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The First Step: Pattern and Fabric


There are two ways to start a project: you can start with a pattern or fabric.

I don’t think there is really a right or wrong way to approach this. Quilters collect fabric and patterns. I personally collect notions; more on that at another time. No matter where you start, having a pattern (or a least an idea) and fabric to make it with is generally the first step.

When choosing a pattern, your options include tried and true (the pattern you’ve used before) or something new, and easy vs. challenging. I think anytime you try a new technique it is challenging. This can range from working with triangles to a scalloped border.

Now let’s find some fabric. I’m not really a fabric hoarder, so this usually involves a trip to my LQS (local quilt shop.) The process is the same whether you find your fabric in your stash or elsewhere. You can stick with a collection of fabric, which is “collected” for you by the manufacturer. This is safe and works every time, because the fabric is manufactured with the same color dyes and is designed to go together. If your LQS adds new fabric regularly, this choice is often trendy as well.

A good lesson in color starts with the color wheel. A good lesson in quilting adds texture and value. These are great ways to pick fabric, but are often daunting especially to beginners who haven’t mastered the concept or those that are not comfortable with color or making decisions. The following is a great guide for choosing your fabric successfully the first time.

Pick a print with at least 3 colors in it that you like. This is your focal fabric; that doesn’t mean it will be the most used fabric.  Next select a color from your focal fabric print and find fabrics in that color family. They can include solids, prints, tone on tone. Pull out more than you know you will need. Continue with this process, selecting colors from the focal fabric and adding on to them or add on to other fabrics you have pulled. Pretty soon you will have a cart full of fabric. In the quilt below, the floral print is my focal fabric.


Focal fabric: floral print
Focal fabric: floral print









The last step is weeding out what doesn’t work. There is no science to this, ok there is but we are not delving into color snobiness on this post. Take out what doesn’t quit go or you don’t like. This process is easy as I find the fabrics that don’t work sort of jump out. Basically if your eye automatically goes to a certain fabric, chances are high that you should pull it. It is OK to shelve the focal fabric.  Now, refer to your pattern for yardage requirements. Unless I’ve made the pattern before or really trust the designer, I will tend to buy a little more than the pattern calls for. This gives me extra fabric to allow for mistakes.


Bottom line; it’s your quilt.  You have the ability to throw away any and all suggestions and pick what you like.

Have fun selecting the fabric for your next or even first project.