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Choosing Fabrics

Posted on: November 17th, 2013 by Lorna McMahon

Choices can be tough.

I mean even back when I was a wee tot, colouring in the old colouring book, I always seemed to have trouble choosing the right combination of Crayolas to make the page turn out as I had pictured it in my mind.

I quite often feel this way.  Still.

Now when it comes to the art of quilting, it isn’t just all about colour.

Learning about how different fabrics work together can take time.

Print, contrast, saturation, hue, neutrals, and low volume are all terms commonly used to describe different fabrics and quilting styles.
I have been doing my homework, researching these terms and viewing all the beautiful and creative works out there in blogland.
One of my early quilts was made using the Oink A Doodle Moo fabric line by Jenn Ski for Moda.
Those oinks and moos must have come in two by twos because I am still using that fabric today!
Anyhow….. I found another cute print in a neutral background and thought this would go great with the Oink.
Here was the first block I made… 
I showed it to my son, Russell, and he hit the nail on the head with his response, when he said, “There’s just too much going on.”

I remember that I was actually quite shocked at the time.

What went wrong?

I thought both of these fabrics would work well together.
They both were farm themed.
One had bright colours and the other had a nice neutral background.

This second block shows the same block on a plain white background.
It is soothing.  Your eye can rest.
It allows you to see the symmetry in the block.
And it calms your urge to run away after seeing the first block!

That was lesson number one for me.
Too much going on in a block, for me, is like too much clutter in a room.  Clutter makes me feel panicky.  When faced with a room that is over crowded with stuff,  I tend to turn around in a circle, perhaps seeking a place of calm or a place to rest my eye and get a chance to think what to do first.  But always my instinct is to get away!

Here is how the quilt turned out in the end.  A quilt that is calming in design and balanced in choice of prints.  Even the colours, with the cool green and blue tones, exude a tranquil feeling.  Awww!  That’s better!

Linking up with Jessica’s Sewing With Certainty Series at Quilty Habit.
Why don’t you come on along and join me there?
See what others have to say about choosing fabrics!

You never know what you may learn!
Keep On Quilting On!

17 Responses

  1. Editing is SO important. In general, following \”the rules\” ends in success. Sometimes the rules need to be bent. Your example is a very good lesson in editing. 🙂

  2. Great post and perfect example! When I started quilting I was terrified of choosing fabrics and often followed patterns exactly fabric by fabric.Somewhere along the line I got hooked on scrappy quilts and got over my fears. And of course reading lots of blogs gives a daily peak of color choices to learn by!I've also recently realized that too much clutter is a distraction for me when I moved into my new quilting room and found I was so much more productive with less stuff. I'm going to be decluttering in a major way in 2014.

  3. Anna says:

    I know exactly what you mean, I bought all this robot and tool fabric to make something for the boyfriend and when I put it all together it was just too crazy! I had to step black and choose some solids to go with them to calm the whole thing down. Your second block and quilt is just right!

  4. Anne says:

    The end result looks fabulous, Lorna. Lovely and calm but also fun with all those fun animals on it. :o)

  5. Oh, I can get quite busy with fabric design choices! My editing eye needs training! You have found a happy balance in your fabric selections! Awesome!

  6. Lindsey says:

    Good advice! It can be tough pairing up fabrics! There are so many things to take into consideration! I have found that when I create something new, I like to just put it up on my design wall and leave it there for a day or two and it helps me decide if I like how it looks, or if I need to change it up. I even sometimes take a picture and then put it on my computer and look at it from that perspective. It really helps! I still have trouble finding that happy medium of prints and solids sometimes! It's something that takes practice and you will learn as you go! Thanks again for the advice! 🙂

  7. Vicki says:

    Once again, all you said makes sew much sense. Thanks for the great lesson!!

  8. Jessica says:

    You could not be more right! Having a place to *rest* is something I learned the hard way, too. All we can keep doing is keep learning, I guess! 🙂

  9. What an adorable quilt that made! I totally agree about having a place for your eyes to \”rest\”. It amplifies the other qualities of the quilt top in so many ways. Well done!

  10. I have made this mistake many times! I hate when it gets all muddled together. Contrast and value were definitely a learned skill. Love the way it turned out Lorna. Such a cute quilt. Adorable:)

  11. Elise Lea says:

    I love your explanation here. Sometimes something we thing would work, just doesn't – even if it seems fine as a fabric pile. You can't be afraid to scrap an idea and start over. I love the progression you have shown. PS. You son seems like a wise little man.

  12. Michele says:

    Really interesting! I like the before and after. Editing things down is hard for me to do. I like lots of things going on, but I try to see when its too much. I love your example.

  13. Great blog message Lorna! Your quilt came out quite well and pleasing to the eye! I too have been challenged with pulling colors and fabrics together. Kaffe Fassett seems to be able to pull together busy fabrics that look great without looking chaotic or should I say a pleasing chaos. I too go in crazy mode with too much chaos or clutter around me. I am always looking for balance. I use balance since that it is what I do in my accounting business. I guess we are using left and right side of our brains! Anyways, I love my design board and camera to make sure of pulling something together that is pleasing to the eye. Actually that takes me longer than making the quilt itself.

  14. Cheryl says:

    Thank you so much for a peek behind the curtains. I enjoy and always learn from people sharing their progress and learnings. Seeing what does not \”work\” is very instructive, thanks again!

  15. hydeeannsews says:

    just the right example for your point! it's good to know we're all learning and evolving as quilters. that's important so as not to feel discouraged when something we do doesn't work out. thanks for sharing your lesson learned. what a good idea for a hop!

  16. Nrhaller says:

    I love the end results. Quite a pleasing quilt with calming blues and greens. Love the color of blues used. This is a keeper! Rae (

  17. Unknown says:

    I love that you used the \”Farmer's Daughter\” block in this quilt with the farm prints.