I remember when I first started quilting, I thought I had to love every single fabric that went into a quilt. Fabric selection was really hard then because there were fabrics that I didn’t love that probably would have worked just fine in a project but I couldn’t bring myself to use them because I didn’t love them. Because of this, fat quarter bundles would languish in my stash because I couldn’t bring myself to use certain fabrics in them.
Then I made this quilt. The pattern is Lucky Stars by Atkinson Designs. I had a couple fat quarter bundles that I purchased at Quilt-A-Fair in Longmont, CO and I decided to use them. But there were fabrics that I absolutely disliked in the bundle and I was really struggling with including them. I kept moving forward with the help of my friend Jennifer. I remember as we were nearing the end of finishing the flimsy that I said something like “I have a new rule… there has to be at least one fabric you don’t like in each quilt”. I learned a valuable lesson with this quilt, you don’t necessarily use the fabric in a quilt because you LOVE it, you use it because it works in the quilt.
That experience also helped to cement my rule of having at least one fabric you don’t like as long as it works in the quilt. What it comes down to is do the scale (read this article at Craftsy for more information on scale) and the value (read this series of blog posts at In Color Order for more information on color and value) of the fabric work with the other fabrics? If the fabrics had no color and only scale and value, would the finished quilt still be interesting to look at.
The longer I am a quilter the less I think about whether I love a fabric or not. Now it’s more natural to think about whether a particular fabric enhances the project I am working on. If I’m not sure I like to use the old trick of distance. If you have a design wall you can put all your fabrics on the design wall and walk away and see how they look from far away. If something doesn’t work it will jump out at you.
Another trick is to use your smartphone. If you’re like me your phone is nearby when you’re sewing because you might want to Instagram something. Lay your fabrics out on a table and take a photo. When you look at the photo you will be able to see what is working and what is not.
There is so much amazing fabric available to quilters today that fabric selection can be overwhelming. The good news is there are no right or wrong choices. The most important thing is the confidence you gain in your fabric selection as you continue to grow as a quilter.