Welcome to the 2nd article in the series to help you build colour confidence without worrying about colour theory! This series is intended to help you develop a more intuitive practical approach to putting together a colour palette for your quilting and sewing projects. Last week we kicked off with a challenge to design a monochrome colour scheme using paint cards and this week we’ll be building on your colour-matching skills by looking at the fabric selvedge. We’ll also be considering another aspect of designing a palette: proportion.
Using the Selvedge
Selvedge (or selvage if you’re in the US) – we’ve all seen those lovely coloured dots, some of us even collect them and make quilts from them (this one’s the best one I’ve seen). They’re actually the printer’s registration marks: if the selvedge dots line up as they should, then the pattern will be correctly matched during the printing process.
Registration marks on the selvedge
But what’s interesting to us is the range of colours it shows:
It represents the colour palette of the fabric.
The reason all those gorgeous fabric collections match is because they share the same or similar colour palettes and you can check this by comparing the dots on the selvedge.
If you want to branch out from the ‘mix and match’ collections and want to create a unique colour palette that expresses your preferences and personality all you need to do is choose a favourite fabric and match your other fabrics with the coloured dots along the selvedge edge.
You’re likely to find a lot more dots than you expected, which gives you great scope for developing your own scheme. It can be tricky because the dots are quite small, so make sure you’re in good light when you’re making your selection.
Matching a range of fabrics to the selvedge dots
Try matching up a couple of different schemes with the selvedge dots of your fabric and put them aside for the moment while we consider proportion.
What is Proportion?
Proportion is simply the relationship of one thing to another in relation to it’s size, quantity, etc. In this case we need to look at the quantity of one colour compared to one or more other colours in the palette. By changing the proportion of a colour in your palette you can alter the mood quite drastically.
One thing the selvedge dots don’t tell you is the proportion of colours in the fabric scheme, but making a estimate is a skill we can develop.
Take a look at your focal fabric and estimate the proportions of the colours along the selvedge edge in the design.
Selvedge registration marks
Print by Lewis and Irene
In this example colour no. 8 (a greyish purple) makes up most of the background. I would say there are fairly equal amounts of the pinks (2 and 4) and greens (3 and 7) and a bit less of the blue. Much less prominent, but no less significant are colours 1 (dark grey) and 5 (a warm brown). Last but not least is the unprinted background fabric: white. The design uses a fair amount of it (perhaps as much as the green and pinks) and it serves to highlight and intensify the colours in the sprigs of flowers.
If I was to put it into numbers (which quite honestly I don’t, I think very visually) I’d estimate something along the lines of:
- 65% purple (8)
- 15% white/background
- 15% pinks and greens (2, 4, 3 and 7)
- 4% blue (6)
- 1% grey and brown (1 and 6)
It’s a very rough estimate, but gives you something to work with.
Having selected a range of prints from the colours along the selvedge of your favourite fabric and estimated the proportions of each one in the design, you now have a number of possibilities when it comes to designing your own colour palette.
The simplest option is to keep the proportions similar to those in your focal fabric. This will harmonise the mood of your focal fabric across your patchwork palette, like the example on the left below, which used fabrics from my first colour match shown above. The version on the right shows a second set of fabrics that were matched to the selvedge
Left: estimating colour proportions similar to the focal fabric. Right: reducing the proportion of plain white, allowing the white of the tree print to show through instead.
You should be able to create a pleasing effect without too much trouble. But what else can you do?
The Selvedge Challenge!
This is the fun part:
your challenge is to see what happens when you make a change to the original colour proportions!
Try two or three versions and see what you think of them. The samples in the image above play with the proportion of white in the palette. The strip on the right also has the addition of a darkish grey matched to dot number 1 and I took out the fabric matched to dot 5 because I felt the branches of the tree were a similar colour but less obtrusive.
In the image below I’ve added some neutrals to the palette too:
Adding black and white (left) and a light neutral grey (right).
Taking it Further
As you can see, you can change the feel of your palette by adding in some neutrals, like we did last week in the monochrome challenge: black, white and various tones of grey (remember to use a ‘neutral grey’ on an artists’ colour card to get the right shade). In the Lewis and Irene example, we know white looks great because it’s in the main print, but what happens if we add more? How would it alter the mood? What about grey, perhaps it would be softer than white? And what would happen if we added in black? Or even all three?!
Can you see how the colours and neutrals harmonise with the main print?
Don’t just think in terms of your fabrics: remember that your quilt will feature thread too! In the example of the Lewis and Irene print, what would it be like if the brown or dark grey (say) didn’t feature as a fabric, but did feature as a quilting thread? The colour and line would echo the fine lines of the drawing on the print, whereas a ‘block’ of brown or grey fabric might have more dominance than you’d like.
I’ve used up my colour matched samples to make a small improv block and I’ve added in more strips of the focal fabric to give it more prominence. I’m really happy with the way all the colours harmonise and I’m thinking about what effect a black or dark grey thread would have… I think the lines would add definition. In fact I think I might even be tempted to quilt black lines on the right hand side to balance the black/white fabric on the left and use a light neutral grey to quilt the left hand side! What would you do?
A block created with my samples matched to the selvedge.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this post and it would be awesome if you’re inspired to have a go at colour matching to a selvedge, and thinking about proportion too. If you’re proud of your results why not share them here with us? (Feel free to share even if you’re not proud and have some questions!) I’d love to see what you come up with. You can leave a link to a post on your own blog in the comments below, or share a photograph on one of the Dawn Chorus Studio social media pages (links on the right at the top of the page).
Other Posts in the Series
- Design a colour Scheme Without Colour Theory?: an introduction to the series
- Design a Monochrome Colour Scheme: take the challenge! It sounds simple, but is it?
I’d like to apologise for the late posting of this article – as I mentioned on Facebook I’ve had a stinking head cold all week and have spent most of it asleep or wrapped up under a quilt feeling sorry for myself (woe is me and all that!). Next week’s post is almost ready and will definitely be good to go on Thursday, so I hope you’ll join me then when we’ll have a look at ways of using digital colour palettes for inspiration!
Linking up with the lovely Lorna for Let’s Bee Social (if I’m quick!), AmandaJean for Finish it Up Friday (finishing up a tutorial counts, right?! Hope so, or I’m in trouble!) and with Kelly for Needle and Thread Thursday.
Have a great weekend lovely peeps and see you soon