February 23, 2012

Color Inspiration For Quilters

Fork and Spoon from Quilt Retro. Aqua/green/yellow/gray color palette.
Color is probably the single most stressful decision you'll make when putting together a quilt. No one wants to spend the time (and money!) it takes to make a quilt and have it turn out so-so because the colors don't quite work. I think that's why so many of us rely on kits. With a kit, all the fabrics are chosen for us and we'll know exactly what the finished quilt will look like. That's a great way to handle color choices, but what if you want your quilt to be different? What if you want it to represent YOU!

Work with the colors you love
First, you have to know your own color preferences. Look around your house and your wardrobe. Your favorite colors will all be there. Personally, I don't like purples. There are no purples anywhere in my house or on my clothes. If I were to make a purple quilt, it probably wouldn't get done because there would be no inspiration to finish it! The colors I do love are reds, blues, yellows (primary colors) and greens. I'm not so fond of browns and tans, but I love black and grays. Knowing those are the colors I love to have around me (and on me!), I always have a starting point for picking colors that I know I will like.

Look around everywhere for fresh color combinations
Inspiration is everywhere if you know how to spot it. I did a little experiment the other day to gather as many  color combination ideas as I could. I picked up two quilt magazines at the store and flipped through each one page-by-page. I wrote down the major colors that were in each quilt that caught my eye. Here's the list I came up with:
  • Black and tan
  • Neon - 80s inspired
  • Rainbow
  • Aqua and yellow
  • Yellow and cream
  • Green/orange/gold/cream
  • Pastels on cream
  • Purple/pink/cream
  • Dark blue/light blue/tan
  • Scrappy blues/cream/tan
  • Black/white/accent color (such as hot pink)

Are there any on that list that catch your attention? I can envision several quilts made with these combinations!

Working with Color Palettes
A color palette is a group of color combinations already grouped for you. (Think paint chips from the hardware store.) A place to find beautiful color palettes is Design Seeds. If you've never heard of Design Seeds, you're in for a treat! There you will find hundreds and hundreds of color palettes in hundreds and hundreds of combinations. This site is an eye-candy feast! Pick just a few of you're favorites and think about how you can use them in a quilt. That's exactly what I've done below to show you how to put a color palette to practical use.

Chalked Hues palette by Design Seeds.
Chalked Hues-inspired Star quilt. I opted to not use the green and the dark purple.

Booked Hues by Design Seeds
Booked Hues the imaginary quilt. I really like the browns with these colors!
Red Blossom by Design Seeds
Red Blossom the quilt. I just love this combination of colors! It seems so elegant to me.
Summer Tones by Design Seeds
Summer Tones without borders. Beautiful, soft colors. Would look great in my imaginary beach house!
Now you notice that these mock-up quilts are all in solids. I design everything in solids. (And usually shades of gray, then I go back and assign colors after the design is set.) That doesn't mean I'd make all these quilts in solids. It's very easy to translate these to prints - just print your design mock-up or copy of the palette and take it with you to the quilt shop. Look for prints with similar colors and voila! You have your fabrics. Look at the quilt at the very top, Fork and Spoon, and compare to Hungarian Hues below.

Hungarian Hues by Design Seeds
Fork and Spoon detail.
You can see how the palette was translated to prints. I toned down the bright green and left off the purply-brown and that's okay. The palette is just for inspiration, it doesn't have to be followed to the T.
So how do you decide what colors to use in a quilt? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear how you find inspiration and put it to practical use!

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