Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fabric Tips - One Block Wonder Quilt Along

The post you have all been waiting for - fabric selection tips for the OBW QAL!

OBW

The OBW technique creates a hexagon shape with a kaleidoscope effect.  Not every fabric will create an interesting grouping of hexagons.  Here are some tips to help you select the perfect fabric for your quilt.

There are several things you will need to consider:
  • Limited Colors
  • Large scale design features
  • Contrast 
  • Potential for Movement 
  • Length of Repeat

Limited Colors

For best results using the OBW technique, you will want to choose a fabric with 2 or 3 main colors.  Additional tiny accent colors are almost irrelevant.  By limiting the color scheme, your quilt will have a more harmonious flow and won't be too busy.

One of the reasons I think my Blue and White OBW was so successful is because it was essentially just two colors - blue (in a couple hues) and white.  That's it.  Here is the original fabric.

blue and white OBW original fabric


Now for some other examples...I walked around my local Joann's and snapped a few camera phone shots of the bolts (so excuse the quality of the pics, please).  So you have an idea of scale, I literally just took a picture of the bolts as I held them, so the shots are approximately 8 inches of fabric.

This fabric has a limited color scheme.

IMG_1772

You've got black, white, and red.  Your final quilt would be low volume (black and white), with a splashes of red mixed in.

Here is another fabric with limited colors.

IMG_1769

Your quilt will have areas of dark blue, light blue and then areas of the cream with blue accents.

Large Scale

Now is the time to pull out those large scale prints that you usually don't know what to do with.  Think large florals, novelty, even Asian prints that have large motifs.  Small scale prints just won't make enough of an impact with this pattern.  You are basically going to be cutting 3.5 inch triangles.  Ideally, you want the majority of the triangles in your quilt to be mostly one color.  Yes, you will want a few hexagons to only be partially one color for transitioning purposes, but if every one of your triangles has 5 colors in it, it will be difficult to group them together.

IMG_1773

The fabric above will result in a quilt similar to one of the examples in the book.  Most of your blocks will either be light purple, or dark purple.  Some will have a little of both, then you will also have some green blocks from the leaves.

While large scale, the fabric below has too many colors.

IMG_1771

If you were to use it, you would have small areas of purple, teal, white, lime green, pink, and a lot of hexagons with a little of each of those colors.

OBW potential fabric

This fabric might be OK.  You will have quite a few hexagons that are orange and pink, but plenty that are mostly red.


IMG_3420

This paisley print is limited in colors and large scale, but the areas of color are too mingled to be dramatic.  Remember those 3.5 inch triangles?  They would all be brown and teal.  You might have some interesting lines created by the hexagons, but you won't have any dramatic changes in color.

Contrast

This one is sometimes tricky.   High contrasting fabric is interesting, but that doesn't mean that you can't pick a fabric that transitions to another color (think blue to green to yellow).  I didn't find any fabrics that really highlighted this possibility, but it is an option.

This fabric has limited colors and they are high contrast.  The result will be a quilt with hexagons that are either the dark red, or pink, or bright white and pink.  Your quilt can transition from dark red, to bright pink, to light pink.  The gray from the leaves would just be an accent color and likely distributed throughout the quilt.

IMG_1768

This fabric has a more subtle change in contrast because it is all blue, in varying hues.

OBW potential fabric

You will have some hexagons that are white or light blue, then some with the darker blue.  Transitioning the change in hue across the quilt will be interesting.

OBW potential fabric

This fabric has very limited colors and is high contrast.  I think the tricky part will be having enough hexagons that are equally black and white (like where the leaves are) to make the transition from mostly black hexagons to mostly white hexagons.

*** Consider how Scale and Contrast work together ****  Remember, 3.5 inch triangles.

Potential for Movement

Having straight lines in your fabric is OK, it will highlight the hexagonal shape of the blocks; however, if not cut exactly straight, they may look like you made a mistake in piecing.  Curved lines are easier to piece and will create movement in the blocks.

Mom's One Block Wonder

Straight lines will emphasis the hexagon shape, but anywhere the lines don't line up perfectly, it will look like a mistake in piecing.  In the picture above, there are several blocks that had straight lines (from the bamboo stalks of the original fabric).  See how the hexagon shape is emphasized.  A few of these blocks look lined up just right, but I'm sure if you were able to zoom in on most of them, the lines would not line up.

OBW potential fabric

Whereas curved lines won't be expected to line up perfectly and create the feeling of movement within the block.  The paisley fabric above will create swirling kaleidoscopes with lots of movement.  This picture is pretty close up, but your quilt would mostly be black with a streak of the cream.

Likewise, this Asian print will have beautiful movement thanks to the wings of the birds.

IMG_3429

I would have chosen this fabric for my own quilt for this QAL, but I don't have enough of it!  :(

Consider this fabric:

IMG_1767

It is limited in color, large scale, and the palm fronds would fan out and make nice movement in the blocks.  But what about those tree trunks?  

Length of the Repeat

The larger the length of the repeat, the more diversity of blocks you will end up with.  This is also important if you are trying to make a quilt of a specific size.  To find the repeat, I like to look along the selvage for an easily recognizable design feature, like the stem of a flower, the wing of a particular bird, etc.  Using your ruler or measuring tape, measure along the repeat until you find that exact same design feature.  This is the length of your repeat.   Repeat lengths can vary, but it is unlikely you will find one more than 24 inches.  You will need to buy enough fabric to have 6 repeats, plus a little wiggle room (add 6 inches or so).  Now if your repeat is only 6 inches, that means you will need 1 yard of fabric plus that wiggle room, so let's just say 1 1/4 yard.  The problem is that, 1 1/4 yard of fabric, once cut and pieced is not going to make a very large quilt.  So if you were hoping for a throw size, you might want to choose a fabric with a larger repeat.   

You could also lengthen the cut you will make for your 6 repeats.  For example, if your fabric repeat is 8 inches, you would normally need 48 inches (plus wiggle room) to accommodate the 6 repeats you need for the hexagons. But again, that isn't going to make a large quilt.  You could "pretend" your repeat is double the 8 inches = 16 inches and get 6 repeats or 96 inches (plus wiggle room).  This will yield a much larger quilt, but you will have to work a little to make sure you cut the triangles for the hexagons differently so you don't end up with 2 of the exact same hexagons in your quilt.  This will make more sense when we get to the cutting tips portion of the quilt along.

Additional fabric options

When you buy your fabric, you might want to consider if you will be adding a border of the original fabric (which looks nice and gives everyone a hint of where your beautiful design came from) or if you will be using it on the backing.  If you said yes to either of these ideas, then you will want to buy more than the "required" amounts, yes?  Now if you are not in love with your fabric but only choose it because you liked the colors and it fit the other requirements, then look for a coordinating fabric to fit these needs.

Renegades

Here's the thing, you don't have to follow all or any of the tips above.  It is your quilt.  You might have a fabric that is calling to you and skips a few of the suggestions above.  Does that mean that your quilt will not be interesting?  NO, it does not!  There were several quilts in the gallery section of my OBW book that didn't seem to follow the rules above, and they turned out lovely.

I myself am going to experiment a tad with my own QAL quilt.  Here's the fabric I have chosen (from Joann's BTW).

IMG_1770

It called to me.  It has a few more colors than I would suggest.  And since the scale and repeat is not as large as I think it should be, I will likely cut smaller triangles than the pattern calls for.  I will see what happens.  This is supposed to be fun, after all!


I hope these tips helped.  Now go hit the sale racks at your favorite fabric stores, there are usually some excellent finds there.

Any questions?

Thanks for reading,

Jen

14 comments:

  1. These are really helpful guidelines. Thank you.

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  2. The fabric you chose from JoAnn's is one I seriously considered too, so I can't wait to see what it turns out like! Great post!

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  3. I found this entry about fabric. (I'd written earlier to say I couldn't find it.) Even though I can't get into sewing this quilt right now, I'm going to be on the lookout for the fabric I want to use. Thanks for all the tips esp. since I don't have my book, yet.

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  4. Great post. Looking forward everybodys outcome.

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  5. I found something I 'think' might work. But I am unsure, but this is an experiment for me too, so I will see what happens. It will be interesting to see what people post on flickr as their selection and how it turns out.

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  6. I am going to go look thru my stash now. Can't wait to start this quilt.

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  7. Really comprehensive post Jen, looks like you have got all the bases covered.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Thanks for sharing all these details and tips.. I'm still kind of new at sewing/quilting and have only made a few projects to date for my grandkids, who are very forgiving of my obvious mistakes. I'm beginning a 4-patch posey quilt for my mom (as a thank-you for giving me her 1953 Singer Featherweight, which started my recent quilt therapy/madness). I thought the 4-patch pattern was edgy but then I saw this!! Afraid I've swallowed the hook and will be checking back for more posts and also keeping an eye out for fabric! Thank you again...Laurie. My email is ranchgranny@yahoo.com

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  10. Thanks for sharing all these details and tips.. I'm still kind of new at sewing/quilting and have only made a few projects to date for my grandkids, who are very forgiving of my obvious mistakes. I'm beginning a 4-patch posey quilt for my mom (as a thank-you for giving me her 1953 Singer Featherweight, which started my recent quilt therapy/madness). I thought the 4-patch pattern was edgy but then I saw this!! Afraid I've swallowed the hook and will be checking back for more posts and also keeping an eye out for fabric! Thank you again...Laurie. My email is ranchgranny@yahoo.com

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  11. Hello I found your info very informative for my next Obw.. I did one out of tropical fish LG print. But the lady who helped me cut the strips did so at 4 inches. Its okay I improvised and added other colors of fabric making hexagons from.. I would like you to take a look at it.. Find me on Facebook. Tina Mauterstock.. Thank you looking forward to hearing from you..

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    1. Tina, I couldn't reply directly to your email b/c your setting are set to "no-reply", but I did check out your photo on Facebook and it is lovely! The greens and creams arranged in that way are wonderful. Thanks for stopping by!

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  12. This was really helpful, thanks so much!

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