How to put a rainbow in a quilt? Add a little black and white (+ giveaway!)

Multicolored printsWouldn’t it be fun to add all the colors you love to a single quilt, and not have to worry about whether it all “goes” together or not?

Sounds impossible, right? Or maybe you’ve made a quilt of many colors and come away disappointed. But Splash of Color author Jackie Kunkel’s figured out how to include a spectrum of colors in a single quilt—and she’s made it easy for all of us to do too!

How does Jackie do it? She balances those bright colors with black and white. Today we’re sharing an excerpt from Splash of Color to show you just how Jackie creates her multicolored magic. Read on for Jackie’s secret!


Jackie KunkelDesigning a quilt using black-and-white prints brings a new level of enjoyment to choosing a color palette. What I like most is that black-and-white prints make all other colors shine. Whether you are choosing pinks, greens, blues, yellows, or browns, they all become the stars of the show.

Prints with black backgrounds make any saturated colors pop. White background prints can do the same, with the added potential of giving a quilt a more modern look. Stay away from prints with cream backgrounds, which can give quilts a yellow cast when placed next to a white print or solid. And avoid gray prints and gray solids as well. Gray will dull the intensity of the other colors in the quilt.

Black and white prints
An array of black-and-white prints

One of the things you’ll see throughout Splash of Color is that I use a variety of black-and-white prints in every quilt. This not only gives each quilt a scrappier look, it also makes the result more interesting. Paring back the number of black-and-white prints can give your quilt a more contemporary appeal, which is apparent in the alternate versions of “Proud Mary” and “Twirling.”

Proud Mary quilt
Proud Mary

Twirling quilt
Twirling

The scale of black-and-white prints is also important to the design. In many of my quilts, I use small- to medium-scale motifs. The prints I choose are based on the size of the quilt block and the size of the pieces within the block. If the scale of the print is too large, you might not even see the design of the fabric. Reserve large-scale prints for quilt projects where you can feature them in a bigger area. The Crossroads quilt is a perfect example. Since the design includes large squares, I incorporated a mix of both large- and small-scale prints. For a totally different look, you could use only large-scale motifs.

Crossroads quilt
Crossroads

When you start pairing colors with black-and-white prints, you’ll find that you can take different approaches depending on what appeals to you. For example, highly saturated colors, such as hot pink, will stand out vividly against black-and-white prints. If you want a slightly subdued effect (some quilters call this low-volume), choose less saturated colors, such as pale pink.

Star Bright quilts
The primarily white background in Star Bright (left) gives the quilt a very different look and feel than the black background in the alternate version (right).

Considering print scale is just as crucial to choosing colored prints as it is to selecting black-and-white prints. When choosing colored fabrics, consider the overall look and feel you’re going for. Solid fabrics read differently than prints.

Climbing Mountains quilts
Using solids in the alternate version of Climbing Mountains (right), instead of the mottled and printed batiks in the main version (left), changes the look of the quilt substantially.

In Lava Lamps and Dreaming of Pyramids, I used multicolored prints with black or white backgrounds. I was very selective when choosing the prints; they were mostly small in scale with some type of dot, and they all incorporated the full rainbow spectrum of colors, not just one color. Choosing multicolored prints adds a huge amount of interest to a quilt.

Lava Lamps quilt
Lava Lamps

Dreaming of Pyramids quilt
Dreaming of Pyramids

One of the best things about quilting is that we get to play with fabric. Here is your chance to experiment and see what appeals to you the most. Scrappy, modern, bold, subdued, a traditional twist—you name it, the sky is the limit! So reach for the sky and give your inner designer a chance to play.


We’ve got a special goody to give away today: an Aurifil thread collection curated by Jackie Kunkel herself!

Martingale + Aurifil giveaway!

To enter to win the Splash of Color thread box plus a copy of the Splash of Color book, tell us:

How many colors do you typically use in your quilts?

a) I usually make quilts with just a few colors and prints.

b) I make quilts with just a few colors, but lots of prints.

c) Lots of colors, lots of prints—true rainbow quilts!

Tell us your answer in the comments!

Ready to select a rainbow of colors from your stash and try adding a little black and white? Order your copy of Splash of Color now and instantly download the eBook for free.

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Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The winner is Laurie, who says:

“A- I used to use just 3-4 colors/prints, but lately have been getting into scrap quilts – so much more variety of colors, prints and some solids.”

We’ll email you about your prizes, Laurie—congratulations!

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