Nancy’s Quilting Classroom: Choosing Fabrics for Scrap Quilt Patterns

I love making scrap quilts! When I look at a scrap quilt, the fabrics are memories of other quilts and occasions. Much has been written about selecting fabrics for a scrap quilt and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices. I’ve found using a fabric recipe helps me choose my fabrics and plan where I want to place those fabrics in my quilt.

As you choose fabrics, keep in mind that for a recipe to be successful, you need to use a variety of prints that vary in value, intensity, scale, and visual texture. If you feel like you could use more instruction on this, take a look at my on-demand webinar: How to Make Stunning Scrap Quilts. Armed with information, you’ll approach those scrap quilt patterns with confidence!

Let’s start here, for the time being…

Below are four simple fabric recipes that you can follow to choose fabrics (or colors) for your quilt.

1: Planned Color Scheme Recipe

For this recipe, use fabrics from three or four different color palettes. Limiting colors doesn’t mean you need to limit the fabrics, so be sure to use a variety of fabrics within each color palette.

White Chocolate (shown above), from Scrap Quilts Fall 2013, uses a neutral color palette. When choosing fabrics, I needed to pay close attention to value or the design would be lost. I used light cream prints, beige prints, and medium to dark tan prints. The beige prints needed to be lighter than the tan prints and darker than the cream prints. Dark-brown prints and a variety of rust-colored prints completed the color palette. Repeating the colors in the borders gives the quilt a cohesive look.

For Batik Magic, from Love of Quilting May/June 2011, I combined green and purple batiks. The black borders separate the piano-key border from the center of the quilt and make the other colors pop. The high contrast between the green and purple batiks makes the blocks appear to be rectangular, even though they are actually square.

Batik Magic - Scrap Quilt Patterns

2: Theme-Print Recipe

This recipe relies on using one fabric as a starting point and is one of the easiest scrap quilts to make. Choosing colors for a quilt is simple because the colors for the other fabrics in the quilt are based on the colors in the theme print. I often use the theme print for the border, but you don’t have to.

Patriotic Stars - Scrap Quilt Patterns

For Patriotic Stars, from Love of Quilting November/December 2013, my starting point was the red, white and blue print in the border. Next, I pulled out a variety of navy and red prints. For continuity, I selected two cream prints and one light-blue print and used them in all of the blocks. The light blue is more intense, so it stands out from the other fabrics. In this quilt, the theme print was only used for the border.

Calliope QuiltScrap Quilt Patterns

The colors in Calliope from Quilting Quickly January/February 2016, are based on the border fabric. This beautiful batik is an explosion of color, so I used it in the blocks as well as the border. The colorful batiks in the blocks have a lot of visual texture, but there isn’t much difference in value or intensity. The white batik calms the otherwise busy design and adds much-needed contrast to the overall design.

3: Limited Scrappy Recipe

For this recipe, although colors are placed in specific positions within the blocks or quilt, you’ll use a variety of fabrics in each chosen color. If you like a bit of control when choosing fabrics for scrap quilt patterns, use this recipe. For a more unified look, try using a common background or a neutral color.

Color Play QuiltScrap Quilt Patterns

In Color Play, from Easy Scrap Quilts Fall 2011, the black and cream prints act as a background and each print was used in the same position in each block. To make sense of all the tone-on-tone prints, I divided them into warm and cool colors. When making the blocks, I used the same warm colors in the same place in half of the blocks and the same cool colors in the rest of the blocks. Here the black solid adds depth to the design and gives your eye a place to rest.

Golden Harvest QuiltScrap Quilt Patterns

Golden Harvest, from Scrap Quilts Fall 2012, is very scrappy, so I needed a recipe to keep track of all the different fabrics. Black prints were used for the inner and outer star points. Orange prints for the squares running diagonally in both directions. Red prints for the triangles in the center and outer corners. For the triangles along the sides of the block, I used medium-value prints. And, for the background ,I used any print that was lighter than its neighbor. By following my recipe, I created secondary red stars, as well as Square-in-a-Square quilt blocks.

4: Crazy Scrap Recipe

Quilts made using this recipe accommodate any color, so think in terms of light and dark instead of specific color placement. When choosing fabrics, don’t try to coordinate fabrics for the whole quilt. Instead, choose fabrics or colors for one quilt block at a time.

Gumdrops Quilt

Scrap Quilt PatternsFor Gumdrops, from Love of Quilting January/February 2014, I used a medium-value tone-on-tone print in a variety of colors. Because I was using a lot of color, I used a print with very little visual texture and I used one white print for the background. Using one background print unifies the design and allows the colors to shine.

Angle of Repose QuiltScrappy Quilt Patterns

Angle of Repose, from Scrap Quilts Fall 2014, contains lots and lots of plaids. This quilt relies heavily on the use of value as each block is constructed using light, medium, and dark 60-degree diamonds. The overall effect is a quilt with a lot of dimension.  

So, grab your scrap basket and have fun–a scrap quilt can be your chance to go wild!
Nancy Mahoney, Fons & Porter Guest Blogger

Happy Quilting!






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