Fabric Colors and Choices

I design a LOT of quilts, mostly for my websites – www.BOMquilts.com, www.QuiltDash.com, www.QuiltBlockDash.com and www.MysteryQuiltDash.com.  One thing I have been told over-and-over is that I have an amazing knack for putting together color combinations that ‘work’ and not only make a quilt design POP but also shows off the fabric colorways in the best possible ways.  While the professionals probably use a color wheel or something similar, I have come to rely on my lazy way of quilting – I pull out the fabric and mix and match until I get the desired effect for each quilt block and/or overall quilt design! 

Nothing scientific about my approach except taking my fabric into different lights and using my chicken-eye on them.  Plus, I truly believe my cosmetology education in coloring hair gives me the knowledge and confidence to choose colors for quilts. 


I do have some hard rules as to what fabric lines I want to work with:

  • The entire fabric colorway *must* have complimentary fabrics to their focus fabrics.  I absolutely refuse to work with fabric lines that do not offer complimentary fabrics.
  • For beginning quilters, it is paramount that the fabric line NOT have plaids or straight lines that would need to be fussy-cut.
  • Since I prefer to piece traditional quilt blocks or utilize raw-edge applique, the fabrics need to have enough color variations so that the applique is clearly visible on the background fabric(s).
  • When I write a pattern with a full or partial fabric line, I make sure there are dark, medium and light colors in the fabrics….and I let the quilter determine which fabric to use based on their own preferences (i.e I do not put a specific fabric in my instructions but put the basic shade in and let the quilter learn to expand their artistic horizons and choose their own specific fabric to use in their quilt).
  • If I am making a personal quilt (perhaps for a relative or friend), I have no problem mixing and matching fabric lines and manufacturers to create a design specifically for the recipient.
  • I try to always have white, ecru, red and black fabrics on-hand.  If some of the fabrics I am given to work with don’t meet my above stated standards, I will add some of these color-staples to the design.
  • Never, ever, ever rely on fluorescent light to match fabric colors – it will give a green tint to everything.  Take the fabric outside and look at it in natural light – will give you a completely different look at the chosen fabrics.
  • Any leftover fabric either goes to someone who needs it or is used for a scrappy backing.  No waste.
  • I will only quilt with high-quality fabric.  No cheap fabric for me – or my sewing machine!
  • I lay out all of my quilt fabric for whatever fabric line I am working with and let it ‘talk’ to me over the course of a few days.  Some fabrics, I immediately see a pattern in my head based solely on the name of the fabric….other fabric, I need to look at, fondle, move around until a design comes to me that “fits” with that fabric and/or the recipient.
  • If I am buying fabric, I always carry a good-sized swatch of what I am working on with me to the quilt shop – that way, I can find the fabric that I need much quicker – and grab the matching thread, too.
  • Every computer monitor has different settings, browsers, etc.  Hence, some of the colors of fabrics found online are actually a bit different when sitting in front of you.  I have been known to ask for the smallest cut of a fabric from an online shop just to make sure the color is what I need, before buying it in larger quantities.
  • Once I have the design for each quilt and the fabric, I will choose my fabrics one block at a time.  This way, I am not locked into a specific fabric for any one block but can use my imagination and skills to make sure the blocks are compatible and worthy of eye candy.
  • If I am testing fabrics for a block, I will either go with it or not.  If not, I save the blocks – who knows what use I can find for it later?!

The moral of this story is that you don’t have to be a professional quilter or designer to choose your own quilt fabrics.  Use your eyes, good light and practice blocks to get the desired result.  If you do not care for the first sample, set it aside and try again.  That first one could make a good potholder or pillow or even a doggie blanket!

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    Christmas Continues!

    As many of you know, my (third) foster mother (FM) has come to winter with us for a couple of months to escape some of the winter in Iowa.  Before Christmas, I told her we were having a homemade Christmas just for her when she arrived – beats sending huge packages through the mail plus, we all wanted to see her reaction to our homemade gifts.

    In turn, she did some “closet shopping” – she went through her closet to find things that each of us would like and brought them.  What a great way to give gifts that have special meanings to both the giver and the receiver!

    I was so busy watching and listening to the gifts our family received that I didn’t get photos of each one of the kids.  Our youngest daughter received a book about a girl that was published in 1909.  I’m sure my FM didn’t realize the significance of that year but both my maternal grandfather and my husband’s paternal grandmother were born in ‘naught nine’.

    The son-man received my FM’s Boundary Waters tackle box.  The Boundary Waters are in northern Minnesota.  When I lived with these foster parents, we took three trips to canoe in the waters (over the course of two years) and then went again with our church youth group.  This is a very special gift, beyond the fact that my son loves to fish – it’s a gift that I know means a lot to my FM.

    Middle daughter received a music-themed charm bracelet since she LOVES music!

    Eldest daughter received a stone bracelet since she has to pick up a rock everywhere she goes.

    I received this beautiful cedar box.  As my FM told the story, back ‘in the day’, if you purchased a hope chest from a certain shop, you received a mini-hope chest as a special gift.  I never had a hope chest so now I finally do!

    My husband received two more lectionaries for his lay minister work.  My FM had bought him his first one last year and now he has all three versions, which are rotated during the church years – perfect gift for him!

    And then it was our turn to give back to one who has given us so much.  We decided to go (mostly) handmade because my FM has always been a crafts & sewing person. 

    Our youngest gave Grandma a set of loom potholders.  She and Grandma made cookies when we went to Iowa last summer.

    Son-man gave Grandma a bag of pecans she needs to crack open – just what she asked for!  (this was the only non-homemade gift but she specifically wanted this one).

    Middle daughter gave Grandma a really cool friendship bracelet she wove from embroidery floss in Grandma’s favorite color of blue!

    Our oldest daughter gave Grandma a scarf she crocheted all by herself.  Grandma taught her to crochet a couple of years ago so she wanted to show Grandma that she remembered how to do it.  The scarf is skinny because you don’t need much more than that in Texas.

    The final gift was from me – I gave her my beautiful 2012 block of the month quilt “Bittersweet Churning” (free pattern at BOMquilts.com) – she had happy tears and a great big smile when she saw the quilt.  She also put it right on her bed and has looked at the workmanship every day since she got it!

    Here’s my FM with all four of our children.  What a great late Christmas for one and all!

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      Love Me Tender Trio

      My friend Linda at AbbiMays.com asked me to create a quick and beginner-friendly design for the first quarter of 2013, something that would appeal to quilters for Valentine’s Day.  Since I’m nearly always up for a challenge, I whipped up a pattern sure to be enjoyed by one and all.  Then, that wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted to put the pattern together so that there was more than one options for quilters – and then had an AHA moment!  Why not create a pattern for multiple projects out of one or two blocks?  So, this free quilt pattern includes instructions for a three-block table runner, a four-block table runner as well as a baby quilt!

      As it so happened, she asked me to do this on the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death – January 8th.  How could I let that type of memorial go?  I couldn’t – hence the name of the quilted project is “Love Me Tender”.  And the “Trio” part of the title is that you can make one, two or three projects from a single pattern!

      Introducing an original design by TK Harrison of BOMquilts.com, “Love Me Tender Trio“:

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        Let’s Have a UFO Quilt Party!

        My foster mother is here in Texas to spend a couple of months with us – Iowa is a bit cold right now.  LOL

        We were talking about quilt-related projects for her to do.  I helped the quilting bug invade her psyche a couple of years ago and she’s definitely hooked!

        First, I gave her a verbal list of what blocks I’d started on and needed to finish.  Then, I gave her a list of quilts she could help me do with quilts that are completed except for their binding.

        She also loves to hand-quilt, so I gave her a couple of (really late) prayer shawls to hand-quilt.

        On top of that, I gave her a precut quilt for a charity and told her to have at it – the fabric is pre-cut and all she has to do is to follow the directions to put the baby quilt together.

        I am nearly ashamed to admit that I have way more UFOs than I thought I did!!!  Here’s hoping she has fun wintering with us and helping me catch up on my quilting projects!!!   OH, and we hope she has a chance to have a little fun with us along the way!

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          “Bittersweet Churning” 2012 BOMquilts.com Completed Quilt

          I have put up numerous photographs of the 2012 block of the month quilt “Bittersweet Churning”, one of my original designs at BOMquilts.com.   But, never have I put up the FINISHED quilt photos!  Oh yes, I finally got the binding done on it…because I wanted to gift it to a very special person and she’s going to be here today!

          I am in awe of the quilting, done by Kathryn Rister of Quilt Kits & Quarters:

          And then a friend offered to create the quilt label with her embroidery machine:

          I think the quilt turned out even better than I anticipated – and I hope my recipient agrees!

          Final finishing instructions will be posted at BOMquilts.com soon!

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