Adding in fabrics: I typically collect basics when I add to my stash--that is, fabrics with one or two colors plus white, simple geometric patterns, prints that should go with a number of different lines. Sometimes, I just can't help myself and buy something adorable, but for the most part, I stick to basics. That doesn't mean my stash is full of polka dots--quite the contrary. But, if a print has a unique design and it's just one or two colors, I'm probably going to buy it. Here are some things to consider when you select fabrics for your quilt.
- Solids vs. prints. A big consideration, especially today, is prints vs. solids. Prints are gorgeous, and for many of us, are inspiring and are even sometimes the motivation for quilting at all. But solids are pretty in-style right now and they definitely have an advantage sometimes. Even if you don't choose to use colored solids as a part of the design, you still have the option of selecting low volume prints as a background. Lots of choices...I tend to think that low volume can add a busyness to a design, and if your overall layout is very busy, you would be better served with using some solids. Your eyes really need a place to rest in a quilt and if there are too many different patterns of fabrics in a very complicated design, you lose that. But it can also bring interest to an otherwise boring place of the design. Pros and cons.
- Scale/print subject. Scale in an important part of prints, as is subject matter. This is one reason I love good solids; they are easier to work with. If the scale is too large, you'll need to take care in selecting a pattern that will have large enough pieces to let the beautiful images shine. I tend to go with a lot of very average scaled prints, although some variety in scale can add interest. This photo has prints that range in scale from small on the left to pretty large on the right. I love this building print, but I'm going to have to use it in blocks that have large pieces so you can tell what it is.
And regarding the subject...I know we've all seen really cute modern novelty prints, but with these you need to be careful. Personally, I would not pair girly butterflies with robots, or cowboy boots with dinosaurs, even if the color is right. Novelty prints are fun, but they require basics to go with them if they aren't from one integrated line. Some are generic enough to work (suns, stars, etc), but for the most part, you'll want to be careful.
Note that florals are such a widespread "genre" that they don't really count as novelty, but you probably wouldn't pair traditional florals (think French General) with super modern florals (think Lotta Jansdotter and Joel Dewberry).
These four florals are all what I would consider contemporary florals. They aren't too traditional, but they aren't super modern either. And if the colors worked together, I wouldn't hesitate to put them in the same quilt.
- Style. This one is related to that last note. Some fabrics are very traditional and some are very modern. Most are somewhere in the middle. And maybe some people wouldn't worry so much about this, but I wouldn't choose to pair Cotton and Steel prints with 1930s reproductions, Civil War prints, or French General. Most likely, all the other considerations you've already made would prevent this anyway--Cotton and Steel doesn't use the same colors, undertones, or saturation levels as these other styles. But, in case you've already gone through all the other considerations and still feel like something is off, check on the style of your choices. This applies to novelty prints, as well. In the novelty print photo above, you'll notice the kitchenware print is very graphic and modern with crisp lines while the airplane print is more cartoony and juvenile, the gray building print is sketchy with uneven lines and the Bonnie and Camille umbrella print is a little more traditional (take a look at the bows, shading, and flourishes). Every artist has a style, and it's okay to mix them as long as you're aware and you don't go with too much contrast.
These are more traditional florals, especially the one on the left. The one on the right is by Cluck Cluck Sew (who designed the navy floral in the photo above) but if you'll notice, the flowers have a really similar shape to the flowers in the one on the left. The gray one looks like it could appear in a reproduction line without looking terribly out of place, which is good hint that it might be more traditional.
These two are very modern and graphic and need more care when pairing with other florals. They would look awful with the two traditional prints above.
- Color Variations. Because fabric lines are so matchy-matchy, I think it's a common misconception that all the blues, for example, have to be a perfect match. I used to think this way, to be honest. But, I've learned that it's more important that they are of similar saturation and undertone than to be an exact match, which is a huge relief because finding the exact same colors is pretty much impossible. And, if you're doing a scrappy project, it's actually better for there to be variation so that there is some contrast between the colors. I'm currently working on a project that really needs that variation because all the pinks are sewn directly together. If they all were a perfect match, the piecing would not be as visible. And if the piecing isn't visible, why bother?
- Prints with extra colors. Not sure what to label this; but if you don't have a focal print and instead are using a variety of basics or near basics, you can take a cue from some of those prints if you need some ideas for adding different colors into your mix. For example, this Cotton and Steel has flowers in white, lilac, and orange. If I was putting together a bundle of navy, white, and lilac, and felt it needed a little something, I could pull in a pop of orange and because it's here in this print, it wouldn't feel out of place.
A lot of prints are like this, including a lot of the prints I've already used in this series. It's a great place to turn if you're stuck.
Again, thanks for playing along with me on this mini series and I hope you've learned something and can avoid (if you want) resorting to prepackaged fat quarter bundles. They're beautiful, but a quilt will be far more special and more "you" if you take the time to select all the fabrics you'll be using. Good luck, and feel free to ask questions if you have any!