Choosing Fabric for Applique

Early Spring Wreath

Recently I received an email asking about how I choose and use fabric. As I composed my answer to I thought that others might benefit from my philosophy about fabric selection and color. Here is our exchange:

“Dear Jeana,

I admire your designs, skill, color and fabric selections and combinations, but mostly I enjoy your vision. Thank you.

I will begin my first project, a gift for an old friend, the Early Spring Wreath. By any chance is a kit available for the Early Spring Wreath applique?

If not: I know fabric design offerings change over time, but would you be able to advise me where to find similar colors and designs today?


Good morning Vivian. Of anything in the world to do, I love designing and stitching applique. It is nice to know that someone appreciates that.

Thank you for asking. I stitched that design (Early Spring Wreath, shown above) in the 1990’s, so, of course, none of those fabrics are availablenow. But I do have some thoughts about using color.

First let me say that everyone has an inner sense of color and their instincts will guide fabric choices, so you should first of all honor what your instincts say is right.

After that, I have learned a few things about fabric and using it. Briefly, here are a few suggestions.

Clear colors. Referring back to individual sense of color, a natural palette for me is clear color. That means that the underlying tone of the fabric is clean and clear, devoid of muted tones. It is a personal and easy choice for me to make. Everyone is not like me, so you should go with what appeals to your eye. However, the following suggestions will help enhance your natural palette.

I rarely use solid fabrics because I like printed fabric, but I choose fabric that “reads” as a solid from a distance. How that translates is the fabric I use is usually just two colors…background and a second color to create the print. The thing to remember about that is that if the second color is dark, or darker than the background, from a distance that fabric will look darker than it does up close. So to avoid the design becoming dark, watch for darkening prints.

Contrast is very important. Because we are sometimes hesitant about our fabric choices, we tend to stay neutral. It means that we tend to choose fabric in medium values only. To bring a design to life, it is important that there be both light, medium and dark values working together to maximize the design. So consider the complete spectrum of choices for every color you choose for a flower or its foliage.

Movement and sparkle complete the composition. For me, it important to move the viewer’s eye over the surface of the design. Repeating color across the design (and the quilt) keeps the viewer moving their focus so that the entire design is seen. “Sparkle” is something (usually a small something) that contrasts with everything else on the design so that the viewer notices it. It can be the element that moves the eye. (In this design it is the red and white plaid ribbons.)

I hope the above pointers will help you to choose fabric and its placement on your own version of Early Spring Wreath. At the very least it will give you something to think about as you choose and stitch your design!

Best wishes,


2 Responses to “Choosing Fabric for Applique”

  1. Karenlogcabinquilter Says:

    Visit Karenlogcabinquilter

    The plaid is the first thing that caught my eye. It does add the “punch” to the block and I love plaids.

  2. Jeana Says:

    Visit Jeana

    Thank you Karen. At that time there were lots of great plaids on the market and by using them in these blocks it was a way to bring a less series element to the designs…a bit of whimsy! Jeana

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.