Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring Sampler - Choosing Fabric!

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Several people have contacted me, expressing frustration in picking fabric for their Spring Sampler, so I thought today would be a good time to chat about how I chose my prints.  I'd love to hear how you picked your fabric if you've already chosen it ... or if you're stuck, if this chat was any help at all and where you could use more help!

While some people were born with this beautiful, innate ability to pull together random prints into a beautiful, balanced, scrappy work of art, for a lot of us - myself included - "scrappy" projects mean stepping out of our comfort zone.

I am a lover of symmetry ... order ... balance ... planning ... so designing this scrappy-ish sampler meant a lot of hours with my digital design software - but, my time wasn't spent on precise fabric placement.  It was spent getting the tones of my blocks to a balanced state.  I'm hoping that if I share my fabric selection process, I can help with any scrappy-anxiety some of you might be feeling.  I'd hate for you to pass on our quilt along, just because of fabric woes!

First off, with this and any scrappy project, really, DON'T TRY TO PICK A PRINT TO MATCH EACH OF MY CHOICES!  You'll go nuts!  With each tutorial, I'll tell you the exact prints I'm using in each of my blocks just in case you're looking to make an exact replica.  But, the vast majority of you are using different fabric lines, so rather than trying to find a print-for-print match, I'll also tell you the type of print to use.  The best organization tip I can offer is to separate your fabric into groups based on the list below, and then chose prints by group for each block.

Secondly, there is no shame in pulling most (or even all) of your fabric from the same line.  Don't put too much pressure on yourself.  Likewise, don't feel like you have to include every print from your favorite line.  If one isn't speaking to you, kick it to the curb! :)

Lastly, I'm a visual person, so I've tried to include some diagrams to help explain the method to my {carefully planned} madness.  Sometimes seeing things in black and white can make a world of difference!  
Here are the steps I'd recommend taking to choose your fabric.  Each step will result in its own group of fabric.

1.  Pick a Vibrant Inspiration Print or Two.  No more than this right now - you're just setting the tone for your project.  Try to come back and add another print or two after each step below to help you slowly build your "pool" - you'll need at least 12 different prints by the time you're done.

2.  Choose a light, solid background.  You want it to be a showcase for your vibrant prints.  White is my personal favorite.

Just a little note: If your prints are based on ivories, creams, or other not-quite-white colors, don't be afraid to use white as a background.  You'd be surprised at how well it can showcase even the palest colors!
3.  Pick a Dark Print.  This should be the darkest color in your quilt and compliment your growing "pool" of prints (#1). Think of it as an steady anchor, providing a little bit of contrast to your background, but not detracting from your prints.  Don't pick anything too showy.  Small scale, tone-on-tone prints work best for this choice.  Add anything on the flashier side to your Group 1 pool.

4.  Choose a few Medium Dark Blenders.  Next to your choice for Group 3, these should be the darkest prints in your palette.  They should be lighter and slightly more interesting print-wise than Groups 2 and 3, but darker and more subdued than the prints in Group 1.  You really only need 2-4 prints in this group.

5.  Choose 1 or 2 Very Light Neutrals.  These should be the lightest prints in your palette, aside from your Group 2 choice.  Again, tone-one-tone, small-scale, or even solids will work best in this group.  These will essentially be background blocks with the slightest bit more texture and interest than your actual background solid.

Every single block uses the Background Solid (#2) and your Dark Print (#3) print.  Then, for each block, choose from your pool of Vibrant Prints (#1), Mediums (#4) and Neutrals (#5).

With each block, look at the blocks you've made before, and try to pull  a few different choices!  Think of it as a choose your own adventure kind of experiment. :)

So, now that I've shared my process for selecting my prints, I'll show you my groups.  I'm using Connecting Thread's Hampton Hues line plus their Quilter's Candy Solids in White.

Group #1 - Vibrant prints:

Group #2 - White Solid:  

Group #3 - Dark Print:

Group #4 - Medium Prints:

Group #5 - Neutrals:

I hope that helps to give a bit of a frame of reference in choosing your fabrics and I'd love to hear about your adventures in choosing prints too!  Share photos here, or on our fabric requirements page!


  1. I am really excited about this project! I chose some batiks... a cream, some creamy/red, some darker prints... I think it's gonna be gorgeous!

    1. Sounds awesome Heidi! Can't wait to see your photos!!

  2. This looks like a great way to color your sampler quilt! Thanks :-)

  3. I really like your tutorial about fabric choices. You're a good teacher. I think for my own blocks I think I'm going to try to wing it for a while. Just not sure where I'm going in terms of color and value. However, I'm definitely participating. Thanks for all you've done.

    1. Thanks so much Lynn! Can't wait to see your scrappy sampler! :)

  4. Such a pretty quilt. I think I will join in. It was about time for me to make sampler quilt. I'll try to get color pictures posted later.

    1. So glad you can join us - can't wait to see your fabric choices. I think it's my favorite part of a quilt along!