Quilt Class: Selecting Fabric

I love fabric. I would love, as I have said, a loft as a studio so I could work on and see multiple projects at once. Mostly, I want to be able to store more fabric in a more organized manner. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with the space I have and feel very fortunate. If someone is fulfilling dreams, that would be mine.

It is pretty easy for me to make a quilt from fabric I have on hand. I don’t often go to a shop and select certain fabrics with a special project in mind. I do sometimes, but most of the time, I go to my fabric closet with an idea in my head and start pulling out fabrics.

A good way to start is to have an idea in your head:

  • Brights with a black on white background – this is my go to fabric option since I love brights and black on white prints make interesting backgrounds.
  • Monochromatic – choose all one color in different prints. You can also use your color wheel to get a selection of hues that are near each other. This isn’t a good choice if you have complex piecing and need contrast for it to be seen. This choice creates a subtle palette
  • Focus fabric – choose a bold print and then select colors in it in tone on tones and solids to make up your palette. This can be a little boring for me as I like a lot of different fabrics, but it is a good way to start selecting fabrics and gives guidance on color.
  • Scrappy – one of my fabrics. Use a lot of fabrics with a cohesive background and you will have a sensational quilt. My Scrapitude quilt uses this technique and is one of my most successful quilts.
  • Pre-cuts – using pre-cuts is a quick way to select fabrics. When I use a line I remove 20% of the fabrics (to use for another project) and replace them with others, especially if I need more darks or lights. This makes my quilt different from others using the same fabric line and allows me to create contrast, if I need it.
  • Civil War/Reproductions – will give you a specific look
  • 1930s – will give you a specific look that can be more cheerful than other reproduction fabrics
  • There are other methods of choosing fabrics. What works for you is the right way.

Selecting fabric is a very personal choice. I don’t always have all of my selections picked out from the start. Often, I have most, but will add in some new fabrics later to add something that is missing to the quilt.

In the example below, I had a group of fabrics for a class I was teaching. I needed to choose some background-esque fabric to go with the Four Patches for my Double Four patch block. These are 12″ blocks, which are not my favorite. I like smaller blocks, 10″ at the most, but large blocks are good for teaching.  Since the pieces are large, they are easier to handle. As you might have guessed, I don’t normally work in this size, so I found the fabric selection challenging.

To start, I got out my color wheel. I like the Studio Color Wheel from C&T and Joen Wolfrom.

Then, I fell back on Lorraine Torrence‘s advice: Make Visual Decisions Visually. That is the best advice I have EVER gotten in quiltmaking. Go take a class from Lorraine and buy her books. She is awesome.

What this saying means in this context is that you need to get out your fabric and look at it with the other choices.

Plain Jane
Plain Jane

I had some four patches made, so I laid them on fabrics I was considering. I liked the bold graphic-ness of this print, but thought the flowers were too large.


I thought for sure this would work, but the cherries felt too scattered. It made the block seem too chaotic. They need to be hemmed in a little.


Something in the turquoise/ aqua color was off with this print. The aqua in the Bliss print is more green while the small flowered print in my four patch is more on the turquoise side. I thought the difference would be distracting.

Plain Jane (smaller flowers)
Plain Jane (smaller flowers)

This fabric is the same print as the first one, but the flowers are smaller. I like the way you can see more of the flowers. Success!


I chose the last print and above is the finished block. I like the look.

As an added note, I also prewash my fabrics before I use them in hot water and Retayne. Recently the Modern Quilt Studio posted an example of why it is a good idea to prewash

Author: Jaye

Quiltmaker who enjoys writing and frozen chocolate covered bananas.