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Quilters are artists and a basic understanding of how
color and value work will make your designs stand
out. It can be very overwhelming. Quilters have been
seen spending hours choosing fabric for their quilt.
There are several aides the quilter can use to help
with color choice. The color wheel is the beginning
point but it too can be confusing. One concept on the
color wheel is opposites complement each other. An
example would be a green square surrounded by red
squares. The green square will stand out and appear
to be greener and brighter. The same would happen if
a red square was surrounded by green squares the
red square would appear brighter and redder.
An easy way to pick colors for a quilt is use a focus
fabric. A focus fabric is a print with many colors; an
example would be a floral. The artist who created the
floral print knows color and color theory and has
already done the work for you. All you have to do is
match the colors in the floral. Fabric has in the
salvage colored dots of all the colors in the print.
These are aides to help you choose fabrics to go with
the print. You do not have to use all the colors. If
your pattern requires four colors just pick four. To
make it more interesting look very close at the floral
and pick a color that is hidden.
Another concept that drives quilters crazy is value.
Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. Value is
the most important aspect of color choice. For
example a star block needs the contrast of light and
dark to make the star appear. If all the pieces were of
a medium color you would not see the star. There are
many tools to help determine value. A simple test is to
lay your fabric out overlapping so about an inch is
showing of each fabric and take a digital black and
white photo. By removing all color only the value
(lightness or darkness) is seen. This technique is the
most dramatic test for value, you can really see it.
Another tool is a colored piece of acrylic. It can be
red, green or pink. Looking at your fabric this acrylic
removes color and shows value. It is not as dramatic
as the photo but it is portable and you can carry it to
the fabric shop.
Other choices quilters have when choosing fabric is
texture. Texture is the print of the fabric and the
effect it provides. A variety of texture will make your
quilt more interesting. Texture is small, medium and
large print. It is also stripes; large, small, bold and
even wavy. Circles can be as small as dots or large
like balloons. Remember small prints work better for
small pieces. Large prints work better in large pieces.
Also too much of a good thing can be bad; too much
texture will make the quilt look busy. To calm it down
use solid or tone on tone fabrics.
There are many resources to help in your fabric and
color decision. There are books just on color. Pattern
books often have a chapter on color and fabric choice.
But in the end it is your decision, and expression of
your design. Have fun with your choices and don't be
afraid to experiment. If you have any questions e-mail
me at: Joanne@homeschoolquilting.com.
Color and Value