Basics of Color Theory

The overwhelming feedback from the majority of my students is that you feel intimidated not as much by the making of the quilt as by the selection of the fabrics and prepping to make the quilt.  I’m inferring from those statements that most of it is fear that your finished quilt will be, well, ugly.  And I hear ya.

Here’s the thing:  your quilt will be awesome.  I can pretty much promise that.  I think we worry we won’t love it because we’re looking ahead to the effort we’ll put into sewing it, and want to be assured that we’re making wise choices.  Much as in life, though, there are never any guarantees, and so frequently the whole is greater than the sum–meaning it’s hard to predict what will happen on the other side of the fence post.

This should be encouraging to you.  It means that as long as you choose fabrics YOU love, then you’re virtually guaranteed a quilt that you will love.  So my very first advice is: use good quality fabrics that you want to look at and touch.  If you choose ugly, inferior or cast-off fabrics because you figure, “it’s my first quilt and it won’t matter that much,” you’re sure to be disappointed and demotivated at the end.  If however, you choose fabrics you really enjoy looking at, then in almost any combination, you’re going to enjoy them as a quilt, too.

This lesson’s video discusses color theory, print scale, value, intensity, fabric harmony, using fabrics from a quilting collection (as they’re often marketed today), and how to select the fabric for your sampler quilt (including a few caveats of what NOT to do).

Your homework:
For more on what I covered in the video, check out this site for general color theory (and the source for the images in the video), and this article from Elizabeth Hartman of Oh, Fransson! for color theory specifically aimed at quilters–this one’s especially good, and I encourage you to read the whole article and really check out her images (as well as her entire site–Elizabeth is a very respected voice in the quilting world, with lots of insight and wisdom to share!).

Then, start making selections of fabric for your quilt. When you think you’re there or nearly there, snap a quick photo of your fabrics once you’ve made a pile, and send it on over to Flickr. Let us see and comment and applaud your selections!  Next lesson, we make our first block: the Log Cabin.

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