LaRueSews-Quilts, More on fabrics and color

As I start this out today, there are so many things Zinging around in my head, it’s hard to tell which way this edition of LaRueSews will go. I’ve heard writers say that sometimes they start out with just an idea and then just let it roll.

I think I’ll tell you a bit about the quilt retreat I attended two weeks ago. YES, it has been two weeks.Paradise The retreat was sponsored by a guild from a neighboring town. Some of the women in my guild also belong to that one, so both guilds were invited. The planning and carrying out committees were top notch. It’s not always easy to plan a weekend event that will appeal to twenty-five women. It seems that everyone has their own ideas of how things should be done.

Since I’m not a member of the sponsoring guild, I got to just go and have fun. One of the planners had the terrific idea of sending out a checklist of things we all needed to bring with us. It was a whole page of stuff including sewing supplies, materials, rulers, clothes, even goodies. I found it really helpful in not leaving anything behind that I would need. As it tuned out, the only thing I didn’t take along was my quilters cut and press.* That’s a neat tool that has a cutting mat on one side and an ironing mat on the reverse. I had left it in the sewing room, not with my stack of "take alongs" that I had piled by the back door.

Most of us arrived at Shacco Springs, Alabama at about ten o’clock on Friday morning. Shacco Springs is a beautiful conference center near Talladega, AL. We stayed in a building that had two wings of guest rooms with an adjoing conference room and full kitchen. Most people shared rooms by two’s and three’s. The rooms were very similar to a motel room. (Very comfortable accommodation.) We all set up our sewing supplies and got ready to sew, seated, two or three people to a table, with sewing machines and supplies all around. There were about twenty-five of us in all.

Each of us brought with us the fabrics that we had cut ahead of time, so we could sew right away, not time for cutting this day. The list we were given specified that we should choose fabrics of light, medium and dark values, with yardage requirements to finish the project. We were also given a specific list of how to rotary cut the fabrics. When we arrived, we were given instructions, one section at a time for a Mystery Quilt.* None of us knew until the last of about seven steps what the project would look like. Confused

Fabrics from my Stash

These are the fabrics I chose from my stash. I didn’t even need to go shopping for the retreat.They are also an example of three coordinating fabrics to use in a quilt.

We were all told to bring a lunch for Friday, which I forgot. NOT TO WORRY! The "goodies" I mentioned took care of my lunch very nicely. (Including my white chocolate chip/pecan cookies requested by my friends). We spent the day buzzing like twenty-five little bees. Buzzing? Yup, it sounded like a beehive with twenty-five sewing machines doing what sewing machines do best. Not to mention twenty-five chattering, friendly, happy women. At about 5:00 P.M., it was supper time, (dinner time, eat, chow down, you get it) at the conference center cafeteria. We had a nice "down home" meal. That’s what you get in Alabama. After dinner, we played Quilter’s Bingo. All the winner’s prizes were fat quarters. We returned to our building at about 7:00 and started sewing again. All afternoon and evening, we heard lots of chatter about "frog stitching," rotary cutters, and who chose the prettiest fabrics for this quilt. We sewed until after midnight and all went to sleep without even having a "gab session" in our rooms. Up again before 7:00 AM, and to the cafeteria for another "down home" meal and back to work. By this time, many of us were nearing the end of the steps in the "Mystery Quilt." We were shown examples of the finished product, and continued on to the finish. Most of us finished the main body of the quilt, making plans in our minds what we would do at home to finish it with backing, batting, and binding.

Quilt TopMystery Quilt

The first picture here is my quilt top from this retreat. The second is a Mystery Quilt from another retreat a number of years ago.

So you see, there are definitely advantages to joining a quilt guild. A quilting retreat is only one of them. We have taken bus trips to nearby quilt shows, quilt shops and sewing venues. We always have a great time, and the sisterhood of the group is the best part of the fun. Guilds are a great place to learn about quilts and quilting as well as meeting and finding new friends.

At the retreat, we were all the happy receivers of all kinds of "quilty" door prizes. There were a lot of books, and sewing notions that we came home with. I received was a pair of battery operated scissors and a book called "Fabric Shopping," by Alex Anderson. Unfortunately, this book is no longer in print. However, I have recommended to Greg that Alex Anderson’s other books be added to the ATG shopping area. Her books are very good references for new quilters. They are easy to understand, and they give a lot of good information.

Last time, in this blog, we talked about fabrics. I have learned much about fabrics from Alex Anderson’s book in the last week. It is a small book, packed with basic information about how to choose quilting fabrics. I’d like to share a few things, some I already knew and others that elaborated on some things that I had heard before.

Focus fabric, which would be the main fabric to choose, adding other fabrics that have coordinate, or go well with the focus fabric, whether by color or print. Choose a focus and then choose fabrics that are the same color, or have the same color in them. Or choose a fabric that has a print that compliments the print of the focus fabric.

Focus FabricFocus Fabric and Other Fabrics

This is a good example of a focus fabric, the second picture is of the focus fabric and other fabrics that would go well with it.


Hue is the name of a color. It is the difference from one color to another. Red, yellow and blue are hues.

Value: is an important word when it comes to fabric. It is the "degree of lightness or darkness of color." In other words, if you visualize a scale, showing blocks of grey from pure white, to jet black, you will see the value of the color of grey. Or if you show a scale of reds from pure white to the darkest possible red, that also is value. Any color in all its shades of lightness and darkness is it’s value.

Some people, who don’t have an inborn sense of color may want to rely on a color wheel to help them learn to make fabric selections. A few terms may help to learn more. Look at the color wheel below.

Primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Combinations of these colors make up the other colors on the wheel.

Secondary colors are created by mixing equal parts of primary colors. Orange is made with red and yellow. Look at green to see what colors combine to make green. Now, look at violet. Green, violet, and orange are secondary colors.

Complimentary colors are two colors opposite from each other on the color wheel. Example: red is opposite to green, blue is opposite to orange. Look at the color wheel and find complimentary colors.

Color Wheel

Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel. In combination, these colors are pleasing to they eye. You can also pick out examples of analogous colors.

Monochromatic colors are those that come only from the same color family, in equal numbers in light, medium, and dark. However, if you choose to make a monochromatic quilt, be sure to choose fabrics from very dark to very light, even white, to give the quilt more interesting to the eye. If the colors are all the same value, they will simply "run together" appearing as all the same fabric, rather than a mixture of lights and darks, The same is true of quilts of many colors. You need to include a wide mixture of lights and darks to see the difference in fabrics. The variety of value across the quilt makes it more interesting to the eye.

I am including pictures of fabrics in my stash. The first is an example of three fabrics that would work because the theme is similar, and there are three values, light medium and dark.

Three Fabrics that would Work

Example two: I added two more fabrics that completely throw off the theme and the color. These fabrics don’t work unless you add many more fabrics and make it a "scrappy quilt".

Fabrics that won't work 

Example three: This is an example of fabrics that don’t seem to look good together, but they are the same print in different colors. Used in a quilt with the "fan" theme, they should make an eye catching quilt. I hope so, since I have plans for them in a quilt together, along with an off white background fabric, with a fan theme. Hmm

Fan Theme Colors

There is a focus fabric, and the other fabrics are colors taken from the focus fabric. There is no particular theme in any of the coordinating fabrics, but the color work with the focus.

A little more about Quilt Design Wizard: This program is available in the ATG shopping area. This a terrific program for a beginner, or someone who is not comfortable with their skills. The entire program is a teaching tool. You can design and make a quilt from beginning to end with the tutorials that are all in this CD. There are 200 block patterns that can be used in any size. It shows sewing/assembly instruction specific to each block. This is a really cool tool. Just click from one design to another do decide whether your skills match the block that you have chosen. It will print instructions and templates; for foundation piecing as well at templates for piecing. It show instructions for rotary cutting, and strip piecing which is the fastest way to make a quilt. If you are thinking about taking a quilting class, but don’t want to leave home. This is the way you can do that. Get Quilt Wizard by clicking on this link or in the ATG shop.

These pictures are screen shots from The Quilt Design Wizard program

Quilt Design Wizard 1

Quilt Design Wizard 2

Well, friends, I hope this is all helpful to you. I’d like to thank Alex Anderson for her permission to use the material in her book to help you learn more about fabrics and color. Hopefully, this will put you one step closer to making some wonderful quilts of your own.

Quilter’s Jargon:

Quilter’s cut and press:

That’s a neat tool that has a cutting mat on one side and an ironing mat on the reverse.

Mystery Quilt:

A quilt made in a group setting where nobody knows the resulting quilt design until it’s finished.

Scrappy quilt:

A quilt made of many scrap fabrics.

Comments (11) -

jalcumbrack 10/10/2008 2:34:59 PM

Very well done LaRue!

This is a print and keep- in -the sewing room information reference for all. Unless you have had some sort of art lessons, or if it just comes natural to you, I think that is what scares some from attempting a quilt, is the knowledge(or lack of) of color!

My hubby is not only not into artsy things but does not have any sense of colors and what looks good or not! Trust me, we have had many discussions on this subject! I refuse to let him leave the house until he changes sometimes,LOL!

Seriously, I honestly do think that is why a lot of folks don't at least try their hand at quilting.

Great blog,am looking forward to more!



Thanks so much for the compliment.  Sometimes, I think that reading the words as if you are listening to a friend, makes it easier to understand, rather than the stilted language of a book.  Conversational language gets through to us better than things that are written as theory.  Some art classes do help, but I think if you just trust your instincts, you'll go far.

My husband is color-blind, besides having trouble with very dark colors.  He's no help either.  One time, I was on a trip.  Someone at the office stopped him in the hall and asked  "Is LaRue gone someplace?"  He had worn something that didn't look quite right.  The guy was being a smart alec, but it is hard for him to put things together right.  I guess that's why he wears just blue jeans since he retired.  They go with everything, almost.

Stitches . .


Hi everyone, I just notice when I looked at the blog again that the pictures of my retreat quilts are in the wrong order.  First should be last and vise versa.


Hello LaRue,

Great Blog!

I agree with your suggestion nof Alex Anderson's books for quilters.  I especially love "Alex Anderson's Baby Quilts with Love".  I have used ideas from that book for tabletoppers, women in wheelchairs and general lap quilts.

Judy -- You can do it.  Anything goes with the color wheel these days.  A combination of all of  Amy  Butler Fabrics (all colors and designs) are being made into quilts.  Gives off a tad of a Bohemian flair.  Honest.  you can do it.

Oh, my husband is an artist and sometimes he can pick the fabrics and then there's the other times;  not so much.  But, he does like attending quilt shows to view the finished quilts.


I agree that a wonderful craft can be the activity or a passive part, like reading someone else's take on something.  

Reading allows us to see through the eyes of others and get a new and exciting view of our craft.  

Do you realize how many times you have thought  "hmmm. .  I never thought of it that way."  It is beautiful to be able to share and receive your wonderful world of crafting.


All of your comments are a welcomed.  We all see fabrics and color in different ways.  We need only to pick up a few quilting magazines on the news stands and we see that almost anything goes.  However, being just a tad more traditional, I like make things  "go together" a bit more that they are pictured in so many of them.  I guess if you go for the "mixes" of varied colors and patterns it's OK.  I can see that there is planning in them, if not, it would be a scrappy quilt. But there is often so much pattern thrown into the mix that you lose the real beauty of the individual fabrics that come out when there is less busy-ness in them.  I'd rather see a beautiful focus fabric and a few others that intensify the beauty of it, than so much pattern all over.  Choose your fabrics carefully, and make an heirloom from the gorgeous fabrics that are on the market today.  Anyone who has the desire can make the designer's beautiful ideas turn into Your own beautiful ideas.

This is a wonderful forum to discuss our opinions.  Thank you, Joan and Pat for reading, thinking and voicing your views.  I so enjoy reading them along with you.

Stitches . .



Your blog is awesome this week! Putting colors together is not one of my talents, but unlike most of your husbands, mine it great at it. But he could never explain WHY certain colors go together. With your explaination, I finally understand!

You just joined Pat & Judy in my list of top teachers! Thanks for a great blog,



Thanks so much, mostly for reading what I have to write, and also for the nice things you have to say.

The funny thing about my DH being color blind is that he can still give me good feed back when I ask if something looks good together.  I think he's not crazy about it, but I often ask him for a second opinion about things I'm putting togher, both with color and design.  A second opinion can often be just what we need to help us decide whether something is just right or not.  He is really good with woodworking and is very meticulous, so I know that he will give me an honest opinion, even though we do disagree about the outcome.

By the way, I love your avatar.  Where did it come from?  I've always been a big fan of black and white photos.

Stitches . .



My avatar is actually an x-ray! I've been in radiology 32 years (i'm dating myself!) and felt is was appropriate for rme. It's by an artist, Steven N. Meyers. Here's his website  link">



What a wonderful blog. Yes, color has me stumped sometimes.

I just repainted my living room. I had painted one wall with a seude like finish, painted a large section of the adjoining wall and thought.... what was I thinking???.

I took my "not so matchy" paint back to the store, they added brown to my too bright goldish color. I still did not like it. I asked several friends their opinion. The trouble with some friends is that they do not want to hurt your feelings. I finally had a friend that said... No!!! don't do it. Well, I added white to my browish gold... and voila... the perfect color. I then repainted my seude wall to a deep brick rust/red... perfect. i did not  have to ask anyone. I loved it. I know my color sense is terrible, but I know what i don't like. Ater the final painting.. everyone said..."yes, that is it". Now, I ask.. why couldn't they have said something sooner?

Showing the color wheel on this blog really helped me. I still don't understand some of the next to colors etc. and how they go or don;t go, but i will get one of Alex Anderson's books and perhaps that will help also.

I agree that reading the words as if you are listening toa friend is a great help. This blog is not a technical read through, it is a friendly helpful site where all of us get together and become friends and help each other.

thanks again.

cme   8^)


As I am preparing my next blog, I realized that I had not checked comments from the last one.

Thank you so much for the comments you have made.  I'm not so good at picking colors for walls either.   I think that is too big a pallette to work for me.  I guess that's why all my walls are the same color.

Since the book I mentione is no longer in print, I don't know which one of Alex's books might have color theory.   You might do a net. search to see if you can still find "Fabric Shopping."

Stitches . .


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