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Long Time Gone Quilt: Fabric Selection

Long Time Gone quilt by Jen Kingwell. Sew-along to be hosted by Angie Wilson (www.gnomeangel.com) and Nicole Calver (http://www.snipssnippets.ca) - kicks of 15 march 2017. For more information see www.gnomeangel.com
Image courtesy of Jen Kingwell Designs

For me one of the best things about starting a new project is the fabric selection. I’m old school when it comes to planning a quilt, I don’t use anything other then my gut instinct and my mind to select fabrics to go with a pattern. Sometimes it works a treat and other times I wish I could have a do-over. With that said, I still find so much magic in the process of having an idea and then seeing it come to life, faults and all. When I saw the Jen Kingwell’s Long Time Gone quilt at Quilt Market I knew I wanted to make it and share this adventure with Nicole, but I’ll confess I had no clue how I was going to pull it off. (I still don’t!) I walked around Quilt Market and looked at all the amazing things that were being released and I saw myself being drawn to the same fabrics again and again. I love a highly saturated, vibrant rainbow of colour mixed with black and white.

This colour combination is what I make all of my most favourite quilts and projects in. It’s what makes me the happiest. As I thought more and more about this quilt and what Nicole and I were planning I started to know in my heart what I wanted to do with it. I wanted to work with fabrics I love and use in nearly all of my projects and I wanted to showcase a designer who’s work I really love. I knew I wanted an all Alison Glass quilt.

So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve selected fabrics that make me happy and will deliver a high punch of colour. It’s also meant that I’ve been able to work with a designer and fabric company that I love and really respect and admire to bring you a great selection of fabrics. Nicole has done the same and she’s working with all Anna Maria Horner (another designer I adore!). Nicole’s writing about her thoughts on picking a fabric selection today as well so be sure to head on over to her blog to find another way of looking at how you could make this quilt your own. (Click here to visit Nicole.)

Now it’s all well and good for me to tell you what I’ve chosen, but how about I walk you through my process for getting to that decision and share with you some of the other options I could have gone with and then provide you with information about where you can buy fabrics and how you can get them for a friends of Gnome and Snips discount!

Fabric Requirements for Long Time Gone

Before we get down to the nitty gritty I’m going to share with you the fabric requirements for this quilt as specified on the pattern.

6m to 6.5m (7 yards) approximately of assorted prints in small cuts (e.g. Fat 1/8th or 1/16th work well. Remember to include geometrics, stripes, florals, etc.)

1.2m (1 1/3 yards) solid for sashing, checkerboards and binding

4m (4 1/2 yards) backing fabric

Now if you’re like me you’re going to read that and go “Whoa, that’s a lot of fabric” but the reality is if you make the quilt as it is on the cover you’re going to need variety and so that’s what the fabric requirements reflect. You may have 6m of fabric on your cutting table, but I guarantee there will be fabric left over – the requirements reflect the scrappy nature of Jen’s quilt (and it also reflects why she’s a genius at what she does – it’s all about cohesive variety!).

How to Choose Your Fabrics

Now, let’s get down into the nitty gritty. These are my thoughts on each of the options that I consider when making a quilt. I cannot stress enough that these are mine – you may have different thoughts and that’s ok, fabric selection is one of the only times in life where alternative facts are ok. Fabric selection is all about making YOU happy – make a quilt that you love and that you can spend hours pouring over. Don’t make a quilt because you think it’ll get you in with the “cool kids” – it won’t, you’re not meant to be with them if you have to change who you are, you’ll find your own cool kids by making your own quilt (and it’ll be much more awesome because you’ll all be loved for who you are!).

Use All One Fabric Line

This is the most obvious choice for cohesion and it’s also the one that I tend to use least. I have a few designer crushes and I buy whole lines of fabric when they’re released but I’m yet to have a positive experience of using all one line in one quilt. For me (and remember this is how I work and we’re all different and there’s no right or wrong) I find it too limiting, but for others I’ve seen some mind blowingly amazing quilts made with just one line of fabric. I find there’s always one or two fabrics in the line that I just don’t like, either the colour combination is off for me or I don’t like the print that much. I’m so hard to please. *wink*

PRO’S:

  • All the fabrics work together in harmony and will give you a consistent look and feel to your patchwork.
  • You don’t have to spend hours thinking about each fabric you’ll use.
  • It’s often the cheapest way to get all your project fabrics.

CON’S:

  • You may find with this quilt that there’s not enough variety to really make it work.
  • You may find that there’s not enough contrast in the prints to make some block patterns work.
  • You may end up with a quilt that looks like someone else’s.

Mix & Match

This is my go-to when it comes to fabric selection and it’s often interchangeable with “scrappy” quilts. I like to have control over the fabrics I’m using and I like to be able to inject a little bit of my personality into all my projects. This option also allows me to add fabrics to the mix as they’re released and my tastes evolve. This is the option that Jen Kingwell has used to get the look of her quilt.

Mix & Match also allows you to work in some solids which in turn may help to balance your fabric selection. Solids can provide a nice visual break and also help accentuate some of your feature prints.

Scrappy quilts are where you use your scraps to make your quilt, however I like to think of scrap quilts as mix & match because I still actively choose which scraps and cuts of fabric to use. It’s about the fabric, not the size of the fabric for this technique.

PRO’S:

  • You’re in control.
  • You can change your mind as you work.
  • Your quilt will be unique.
  • It’s a good stash buster.

CON’S:

  • It can be really daunting to choose which fabrics to use and where.
  • You can spend a lot of time standing in front of your fabric stash trying to decide what to use.
  • It can be more expensive because you buy way more fabric then you need to be able to have a depth and variety.

Curated Bundles

The love child of using one Fabric Line and Mix & Match is curated bundles. All the bundles we have on offer are curated bundles, that means that the designers all took the time to think about the quilt pattern, the fabrics they offer and selected what they think would work best in the quilt. Curate bundles aren’t limited to the selection here, there’s lots of great shops that are working with bloggers and designers to curate fabric bundles to help people test the waters of mix and match fabric use. This is also something that you can work with your Local Quilt Shop to come up with – take your pattern in and talk to the staff about what they might recommend. You might be surprised at what you find!

PRO’S:

  • The fabrics should all work together harmoniously.
  • You don’t have to spend hours thinking about each fabric you’ll use.
  • It’s often cheaper than buying individual fabrics.
  • The bundle sizes can be custom to fit specific projects.
  • They’re a great way to step outside of your comfort zone, but still have a security net.

CON’S:

  • You may find that there’s not enough contrast in the prints to make some block patterns work.
  • You may end up with a quilt that looks like someone else’s.
  • You may find some pieces in the bundle not to your liking.

Use All Solids

gnomeangel-solids-kaufman

1. Robert Kaufman Elizabeth Hartman Designer Palette 2. Robert Kaufman Emily Cier Designer Palette 3. Robert Kaufman 2014 New Colours

I’m a huge fan of solids and I love mixing solids into my quilts. I think of an all solids quilt as the ultimate quilters colouring in. There’s so much impact in an all-solids quilt because, even with all the modern quilts, they’re just so rare when you compare them to quilts made with all prints or a mix of both. A solids quilt done right can be breath taking and take something ordinary and elevate it to art.

The other great thing about solids is that you can buy a lot of bundles now that are entirely solids which gives you all the benefits of working with one line of fabric without the hassles of having to choose your own fabrics (unless you like that kind of thing of course, I know I do).

Shot cottons are also a great way to get the look of a solid quilt but with a little more interest. The only thing I would caution with using shot cottons on a quilt with small piecing is that, in my experience, the fabric frays really easily. Just use a good quality starch and be careful when handling your pieces (although that should go for all fabrics).

PRO’S:

  • Contrast in your quilt blocks can be easily achieved.
  • Your quilt will be unique.
  • It’s a high impact way of making a quilt design really pop.
  • Solids are cheap to purchase.
  • There’s a big array of colours available.

CON’S:

  • You may need to spend a lot of time choosing your solids.
  • You may get bored with just using solids

Use All One Designer

This is a great one for those of you that have a designer crush and a deep stash of fabrics. I am currently having a love affair with this style of fabric selection. This can be a lot of fun to do, especially if the designer has a vast back catalogue. There’s been some amazing quilts made using this fabric selection parameter. It also means that if you’re like me you can ditch those pesky prints that you don’t like without having a hole in your line up.

PRO’S:

  • You’re in control.
  • Your fabric selection is controlled so you may not loose a lot of time working out what to use.
  • You can change your mind as you work.
  • Your quilt will be unique.
  • You know that they will be cohesive.

CON’S:

  • You can spend a lot of time trying to decided on fabrics if you’ve got a large collection of them.
  • It can be more expensive because you buy way more fabric then you need to be able to have a depth and variety.
  • There can be added expenses if you purchase out of print collectable fabrics to work with.
  • If the designer is only starting out there may not be enough variety for you to work with. In this instance, I’d recommend looking at what other fabrics are on offer from that Design House. You’ll find that the Fabric House tends to have a similar design aesthetic within their stable and so the fabric the produce should easily mix and match. (Think Cotton + Steel!)

Limited Colour Palette

gnomeangel-limited-palette

1. Robert Kaufman Ratatouille 2. Robert Kaufman Dusk to Dawn 3. Robert Kaufman Blushing Bouquet 4. Robert Kaufman Fancy Floral 5. Robert Kaufman Lush Lagoon

I’m a big fan of this technique as another way to add interest to your work. In some quilts, like Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Sampler Quilt, it’s really easy to identify the minimum colours/fabric required. (The maximum amount of fabrics used in one Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Sampler Quilt block never exceeded 4, so you could do a limited palette of four colours.) With the Long Time Gone quilt picking a limited palette may be a little tricker as the scrappy nature of the quilt is what lends it it’s uniqueness, however you could set your own palette (you’ll need a minimum of 4 colours/fabrics to get a combination for the blocks that doesn’t put the same colour side-by-side). Try picking six colours/fabrics and working with these.

I’ve shown examples of solids grouped by palette, but you could easily do the same with prints. Think navy, white and pink for example. Using a site like Design Seeds can also help you find colour palette you’d like to work with. Once you’ve decided on the colours just mix and match prints and solids to find something you’re happy with.

Or if you’ve got an image you’d like to create a palette from why not check out Play Crafts Palette Builder. The beauty of this free tool is it matches colours to fabrics and thread so you know just what to order!

Everyone loves a great rainbow and this can be a fabulous way to give yourself boundaries if you want to go with a mix & match or scrappy quilt. However it can also make it a lot harder if your stash isn’t well balanced as you may find yourself purchasing more fabrics.

PRO’S:

  • It can help provide you focus when it comes to selecting fabrics.
  • You get the benefit of being able to mix and match but with more structure.
  • Your quilt will be unique.
  • It may add extra control to the riot of blocks in this quilt pattern.

CON’S:

  • It can be more expensive because you buy way more fabric then you need to be able to have a depth and variety.
  • It can be really daunting to choose which fabrics to use and where.
  • You can spend a lot of time standing in front of your fabric stash trying to decide what to use.

Monochromatic

collage ombre basics with text
Image source: V & Co

I had to go to wiki to find out the true meaning of monochromatic and here it is: “Monochromatic color schemes are derived from a single base hue and extended using its shades, tones and tints.” The most obvious way to do this would be to use all solids, however you could achieve a similar effect with careful selection of prints in the same colour family and use the value (color value is a term that refers to how light or dark a color is in relation to surrounding colors) of those prints to provide the progression of colour.

PRO’S:

  • If done properly this technique can pack a lot of punch.
  • It will be unique.
  • Solids are cheap to buy.

CON’S:

  • It may be hard to get the required depth of colour needed for this to truly work.
  • It can be more expensive because you buy way more fabric then you need to be able to have a depth and variety.

Special Mentions

Seasonal Fabric

Seasonal Fabrics can really make a quilt unique and special. This is where you use fabrics that are based on a season or holiday, like Christmas or Halloween. It’s a really fun way to make a great family heirloom. I also like to mix in some seasonal prints when I make a mix & match style quilt – just for some interest and humour.

Batiks

I love Batiks, but I have limited experience working with them. I’m always in awe of the quilts that are made each year in our Guild from Batiks. There’s something about the fabric that provides the quilter the ability to show light and shadow in there work in a way that no other fabric can. I’ve seen Batik quilts that practically glow and I love them every time. The problem I have is that I just can’t seem to get Batiks to work with my style. But that may change as more and more modern designers start adding Batiks to their fabric lines.

I’m including Batiks from Alison Glass’ batik lines into this quilt and it’s working really well. The dying and print process on these fabrics gives them a glow and they mix well with the quilting cotton prints.

Make Your Own Fabrics

I’m blessed to follow a few people on social media who are screen printers and seeing their work always makes me wish I had the same skill set. If you’re feeling adventurous making your own fabrics is a great way to ensure your work is unique. You can also use a service like Spoonflower to print your own designs or purchase designs made by the public. It’s a great way to add interest and uniqueness to your work.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day it’s really about making a quilt that you will love and cherish, so go with your gut. I promise you won’t be disappointed, and if you are you’ll just take the lessons you’ve learned and apply them to your next quilt, so either way it’s all gravy. I can’t wait to see your quilts and hear your thoughts about how you’ve picked your fabrics.

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