Part 3: Quilting Rules or Guidelines – Pretreatment of Fabric

Part 3: Quilting Rules or Guidelines – Pretreatment of Fabric

This presentation was supposed to be “How to read a Pattern and The Pattern for the Fabulous Four Patch” however; I realized just how much information I was literally throwing at you. There is information you need before we can jump into the quilt pattern. To provide you with this information, I have broken the steps of Basic Quilting down a bit more.

Fabrics for The Fabulous Four Patch

Fabrics for The Fabulous Four Patch

Pre wash or not to prewash the quilt fabric

Some quilters prewash all their quilt fabrics and others do not. It is a personal choice.   Most fabric sold in quilt shops are high quality quilt fabrics that usually don’t bleed. In the 30 plus years I’ve been quilting I’ve had only one quilt project where one of the fabrics (a navy blue fabric) bleed onto the surrounding light fabrics. If I think a fabric may bleed then I do a test to check its colorfastness. Below are directions to check if a fabric is colorfast or color safe.

Example of color bleeding

The picture above is a small section of a Charm Quilt I made with my mom.  No fabric is repeated in this small quilt.  One of the red prints bled on to the white half of this half square triangle, turning a part of the white tone on tone print a light shade of pink.

Test to Check a Fabric for Colorfastness

  1. Cut a small sample (about a 1 1/2”) piece of fabric.
Colorfast Test

Colorfast Test









2. Soak it in warm (bath temp) water.

Colorfast Test - fabric in warm water

Colorfast Test – fabric in warm water









3.  Next, set it on a white paper towel and then wait a minute or so.

Colorfast Test -Wet fabric resting on paper towel The color of this polka dot print did not bleed - it is color safe!

Colorfast Test -Wet fabric resting on paper towel
The color of this polka dot print did not bleed – it is color safe!

4.  Remove the fabric sample and check for color on the paper towel.If there is no color on the paper towel then the fabric is colorfast

5.  If there is color from the fabric, place the fabric in the washer add a cup of white vinegar (no detergent or softener) put the washer on gentle cycle. Allow the washer to go through a whole cycle i.e… Wash, rinse, then   final rinse. When the washer stops pull the fabric out of the washer and give it a good shake (you are shaking out the scrunched up fabric) put the wet fabric in the dryer select the setting for delicates. Remove fabric when    dry, then iron. You may want to spray on starch or sizing before ironing it, to give the fabric body.

I prefer not to prewash my fabric unless I believe the fabric will bleed on to the adjoining fabrics. I like the feel of the fabric as it is right off the bolt. The starch it has in it helps me to accurately cut out pieces for my quilt projects. However if I do need to prewash a fabric, I follow the steps I described in the previous paragraph.

Note: Don’t prewash Pre Cuts such as Charm Squares, Jelly Rolls or Buns, Layer Cakes, etc… They will fray and you will lose a lot of their fabric


Next Time: How to use the Rotary Cutter, Its Care and Safety

Part 2: How to choose fabric for your quilt:

Part 2: How to choose fabric for your quilt:

In this presentation we will discuss color, texture, scale and how these words relate to choosing fabric

You experience color every day. You probably have a favorite color, or if you are like me maybe you have more than one favorite. I have three favorites. Maybe you use your favorite color in decorating your home. Perhaps the color of your car reflects the favored color. Just as you use color in your surroundings you will use this experience and preferred color or colors in your quilting.

Before you make a trip to the fabric store or quilt shop to purchase fabric, I want to go through a couple of activities to help you decide what colors of fabrics you will need to purchase for your project. If you go into the store or shop unprepared you will become over whelmed by the rainbow colored walls of fabric you will encounter on your shopping trip. There are simply too many choices. How do I know this? Because it happens to me and I’ve seen it happen to the most experienced quilters. It doesn’t matter the skill level, if the homework or prep work hasn’t been done, it is very difficult to keep or find ones focus on what colors and, scale of fabrics needed for a particular project. The times I have tried to “wing it”, the fabric usually winds up in my stash  waiting to be used, because it’s not what I needed.

Do you remember a time in your childhood when you got to pick out one or two pieces of candy? Do you remember trying to decide which one was just the right one, but there were too many choices? It was hard to choose. A trip to the fabric store or quilt shop to purchase fabric is a lot like trying to decide which is the right candy.


Activity #1

This activity will help you to narrow your focus on which colors or theme of fabric you will need. Take the time to answers a few questions.

  1. Who or what is the quilt for? Is it for a new baby or grandchild? Is it for your living room, bedroom or camper?
  2. What purpose is the quilt for? Baby, graduation, wedding, retirement etc…
  3. If the quilt is for someone else, what colors do they like? Some examples: If for a baby find out what color the baby’s room will be. If for a child, grandchild, graduate or wedding, what are his/her favorite colors?
  4. If you are making this quilt for yourself. Is it for a certain time of the year, Christmas, Fourth of July, or seasonal, spring, summer or fall? What room will the quilt go in to and what is the color is the room decorated with?


Having answered the questions above, you should now know:

  1. Who the quilt is for or what purpose the quilt will serve.
  2. The colors you are going to use in the quilt.


The Color Wheel

Fabric for the quilter is like paint for the artist. You will use colored fabrics to make your piece of art or rather your quilt. To reacquaint yourself with color and its relationship with other colors, let’s take a look at the Color Wheel. Maybe you remember this from elementary school? Take a look at the Color Wheel below. Notice it has 12 colors.

Color Wheel with Primary, Secondary and Tratiary colors


We are going to start with the Primary colors Red, Yellow and Blue.

Color Wheel with Primary colors


By mixing two of each color together we get orange from red and yellow, green from yellow and blue, and violet or purple from red and blue. These colors; green, orange and violet are the Secondary Colors.

Primary and Secondary Colors-1a-edieted


To finish the color wheel, when we mix a primary color with a secondary color we get the Tertiary Colors: Red-orange, yellow-orange, blue-green, blue-violet and red-violet.

Color Wheel with Primary, Secondary and Tratiary colors


Activity #2- Color the Color Wheel

-You need a box of crayons 16 or 24 count will do (the Crayola Crayons have the same color names I’m using. If you are using another brand and the color names are different do your best to match up the colors used in this activity

-A copy of a blank color wheel (click on the link here for a printable blank color wheel) Free Printable Color Wheel by Mr. Printable    Note: This is a safe site

                                                                                                                                                                   Blank Color Wheel











You may think this is a silly activity, coloring is just for kids. Doing this activity is the beginning of seeing colored fabrics and how they react and work with other colored fabrics. That “wall of fabric“, I mentioned earlier will become your box of crayons.

  Color Wheel Directions

  1.   Take the crayons for the Primary Colors, blue, red and yellow out of the box
  2.   Color in the spaces for the Primary Colors, blue, red and yellow
  3.   Take the crayons for the Secondary Colors, green, orange and violet (purple) out of the box
  4.   Color in the spaces for the Secondary Colors, green, orange and violet (purple)
  5.   Take the Tertiary Colors, blue-green, blue-violet, red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green and yellow-orange out of the box
  6.   Color in the spaces for the Tertiary Colors, blue-green, blue-violet, red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green and yellow-orange

Put your finished Color Wheel someplace you can see it for the next few days, while you work through the remaining information.



Let’s take a look at color and what happens when we add the colors Black, Gray or White. When black is added to a color, it makes shades, as in a darker shade of blue is navy blue. Whengray is added to color the result are tones. When white is added to a color tints are made. The more, white is added, the lighter the color becomes; these are also referred to as pastel colors.

Color Wheel Tints: Color + White

Color Wheel Tints: Color + White




Color Wheel - Shades: Color + Black Color Wheel - Shades

Color Wheel – Shades: Color + Black
Color Wheel – Shades


Color Wheel - Tones  Color + Gray

Color Wheel – Tones Color + Gray


  Color Value

Color Value is the term that refers to how dark or light a fabric is. Value is an important characteristic because it helps quilters decide how to arrange patches of fabric to make them either blend or contrast with each other.

Cool and Warm Colors

Red, orange and yellow are warm colors.

Blue, green and violet are cool colors.

Cool and Warm colors



Colors can evoke feelings; reds have a warm feel and blues a cool feel. What do you think of when you see the color red? Chili Peppers, Fire, hearts, etc.. These all evoke a warm feeling while blues, greens, or purples give a cool effect of ice, water, trees, and mountains. The same hold true for fabrics.



Color Terms and Using color in the Quilt

Monochromatic: When a quilt is monochromatic it has a color scheme made up of one color but in several shades of that color.


Complementary: A complementary quilt is made with a color combination of two hues (color) oppisit each other on the color wheel.

A Thimbleberries Pattern

A Thimbleberries Pattern


Analogous: An analogous quilt is a combination of colors that are side by side on the color wheel. For example the colors green, blue and violet create a calming feeling. But the combination of red, yellow and orange creates a warm color scheme.

Pattern: Newcastle from Quilter's World

Pattern: Newcastle from Quilter’s World


Triadic: A triadic quilt has a color combination of three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel. It also has contrast from light to dark.


Doll Clothes

Doll Clothes

Two Color Quilt: A two color quilt is made up of two colors the first white. Quilts in the colors red and white and Quilts in blue and white are the classic examples of two color quilts.

Pattern: Empire from American Patchwork and Quilting

Pattern: Empire from American Patchwork and Quilting


All of this information is a lot to absorb, but I’ve given it to you by the book, so to speak.


Focus Fabric

  • One way to choose fabric is to pick a “Focus Fabric” first and then use it to select other fabrics that match in color and style. When picking the fabrics to go with you Focus Fabric, choose some prints with different scaling. Scaling refers to the size of the print, you can use small prints, some with medium prints and if your quilt has large blocks in it you can also include large prints. Using a variety of print sizes gives your quilt texture and interest. You will also need to choose some fabrics that are light and others that are dark; these will give your quilt contrast so you can see the pattern of the quilt blocks.
  • Cool Colored fabric Scaling-IMG_1043
  • Warm Prints Scaling

When I select fabrics for a quilt, I usually start with a Focus Fabric. But I also use my feelings or rather my feel for a fabric. It’s an instinctual feeling. I’ve had to work at the “art of selecting fabrics” and develop my sense of color value and scale when selecting fabric for a quilt.

Below are two samples of starting with a focus fabric and coordinating fabrics. The first is in warm colors and the second is cool colors.


Warm Color Fabric Collection

Warm Color Fabric Collection


Cool Color Fabric Collection

Cool Color Fabric Collection




Fabrics which are 100% cotton are, desirable for quilting. Cotton is durable and stays soft over time. It is unwise a combine 100% cotton and cotton blends, in your quilt top because the cotton shrinks a tiny bit when washed and dried, the cotton blend doesn’t. The quilt top of mixed fibers will have a bumpy, lumpy appearance after it’s washed and dried. I’m not talking about that soft bumpy look an older quilt has.

The Fabulous Four Patch

This is the project you will be working on.

It will be a two color quilt.

Designed with EQ5

Designed with EQ5

Blue Four Patch Designed with EQ5

Blue Four Patch Designed with EQ5

 You will need:

3 yards – Main color Fabric

2 3/4 yards Background Fabric

Next week: Part Three- Introducing the Quilt Pattern, How to use the Rotary Cutter, It’s Care and Safety

Happy  Shopping,