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Tuesday, March 23, 2010


One of the most frustrating aspects of quilting is the not-so-simple task of choosing fabrics for any given project. For my first quilting class, we were pretty much dragooned into buying our class fabrics from the store sponsoring our course. I had no objection to this, but after choosing a focus fabric, wandered the store for half an hour trying, in vain, to find anything that worked with that fabric. I tried another, and once again had absolutely no luck in finding great coordinates. In the end, an ancient fat quarter from my stash saved the day. But since then, I have often walked into a quilt shop and found that while they may have one or two fabrics that work in a given project, they rarely have ALL the fabrics I need. Even when they display collections, most shops cannot afford to stock all the fabrics in any one collection. They pick and choose.

One of our local stores brought in a particularly beautiful line of Asian inspired fabrics. Ten or twelve different bolts were on the wall, along with a kit for making their display quilt. That display quilt featured a luscious fabric in a dark, plummy purple. But was it available for sale off the bolt? No. They had used the entire bolt for kits.

And so began my first foray into online fabric shopping. Since then, I have often bought lovely fabrics online that I could not easily find local coordinates for. And it is very hard to colour match online, as digital images are not completely true to the colour in the actual fabric. What to do?

I found an important colour matching tool in the Moda Marbles swatch cards (there is a card for cottons and another, smaller card for the Moda Marbles Flannels. The swatch cards don't just show me what ranges of colours might work best with the focus fabric I have in hand, they give me a colour lingua franca. If I ask one of my online sellers to find me some nice fabrics in blue....well, blue can mean a lot of things. Primary blue? Blue-greens and teals? Periwinkles and violet blues? Turquoise? As you can see, below, "blue" encompasses a large range of possible colours:

But if I say "I want a few fabrics that coordinate with Moda Marble swatch 9873 Wine", then we have a concrete reference point to work from.

I have also found the swatch cards of great use in working my way through my latest workbook, "Color Mastery: 10 Principles for Creating Stunning Quilts" by Maria Peagler. When Maria instructs me to find 5 fabrics to complete a split complement colour scheme, I can use the card swatches to give me a concrete example of the basic colours I am after, enabling me to refine my vision before I go fabric shopping. Turns out I am not terribly good at visualizing colours in my head and then matching that vision to what I find in the real world. Using the swatches helps with that translation process. And I can take the swatches to keep me "on colour" when I am shopping!

I have long wanted to make a baby quilt in a range of neutral flannels along with soft, faded colours also in flannel. But it has been really hard to find a range of neutral flannels and coordinates. For that project, I was able to refine my thinking and then search online for the perfect fabrics, using the Moda Marbles Flannel swatch card as my starting point:

Hope you found this fun and helpful! I will end with a few close up shots of the cotton cards:


Maria Peagler said...

You are having too much fun with those Moda swatches. Good for you in using the color harmonies! Will love to see what you come up with! Wish you stunning color in your quilts!

Maria Peagler

WesternWilson said...

Thanks Maria...and thankyou for your wonderful book on colour. I will be making up a post documenting my journey through your excellent colour exercises! And someday, I will get you to autograph my copy of Color Mastery!

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