Selecting a Fabric Color Palette

Triad Color WheelMiranda Bag

Here’s how I selected the color palette and fabrics for the Miranda bag. I find many quilters who are either intimidated by the color wheel or who understand the theory behind it but not how to apply it to their quilts. A real-life example should help.

I knew I wanted to use the yellow French provencal fabric, and I also knew I needed some contrast between the bag cover, bottom, and lining. But I didn’t want the contrast to be so overwhelming that it was the focus. The focus of the color scheme needed to be the French fabric, and I wanted nothing to detract from it.

So I chose yellow, blue, and red, a Triad color harmony which includes three colors evenly spaced around the color wheel. It’s a medium contrast palette, so I knew it would fit perfectly for Miranda.

While yellow, red, and blue are the hues, I needed to test fabrics for their values and intensities as well. The French fabric was a dull hue, so I wanted the other two fabrics to be dull as well so as not to overwhelm the cover.

Here are the candidates:

Fabric Palette #1

Red’s intensity is too bright. Blue’s value is right but the flowers are distracting.

Fabric Palette #2

Red’s value is good, but the intensity of an all red fabric may be too overwhelming. I need to try fabrics that have red in them but aren’t solid red. Blue fabric is perfect: value is medium, intensity is dull, and the style is in keeping with the provencal feel of the yellow fabric.

Fabric Palette #3

Same red fabric, but the blue fabric’s value is entirely too light. Next!

Fabric Palette #4
This is it! The red fabric is a print with the same style as the yellow and blue, the value is medium, and the intensity is dull. This is the final palette I chose and it turned out beautifully. I’m pleased with how the bag looks and how functional it is.

Remember this example next time you are ready to select a color palette for your next quilt.  I knew my focus (the cover fabric), selected my color harmony (triad) to fit the purpose, and they worked together to create a successful color scheme.