Quilting 101: Choosing Quilt Fabric and Colors

variety of fabrics

If choosing fabric and colors for your quilt is something your interesting in learning more about, you’ve come to the right place!

Types of Fabric

Although you can really make quilts out of any type of fabric, the majority of quilters like to use 100% premium cotton. Premium 100% cotton is ideal for quilts because of its good quality. This type of fabric holds its shape well and is easy to work with.

Although I’ve used lesser quality fabrics here and there in my quilts, I recommend 100% premium cotton as the fabric type of choice!  

I also love flannels!  I’ve made some quilts completely out of flannel. They are sooooo cozy! Lots of times I’ll put a flannel back on my “non-flannel” quilts. This adds an extra level of cozy to them! 

It’s kind of a quilting “rule” to use the same type of fabric throughout a quilt. But one of my favorite quilts was given to me by an aunt who used a variety of fabric types and colors throughout.  I absolutely love the vintage fabrics and textures in this one!

vintage fabric quilt from Aunt Mary

Another aunt of mine specialized in making quilts out of repurposed wool clothing and wool scraps. I was lucky enough to receive one of these amazingly warm beauties for a wedding gift! 

wool scrap quilt from Aunt Margaret

No wonder quilting is in my blood!!! 

Start out with 100% premium cotton fabric is you’re beginning to make quilts. But eventually you can experiment with various different fabrics. Don’t be afraid to break the rules now and then!

Inspiration for Choosing Colors

It’s crazy where you can get color inspirations for your quilts! 

I’ve gotten ideas from staring at a colorful picture in my office. I even took the one of the pictures to the quilt shop with me to help me match the color combinations!

My "Little Miss Sawtooth" Quilt, pattern designed by Melanie Traylor of Southern Charm Quilts.

I also get inspiration from colors found together in nature. The palette of fall colors is one of my favorites to combine!

Sometimes I’ll get an idea in my head of the colors I’d like to include in a quilt. I like going through my stash and pulling together color schemes to match the intent of the quilt. Lots of times I’ll pull fabric from my stash and put it in a pile on the floor. Then I pick out the colors that don’t compliment the others and use the “keepers” in the quilt.

Colors I've chosen for a baby quilt

Another way to choose fabric colors

Color wheels can also help you choose the colors for your quilt!

color wheel

One little handy dandy trick for choosing a palette of colors is to look along the selvage edge of a piece of fabric you’ve chosen. 

salvage color dots listing the colors in the fabric design

There are usually a bunch of little colored circles in the salvage area of patterned fabric. These colored dots are the menu of all the colors that are incorporated into the fabric.  You can select other fabrics that match these colors to create the color palette for your quilt! 

Because a fabric designer has already picked them out for you, you’ll know these colors are going to go together well in your quilt!

One of the benefits of patronizing your local quilt shop is the personalized service you can receive.  Many times (if the shop isn’t too busy!) the employees will be more than happy to help you pick out coordinating or complimentary fabrics for your quilt. 

a purchased bundle of coordinating red fabrics

If picking out the colors causes you anxiety, leave it up to someone who enjoys this part of quilt making to help you!

Collecting Fabric — Build Your Stash!

I love to collect fabric!!  

I’ll buy fabric just because I fall in love with it when I see it! Many times without knowing what I’m going to make with it yet, but knowing it’s going to eventually work its way into one of my quilts some day. 

If it’s a fabric I especially love, I’ll buy a couple yards of it (I’ve even bought the whole bolt!). But lots of times I’ll purchase a fat quarter (18” x 22”) of the fabric to add to the variety of my fabric stash. Buying fat quarters is a really nice way to build up your stash!!

I love having my own little fabric “store” (my stash!) to “shop” in when I’m making a new quilt!!

Another fun way to choose the colors for your quilt or build your stash is to purchase pre-cut fabric bundles. Pre-cut bundles are referred to as fat quarters (18” x 22” pieces of fabric), layer cakes (10” squares), jelly rolls (2 ½” strips of fabric rolled into a bundle), or charms (5” squares).  These are fun to find and purchase, and are a nice way to add to your stash!

Traditional vs. Scrappy Quilts

For a more “traditional-looking” quilt, there are usually fewer different fabrics chosen. These few choices of fabric are then repeated throughout the quilt top. These quilts tend to only have a few pattern combinations within the variety of fabrics. 

For a “scrappy-looking” quilt, there are several different fabrics and patterns chosen. I’ve included over 100 different fabrics in some of my scrappy quilts! The placement of fabric in scrappy quilts is usually more random throughout the quilt top. 

It’s really a personal choice for the quilt look you prefer.  I tend to make and love scrappy quilts!  I think it has something to do with being a simple girl who likes to “make-do”. I’m also most comfortable in less formal surroundings (like at the lake!). 

To me, a scrappy quilt feels like a loving hug from “home”…


As a former 4th grade teacher, I’d always tell my students there is more than one way to do something. The way to solve a problem that makes sense to you might not make sense to someone else.

It’s true with quiltmaking too!! 

There are many ways to arrive at the end result of making a quilt!  As you hone your skills and continue to explore the art of quilting, you’ll find variations of ways to perform various skills and techniques and choose your “go-to” favorites. 

You might even discover a whole new way of doing something!! 


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