Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fabric choice for beginners or those who hate picking colors

To continue with yesterday's theme about fabric selection, I thought I would talk about picking fabrics. This seems to be the most difficult thing for most beginner quilters (and even some veteran quilters) to do. Quilt kits are great for those not wanting to bother trying to pick colors (or for a quick project), but I think the thrill of making a quilt is to make it personal. I'm always flattered that quilters want to buy my kits, (which I have to admit is a good chunk of my income) and make a quilt that looks just like the original. But I think it is also important to be able to pick your own fabrics and colors to say that this quilt is "mine" and not just a replica of the pattern cover.

I have never taken any art classes or classes on colors theory. I just know what I like. I think that just like there are people that are tone deaf when it comes to music, there are quilters that are color blind. Not that they can't see the colors, it's that they can't see the slight variations in the tones of the colors. A person that is tone deaf can't hear the different music tones to know if someone is off-key. Their ears are not fine-tuned to hear the small differences in the musical notes. I took music lessons (piano, flute, and oboe) when I was in school and I knew when my instrument was off-key. Now I don't know if it was something I learned when playing or it was innate (I was born with it). With colors the effect is similar. There are slight variations in reds, blues, and yellows. Red is a wonderful example to show the different variations in color and the hardest to match. Some reds have more yellow, making them look orangish, some have more blue, making them look purplish. (The photo doesn't show that real well, so find some reds in your stash and look at them). These slight variations are hard to detect unless one has a sharp eye for color. If you have problems seeing that, rely on a good friend or your local quilt shop employee to help with it. Maybe from working with customers and expanding my color choices I have developed the skill or maybe I was born with it, who knows. But that is not important to you. We all have different skills and abilities and have to work with what we have.

How important is that ability? Well it depends on how particular you are. For most quilters if it matches close enough they are happy with it. You are making a quilt to please yourself or the person you are giving the quilt to. Because I do competition work, I want the colors to blend and work together perfectly. Those slight variations, to me, are blaring. But if it is pleasing to the eye to you, the maker, then you are the only one that matters. When I am teaching quilting I am asked if I'm happy with their results. More important is are "they" happy, not me. It is their quilt and they have to be pleased with the results.

So what should the average or beginner quilter do? My first suggestion is to start with a quilt pattern with no more than five or six fabrics. The more fabrics you have to pick the harder it is. Begin with a print that you love. The more colors in the print the easier it is to find fabrics to match. Remember yesterday when I said I was so proud to pick light, medium and dark prints that went together; I still pick fabrics based on that principal. After picking your print, start with the lightest and darkest colors in the print.

After that, pick two or three contrasting colors in the print. Fabric companies purposely make collections to make this selection easier because they are purposely made to go together. This is a skill that anyone can pick up. Some quilters are so afraid of picking colors they freeze up and feel that they can't do it. If you start simple it gets easier each time. So next time you are shopping for your next quilt project, take that first step. you might surprise yourself!
Just an aside: Feel free to share my tips with your friends but be sure to mention where you read it and tell them about my website and blog. It would be greatly appreciated. No images may be copied from my blog.

Everyday do what you love and love what you do. 'Til tomorrow, Toby

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