice for must-have holiday ornaments you can finish in a snap using festive novelty prints. This project is courtesy of our sewing blog, howtosew.com. Visit daily for new sewing projects and easy home decor.
- 3-1/2″ square fabric (ornament back)
- 3-1/2″ square fabric (ornament front)
- 3-1/2″ square batting
- 6″ length of ribbon: (hanger)
- Pinking shears
- Circle Template (see bottom of blog for download)
Finished ornament: 3″ diameter
1. Layer ornament back right side down, batting, and ornament front right side up.
2. Using the circle template (click here), trace around the circle with a marking tool. Pin all layers in place if desired.
3. Using a decorative stitch on your sewing machine (we used a zigzag stitch), sew layers together about 1⁄4″ from edge of each circle.
4. Using pinking shears, trim around edge of the circle, cutting through all layers, to make an ornament.
5. Fold a 6″-long piece of ribbon in half. Position raw ends on ornament back about 3/8″ from top edge of unit. To attach hanger and complete ornament, hand-stitch ribbon ends securely to back and batting only, making sure no stitches show on front of ornament.