It’s the oldest trick in the book. I say that, I suppose, because it is the way we were taught to choose fabrics in our beginner sampler class. Choose a multi-colored print fabric first and then use it to choose the appropriate coordinating fabrics.
It works well. After all, if a fabric designer – expert in her field – put those colors together, it’s a pretty safe bet that you can too. But more importantly, if you like a piece of fabric enough to buy it, you probably like the colors that are in it. And if you like the colors in the fabric, chances are you will like them in your quilt too.
This method of choosing fabric has served me well over the years. Often, the focus fabric ends up as a border in the quilt – tying everything together perfectly. In the quilt Comfort and Joy, the teddy bear print fabric set the palette for the bear paw blocks and the teddy bear sewflakes appliquéd on top. In the same way, a fabric printed with spools of thread became the ideal border for Tools of the Trade. An exquisite fabric covered with china teacups inspired not only the colour choices but the entire quilt Bridal Tea.
Other times, the focus fabric takes its place alongside the other fabrics in the quilt. Such was the case in Fruitful, where the fruit-covered focus fabric ended up in the patchwork basket blocks. And what better place to put a fabric with hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs than in a Card Trick block! This focus fabric also appears in the pieced border of King of Hearts.
It is only fairly recently, however, that I have used a focus fabric to select the fabrics for a quilt without any intention of using the focus fabric in the quilt. I had a gorgeous print fabric in golds, yellows, pinks and plums – a color combination that intrigued me. I carried the fabric around with me on shopping expeditions as I collected a variety of fabrics in that color scheme. The result was Instruments of Praise. I originally had only one meter of this focus fabric, but later came across it again while browsing the internet. How fun would it be to purchase enough yardage to use the focus fabric as the backing of the quilt? Only we know that it came first!
Gina Henrie says
Choosing the fabric is probably the most important part of a quilt I would say. Thanks for the advice to choose a multi-colored print fabric first and then use it to choose the appropriate coordinating fabrics. I am trying to decide on a quilt to get my grandmother. She is from Hawaii and so I want to to remind her of that place. Hopefully I can find good fabric that will reflect that!