Top 5 Ways to Create a Fabulous Fabric Pull
This is one of my faaaavorite topics. I had spent a lot of my quilting time just being scared of fabric. And color. And making choices. When I started creating my own patterns and pattern testing for others, I had to stop that nonsense. I had to come up with something original because there were no other versions out there to look at. I stressed a lot about finding a pull that said “oh yeah, Simone made that”. With some practice (and some bombs), I eventually landed on what my style is today. I am sure it will change over time. Change is good! Whatever ends up happening with my style, I will always use a combination of these 5 ways to get a fabulous fabric pull.
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Note: this is not a lesson on color theory! While useful knowledge to have, I tend to mostly ignore it and go with my own personal preference.
Start with an inspirational fabric (aka focal fabric).
I am referring to a print, specifically. Do you love a fabric that has tigers and forest leaves on it (I’m looking at you, Leah Duncan) but can’t figure out how to make it play with others? Take 2-4 colors from that print and find some solids that would coordinate. How does it look? Does it need some more prints? Try swapping out a few of the solids with like colored prints that “read” as that color. Keep playing this swap game until you have come up with a cohesive fabric pull that appeals to you. If your inspirational print doesn’t have that many colors to pull from, use the next way (#2) to get more coordinating colors.
Since many of us don’t have every solid color and every print available at our disposal, I do this swap game mostly online. Some of my favorite online fabric stores are FabricBubb and Hawthorne Supply Co. FabricBubb has an amazing feature on their website called a wish list, where you can bundle your own fabrics into a list so you can see what they all look like together. I have made four separate wish lists at once while deciding on a fabric pull before, it was so helpful! When you have finalized your pull, you can just order the entire wish list. It’s fabulous. They are my source for all my Kona Solids and modern print needs. Hawthorne Supply Co has a similar feature called a design wall. You can place fabric swatches over each other to give you a better sense of how they coordinate. They are my source for all Art Gallery Fabrics (my ultimate favorite) and they also have their own lines of beautiful printed designs!
Create a coordinating palette from one color.
This is a really great method that I use almost every time I make a fabric pull. I usually see one color that just calls out to me, and then I want to find all the colors that would play well with it. For example, right now I am loving mustard yellow. It is a very strong color, so I spent a lot of time searching for colors that would compliment it but not get overshadowed by it. I just Googled “colors that go well with mustard yellow”. (I know, it’s a really high tech solution right there, hah.)
If you do this, make sure to click on the image results. You’ll likely get results for a gradient, eye shadow palettes, wedding party dresses, vacation or holiday decor. All of this is super helpful. Take it all in and see what calls out to you. Select what you want for your fabric and leave the rest.
I also then like to look at color wheels and working with complementary colors of my chosen main color. A little mix of “technically correct combinations” and a little mix of “my gut” and I come out with a fabric pull that feels right for me and the pattern.
Upload a favorite photo to PlayCrafts Palette Builder.
I discovered this nifty tool while creating the Beach Sunset fabric pull. I wanted to get the colors of my favorite sunset, the one that is present just before the sun slips away and nighttime takes over.
Photo: Completed Beach Sunset quilt top by Simone Fisher of Simone Quilts
I found photos of five different sunsets that I liked and uploaded each to this palette builder. I moved the color dots to the places on the photo where I liked the color most. You can show 6-10 colors for each photograph, which I find to be plenty for most patterns. If that is not impressive enough, you also get the closest matches to either KONA Solids or Moda Bella Solids, so you know exactly what to get at your favorite quilt shop. I also recommend looking at the other tools that PlayCrafts has created. I haven’t used them myself but it’s on my list to do!
Look at the social media of other types of artists.
I am a huge fan of painting. I appreciate it but am not a connoisseur by any means. Paint artists that I admire (specifically Beth Winterburn and Emily Jeffords) are a great source of color inspiration. I don’t normally take the exact palettes but like to look at them for color combinations that go well together that I can work into my fabric pulls. There are so many talented artists in the world in which to draw inspiration. From textiles, to paint, to clay, to digital designers, their talent is everywhere for us to draw inspiration from.
Photo: Emily Jeffords paint palette
Take time to play.
I was first introduced to this concept of playing with fabric by Victoria Findlay Wolfe and her method (and book) 15 minutes of play. The concept is pretty straight forward: sit down with your scraps and play around with literally anything in there for 15 minutes a day. Put some brown that you bought but never thought you would use next to some left over pink from a baby quilt you made three years ago. Put some red and green striped Christmas fabric with a Kaffe fuschia floral. What ends up happening is you start focusing more on the overall effects of your choices versus obsessing over whether one fabric “should go” with another. This is so freeing! I really need to do this more myself.
Photo: Cottage Daisy Quilt by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
I hope you find these methods helpful when you are starting to gather your fabrics for your next quilt top! Do you have any other methods that work great for you? Make sure to comment below so we can all learn, too!