LPQ: Thoughts On Fabric Selection

Calamine Lotion Swoon - Patchwork by Angie Wilson of Quilted by Gemma Jackson of Pretty Bobbins Quilting.

For a while, the Swoon quilt was the must-make project. If you missed the craze, it’s a fab pattern by Camille Roskelley that takes a traditional patchwork block and super-sizes it.

When I made my first Swoon (yes, I’ve made more than one!) it was only the third quilt top I’d ever made and the first real patchwork I‘d done since my beginner’s quilt course. And let me say, I wasn’t the star pupil of that class. That said, making those Swoon blocks taught me a valuable lesson: choosing fabrics is like preparing a wall to be painted – the more time you spend on it, the better the result.

I’m not advocating analysis paralysis, but a bit of time spent considering and auditioning fabrics makes a big difference. The impact in the Swoon block comes from the interlocking pattern created by the star and the chevrons – if you don’t play with contrast, your block will lack impact and definition. You don’t have to be a colour genius or understand everything about tone, shade, saturation and hue to pull off good contrast. Mind you, if you get it right, you can pretend you knew all about those things!

This block also taught me about scale. If you have a fabulous big print, it’s no use pairing it with another bold print, as these prints don’t like sharing the spotlight. Use them with a smaller ditsy print (one with no noticeable direction) such as a polka dot.

Points are the other reason to be smart with your fabric choices for Swoon blocks. The points are what really make this block and if you choose a background colour that also appears in your block fabrics, you risk losing those sharp shapes. I learned this the hard way when I used a white background and prints with white in them. I may have had perfect points but from a distance they were lost. This lesson has never left me and I think about it when I select fabrics. Why go to the trouble of getting nice points just to lose them to an optical illusion?

That said, if you take nothing but this tip away from this article I’ll consider it a success: listen to your own style. There are all kinds of colour theories out there – you could spend decades, and a lot of valuable quilting time, getting lost in them. But you just need to go with what you like. Anyone can give you advice and they’ll gladly do so (whether you like it or not sometimes) but only you know what makes you happy. Life’s too short to spend it making quilts that don’t make you happy.

Please Note: This article first appeared in Love Patchwork & Quilting in Issue 24. Angie is the back page columnist for Love Patchwork & Quilting. If you would like to read more of her articles then be sure to subscribe to Love Patchwork & Quilting.

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