An Exercise in Color Matching

Passion for a creative endeavor is an interesting beast. For me personally, I have it bad. Real bad. I think about sewing projects, quilt designs, color combinations, and want-to-make-lists 24/7. In addition, I own and work every day in a business connected to my creative passion.  A delicate balance. Once I figure out the secret to that you’ll be the first to know!

So let’s keep it simple. Some afternoons, after the team has left for the day, I start pulling bolts and just enjoy the fun of matching and stacking and mulling over the possibilities. A quiet time of creative contemplation.

1001 Peeps has sparked this latest exercise in creative imagining. Caitlin LOVED Castles Peeps. It came and went before I even knew what happened. She LOVES 1001 Peeps just as much. Gotta love the mommy-gets-a-second-chance opportunity, how often does that come around ?! Mommy loves 1001 Peeps too so this is going to be fun. So… a new quilt is in the planning stages.

Combine that intro with a comment left on the last post about how I match fabrics for a quilt. I think color matching is pretty personal and we each have our own approach. Here’s my thoughts on the matter:

- I like to start with some base level of color inspiration. This can be an image from a magazine, a picture I’ve taken or a fabric design that I really like. In this example, I asked Caitlin which 1001 Peeps colorway she liked the best. The answer was ‘the orange ones’.

- I take that inspiration piece and begin to assemble colors and textures that play off of it.

- I look for a couple of things when I match to a fabric collection:

What is the general feel of the collection: is it graphic, modern, floral, cute, retro, boyish, frilly, sophisticated, serious?

What is the theme of the color palette: muted, bright, warm, cool?

What is the texture. This is a bit more visceral, does it feel soft or hard, what are the patterns? are they sharp or gentle, what shapes emerge? dots, lines, squares, diamonds, curlicues, organic.

- I then start pulling bolts. Sometimes I know in advance something I’m drawn too and I start with that and see where it takes me. In this case I knew I wanted some of the Laura Gunn Painter’s Canvas prints. There were some colors that I knew would work well and I thought the ‘feel’ of the texture would be a great fit with 1001 Peeps. A merging of artistic styles.

- Basic Grey’s Grunge fabrics were next on the list. They add an additional texture to the mix. I also like that each Grunge color is a unique combination of colors. I chose base colors that accented 1001 Peeps and then brought in a coordinating color. Dauphine is a mix of a Raisin base, dark chocolate strokes and a haze of gray/stone. Hot Cocoa is a mix of a Cocoa base with dark chocolate strokes and a smattering of bluish/red-orange overlays.

- I pulled in the Patrick Lose Brown print for color and shape. It mimics the lamp print in 1001 peeps and has a fabulous mix of dark chocolate brown/orange-ish cocoa brown colors.

- Finally, I look at the solids. I often begin by color matching directly to a print in the collection. In this case, I wanted to echo the orange, blue and gray/sand colors. A few points on this:

Blue is important here because it only appeared in one print but it adds a layer of color that really makes the ensemble pop. Step back and imagine if the blue wasn’t there. Everything would be too flat. The blue makes it SING. This is VERY IMPORTANT to me when I’m pulling in coordinating fabrics. I often look to the quiet color that is sitting in the background and make sure to play off of that and highlight it. In a quilt this is very important. It will move the eye around the design (same with texture).

The Orange lent itself to lots of possibilities. I chose to go deep and dramatic. Again, there’s a certain POP that a solid will add if it’s bold and saturated.

Neutrals keep things melodic. It’s the supporting actor. The workhorse that never gets mentioned. The genius that will keep everything else balanced and looking its best. I add this type of solid at the end. I lay the bolt over the whole pile, step back, and make sure it looks pleasing to my eye. If it clashes in any way I keep looking. It really needs to melt into the color palette otherwise it’ll be distracting.

From top to bottom:

Moda Grunge Basics Dauphine

Moda Grunge Basics Hot Cocoa

Michael Miller Laura Gunn Painter’s Canvas Candy

Michael Miller Laura Gunn Painter’s Canvas Parchment

Moda Bella Solids Marine

Free Spirit Solids Tango (LOVE that name!)

Lizzy House 1001 Peeps Illuminate Purple (not in the colorway I started with but I LOVED this design and this color!)

Patrick Lose Mixmasters Monochromatix Chocolate

Not in picture:  Moda Bella Solids Stone (shown in first photo of the post, this was the final neutral solid that I added to my pile)

Now I have to figure out what quilt pattern I’d like to use. I usually pick the fabrics before the pattern. What do you suggest!? This will be a twin sized quilt.


pink chalk fabrics ~*~ new arrivals ~*~ free patterns ~*~ on sale
pink chalk fabrics ~*~ new arrivals ~*~ free patterns ~*~ on sale
96 Responses to An Exercise in Color Matching
  1. Ladybug
    June 17, 2011 | 7:07 am

    Thank you for sharing the steps you went through when picking the fabrics for your quilt. I hope you will keep us posted on it’s progress and share future endeavors like this one.

  2. MarciaW
    June 17, 2011 | 2:00 pm

    This was a helpful article — now let’s see if I can put this into action too

  3. Lindsay
    June 17, 2011 | 6:23 pm

    Interesting to read this being new to quilting. I will undoubtedly return to it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Aneta
    June 17, 2011 | 7:38 pm

    Wow- I needed to hear that thought process since I have sewn all my life and just started quilting. I can see fabric as clothes but I am having a problem with the quilts. Thanks so sharing- aneta

  5. Ramona
    June 17, 2011 | 8:46 pm

    Really enjoyed hearing about how you pick fabrics. It helped me a bunch!

  6. sharonj
    June 18, 2011 | 7:56 am

    Thanks for sharing how you pick your colors! I love the combinations you came up with. The Peeps collection is one of my favs, can’t wait to see what you make out of this group! Thanks.

  7. Patty
    June 18, 2011 | 11:49 am

    What a helpful post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  8. Citricsugar
    June 18, 2011 | 4:02 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I have a bunch of 1001 Peeps headed my way and you’ve given me tons of ideas for coordinating it and other fabrics.

  9. Joyce Martin
    June 18, 2011 | 4:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thought processes for choosing colors. Please share the final product and or steps along the way. I tend to be to traditional with colors.

  10. Patty
    June 18, 2011 | 4:32 pm

    That was very interesting. Thank you for that information.

  11. Paige
    June 18, 2011 | 5:16 pm

    I’m intrigued by the combination of love & logic in your process.As a textile designer it’s inspiring to hear that you chose the fabrics first.
    One of those Jaybird patterns might be fun w/ this..

  12. Carol Y
    June 18, 2011 | 5:21 pm

    I love your fabric choices. I do something similar, but I usually pick out the pattern first. How about the pattern Thimble Blossoms Piece of Cake 2?

  13. Ursula
    June 18, 2011 | 6:11 pm

    thanks for sharing the how to’s on matching fabrics. For me that is the hardest part of starting a new project. I’m itching to get sewing but can’t decide what goes with what.

  14. Sarah Vee
    June 18, 2011 | 6:24 pm

    Thank you for sharing your process. I will add ‘texture’ to my thinking tools. I think you like the blue so much because it is orange’s complement so it really helps the orange do it’s job too:) I usually leave out picking that last neutral. I will have to give it a try. I am also surprised you pick out your fabrics before a pattern. What do you do if the pattern you pick doesn’t require so many colours? How do you decide what to leave out? Please let us know what pattern you pick!

  15. Babs
    June 18, 2011 | 7:06 pm

    Reading you newsletter is always inspiring and makes me want to go out and gather fabric. Thank you for your Lesson they are always helpful.

  16. Mary on Lake Pulaski
    June 18, 2011 | 7:46 pm

    Choosing the fabrics before the pattern would be difficult if you were buying the fabric; you may not need all of the pick or may need more!

  17. Erica
    June 18, 2011 | 7:57 pm

    Thanks for the colour insight and the great 1001 Peeps shots. I think your selections would look good in Emily Cier’s “Another Brick in the Wall”, especially if you fussy cut the towers and character prints for the widest “bricks” in the pattern.

  18. Catherine
    June 18, 2011 | 8:17 pm

    What a helpful post. I love the new newsletter format. Thanks!

  19. Tina
    June 19, 2011 | 3:19 am

    For me the most important was the one about how to make the quilt …..I wondered how folks manage to do this…..makes a big difference….thank you for sharing….!

    • Tina
      June 19, 2011 | 3:20 am

      My emphasis point didn’t make it in!….the most important point to me is how to make the quilt sing!

  20. Amy Sheib
    June 19, 2011 | 4:49 am

    Do you have any fq sets that include the prints that you added to 1001 peeps? They sound perfect to me, I can’t get 1001 Peeps locally, so I doubt that beyond one or two of the Konas that I’d be able to get any of the rest either.

  21. Colette
    June 19, 2011 | 5:26 am

    What a beautiful combination of fabrics! Thanks for sharing your process!

  22. Mindy
    June 19, 2011 | 7:26 am

    Excellent posting!

  23. Sharon
    June 19, 2011 | 8:03 am

    The article is very informative. I am going to try to be more organized like this. As to pattern, I would use something very traditional like OH Star and use the peeps for the center square to show it off. Hope I see the finished product.

  24. Becky
    June 19, 2011 | 1:11 pm

    Which ever pattern you choose the quilt will be gorgeous!

    Long ago I was told that everyone see color differently. I have found that to be so true. In the same light we all see variations on shades.

  25. Sarah M
    June 19, 2011 | 7:48 pm

    Thanks for this great post about your process. I really enjoy reading about your fabric auditions. Love your final picks – can’t wait to see which pattern you choose!

  26. JoAnne
    June 19, 2011 | 8:32 pm

    Thank you so much for the color lesson, I’d never thought about texture and “hard and gentle”. What a great help this will be to me, and others too! Thank you!!

  27. Atsuko
    June 20, 2011 | 12:45 am

    I’m bookmarking this entry. I’m finishing up my first quilt and although I love most of the fabrics I chose, it’s not as cohesive as I would have liked. It’s definitely helpful to hear some other perspectives on how to choose and match fabrics and colors.

  28. Lou
    June 20, 2011 | 7:37 am

    Thanks so much for the confidence building color class. It’s so great for me when I get to hear how a pro goes about their fabric choices.

  29. Beth T.
    June 21, 2011 | 12:29 am

    Love this post. The lesson about why you chose the blue is so valuable.

    I don’t have a specific pattern suggestion, but I’d send you on over to Kate Conklin–her patterns are such fun, and show off the fabrics so nicely.

  30. Deb
    June 21, 2011 | 5:39 am

    Thanks for sharing your process. I tend to stick with a single fabric collection simply because when I do my own picking I almost always end up thinking “eh, it’s ok”. I love your tips – I may try it for my next project – thanks!

  31. Debi Heller
    June 21, 2011 | 5:03 pm

    I really can’t wait to see this quilt made up. I love the colors you ended up choosing, and the process was so interesting. I’ve just been through an ordeal myself in choosing reds and greys…agghghgh!!! This quilt pattern, “In the Pink,” designed by Susan Mayer , Quilter’s World, February 2011, seems to be changing and evolving as I go along.

  32. Ann Marie
    June 21, 2011 | 6:17 pm

    Yeah, I’m not alone in picking the fabric first! I have some groupings that have been waiting for the right pattern to come along for years. This is the hard part, but because Lizzy House says this collection is her way of expressing Middle Eastern design, maybe you could look at some Middle Eastern tile patterns for the quilt. I found a great book full of them at my library. Many would translate into quilt patterns easily.

  33. Katy
    June 21, 2011 | 6:29 pm

    I’m slowly starting to learn how to do this so reading about someone’s technique is very helpful :)

  34. Sarah C.
    June 21, 2011 | 7:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I feel like I’ve sewn forever but I’m just getting into quilting and I felt silly ask a question about choosing/combing colors and prints in a blogging quilt-along I’m taking part in! It’s great to hear someone else’s thought process!

    • Sarah C.
      June 21, 2011 | 7:54 pm

      Oops did not mean to post twice! Didn’t think that first one went through! Oh well.

  35. Sarah C.
    June 21, 2011 | 7:50 pm

    I feel like I’ve been sewing forever but I’m beginning to explore quilting and I felt silly asking a question about color/pattern combination in a blog quilt-along I’m taking part in so I loved readin about your thought process! Thanks for sharing!!!

  36. carol mcclellan
    June 22, 2011 | 8:16 pm

    Thank you for walking us through your color choosing process. It makes so much sense the way you explain it. You make it an exciting journey.

  37. Rita
    June 29, 2011 | 7:45 am

    Thanks so much for sharing…I am pretty green (no pun intended) about color choosing and this helped!

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