The Art of Choosing: Building a Color Scheme Around a Single Fabric

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Art of Choosing is a series discussing fabric, color, and the fabric selection process. The purpose of this series is to arm you with the tools and knowledge to build your own color schemes for your sewing and quilting projects. You'll dive deep into your stash, organize it, and hopefully look at your fabrics in a new way.

Building a Color Scheme Around a Single Fabric
Today we're going to discuss building a color scheme around a single fabric. This is a great time to pull out those focus and multi-colored fabrics. They're the perfect starting point for a great color scheme!

For this exercise I've chosen Eye Drops in Dusk from Parisville by Tula Pink. It has a lot of different colors for us to work with.

Just like when we supplement a fabric collection, to get started, pull the main colors out of the fabric. There are a lot of shades of purple, green and blue in this fabric.

Don't forget those colors dots on the selvedge of your fabric. They're a great reference for identifying the different colors in a fabric print.

As you're pulling fabrics, keep a few things in mind:
1. While pulling individual colors, be sure to grab a few Tone on Tone and Color + White prints.

2. When choosing prints with large and small accents, be thoughtful about the colors of those accents. Those accents shouldn't clash with the other colors in the scheme/ In this case, I'm working with a warm color palette, so I'm avoiding cool colors like blue and green.

3. Think about using a good mix of geometric and floral prints.

4. Consider adding in solids. Finding solids that match the colors in the collection you're working with can make it easier to pull supporting prints. 

These two shades of plum were the two main colors in the fabric.

These two are more of a blue-purple.

I chose a range of shades that were in the original fabric.

I added more blue than the swatches to add a little more depth.

I couldn't help but add some blue/green fabrics.

Here are a few prints that I passed over while putting together my stack:
1. Park Slope by Erin McMorris - Not quite the right shade of green.
2. Park Slope by Erin McMorris - Pink accents don't match well.
3. Park Slope by Erin McMorris - Orange accents don't match well.
4. Farmer's Market by Sandi Henderson - Darker blue isn't quite right.
5. Modern Meadow by Joel Dewberry - Navy was a little too stark with the other prints, it stood out.
6. Weekends by Erin McMorris - Coral/red accents don't quite work.
7. Lizzy Dish by Lizzy House - Coral/red accents don't quite work.
8. Meadow Sweet 2 by Sandi Henderson - This shade is too red, plum in the Parisville print is more of a blue purple.
9. Garden Party by Anna Maria Horner - Plum is perfect but the pink accents don't work.
10. Full Moon Forest by Tula Pink - This shade has a little too much blue in it.

Finished Stack
Here is the finished fabric stack, with our starting fabric on top. Some coordinating solids would be a nice addition as well.

The next post in this series is on Building a Color Scheme Around a Photo.


  1. I always spend way more time than I should matching fabric but they are just sooooo beautiful to look at, no? :D

  2. So pretty. One thing I like to do when building a colour scheme around a single fabric is to use the colour dots on the selvedge. It works especially well to find matching solids -- I just hold the dots up to my Kona colour card until I find the closest match.

  3. Perfect! You make it look so easy! I can't wait to go this route on my current quilt. I'm going to scrap the fabrics I have already chosen and give it a go again!

  4. I love this read. GREAT stack too!
    i always pull and put back and pull again when trying to coordinate.

    the hardest part i am having when trying to coordinate is matching my designer fabric to joanns fabrics. i cant afford all designer fabric so i tend to mix up my stash but when coordinating the 2 together it sometimes is tedious

  5. this is probably the most funnest thing to do, am I right? I did this last night with the Big E Michael Miller fabrics. It's so free and artful. I love your finished stack!

  6. great great post jeni! what an awesome group of tips, thank you. :)

  7. Jeni -- This is my favorite of your 'stash series'! I often don't know where to begin when trying to pull fabric, and I LOVE the idea of building around one favorite fabric. Especially helpful was seeing fabric that you "rejected" for the completed stack and why. What a helpful post!

  8. Jeni, thanks for your Art of Choosing series. I am loving it! I really appreciate the time you've taken to share your expertise with us.

  9. This is the most fantastic series....I have learned so much! I am probably the most color challenged person there is. Thanks so much for sharing these tips with us. I feel more confident now, to go look over my stash and pull some things together. I even think my scrappy quilts will be more pleasing now!
    Jacque in SC

  10. I love this post Jeni! Such a fun way to plan a quilt!

  11. Another great post! I am totally loving this series. Thanks for all your hard work put into 'edumacating' us. ;D

  12. I have so loved your series and spent this week organizing my stash. I didn't get any sewing done! but really enjoyed folding all my fabric. It feels so good to have everything so neat and organized. Thank you so much!! I blogged about it here:

  13. I just found this series. Awesome. I'm going back to read lots and lots of your archives!

  14. You are amazing! I'm loving this series!!

  15. I'm a newbie(haven't finished my quilt yet)& I don't have a stash yet, & money is a lil tight right now. I understand finding one fabric, then building off that, But how do you know how much to buy of each fabric? you bought a total of 21 fabrics, is there a yardage to go by??? TIA for any, & all help :)

    1. I don't think there is any right amount to buy, and it varies a lot from person to person! I typically buy fat quarters or 1/2 yards. If it's something I really like I'll buy a yard!


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