How To Choose and Buy Fabric for your Quilts

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Picture of Ingrid Alteneder

Ingrid Alteneder

Hey there, I love fabric, sewing, quilting and most of all Foundation Paper Piecing. Welcome to my blog!


Choosing fabric for your quilting projects can sometimes seem overwhelming and will and should take some time and consideration. Not knowing where to start can hold you back from doing it at all.

Sounds familiar? I have been there.

You enter a fabric store and the selection is so stunning and colorful, you don’t even
know where to start? And you love everything you see and want to buy it all?
Trust me… been there , done that…

But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Look at it like shopping for a pair of shoes, the ultimate fun right ?
You get to browse the stores, try out shoes, imagine yourself in them, and finally find the
perfect match. They look good, fit perfectly and aren’t too expensive 🙂

It’s the same with fabric, since you will likely invest quite some time in your
sewing project… your fabric will be your foundation and it should be a great fit.

The Best Ways to Shop for Fabric

In my experience, these are the best ways to shop for fabric:

  1. in your favorite local fabric store
  2. online

Depending on your experience your local fabric store is definitely the best choice
as a beginner. You can touch the fabric and ask the store owner/ sales clerk
for help as well. You can admire the colorful shelves, pull out fabric, place them next to each other. Find pre-coordinated bundles of different designers and get tons of inspiration.

If you’re more experienced you will also enjoy online shopping, you probably know some fabric designers and their lines, you have a pretty good sense of what you’re looking for.  Perfect, that makes online fabric shopping so much easier.

I personally prefer fabric shopping in a fabric store. There’s nothing like actually
touching fabric and laying it out together to see if the choices ‘feel’ good together.
A personal tip for either way of shopping : take your time and enjoy the process.

Understanding Your Project and Choosing Suitable Fabrics

Now, we will take time and look at our pattern. Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing fabrics:

  1. What do you want to achieve? Something fun and colorful, or something classy ?
  2. What occasion is it for?
  3. What look do you want to create? Modern, whimsical, romantic?
  4. Who is the quilt or quilted project for?
  5. What colorways do you like?

It’s always good to think about this in advance, it saves you from confusion in the store or online and also from spending too much or too little because you’re getting overwhelmed.
Kind of like knowing whether you need boots or sandals, and whether you need them for hiking or a wedding 🙂

Here’s an example:
I colored my Chinese New Year quilt patterns in two different colorways.
(btw. each one of my patterns has a coloring page for you, so you can try out different options for yourself and can see beforehand which way you want to go.)
Warm colors and more traditional for Chinese New Year, or cool and crisp and more unique for the occasion.



I went for the warm and traditional version,
probably cause those are also my favorite colors of all times.

Intentionally Combine your Fabrics

This doesn’t mean using all of them, certainly not, but it gives you a good look at all the different options.

It also shows you which prints or solids will work fine and which ones won’t work at all. This process is essentially the same in a fabric store. We all have favorite colors and/or favorite print patterns.
There are solids, small scale prints, large scale prints, flowers, paisleys, stripes or the cutest little novelty prints, the choices seem and are endless.
So most importantly trust your taste.
Build your fabrics around a certain colorway or a focal print or both.
(eg. in the photo above, the two larger scale flower prints carry all the colors of the solids and small scale prints around them)
As a total beginner you can always start out with bundles of fabrics.
These are pre-coordinated by designer, collection or color and make it very easy to start out with your project.

Here are two finished versions of the balloon lantern pattern. As you can see, you achieve completely different results of the exact same pattern just with the fabrics.



Work With your Color Contrasts

For Foundation Paper Piecing it is quite important to work with contrasts, otherwise the colors will blend in with each other too much, and the pattern and most importantly your work will not be as noticeable, something I had to learn the hard way 🙂
There were quite a few quilt blocks, that I started and never finished because the contrast wasn’t enough and it just looked really bland….

So which ever way you start out, or coordinate your fabric,
pick what you like, because you‘re the expert of your taste ….
and have fun with it, there’s hardly anything as nice as fabric shopping…..
except maybe shoe shopping 🙂


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