The Quilting Process: Choosing Colors for your Quilts

Welcome back 😉 Yippee we are making good progress on the series – if you are just joining you can go check out what we’ve talked about so far here.

OK let’s get right to it…Colors! This is about the most daunting part of the quilting process for me even till now. I love dark colors, I’m all for black, grey and when I deviate from that I gravitate towards purple, blue (not the light shades) and on the bright end of the spectrum is white (but technically black and white aren’t colors they are neutrals…hmm?). I rarely experiment with colors in my personal styling, my wardrobe is almost devoid of bright colors…I wonder why.  Well I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about working/experimenting with colors in my Quilting 🙂 .

“With colors you can set a mood, attract attention, or make a statement. There is psychology behind colors—they tell stories. By selecting the right color scheme, you can create an ambiance of elegance, warmth or tranquility, or you can convey an image of playful youthfulness”… and i’ll just add love, energy, happiness etc.

When I first developed an interest in Quilting, I could spend several hours just drooling over pictures of amazingly gorgeous quilts on the internet. Pinterest became my companion and the one thing that used to amaze me is not necessarily how elaborate a pattern is but the colors. You could see a quilt that looks like it has over 10 different colors thrown together but it would have such a pleasing visual impact and such cohesion! (I’ve moved my drooling over to Instagram ever since I joined and there are many blogs out there featuring genius creations for my viewing pleasure; Thanks y’all 🙂 )

I used to continually wonder to myself  how’d they do it, how’d they know what colors work together, how does a slight variation in color choice have such huge impact on the overall look of a pattern/Quilt …? I came across terms like warm/cool, tint/tone and all the rest of the terms that were oh so confusing (except you have some form of art training-I certainly didn’t, unless a brief course on graphic design in Uni qualifies? I guess not!). On that note, before moving forward let’s define these terms as they’ll be popping up throughout the post.

I found this very appropriate description by Quiltbug :

  • Hue: Another name for color
  • Intensity: the brightness or dullness of a color
  • Value: the darkness or lightness of a color
  • Tint: color + white, resulting in a lighter value.  (pastels).  Think spring.
  • Tone: color + grey, resulting in a muddier, low intensity value. Think predawn or dusk.
  • Shade: color + black, delivering the darkest versions of color

You might hear people talking about colors in terms of warm or cool. Warm colors are those “out there all up in your face” ones like reds, oranges and yellows, while Cool colors are blues, purples and greens.  In simple terms warm is bright and cool is more subtle but i’m sure you get the drift. Value refers to how light or how dark a particular color is, for example, pink is a light value (tint) of Red and Navy is a dark value (shade) of Blue.


You don’t have to know the names of all the colors in the world or know all the possible color combinations (the color wheel was invented for a purpose so pull one out whenever the need arises 😉 again Google is your friend) but I believe you need to “have an eye for color”.  I never really knew what that meant but after learning a bit about Color theory and a couple of trips to the fabric store I began to get a feel of that concept. I’m just going to say right now that choosing colors is still not my forte and for the most part I’m all “matchy matchy”; the reason for my undeniable love for solids – (plain fabrics with no design) it makes a whole world of difference. However, I can now pull fabrics together and at a glance know whether or not they will work together at least on the basic level without going into values and what not. Hence when I’m choosing fabric for my quilt and in this case I’m talking of choosing from my stash (remember in the previous post, we’ve gone shopping for quality fabrics in advance? cool) but even when I am just going fabric shopping, the process goes something like this…

  1. I start by deciding  what colors I want in my Quilt, most times I have a color in mind and the challenge is in finding coordinating colors but even if I don’t, I am aware I want something that’s a mixture of both warm and cool for the best contrast or play with different shades of the same color.
  2. Then I go ahead to pick a “star fabric” this is the main fabric I want to build my design around Note: Here scale of fabric design/pattern comes into play. If your Quilt will involve small pieces, make sure you pick a fabric that either has small designs that won’t be ruined by cutting in tiny pieces or one that has an allover design and will still be nice regardless. On the other hand if your pattern calls for large pieces then you can get away with fabrics with large design patterns. Most times, this is a good way to showcase interesting print designs. Tip: I’m currently working on a couple of Queen size Quilts and I found that choosing my backing fabric as my star fabric made it easier for me to choose coordinating fabrics that works well for the top.  CIMG3189An example is this fabric which I chose as a backing fabric because I absolutely love it but will lose its beauty as soon as I cut it in smaller pieces. I did end up using leftover from the plain portion of the fabric in another project so happy days!
  3. Next I examine that fabric, noting the overall color and other colors present if multicolored. I then go ahead and pull out coordinating fabrics from either colors reflected on the star fabric or contrasting colors. This could either be solids or patterned depending on my preference. At point, I’d normally reach for solids mostly because it’s easier to coordinate. Note: Your seams are more obvious on solids than on patterned fabrics in case that matters to you 🙂
  4. In narrowing down my choices, value/intensity and the other things we mentioned earlier comes in really handy.  OK let’s back up for a minute shall we, remember I mentioned the color wheel? well you need one at this point unless you are already an expert and then you don’t (I have one installed on my tab that easily shows me what colors I need to look out for depending on the color scheme I choose).

Anyway, this post is already so long and I can’t possibly add any thing else (still a lot to talk about…) without boring you so we would have to continue this in another post, is that OK? Yes? Perfect!

Thanks again for stopping by and until next time, enjoy your weekend.

Sola 🙂

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