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Choosing Fabrics for Quilting

Many crafters are drawn to quilting because of the wide variety of beautiful fabrics available. Walk into any fabric store or quilting shop, and your eyes are nearly overwhelmed with all the choices in fiber and color. Bolts of fabrics in a rainbow of colors assail the senses. The contemporary quilter is lucky indeed to have the huge array of fabrics available to her. However, this embarrassment of riches can also lead to uncertainty in selecting the correct fabrics for a quilting project. While the craft of quilting was one borne of necessity and thus many different fabrics have been used throughout the years, far and away the most common fabric for quilting is cotton.

Some historical quilts may use brightly colored wool, usually appliquéd quilts, as wool is a bit heavy to be used for pieced quilts. Cotton is such a wonderful all-purpose fabric which washes well (though be sure to pre-wash all cottons to pre-shrink it) and maintains its color and hand. Generally speaking, 100 percent cotton is going to be the quilter's first choice. You may be tempted by the bargain blends on the sale rank at the fabric store, but think twice before you commit to these fabrics. For a little bit more money, it's worth it to invest in quality fabrics for your quilt.

After all, you're going to be spending quite a few hours of your precious time making the quilt, so why not invest in the best? Besides, relatively speaking, fabrics for quilting simply don't cost that much money. One of the most important elements of choosing fabrics for quilting is color. Often this is a topic which confuses beginning quilters, but there's no need to shy away from learning about color. Most people are far more adept at combining color than they imagine. First off, learn to trust your intuition (unless you know you are color blind!)-if you like the way colors look together, others probably will also. And remember that this is your quilting project and you should choose fabrics that you love the look of, and that you'll enjoy working on. Another trustworthy way to choose the color of fabrics is to study nature. You really can't go wrong emulating the way colors go together at the ocean, or in the forest. Go to your neighborhood park and study the various hues you'll see looking at a tree, or the lawn. For those who want a bit more guidance, you can do a rudimentary study of color theory.

Study the color wheel and familiarize yourself with the primary colors (red, yellow, blue), secondary colors (green, orange and violet), and intermediate colors which combine primary with secondary colors. Another aspect of color for fabrics is value-light, dark and medium. The values in your fabrics should be well balanced, and not too heavy in any one value. You might also want to consider the intensity of the colors in your fabrics, which is the brightness or dullness of a color. Familiarizing yourself with the wide variety of fabrics available for quilting is a pleasurable experience that will also enhance your enjoyment of the craft.


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