One of the most exciting and challenging parts of quilting is choosing the fabric for your quilt. Fabric is the main element that determines the look, feel and style of your quilt, so it is important to choose wisely and carefully. Here are some tips to help you choose the right fabric for your quilt:

  1. Consider your theme

Before you start shopping for fabric, think about what kind of quilt you want to make. Do you have a specific theme, such as a holiday, a season, a person or a place? Do you want your quilt to be modern, traditional, whimsical or elegant? Do you want your quilt to have a specific mood, such as cheerful, cozy, calm or dramatic? Having a clear idea of your theme will help you narrow down your choices and find fabrics that match your vision.

Designer's Tip

Pat Sloan

Pat Sloan

“A quilt almost always starts with the fabric for me. The fabric itself is what inspires me to make a quilt. My tip is to start with a fabric you really want to sew with.  Then start pulling fabric options that go with it.  Be sure to change up the type of prints so there is variety. Add in a stripe, a plaid, a polka dot, or a gingham. Those prints really take your entire quilt to the next level.” Pat Sloan

2. Choose the colors

Color is one of the most important aspects of fabric selection, as it affects the overall appearance and harmony of your quilt. You can use a color wheel, a color scheme generator or a color palette app (  to help you choose colors that work well together. For a quick and easy selection try using  pre-cuts, bundles or collections. Colors that compliment each other will create a soothing cohesive feel, while adding high contrast colors can add drama and excitement.

3. Select the prints

Once you have your theme and colors in mind, consider the prints to add interest and excitement to your quilt.  To add variety and texture to your quilt, use prints that have different sizes and shapes, such as dots, stripes, florals, geometrics, etc. A good rule of thumb is to use one large-scale print, one medium-scale print, and one small-scale print per color in your scheme. The sky’s the limit with fabric prints – there is a seemingly endless supply! Your print choices are directly related to your theme. Try mixing small, medium and large scale prints together, and add directional fabrics like stripes, word prints and geometrics for a little pizzazz. Don’t forget about solids, blenders, and low volume fabrics to make your prints pop.

You can also use a design wall or floor to audition your fabric. A design wall or floor is a large space where you can lay out your fabric and see how they look together before sewing them. You can use a flannel sheet, a batting piece, or a foam board as your design wall or floor. Arrange your fabric by color, value, or print size and see if they create the effect you want. You can also take photos of your layout and compare them to see which one you like best.

Designer's Tip

Nancy Halvorsen

Nancy Halvorsen

“One of my tips for choosing fabric for a quilt is for prints. If your print is large or busy, don’t surround it with other large or busy prints. Use a small print, low volume, blender or solid fabric around it so that the print can shine. If too many busy prints are together, you lose the focus of the prints and the quilt design. Another tip is to add a small pop of color that stands out from the other colors in your quilt to add a little fun and interest.” Nancy Halvorsen

Nancy Halvorsen Fabric design: Wander Lane II

4. Make sure you use good quality fabric 

The quality of the fabric affects the durability and performance of your quilt. Choose fabrics that are 100% cotton, as they are easy to work with, wash well and last long.  High-quality fabrics have a high thread count, a smooth surface and a consistent dye. Consider pre-washing to avoid shrinkage or bleeding when you wash your finished project, For best results always follow the manufacturer’s directions for washing.

Intricate print fabrics by Paula Nadelstern - What If collection by Benartex

Insider's point of view

Susan Kemler, Benartex Head of Production

“When we consider working with a mill, we look for consistent quality of the cloth and printing, as well as at their reliability. We tend to develop long-term relationships with the vendors who provide fabric of the quality we and our customers are accustomed to. For example, Benartex is renowned for our intricate designs, those require excellent engravers that make screens able to trap color dyes exactly as we design them, because one thin line out of place can ruin the whole print run and that’s 1000s of yards.  Designers such as Paula Nadelstern and Nancy Halvorsen have been working with the same engraver, who knows them well and understands their designs, for years. Another technique we pay lots of attention to is color balance. Blender fabrics with subtle hue/color variations, such as Shadow Blush or Chalk Texture, might look simple to print, but they are not so easy to accomplish. The manufacturer needs to be very good at mixing and overlaying the dyes without turning everything to a muddy color. We are very careful to check every little detail before printing and we’re proud to have an experienced team of designers and stylists who have been with us for many years.”

5. Buy the right quantity of fabric

Decide how much fabric to purchase. It’s always better to have some extra fabric than to run out of it in the middle of your project. You may need more fabric for cutting errors, seam allowances, borders, binding, or backing. A good estimate is to buy 10% more fabric than the pattern calls for. You can always use the leftovers for another project or stash them for later. Stick with your budget, without compromising on quality or style. You can use online calculators, charts or apps to help you estimate how much fabric you need for your quilt.

Designer's Tip

Belle Brunner

My favorite tip (which I use myself) is to pay attention to how you feel when you look at the combination of colors and prints you have selected for your quilt. Usually, they will either make your ‘heart sing’, cause you to pause and be unsure or give you less than positive feelings ( some colors and prints even make me anxious). Color actually impacts our mood rather subconsciously. It can be easy to try and pick what is popular or trending but if your heart doesn’t skip for joy, then swap out a few fabrics (colors and/or prints) until it does.Belle Brunner

6. Trust your instincts and have fun!

Choosing fabric for a quilt is a creative process that should be enjoyable and rewarding. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations and see what works for you. There is no right or wrong way to choose fabric for a quilt, as long as you like the result. Remember that quilting is an art form that reflects your personality and style.

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