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The Art of Quiltmaking, Part 2
Fabric -- Where Do I Buy It? & Color -- How to Do It Well
by Mary Asper, Green Mountain Designs
A Seasoned Quilter Shares Her Tips

In this article, Mary Asper of Green Mountain Designs shares her tips for successful quiltmaking. Although it is written especially for the beginning quiltmaker, even more experienced artisans may find valuable information. See Part I for more tips.

FABRIC -- Where do I buy it??

Mary’s Tip: Shop at your local quilt shop for quality, knowledge and help.

Great is the temptation to stock up on 50% discount calicoes at your local hobby/craft or department fabric store. But wait! What is your goal in quiltmaking? Are you undertaking this often arduous endeavor just to crank out "stuff," or to produce lovely, nurturing handiwork? If your goal is the latter you need to choose fabric carefully.

The fabric in large "department" fabric stores is not necessarily the same quality of goods that you will find in your local quilt shop, even if it is the same manufacturer and print. You can do your own test; compare the same fabrics from each source for color saturation, "hand" (which is the feel and drapeability of the fabric), finish and thread count. If they’re the same you’ve found a bargain! If the "department" fabric store fabric is of lesser quality, is it really worth the price?

Your local quilt shop owner and staff are knowledgeable and helpful – they can tell you things about fabric that you never dreamed were important! The conclusion is . . .  buy at your local quilt shop!

Another great place to buy fabric is at quilt shows; whether local ones, possibly sponsored by your local guild, or big regional conferences – generally many vendors carry a wide selection of delectable fabrics. You will probably see things you haven’t seen before!

Color: How to Do it Well

Mary’s Tip: Go with your gut. Use your instinct. Have confidence in your choices.

The world around you and your own inner instinct are the two best guides for color selection. Take note of the sky – the forests – water – the land – even all the little creatures that fly and scurry about. Notice their delicate shadings – and the sometimes shocking color combinations that manage to be so beautiful. These are clues to successful color combinations for your quilts. A few more tips are:

1. Learn how to see dark, medium and light by making a glowing color chart.

Cut swatches from many different fabrics and arrange them in three groups: Light to Light/Medium, Medium to Dark Medium and Dark to Darkest Dark. Use at least 10 different fabrics for each group.

Paste the swatches in order on a blank sheet of paper (double-face tape works well, or a glue stick) and xerox the arrangement. Copying removes the color from the fabric and leaves only lightness/darkness.

Now look again – are there any out of order? Any holes? If so, study the mistakes you made then rearrange the swatches to correct the mistakes. Repeat until you have a smooth flowing chart. This exercise will help you see value in different prints.

2. Remember this principle: Light brings forward – Dark recedes. Apply it to the visual effects you desire in your quilt.

3. Before tearing into a whole project, make or paste up a sample block with the fabrics you have chosen. Use two mirrors placed at a 90 degree angle, or a tool called to view a multiple repeat of your block. What is the effect produced where the blocks come together? Does it look like you wanted it to? Then go for it!

When choosing fabric consider using a "blender" fabric. Multi-colored prints, especially florals, and plaids work well as blenders. Simply select tone-on-tones, other prints or solids that match or coordinate with the blender. Often the fabric manufacturer has done the work for you by printing their color registration on the selvedge!

Study the excellent books about color.

Stretch yourself. Do the exercises in the books. Make yourself use colors that you don’t like. Do an "ugly" fabric exchange with a friend and use the result in a quilt. The more different things you try, the more you will begin to see what works and what doesn’t.

Good color work is an exercise in seeing and feeling. Most quilters who find color a challenge lack confidence. You have the innate ability to make choices that are pleasing to you. You have the ability to learn how to produce the effects you desire in a quilt. All you need to do is exercise what you already have! Go for it – have fun with color!!

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