Category Archives: color theory

Many (ok, most) people notice my thread wall(s) when they enter my studio for the first time. Lots of people ask to take pictures (of course, be my guest!), and I get lots of comments about my nearly-famous thread wall.

Someone even once suggested that maybe I didn’t use all of the colors that I have. Um, actually, I do.

The other running joke in my studio is that while I don’t have 50 shades of gray, I do have 25 shades of nearly white.

So how do I choose which thread color to use? My goal is to find a color that works with all of the fabrics, and often times, it’s easy. Even If the quilt top itself is predominantly one color I’ll select a few cones of thread and pool a bit of each thread color on the quilt top to get a better idea of how each thread will look in quantity. I’ve discovered that what a spool of thread looks like is different than what a pool of thread looks like (what a difference one letter makes).

My general thread philosophy is that I don’t want the quilting to compete with the quilt top, but rather complement the quilt top. So I typically select a thread color that blends rather than contrasts with the colors in the quilt. If there’s a lot of light colors, then I’ll lean toward “natural” or a light version of the quilt’s dominant color–for instance, pale pink, lemonade, or celery.

What (you may ask with a twinkle in your eye) color would you choose if there are a lot of bright, different colors? Great question (I say, twinkling back)!

As an example, there are many beautiful Asian-inspired fabrics that have lots of different colors, some light and some dark. But they almost all have a bit of gold in them, and I’ve found that using a gold-ish color works perfectly.

gold chrysanthemums
gold chrysanthemums

Many modern quilts have lots of great colors and we mix solids with prints. Yay! and also aack! now what color to use? Again, I look to the fabrics in the quilt top, but green and yellow are really good choices to start with. And what works really well in many cases? A yellow-y-green like this or a greenish-yellow like this.

But wait! (you say) What about all of the other colors of thread on your wall? I can assure you, they’re not for show. What we’ve been talking about up to now is choosing one thread to use for an entire quilt. But if the quilting calls for something more than an overall design, then I typically choose a thread color that matches the fabric I’m working on. So that’s where aaallll those other threads come into play. Oh yeah, we play. Wanna play? Got a thread color question? Post it here, or ask me on facebook or instagram. Or come on over and we’ll have a thread party. Yay color!

follow me!

Variety, Variegated

I’ll just say upfront that I’m not a huge fan of using variegated thread in quilting. My quilting philosophy is that the quilting shouldn’t compete with the piecing, and variegated thread quite often has that effect.

With variegated threads it’s impossible to predict what color thread will show up on any part of the top, and the unpredictable color changes distract the eye from what should be a harmonious design.

That said, there are times when variegated thread works really well. See?


This is a great quilt top using a lot of Marcia Durse fabrics. Lots of different color blocks, all sashed with textural grays. We chose a thread with various colors of gray, and the water-drop circle pattern minimized any thread color changes.

Don’t you think?IMG_3850.JPGIMG_3848.JPGIMG_3849.JPGIMG_3846.JPGIMG_3844.JPG

follow me!

what a good yellow can do

I love color theory, and this week I had a lot of fun with the color yellow. Three quilt tops, all quilted using yellow thread.

I thought that I would surely use a green-ish thread on this one because of the center panel, but nope! lemon yellow worked across all of the different fabrics and absolutely disappeared into the background color of the center panel.modern girls quilt, full-size

“Modern Girls”

Next up came a cute little “Naptime” Quilt. Even though the quilt reads “green”, yellow thread blended across all of the fabrics.nap time full size

Naptime in the ocean

and finally, a really fresh take on the French Braid style. Using yellow thread here was a no-brainer, but I do love the way it looks against the black!yellow and black french braid quilt


here are some close up shots so you can get a better idea of how the yellow thread works it magic!

[nggallery id=5]



follow me!