Color and Contrast

When I'm thinking about color in a quilt, I always sort through my fabrics and start making long lines of “color families” stretched out on the floor. In my head I know exactly what I want the quilt to look like and I get all excited and grab up one of the lines of fabric and start cutting blocks and quilting them in a frenzy and arranging them on my design wall. I'm usually pretty happy at this point.


Then wham. Moving to my next “color family” to add additional blocks, I realize, I have no contrast. None. The colors are different– I had planned to move into a more turquoise color way. But when I stand back three feet, everything reads the same. Yet again, I have fallen into my favorite pit– No Contrast. We quilters know, Color gets the glory, but Contrast does the work. And my composition will not work without contrast.
So to get out of this familiar trap, I Go Extreme. I find the very lightest fabrics I have, arranged on the top, and the darkest, planned for the bottom, regardless of color.
I have bins of green fabric. You'd think there would be lots of very light and very dark. Hah! I am so happy to select fabrics that live in the lovely middle ground of value. Someday I am going to take myself on a focused buying trip. I won't allow myself to buy anything but Very Light or Very Dark. Yeah…I never do well with self-imposed buying constraints.
At this point, the quilt starts to come together on the wall. I'm considering colors and design that have no part of the vision that was in my head. A wonderful quilter, I think it was Judi Warren Blaydon, said “Make visual decisions, visually. ” Such good advice. Along with, remember to buy light and dark fabric, not just middles.



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  1. amen! Go with your heart & eyes. Contrast is so necessary but Mother is also the queen of subtle contrast. You need all the lights darks AND middle shades. Silly IPad won’t let me go back to type correctly Mother Nature.

  2. What a great post! I do like Judi’s statement on visual decisions. I like where you are at this point with this quilt too. Rich and striking!
    It is hard to stay away from the favorites. I find it hard to buy the light tones. Sometimes they don’t seem like worth the money. Besides, in the stores there are more bolts of loud fabrics than those quiet ones. , Visually they don’t have much of the entertainment value. Then I come home and realize, I need some light fabrics!

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