For many years I taught beginning and advanced piecing. One of the questions I encountered most was about choosing fabric. When cutting off selvedges on some fabric today I noticed the colour circles and thought about the answer I gave most often.
I suggest to students that they start by choosing a piece of complex print that they really like. A complex print provides many options for choosing a group of other coloured fabrics that work well together. Since the quilts were often bed quilts I also suggest choosing a print that they would like to use for the specific bedroom they have in mind. I am also aware that often a quilt is being made for a gift and that someone has indicated their colour preferences. That ups the stakes however the process suggested below still works.
The next step is to look at the selvedge of the fabric you have chosen and start pulling fabrics in colours that you find in the colour circles. A variety of sizes of print, some solids, a background that goes with all the colours.
If you have the option always choose to go to a local store where the experienced staff will know their stock and be able to help you pull a selection that will work together. I can not emphasize the last statement enough. Remember time is the most precious resource that you will spend. It is a waste of your precious time to work with fabric that you do not love. Also choose the best quality you can as a quilt is a labour of love and it will last for a very long time.
Do not choose all the fabrics from one line. The result will be too homogenous, may not have scale variation or enough value variation. If it is a bed quilt think about someone lying underneath it and what they will see on both sides. Calm, peaceful are words that come to mind. That doesn’t mean that a bright print can’t be used, it may just be an accent colour.
A word on backgrounds if applicable. Almost never choose white is one of my basic rules. White is often to stark, it can deaden the overall effect of the fabrics chosen. f necessary perhaps choose a white on white print. I usually try and find a very soft pastel, in a tint on tint or tone on tone. My experience is that I end up with a more pleasing composition.
Let’s dissect the quilt in the photograph using the thoughts above. First I chose the Kaffe Fassett Lotus fabric. It forms the border, the backing and the pillowcases. It was rolled out on the cutting table and using the colour dots other bolts were chosen and placed on top. Scale and value were part of the consideration. It took a while and in the end I believe that there were 30 colours chosen. I am very happy with the result and enjoy it as a summer quilt.
Clearly I don’t rush into things but I am pleased to cross the pillowcases off my list.