Friday, August 7, 2015

choosing Fabrics

Half the fun of crafty blogs is getting inside the head of another creative, kindred spirit.  Come along on my latest fabric-choosing journey and watch how my next quilt's fabric stack emerged and evolved, step-by-step.

Eleni, 5 months

First, inspiration.  I adore this vintage-inspired floral print by Kimberly Knight for Cotton & Steel.  It has a sweet scale and personality, but (as usual) it's really the colors that get me.  I'm most drawn to the background.  That color is not-quite.... anything.  Or not quite anything familiar.  I'll say it's sort of a pink latte which reads warm, luxurious, sophisticated.  I want this fabric to stand out in my quilt, and I'll draw my color scheme from its palette.

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

I begin by pulling dusty blues in a range of value, light through dark.  The two on the left are immediate wins.  Top right, the dark blue with purple circles has two colors from my inspiration fabric, but it's too geometrically bold.  Nearby, the white/blue zigzag seems to modern.  I like the navy print (middle right) for a darker value in the quilt, to create movement.  The bottom print has flowers that look too much like my inspiration print.  Sometimes matchy-matchy reads too flat.

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

Next I pull a variety of neutrals, hoping to harmonize with the pink latte background.  Nothing works!  Too brown, too gray, too complex.  I decide I won't include yellow or orange in this quilt.

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

Choosing fabrics is always a learning process.  That bum batch of neutrals helped me choose better ones - the three at far right.  I like how the strawberry print has the exact warm purple and coral red as my inspiration print.  The "kites" fabric is a rare shade of cobblestone that harmonizes well with the pink latte.  The other is an extremely pale pink.

Building on that, I try three other light pink fabrics.  I rule out the feathers (too distracting) and the butterflies (has some aqua butterflies that won't go).

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

Hmmmm... maybe more pink?  The print far left seems to match best, but it doesn't add anything interesting to my collection.  "Same" is not always best!  Moving on.

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

While putting the failed pinks back, I landed on a favorite coral/purple print from Anna Maria's Dowry collection (far right).  Yes!  These flowers feel right with my inspiration print, but are on a much larger scale, adding interest.  Now I like where this is going!

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

How about some purple?  Most any of these could work.  Funny how the purple/coral print at far right matches my inspiration exactly, but I know instantly I won't include it.  The two prints have a different personality, in my opinion, with the lower Chicopee print reading more flat and modern.  My inspiration print seems more sophisticated than that.

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

Here is my collection so far.  I've gathered a range of dusty blues, purples, one pale pink, one interesting red and some neutrals.  I can see now that the deer fabric has a slightly blue background.  It's meant to be.

What's missing?

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

Maybe some more dark value fabrics?  After all, the inspiration floral has almost-black leaves.  But I can't tell at this point if any of these dark prints will enhance my work, so I set them aside.

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

I consider more reds. The black/red geometric would clearly take over.  It's out.  I'm not sure about the rest...

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

So I figure it's time to arrange my fabric more like I will cut and piece it in the quilt.  Hmmm.. maybe that big numbers print could be an interesting contrast?  It would be that quirky print in the piece, with loads of personality.

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

Now I lay out all my fabrics and take a step back.  I slip the dark value fabrics in and out of the picture to decide if they enhance the work.  Here I'm trying the black text print in the right column of fabrics.

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

Here I've swapped out the black text for a white/blue grid.

I like the effect of the lighter print best.  I realize that the dark values have a tendency to distract from my inspiration print.  Ok, but I still don't feel sure about this collection.  At this point I keep pulling out fabrics from my stash, but nothing improves the mix.  I wonder... is it too busy?

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

In a flash of insight I decide to pull all the fabrics I like best towards the top.  At first I'm thinking that these are the fabrics I'll cut more of, with the lower fabrics being used in lesser quantity.  But once I see my favorites arranged at top, I realize that less is more.  I want to create a warm, luxurious look (like my inspiration print), not a funky, scrappy look.  Using only a few prints with personality will help my inspiration print have visual room to shine.

Choosing fabrics {a journey}

So, there you have it - my finished collection.  Do you like how it turned out?  I bet you would have made some different decisions, and that's quite all right.  Our different ways of seeing color and design are what keeps this all so interesting.  And I hope this has been interesting!

Alright, I best get to cutting!  Thanks for stopping by.


60 comments:

  1. I’ve never shared my steps in auditioning fabrics for a quilt, but it’s so great to see and I love how your mind and taste works! Your starter print isn’t an easy one, as it has a certain feel that makes bolder prints harder to combine, but I think you’ve nailed it with the last collection! Real Rachel colours too!

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  2. P.S. Curious what pattern you have in mind!!!

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    1. You'll see, you'll see! Will be sharing more on Monday, I hope =)

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  3. Love your choices, but mine would have indeed been different.

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  4. I loved following your thought process through the picking. I agreed with you on a lot of your choices. It's amazing to me how different people can take the same piece of focus fabric and pull completely different fabric collections together.. Can't wait to see what you make!

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    1. Me too! Thanks so much for sharing your selection process, Rachel!

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  5. I love seeing your decision making process! The fabrics you chose make a really interesting collection, I'm looking forward to seeing more!

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  6. Very interesting to see your fabric choosing process! I love how unique we can all make our quilts.:)

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  7. This was so interesting to read. I have always felt like I do not at all have a knack for pairing fabrics, and I think hat is still true, but reading about your process makes me realize that I don't spend enough time trying to pair fabrics - I just give up. You've inspired me to sort through my fabrics as a mental exercise ... or maybe I'll actually make a quilt.

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    1. That's great! I was hoping that seeing this process and all the "mistakes" I make along the way would inspire someone to keep trying. I'm so glad to hear it did! And, after making my first blocks today, I can now see that I need to add some solids. So it continues to be a work in progress, fabric-choosing-wise.

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  8. Great post on the process of choosing fabrics. My thinking and choices were remarkably similar.

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  9. It's so great to see your process, thank you so much for sharing. It also made me think - I usually choose the fabric on the basis of what feels right, but it would be good to learn to choose more consciously. So next time I'll try to ask myself why a particular print feels right or wrong - thank you for the inspiration.

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    1. Very welcome! I tend to be "heady" about pretty much everything. But I like it ;)

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  10. Thanks so much for sharing your thought process in choosing fabrics for a quilt. I found it very interesting! It also gave me a bit of insight as to what it is that initially attracts me to a particular fabric. A very helpful post - thank you!

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  11. Love seeing how you audition fabrics....This seems to support the notion that you can never have too many fabrics. I appreciate that you generously share your ideas....and somehow find the time to post, photograph and write. You amaze me. I am grateful to you for the inspiration on so many levels....

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  12. This was very, very interesting. I think you were right in containing the number of fabrics--you could have ended up all scrappy. I'm glad you cut the numbers fabric. But I was sad to see AMH sealing wax print dropped. And I wondered about perhaps adding a taupe solid.
    I look forward to Monday and seeing what you have in mind.
    My, you are so fast!

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    1. The sealing wax print was my most "on the edge" cut. Funny! But I think it will pull away from the inspiration print too much. I have since decided to add some solids, including a taupe. So there you go! =)

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    2. I love when you do posts like this. You have such a talent for choosing fabrics and I like to see if my choices match yours along the way, and they did! I was just going to suggest that I would add in some solids too. I love hints of solid color in your work. Maybe a navy or royal blue to add that "dark value" you thought about.

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  14. I always love seeing your process. Looking forward to more on Monday :)

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  15. my husband totally hates when I pull out my stash bin to throw around fabrics for combinations... But that is exactly WHY. You have to see them to realize how it works.
    Almost as suspenseful read as a Thriller.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  16. Wow, now I know how to go about choosing fabric! I have only used collections because I was afraid of trying to get the "right" combination. Thanks so much! :)

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  17. My but this was a fun and interesting, and yes, suspenseful, post!! I love seeing so many of your stash fabrics and how you work them in and out :) I love working with whole collections and don't even consider it a cop out...my stash is not extensive and sometimes trying to make something out of it just gives me a headache, lol! With a collection (charm packs, mostly!) I can just jump right in!! The times I have come up with a good and happy stack stand out as really good times, tho, I must say!! Thanks so much for taking the time to "document" your process...this will make a lovely top!

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  18. I always like getting inside your head about fabric choices! It helps me think about aspects I might not have considered when I make my own pulls. Nice work! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You're right about learning as much from what doesn't work. Looking forward seeing to what this becomes. :)

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  19. This process was very entertaining, interesting and helpful. Praying for your little sweetheart. I'm impressed that you can make time to do all the creating that you do and share. Blessings, Beth

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  20. So interesting! I loved seeing the pictures on Flickr and wondered what the thought process was, so it was fun to come here and find it all written out!

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  21. I love that you shared your thought process. I was playing along with you, and couldn't wait to see what the next photo would bring. The only one that didn't work for me was the Anna Maria one from the Dowry Collection. It distracted me from that beautiful and sophisticated focus fabric. Maybe it was too close to the focus fabric. Not sure. The focus fabric is something I would choose too, and I think your idea of adding a solid or two is a good one. Can't wait to see the pattern. Have a great weekend.

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  22. Um, hey missie, what about this huge mountain of fabric you just piled up over there??
    My sewing room looks like an explosion took place.

    I adore that flowery fabric too. I love those kind of prints and have a few secured away for a special project.
    Eleni is soooo cute and very very pretty. Just like a little doll♥️

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    1. Oh, and I am interested to see what you chose. I know what I like.....

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  23. Yes, that's exactly how I go about things ... I usually start with an inspiration fabric, then build on it, mixing and matching depending on the pattern I'm making. Do you find that your fabric pull sometimes doesn't fit the pattern you're making so you have to re-jig things?

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    1. No, I can't say that's happened, but I do often continue to rethink fabrics once I start cutting and sewing.

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  24. What a great post. Oddly enough I had just reviewed a few of your bee blocks that you organized in an attempt to learn how you organize your quilts - since they are always amazing. I hope you do more posts like this one - they are so helpful.

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  25. Very interesting post. Your starter fabric is one of those fabrics that I classify as "buy this color now, and anything you can find that is like it, because it will be a long time before that shade comes around again." I have an unusual red fabric that is not quite tomato colored that I bought a few years ago that I haven't known how I could use. I am inspired to take another look through my stash!

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    1. I have since discovered that "pink latte" shade is like a marriage of Kona Parchment and Kona Pale Flesh. I'm adding solids to the mix in order to try to tease out more of that shade.

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  26. Thanks for sharing your color selection thought process - it was very enlightening. I'm anxious to try it out. It'd be great if other bloggers would share also!

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  27. It's always interesting to see how a fabric lives with other differents fabrics. Thank you fot all this photos! Have a nice week-end.

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  28. Thank you for sharing your process! Seeing is learning!

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    1. Exactly! That's why I had to photograph all the "wrong" fabrics too =)

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  29. Thanks for sharing your fabric picking process with us! I love to know how others choose their fabrics and what they think while doing it. Personally I think some browns or perhaps even greens would look good, too, but it's hard to tell just from the pictures. And I would include the strawberry fabric:-)

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  30. Great post. I think actually taking pictures of your picks is a great move. I am going to try that. Take a picture of different fabric choices, stepping back and coming back to the pictures. I think it makes your eyes see them in a different way. I also love your Eleni on your fabric. She is beautiful and has a great mommy! I love your blog. Keep up the good work in all you do.

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  31. Such a wonderful post today! Fabric selection is my most difficult hurdle, and I appreciate how you walked us through your thought process, step by step. It also makes me realize that there's nothing quick and easy about this part of the journey, either! Sometimes I have to leave my choices laying out for a day or two and just keep looking at them every time I pass them by. Thanks! XO

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  32. thanks for sharing your selection process. I love to mix/match in unusual ways. Wonderful that we all think in different paths....life is more interesting. Looking forward to seeing the quilt come together.

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  33. Thanks for sharing this process. Usually the pattern I've chosen plays a major role in what fabrics I choose too as I decide who makes good neighbors, or not. If you know what I mean? Love your choices & can't wait to see the pattern..

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  34. Thanks for sharing this process. Usually the pattern I've chosen plays a major role in what fabrics I choose too as I decide who makes good neighbors, or not. If you know what I mean? Love your choices & can't wait to see the pattern..

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  35. Question - Do you generally choose fabrics and then the pattern? Or, do you have a pattern in mind and then choose the fabrics?

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    1. It can go either way! This time I knew I wanted to make a particular style quilt and that I wanted to start with an inspiration print. Other times I start with a fabric I love and try to think of a pattern for it. I guess usually it's the pattern/quilt style that comes first though.

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  36. Looking forward to seeing what design you go with for these prints....

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  37. So interesting Rachel! My minor in college was computer programming and I clearly remember my professor telling us how it is essential for programmers to figure out how they think - what process their own brain goes through to end up with answers to any/all question. I've always loved doing this. Now, you've shown us how you do this with fabric. Very fun in my book :o)

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    1. Reflection is a great way to learn and grow! And for me, writing about my process is a great way to solidify my thinking.

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  38. Rachel, this was a fascinating glimpse -- thanks so much for doing this. I struggle with fabric selection sometimes and this will be helpful! And, beautiful photo of sweet Eleni. o:)

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  39. I love your choices! The AMH and kite prints in particular. I work in a very similar way and playing around is so fun!

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  40. I love that you took us through your process. I was so proud of myself when I came to the same conclusions as you along the way :)

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  41. Thanks so much for the insight. I always love what you've done but always feel intimidated by the thought of mixing a lot of different fabrics together. It is very helpful to see your thought process.

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  42. Thank you!!! I've always wondered how quilters I admire come up with their fabrics. What an interesting and educational post!

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  43. this was a very helpful post. Making fabric choices is hard for me and I often stall out or run away and then stand around without a project to work on because I can't decide... I do however live by the words of Heather Bailey when she shared in a blog post when choosing a palette for her fabric lines that she always adds an "ugly"colour to allow the other colours to stand out and shine...I will now consider your post every time I am having trouble. thank you for sharing.

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  44. Thank you for this post! It's my very favorite kind -- explaining the thought process behind the choices you make! I am grappling with mixing sweet and modern type prints and your comments were helpful. sarah@forrussia.org

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  45. Very interesting. I love the way you write, it feels like you invited me into your sewing room and we're chatting over a cup of tea. Thank you for sharing.

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  46. Hello Rachel! Wow I didn't think I'd be as drawn in and absorbed by this, but you took me with you the whole way just as though I were standing next to you. I feel a quilt coming on now! Time to go and look through my (embarrassingly large) stash! x

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  47. Well, Rachel, when I finished reading your great new Herringbone Block Tutorial I thought, "Now if you could only come over and go through my stash with me to help me pick out fabrics." Then I saw this post and had an almost-dream-come-true. I'll refer back to your post as I make choices. Thank you!

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