Colour Selection for Quilts and Textiles

Selecting fabrics for a quilt is about choosing fabrics that work together. Most patchwork is done using a medium weight cotton fabrics, so type of fabric isn't usually a major consideration, it's the colours and patterns of those fabrics which matter, and perhaps most important of all is getting a good mix of light and dark colours.

The colour wheel shows fully saturated hues (colours). With paint any colour can be lightened, with white, to make a tint of that colour or darkened, with black, to make a shade.

tints and shades
Fully saturated hues on the outer circle, tints on the inner circles. Fully saturated hues on the outer circle, shades on the inner circles.

Although I know the theory, when I select fabrics for a piece of patchwork I select the colours by placing them together and judging by eye, taking out anything that doesn't look right.


blue fabrics

Here is a selection of blue fabrics. The dark blue with white 'clouds' is in reality rather too grey, the blue spotted fabric in the centre leans too far towards green and the striped fabric on the right includes unwanted red.


selected blues

After removal of the three 'rogue' fabrics the selection is more harmonious, but they are all fairly mid-range in colour; there is nothing very light or very dark.


with white

Here is the same selection of colours with the addition of a light fabric, it's white with tiny blue dots. it provides a good contrast to most of the blues, although a few of them area little light themselves.


with navy

Here are the same colours but with the addition of a dark navy fabric. This is a much better contrast.


plus yellow

Here a near complementary colour, yellow, has been added, this adds a bit of zing to the mix.


plus yellow and navy

Here is the same range of blue fabrics with yellow and navy added. I think that these colours would work well together.


with green blues

Here I've added some green-blues to the mix. I think this makes it a little more lively.


plus orange

Here is the mix of blues and green-blues together with navy, but because the balance of blues has moved round the colour wheel slightly I've added orange as the complementary zing colours.

Fully saturated blue and violet/purple are the darkest colours, they tend to recede. Yellow and orange are the lightest colours, they come forward. Because of this only a small amout of yellow or orange is needed to balance blues or purples.

My blue/greeen/purple Storm at Sea quilt is an example of dark colours with a small amountof bright yellow/orange contrast. This quilt also has a strong mix of dark shades balanced with very pale tints of the same colour

red and green

Red and green are medium value complementary colours and equal quantities of each are needed to balance each other and an additional colour is not usually needed.

My sampler quilt and octagonal lap quilt are examples of red/green quilts without any additional colours. 80 Stars quilt is tints of green and red (pink) plus creams and browns which makes the overall colour scheme more muted.

It isn't always necessary to plan colours in detail to get a sucessful mix, but it is necessary to get a good mix of lights and darks. This quilt is made from all the tiny pieces I had left over from previous projects and includes all colours jumbled together. I just sorted them into lights and darks.

Colour Theory Basics § Colour Schemes § Brenda's quilts
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