Thursday, January 5, 2012

How to Buy Fabrics That Coordinate with Each Other

Maybe you are new to sewing and quilting, or it's one of your New Year's goals to learn.  I'd like to show you a little trick I learned a long time ago that will help you when you go to buy fabrics.
Let me start by saying that this discussion is all about cotton fabrics, not home decorating or other fabrics you'd use for garments.

2012 is the year you've decided to learn to sew or make a quilt.  You've pulled out your sewing machine, learned how to thread it, and maybe even run a few practice seams to get the hang of it.  Good for you!  It takes courage to learn something new, and persistence to not give up the first time you try.  I'm so proud of you!

Now you've picked out your first project (maybe it will be our Monthly Craftivism Challenge that will be posted on Saturday?), and you're ready to head for the fabric store.  When you get there, though, you're not sure if Fabric A really goes with Fabric B.  You're feeling a little fuzzy about what you learned in grade school art about the color wheel because the coffee hasn't quite kicked in.  Artificial light doesn't help, and you know that Store Management will frown upon you taking a bolt of fabric into the parking lot for better light.  So what's a budding sewist/quilter to do?


Well, not really.  The cotton fabrics of today are screen printed, so if you look on the white selvedge edge of the fabric (the bound sides of the fabric), you will see lots of little circles or squares.  These are the different color overlays that the printer had to use to make the pattern on your fabric.  Sometimes there is only one, sometimes there are many.  Here are some examples from my stash:

As you can see, these dots or squares can work like paint chips.  In fact, it's really easy to use them to match up your fabrics of choice.  For example, the really long white strip you see that has 8 colored dots on it belongs to a fabric that has the green for its background and flowers that are many of the colors.  Some of the flowers have some of the other colors as accents.  Just to the left of it (towards the top of the strip) are two different orange fabrics that would coordinate - see how the orange dots match dots #2 and #3?

Another great way to find coordinating fabrics is to stick within one collection.  If you look for fabric online, most quilting fabrics are displayed by collection and designer.  These creative folks do all the hard work of coordinating for you, and it's pretty rare that two fabrics from within one collection don't go together.  If you look at the strips above, you'll see three that are red, white and blue.  You'll also see that two of them say "Fireworks".  These three fabrics are from the same collection, and guess what, they all coordinate.  I'll be using them for part of our Craftivism Challenge, coming up on Saturday.

The dot system will help you if you have fabrics from two DIFFERENT collections or stores.  Remember our strip with all those colors on it?  It's from Connecting Threads - my favorite online fabric source.  And see the strip right next to it with one orange dot?  That's from JoAnne Fabrics.  So are the single green dot pieces just to the right of it.  Both of those fabrics would work, even thought they are not the same collection or even company.  This is also especially helpful if you are trying to use up a piece of fabric from your stash.

The dot system will also help you if you want to make a single tone piece (whether it's a quilt, a pillow or a garment), by showing you the shades of any given color.  This way your oranges are all in the same family, or your greens, or whatever color you choose.  If you've recently seen the resurgence of the redwork pieces in quilt magazines and elsewhere, this is the best way to ensure that all your reds will work together.

So would you like to see it in action?

This is the green floral I was telling you about.  I love all the vibrant colors - it will be perfect for our Craftivism Challenge.  It's from Connecting Threads.  So are the yellow and hot pink dots.  The lighter green is from JoAnne Fabrics.  It's the one that has the single green dot on the strip right next to the strip that shows all the colors for the green floral.  If I were making a quilt, I could feel confident that these fabrics would all play well together.  I'm not quilting with them, but you'll see how they suit my purpose this weekend.

Hope this is helpful for you - and stay tuned for how we are going to put this new knowledge to good use!

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