Fabric Choice Anxiety by Victoria Hansel-Kuehn of Flabby Tabby Designs


Hello, Quilty Friends!

So, you’ve found a pattern you love. It’s soooo pretty that you can’t wait to get started. Now you find yourself looking at fabric and starting to worry. Does this go together? Would this fabric look good? This fabric is nice but what goes with it? What if I choose wrong?? Eeek…help!

Fabric choice anxiety (FCA – it’s totally a thing. You can look it up 😉) is a very common condition that we see quite often at the shop. You are not alone. If you feel it coming on, just stop and take a deep breath. In quilting, there is no such thing as a “wrong” fabric choice. I mean, even total leftover scrap quilts look fabulous, right? So, relax. It’s going to be okay. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder… or quilter. Today I’m writing about a couple easy ways to choose coordinating fabric for your quilt and help make it easier for you and keep an FCA attack at bay.

There are three simple ways to tackle fabric choice that I will cover here: The Pretty Fabric Method, The Inspiration Method, and The Collections Method. You don’t need a degree in color theory to use them – just your eyeballs. As with anything, remember, the more you do it, the better you are at it. Or, most importantly, the more comfortable you are with it.

First up is The Pretty Fabric Method. It starts with, you guessed it, a pretty fabric. Find a fabric that you like – or if the quilt is a gift, a fabric the recipient would like – that has at least three colors in it. See the lovely fabric sample below as an example. Many quilt patterns have a focus fabric, which is the fabric that the design repeats or jumps out at you the most. Your pretty fabric is that one. Now look at the print and the colors in this pretty fabric. Use this fabric to match up and find coordinating fabric. You already know that these colors go together because they look so good in this print. Carry it around the shop and hold it up to other fabrics for matching. Pick bolts and lay them together with the pretty fabric. How do they look? I bet it looks awesome.

A pretty fabric: Uninhibited in Melon from the Frankie Collection.

Second is The Inspiration Method. It starts with a picture of something that you think looks lovely or has the colors you want. It could be a page from a magazine or even a quilt in a magazine. It could be a work of art or just anything with colors together that you like. For years now I’ve been keeping a page I ripped out of a home magazine that had fall fruit laying on a table all full of gold, purple, and reds. I loved the colors so much. I’m determined to make a quilt with those colors someday.

To use this method, bring your inspiration picture into the shop and use it just like you used the pretty fabric method. Look at your inspiration picture. What is the dominant color or the focus of the picture? What are the coordinates and accents to that color? What is the background? Carry it around to first find your focus fabric or the fabric that is the jumping off point. This would be one that matches a color in your inspiration, and you really love it. Loving it is the key. Don’t pick something you dislike just because it matches. You must love it. Use the inspiration picture and the lovely fabric you just picked to find the coordinates. Lay them out together. Do they match your inspiration? Keep moving and replacing them until you get a set of fabrics that you like.

Below is an image of a lovely still life painting by Renoir. It has pretty coral pinks with yellow, ivory and blue with a hint of green. These colors would make a gorgeous quilt. If I was using the Renoir painting below as my inspiration, I’d start with a coral rose fabric since it seems to be the dominant color or the one that pulls my eye. Coordinates would be the yellows, blue and a little spring green. The background would be ivory, just like in the painting. See? I’m going with what the picture is telling me.

An inspiration: Bouquet de Fleurs, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Lastly, and probably the easiest, is The Collections Method. Fabric companies pay designers the big bucks to come up with wonderful fabric lines that all go together and look amazing. They are very good at it. There’s always a new collection coming out that is so pretty that I’m pulling out my wallet again. Gotta have it. Half of quilting is probably just the hoarding of pretty fabric. I’m completely guilty of this. For this method, just locate a fabric collection at the shop that you love. Pick one fabric out of it that you like the most and for sure want to have in the quilt. Go from there. Designers create focus fabrics, coordinates, and backgrounds in each collection. All the fabrics in the collection will work together and coordinate beautifully. They are made that way. You can’t go wrong. You could close your eyes and randomly pick some bolts from a collection, and it would likely look fantastic. Try it. I’m dead serious.

Oh, and here’s another thing about fabric designers that can be a big help. Quite often the designer’s different collections will coordinate with each other. For example, if you buy some fabrics from the Hope Blooms collection by Kansas Troubles, it’s going to coordinate with all the other Kansas Troubles collections. How do you know a fabric is from the same designer? Look at the top of the bolt or along the printed selvage of the fabric.

A collection: Hope Blooms by Kansas Troubles

One last thing, shops (ours for sure) want to make it easy for you. Ask for help. Or, you can even have a custom kit made if you have a pattern and an idea of the look you want or a fabric you want in it. We can build a kit around that…just for you.

I hope you are breathing easier, or maybe even inspired. Till next time …

Happy Quilting!
--Victoria Hansel-Kuehn
Flabby Tabby Designs