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Creative Inspiration with Paula Storm: A Question of Colour

One of the things I’m asked about most often is colour and how to put together colour schemes or fabrics for my quilts. So this month, let’s discuss colour!

Most of the time when we talk about colour, we’re told to get a colour wheel and start looking at complementary, triadic or analogous colour schemes. Of course that is a fundamental of colour and a fantastic way to put them together, but personally I feel that quilts are much more personal. Quilting is a craft, an art form, and a successful quilt colour scheme is more about the ‘feel’ of the colours than about theory.

So for now let’s forget about colour wheels and theory and let’s focus on what you like and what your quilt needs. Each quilt I make starts in a different way; it might be that I spot an incredible fabric or collection that I just have to buy. There might be a particular quilt design that I want to try or a person that I need to make it for. So there are a few things I ask myself before I start.

First up, do I have a reason for making this quilt? For example, is it for a new baby or a gift for a friend? Is there a particular room the quilt needs to fit in or decor it needs to match?

Next up is the actual design of the quilt. Do I need to choose particular fabrics to fit with the design of the quilt?

Some traditional designs, such as a Storm at Sea quilt, are very dependent on colour placement; you need to have light, medium and dark colours in the right spots or you lose the effect of the curves.

Another thing to keep in mind when choosing fabrics for a particular quilt design is whether large- or small-scale prints will work better. For a block-based design, in most cases a small-scale print will work much better. But when it comes to using large open blocks or appliqué, large-scale prints can be fantastic. I love using large-scale prints for my appliqué because everywhere I cut I will get a different colour combination.

Brighten up plain dining chairs with these fun slices of citrus chair cushions from Paula Storm

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Paula Storm’s Night Blooms appliqué flowers were made entirely from large-scale prints.

Finally, I ask myself if I’m looking for a clean crisp colour scheme or more muted ‘dusty’ fabrics. When I’m trying to put fabrics together I always check if they have a white, cream or grey base to them. See the photos below — they show fabrics with a white base, grey base and beige base.

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These fabrics are clean and fresh so I would class them as having a white base.
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These fabrics have a more dusty, creamy appearance with a beige base.

Let your creativity run wild with from Paula Storm’s appliqué flower Spring at Midnight Quilt pattern 

I love to combine both white-base and grey-base fabrics. Cream- and grey-base fabrics also look fantastic together, but white- and cream-base fabrics don’t usually work. Of course there are exceptions, but in most cases I stick to this rule.

So let’s get into choosing a colour scheme. Sandy wrote in and asked me, “Do you start with a multi-coloured print or a solid that you love?” As I’ve mentioned, sometimes I do like to start with a particular fabric. You can use the dots on the selvedge to pull fabrics that will match the feature fabric, but a really fun new way I discovered recently is to use my smart phone. There are some brilliant new free apps out there that can be really effective in helping to put together a colour scheme.

The app I’ve been playing with lately, and which is currently my favourite, is the Koj Lite app. Koj is super simple to use. When you open the app it has a colour scheme of six colours. You simply swipe left until you find a colour scheme you like. When you’ve chosen your colours, screen shot or save it to your photos. If you like the scheme but one of the colours doesn’t work for you, you can just tap on that colour — it will change the colour until you’re happy with the colour scheme.

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I really liked this colour scheme but I thought the beige was a bit too dull, so I tapped on the beige until I found this lovely purple. You can keep playing with your colours until you’re happy, then simply take this picture to your stash or fabric store and use it as inspiration to pull your fabrics.

Another app I love is the Color Republic app. Here you can upload a photo you’ve taken and it will put together a colour scheme for you by pulling colours from the image. This app has lots of pictures already built in or you can use your own photos.

A great way to use this app is to ask the person you’re making a quilt for to send you a picture of the room that the quilt needs to fit into. They could also send you a picture that they love because of the colours in it. A few minutes of playing in the app and you will have a colour scheme that you know they will love.

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My husband sent me this picture of some stunning rocks and I thought I could use it as inspiration for a background of an appliqué quilt. I uploaded the picture to the Color Republic app and was surprised to find the blue it picked up. I can’t wait to pull some fabric to match it.

If you don’t have a smart phone, there is also a great website that is similar to Colour Republic, called the Color Palette Generator by Canva. This website works by using its inspiration pictures, or upload a picture of your room or just a picture that you love and see which colours it picks for you. The only downfall of this website is that you can’t play with the colours, so it only gives you one colour scheme from your photo. I used this picture from a holiday in the Isle of Pines, Noumea. This would be a fantastic colour scheme for a more traditional quilt.

Colour Wheel Apps

If you feel you need to use a colour wheel, there is a really great app simply called Color Wheel; it shows you ways to create the traditional Complementary, Triadic and Analogous and more colour schemes.

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So grab your phone and get playing — you will have dozens of colour schemes in no time.

Happy stitching!

Paula Storm