Color Harmony in Quilting

Color expert Joen Wolfrom shows how to use the Ives color wheel -- and colors from nature -- to inspire inventive color choices for your quilts.

Next time you're not sure about which colors to use for your quilt, try taking a cue from nature. Quilter and author Joen Wolfrom often does just that, and her quilts are spectacular. Here's more advice from Joen on fabric color selection.

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Ives Color Wheel
An Ives color wheel is an invaluable tool when selecting colors for any project. The Ives wheel uses pure colors instead of the primary red, yellow and blue of the standard color wheel. The primary colors in this wheel are yellow, turquoise and magenta.

Colors that lie opposite each other on the color wheel are called complementary colors such as the chartreuse and red violet seen here.

Colors that are close or next to each other on the color wheel are called analogous. Best results will be obtained by using three, five or seven analogous colors.

Seasonal Colors
Paintings and photographs of the different seasons provide great inspiration for a quilt fabric palette.

Fall - Fall colors are created when warm colors have been shaded with black.

Winter - Winter colors are created when pure colors have been toned with gray.

Spring - Spring colors are created by tinting with pure colors. These colors can be very light to almost pure. These are the most difficult colors to find in fabric, according to Wolfrom.

Summer - Summer colors are the pure tones of the color wheel—the "Hey! Look at me!" fabrics, according to Wolfrom. These are the bold, dramatic fabrics .

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Monochromatic, Triadic and Split-Complementary Designs
Monocromatic designs are taken from just one color in the color wheel. This is the most difficult design to work in as the design is based on value—the contrast of dark and light hues. Another challenge is that most fabrics do not come with a wide value spectrum in one color.

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Triadic Color Scheme is a color trio, using colors that lie equal distances apart from each other on the color wheel. You can use any value from the color families, for instance here is an illustration of triadic red violet, yellow-orange, and blue-green. Here are some fabrics using that triad. Alex Anderson thinks this combination is really hot! We agree Alex!

Split-Complementary color schemes utilize both the complementary color combination and the analogous color combination. In a split-complementary plan, the complement always lies opposite the middle analogous color. This combination renders a "wonderful temperature shift," says Wolfrom.

Tip: Afraid of one certain color? Experts advise to tackle the color you fear most. Work it into your quilt designs and soon the fear will fade away.

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