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Fine Tune Your Quilting Fabric Mix

by Carrie Gibson

Once you've selected a few quilting fabrics, combining them successfully takes patience, experience, and a willingness to just play around with the fabrics. One of the best ways to tell if your quilt fabric combination will work is to step back from it. Fabrics that don't appear to work when viewed up close may be perfect from a distance, where you can see a single fabric's contribution to the whole. Remember that each piece is just a fraction of the total finished product.

Test your quilt block design and fabric selections by mocking up a block. Cut fabric pieces for one block to the finished size (leave off the seam allowances; these test pieces won't be used in the finished project.) Sketch the block design on graph paper, and glue the fabric pieces on the paper to create a mock block.

Place the quilt block several feet away to view the design and color combination. If desired, make additional blocks to rest alternate fabric choices. To further test the color and layout, make color photocopies of the mock block. Use the copies to begin planning the quilt top. Keep an eye out for patterns that emerge based on how you turn the blocks. Check color placement in adjacent blocks and make sure you like what's happening.

Having a vertical surface to lay out quilting fabric choices can help you visualize how they will look in a quilt. For a permanent design wall, cover a foam core board with a neutral flannel to hold small pieces in place. You also could use the flannel back of a vinyl tablecloth, rolling it up between projects or hanging one in front of another to view different quilts that are in progress.

Here are some ideas for quilt color selection

If you don't know where to start

Read quilt books and magazines, studying the designs you like best.

Use a favorite fabric as a starting point for choosing others.

Join a quilt guild for inspiration and advice from fellow quilters.

If you like a quilt pattern but don't like it's colors

Study color combinations in favorite articles of clothing. Look at home decorating magazine for color inspiration. If the fabrics you've chosen have no color continuity:

Replace some of the stronger colors with their muted versions.

Try adding a complementary color.

Choose a dominate fabric to use in the blocks and borders, unifying the overall design.

Add neutrals or less intense colors to give the eye a place to rest.


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