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  • Nicola

So much fabric, so little time...

So how on earth do you choose just the right fabric for a project when there are so many - endless - possibilities? If you read my last post you'll know that it was an internet search for fabric that lead me to start quilting in the first place. I wanted something that combined pale duck-egg blues & greens for a new Garden Room we were building and, on that occasion, the answer was to make it myself. And that's often how I start: with a specific room or piece of fabric in mind.

Here are my three favourite methods of choosing fabric for a quilt:-

1. Starting With a Fabric Collection...

A Jelly Roll, like every pre-cut, contains up to 42 different fabrics - there may be the odd repeat - all designed to go together. Pre-cuts are a really good place to start if you're nervous about combining fabric. Before I started sewing I did a bit of editing, which is is something I often do, removing the pale pink fabrics in the collection as they looked 'wrong' in the room.

Sometimes removing a colour group from a pre-cut can leave you a bit short of fabric for a specific pattern, but you can always add a fat quarter of a toning fabric to make up numbers.

2. Starting With Existing Soft Furnishings...

The quilt in my son Joe's room was made to match a quilt he already had, made by the Danish brand Greengate. I am a huge fan of Greengate. They often re-colour old prints and - in my humble opinion - make the very best plaid fabrics, so If you're looking for colour inspiration, their beautiful catalogues are a treasure trove.

The quilt has a very restricted colour palette of just four colours: red, pale blue, cafe-au-lait & off-white. A small colour palette is something I find myself using again and again. Quite possibly because in my other life - as a garden designer - I often restrict the number of plant species and/or colours I use in a flower-bed, as a cohesive colour scheme seems to expand the space. I can be massively fussy about shades of green too.

3. Starting With a Single Fabric...

When I was planning my 'Mr McGregor's Garden' quilt my starting point was a Fat Quarter of Cath Kidston's 'Mews Ditsy' fabric, which I bought as part of a bundle from their Chelsea branch when I was at the Flower Show (I'm sorry to say that they don't seem to do those little bundles any more).

As you can see from the photo, top right, there were lots of 'possibles' in my first fabric pull and these were slowly whittled down to the eight I needed for the quilt. As I decided not to use any orange prints, I compensated by using a more yellowy shade of green, which balanced out the the cool browns & taupes and the bright red & periwinkle blue.

I'd always start with a fabric - because I love the stuff - but you could equally use your favourite painting/rug/plate as your inspiration.

{gratuitous photo of the cupboard of loveliness...}

Those are my favourite methods but, of course, there are other options. Jeni Baker has written a fantastic series of posts about using the colour wheel to choose fabric on her wonderful blog 'In Color Order'.

Or you can use what I like to think of as the 'meadow' approach, which you often see in scrappy, vintage quilts - and they're always the most beautiful - and as explained by one of my quilting heroines Jen Kingwell (who, in turn, borrowed it from her's, Freddie Moran):-

"Ten fabrics won't work, but 110 will..."

Jen often sets off her gloriously scrappy quilts with a soft grey background, letting each fabric shine, whether it's bright , light or dark. Which is the very reason I chose a grey background for my website.

I'm going to have to try that in a quilt now...

Nicola xx


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