The Quilted Life with Carolyn


Using a Bold Print 0

As always, thank you for sharing your comments with me last week! I had so much fun talking to you about inspiration that I thought I’d continue the theme and get straight to the promised post about using an inspiration fabric.

Specifically, I thought it would be fun to go in depth into how to use a bold inspiration fabric, such as a large-scale, multicolor print, since this is one of my favorite ways to get a new project started.

Finding the Fabric

Finding the fabric itself is fairly easy. It’s just a matter of waiting until one speaks to you. When I begin a quilt this way, I usually just browse the aisles of my local quilt shop until a fabric jumps out at me.

I usually know it is a “good” inspiration fabric when 1) it makes me feel excited about my new project, 2) it has multiple colors in it, and 3) the print itself is something I like enough to make the “main attraction” of the finished quilt.

Picking a Pattern

What I mean by that is that it can be a bit visually overwhelming to have a busy print and a busy pattern! So I have to be comfortable featuring the print instead of the pattern. I keep the pattern simple, with large pieces, so the print can be showcased instead of chopped up.

Avoiding chopping the large-scale print into pieces too small allows the print to really shine - Imagine chopping up a farm animal fabric for a baby quilt, for example. If you don’t use a pattern with big enough pieces, you might just end up with a bunch of cow rear-ends, pig feet, and chicken heads instead of adorable, whole animals. Yikes!

Choosing Accompanying Fabrics

The reason I like to pick a multicolored print as my inspiration fabric is because it makes picking the rest of the fabrics for the quilt much easier! The way I see it, there are two ways to go.

  1. Pick your other fabrics to match the colors in the inspiration print.
  2. Pick a neutral color set, such as greys, whites, blacks, or even blues, to put the loud print against.

If you choose option 1, you might end up with a quilt that looks like this:

The inspiration here was the floral print. Note that the other colors surrounding the busy print are not solids. Although solids would certainly work and can be beautiful, I really love to inject a little extra pizzazz into my quilts by using prints that read solid to accompany my large-scale print.

Definition of “A fabric that reads solid” - a print that is mostly one color, but which has some dimension or a small scale print that gives it some extra visual interest.

Option 2 is my favorite to use when I have picked an inspiration fabric that is proving hard to work with. Sometimes I end up with a large-scale print that has colors that are difficult to find in other coordinating fabrics, and it doesn’t seem to play nicely with anything else. Or sometimes too many colors accompanying a wild print can feel too chaotic!

Neutrals go with everything and are a sure-fire way to make any bold inspiration fabric work.

In this quilt, I had a very bold print and I tried approach #1, but it ended up looking insane! Even I, Carolyn - Lover of Color - can get overwhelmed by too much color sometimes! So I unsewed the whole thing, threw out my other fabrics (just kidding. I carefully folded them and put them away.), and picked just one neutral. In this case, a dusty pink!

How do you work with bold prints? Share your favorite bold-print-inspired project with Quilter’s Mart by emailing a picture of it to We love seeing and sharing your projects on our Facebook and Instagram pages!

  • Carolyn Knees

Finding Quilting Inspiration 9

Hello, dear blog-readers! As always, I loved reading your comments on last week’s post. Thank you all for sharing your own stories of battling your expectations of perfection, your alternative names for The Galloping Horse Test, and for connecting with me. What fun!

This week I want to talk to you about finding inspiration when starting a new quilt. The first spark of creativity can come from so many different places, or sometimes even combination of places. But we all have to start somewhere! So let’s dive into a few of my favorite sources of inspiration.

Quilting for a specific person/purpose

Most of my quilting projects have a home before I even start them. Maybe my own dining room table needs a new table runner, or there is a birthday coming up, or (most commonly for me) someone I love has a new baby on the way.

Knowing the recipient ahead of time can often be inspiration enough, especially if you know that person (or the mama/papa-to-be) well. Recently, I made a quilt for an expectant mom, who also happens to be a dear friend who had her baby only 9 days before I had my daughter.

All I had to do was ask her what the nursery theme was going to be, and voilà! Inspiration!

In this case, it was Wizard of Oz themed, and because we didn’t know whether baby was going to be a boy or a girl before the birth, I decided to try to be abstract and gender neutral with the theme so baby could enjoy it no matter what. Baby ended up being a sweet boy, who is now almost 11 months old. Quilt result below!

Find a pattern

Even when you have a recipient in mind, you’ll have to pick a pattern eventually. But sometimes finding the right pattern can be the very first step in the creative process, even before you know who the quilt will keep warm, and that pattern can inspire the whole project. I love to find new patterns by checking out what is hanging at my local quilt shop, visiting quilt shows, browsing the racks, checking out the Quilter’s Mart pattern of the month, reading magazines, and stealing Nancy the Quilting Goddess’ books.

The perfect pattern can click the start of a story in my mind. At first sight, I can imagine the colors, if I need loud prints or subtle solids, whose bed it might cover, and how I’ll quilt it. Then it’s just a matter of executing!

Finding an inspiration fabric

Sometimes instead of the pattern kickstarting you, you’ll find a fabric that gets you going. It could be a simple, solid fabric in a color that speaks to you. But for me, more often, it is a print that catches my eye.

Usually my inspiration fabrics are multicolored, which makes it easy to fill in the rest of the fabrics. Then it is just a matter of finding a pattern that works with the chosen fabrics - or maybe making up my own design! - and I’m off to the races.

Picking an inspiration fabric can be fun and exciting, but it can also be a challenging place to begin a project. I plan to write an entire post about inspiration fabrics down the line, so stay tuned!

Raiding scraps

If you’re anything like me, you treasure your beautiful fabric, and may find it hard to throw away. I even keep a drawer full of extra binding strips! I’m not sure what I’ll ever use 12 inches of binding for, but if a need ever arises, I’m covered.

More interesting than extra binding strips are the leftover scraps of yardage that didn’t get used during an earlier project. ¼ yard here, ½ yard there, several cuts intended for one project that ultimately got replaced by a different color - you know how it is!

Every once in a while, it can be fun to raid those scraps for a small table runner, or a quirky quilt. I love doing this for a quilting version of spring cleaning, and the results can be really fun!

Buy a kit

When you’re at a loss, and your creativity has run out at the most inopportune time (like the last of your bobbin thread!), kits are great! They come with a pattern and pre-measured (sometimes even pre-cut) fabric, and you’re all set. Guaranteed to be beautiful - inspiration in a bag!

What are your favorite sources of inspiration? Do you find inspiration anywhere I didn’t think of?

  • Carolyn Knees
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