Can You See The Difference?

Can You See The Difference?

Patriotic Churn Dash Block
Patriotic Churn Dash Block

Disclaimer: As with any blog, this one is being written with my own prejudices and taste.  That being said, I like quilts with contrast and colors that pop… most of the time.  There are ‘low volume’ or monochromatic quilts but they really don’t appeal to me so I will concentrate on contrast and value.

When you are combining more than two colors you want to think about the value of your fabrics; light, medium and dark.  Usually the light and dark are easy enough to figure out but the medium value can be tricky.  You need something that contrasts enough with  the other fabrics and brings something to the design.  *Fabrics ‘read’ differently depending on their neighbors.*

My first photo shows a range of values; dark blue, medium raindrop fabric and some light blue birds.

The value changes though when you take out the dark blue.  Now the raindrop is the dark, the bluebirds are the medium and a sky colored fabric is the light.

My advice for a beginner is to look through a fabric shop and find a fabric you just fall in love with. This is your starting point.   Next,  ask for help picking out the accompanying fabrics.  If you are lucky, your fabric shop will have spot you can line up the bolts and then step away.  Squint your eyes or look through a camera lens so you get some distance and see if there is enough contrast between the colors.

My final photo shows a mini quilt I made where I did not follow my own advice. The yellow is definitely a contrast from the black but there are actually two different fabrics around the swirl.  I still love it but it didn’t reach it’s full potential because I wasn’t bold enough in my fabric choices.



Next week we will start our first project,  a  four patch block and a fun conversation print.



fabric selections
Collections of Yummy Fabric

Any time you start a new obsession (I mean hobby) you have to familiarize yourself with the new lingo. Every group comes up with their own shortcuts and quilting has a few funny sounding ones that might throw you if you aren’t in the know.

  1. WOF – often when you start a project the directions will instruct you to cut strips “WOF”.  This means Width of Fabric.  Most fabric comes off the bolt at 42″- 44″ so by cutting the WOF, you have one long strip.  You can substitute smaller increments if you have to but often, that’s more trouble.
  2. Fat Quarter – this one usually gets a chuckle but it is really a 1/2 yard of fabric cut in half again .  It turns out to be 18″ X 22″.  Often you will see a box or bin of fat quarters at a fabric store and there are numerous books that have patterns using only fat quarters.  It’s a very nice way to get a lot of variety of fabrics into a quilt.
  3. Charm Pack – one of my favorite things! When a fabric company introduces a line of fabric, they make one or two main designs and then other complimentary designs that go with them.  When you buy a charm pack you get 5″ or 6″ squares of all the fabrics in a new line.  Once again, there are several books that give directions in terms of how many charm packs you need.  You usually get around 42 squares and there are duplicates.
  4. Jelly Roll – this is the same principle as the Charm Pack but the fabric line is cut up into 2 1/2″ strips and wound together to resemble a jellyroll.  So many things can be done with these and they can be combined with Charm Packs also. You usually get around 40 strips in each roll and there are duplicates.
  5. Layer Cakes – just a bigger charm pack where each square is 10″.  There are usually 42 squares in each pack and there are duplicates.
  6. Conversation Prints – fun fabrics with a novelty theme.  They are very popular in kids’ quilts but not exclusively.  There is an amazing varieties of fabrics from garden gnomes to mathematical equations and they all fall in the Conversation Print category.

Quilting normally uses 100% cotton.  There are specialty quilts that use wools or silks but for this blog, we will stick to cotton.  It is generally 42″-44″ like I mentioned but there is a special category of backing fabric that is 106″ wide. We will talk about that more when we get to backing our quilt top.

Quality is very important with fabric.  If you buy cheap fabric from a discount store, you will get an inferior quilt and probably regret it. You want to have a quilt that will stand the test of time and not have the colors run or show defects in the printing.  You also want to have it feel good.  I don’t pre-wash my fabrics so I don’t like fabric that has so much sizing in it that it can stand up on it’s own.  You want it to feel good while you are handling it and when the project is done.

fabric samples
Fun Conversation Prints

An important consideration is who will receive the quilt and where will it be used.  Is it an heirloom or a picnic quilt? Baby quilt or going to a dorm? Maybe it’s a wallhanging and will never be used in the traditional sense.  All these things are important when you are picking out a pattern and deciding how much to spend on fabric.

Next time we will talk about contrast and color value…..

What’s in a Quilter’s Toolbox?

What’s in a Quilter’s Toolbox?


There are a few things you should have on hand before you start to create your first quilt.  I am going to assume that you have a sewing machine that can sew a straight stitch and that you own thread and pins. For quilting, there are some are some specific tools that you will need such as a rotary cutter, rulers and a cutting mat. Quality tools are the first step to achieving a quality project and accuracy goes a long way to helping your project go together easily.  And the easier it is, the more you are going to enjoy yourself!

Starting from the bottom of my photo, you need a good self-healing cutting mat.  Rotary cutters are really sharp! You do not want to cut on your countertop, dining room table or any other handy surface.  I prefer the green colored mats but I know there are other types out there.  Most mats have a dark side and a light side you can choose depending on the color of the fabric you are choosing.  ***Important Tip– these mats melt and bend so do not store in a car and don’t store on their sides!!! They melt out of shape and NEVER GO BACK!**

Rulers are also very important.  My photo shows an Omnigrid ruler which is my brand preference.  Once again, there are lots of other styles but I can see the numbers on this one so it is brand I buy.  I’m embarrassed (or proud) to say I own 8 different rulers in different sizes.  The one you will probably use the most is 6″ by 12″.  I also use the 6″ by 24″ a lot.  ***Important Tip – it’s best to store them hanging for easy access and to prevent warping.**

Rotary cutters are quilters’ best friends but they can be dangerous.  They come in multiple sizes as shown in my photo.  I prefer the larger one (60mm) for most of my cutting but they make them in many sizes down to 18mm for small precise cuts. ***Important Tip – get in the habit of closing the guard on the rotary cutter as soon as you have made the cut and keep your eyes on what you are doing.  They can cut skin as quickly as they cut fabric!! **

Some stores package all three of these items together which is great for the beginner.  Next week we get to the fun stuff – FABRIC!!!!