Although I have been drawing and painting since forever, when I first started quilting, the hardest part for me was getting the color palette right with fabric. There is a marked difference between coordinating color for a quilt and color for a painting or illustration. With a quilt, get it wrong and a lot of time and money for my efforts will have been wasted. I know I gain experience, but it is deflating to see something you thought was going to be so right, turn out so wrong. I can’t just paint over it with the stroke of a brush and be back on track.
So how do I solve this problem? Sure I can draw my designs out in Illustrator and color them in with a general palette of colors if I wish, but matching that color with actual fabric on the market is a bit more tricky. I dyed my fabric for awhile but found the colors to be dull and cloudy with cotton and I want clear and crisp.
There are those who do hand dyes well, in particular Melody Johnson and Laura Wasilowski, Laura’s hand dyed threads are wonderful by the way. They both create clear crisp brilliant dyed fabrics with silk that result in beautiful color as well as quilts. However, with hand applique this isn’t an option for me. Silk is miserable to hand applique with and I usually wash my quilts so for me it doesn’t work out as a viable option. I will just have to admire theirs.
So back to my original point. Most quilters don’t plan ahead two or more years for a quilt so one can be captive to current color trends on the market. One of the solutions I found was to tear out pages from magazines where the color palettes are appealing to you. Magazines carefully coordinate colors in a photoshoot to reflect the current color trends and if you find a current magazine color selection appealing, then you will also be able to find current fabrics in that same colorway in the shops. Of course if you are a stash buster, this won’t help. I am afraid I would fail miserably as a stash buster.
So then what?
Cut out swatches from the fabrics you think all work for your project and then arrange them by color and value. Even stash busters can do this with what they have. You don’t have to be exact, your eye will let you know when you have positioned something wrong or if it isn’t working almost instantly. Trust your eyes.
When you have the color palette you like, paste the swatches down on a piece of sturdy paper and then use that as a general guide for fabric selection through the process. This is a helpful tool to keep you in the right color and value ranges and is immensely helpful when you find you have to shop for a fabric color you may not have and want.
Do I have to say it is fun to look at the yummy colors all lined up too?
©2009 Sandra Leichner