Color and design are the two most important components of a quilt. Color is also the most personal choice when planning a new quilt. Even if we aren’t planning a quilt, color choice enters our lives on a daily basis. What we choose to wear when getting dressed in the morning, to planning a remodel of a room in our home. Color is a huge part of our existence. We can’t get away from it.
Beginning quilters get very anxious when it comes to choosing colors for their quilts. When I took my first quilting class, which was making a quilted jacket, the instructor showed me a method, which I still use today.
First, choose a fabric you love. Make sure it has lots of colors in it like a big busy print. Then, choose the remaining fabrics that match the colors in your first “focus” fabric. Finding those remaining colors is much easier than it was 30 years ago when I took that class. Now, the manufacturer puts color dots on the salvage of fabrics so you can see at a glance what colors are in the print fabric.
Another method many quilters use is a color wheel. A color wheel can lead you to choose fabrics that are complimentary (colors next to each other on the wheel), analogous (colors next to each other on the wheel), triad (colors evenly spaced around the wheel), split-complimentary, etc. Using a color wheel can reveal creative color combinations you never thought you’d come up with on your own. I’ve never been a big fan of the color wheel, but it works. Many artists use a color wheel to create their works of art.
Finding help in color selection is very easy these days. There are hundreds of books on the subject, along with gadgets and color cards you can purchase. Even after using some of these resources, I still fall back to my first “focus” fabric color choosing method. If you are making a quilt for someone else, and they have told you, or you know, their favorite colors, the color choices may be easier. If you’re making a baby quilt for a new arrival, find out the colors of the nursery and go from there. If there are no specific nursery colors, then find out what the mother’s favorite colors are. You can’t go wrong with pleasing the mother’s color preference.
Taking a new quilter into a fabric store to purchase fabric for a project can be somewhat of a trial. My first question is what their favorite color is, or if they are making this project for someone else, what colors are requested or preferred. Most people have a favorite color, or two. So that makes a starting point easier. But I have encountered people who do not have a favorite color. It’s much harder to begin choosing fabric, but it can still be done. As we wander around the fabric store we eventually come across fabric that catches their eye.
Once that first fabric is discovered, the rest can be collected to match it. If the first fabric is a print, it makes it much easier to find the remaining fabric needed. If the fabric is a solid, then we can concentrate on that fabric’s color family or find complimentary colors to go with it.
One question that comes up is: How can judges be fair in their judging if the quilt is not in colors she likes? Good question.