How to Place Fabrics When Using a Grayscale Quilt Pattern

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You've got a heap of gorgeous fabric and a brand new quilt pattern — yay! But if that pattern is printed in grayscale, things can get complicated, fast. What goes where? How can you achieve that finished look you have in your mind (or saw in a photo)? Will the fabrics you have on hand even work?

We've asked ourselves these very same questions, and there's good news: A few easy guidelines make working from a grayscale pattern way less scary — and maybe even more fun than using patterns that dictate every detail.

1. Read the Pattern Carefully

Before you do anything, you gotta read that quilt pattern to see what it calls for in terms of overall fabric volume and variety. Is it all about precuts, or could other scraps from your stash find their way into your project? You have lots of flexibility at this stage, so keep an open mind!

2. Sort and Stack

Next, round up all the fabrics you want to use and sort them by value: light, medium and dark. This step's key for "mapping" what you have against the black, white and gray markings on your pattern. Don't worry about matching the values exactly — it's your quilt and there's still freedom to play! — but look to add value contrast somewhere, as it'll give your design structure. One thought: If most of the fabrics you want to feature are in the same family of value, add a solid that's very dark or very light (even black or white!) in the background or sashing.

3. Break Out the Colored Pencils

A quilt coloring sheet is an easy and fun way to play with fabric placement. All you have to do is trace the black-and-white quilt pattern onto plain paper, or draw it to scale on graph paper. Then use colored pencils or markers to shade in your designs. (A quilt design software program does the same thing, but you definitely don't have to have one. Good old paper-and-pencil works fine.)

4. Use a Design Wall

If sketching and coloring isn't your style, you can play with your fabrics on a design wall instead — or use the design wall as a next step, once you've gotten the general idea out on paper. You're cutting fabric at this point, so you're starting to commit!

Once you've cut a few block elements and placed them on your wall, snap photos of your progress. (Some quilters do this in black and white to help see the balance of light, medium and dark fabrics.) Then rearrange and snap some more pics. Compare photos, see what you like best, and voila, you've got a plan! Pro tip: Take note of which blocks draw your eye immediately, and spread them around the quilt to achieve balance.

5. Turn to Your Stash

As your design plan takes shape, don't be afraid to pull in unexpected elements from your stash . We love a good quilt kit or precut bundle that does the color-selection work for you. But it's also fun to experiment with fresh fabric ideas and combinations that are all your own. Go ahead and play!

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How to Place Fabrics When Using a Grayscale Quilt Pattern