Quilt-value anxiety, be gone: meet the Ruby Beholder

If you’ve struggled with choosing fabric values for your quilts, you’re not alone. Determining which colors are light, medium-light, medium, medium-dark, and dark sounds like a cinch. But if you’ve tried it, you know it can be tricky.

Quilt fabrics from Becoming a Confident Quilter

How would you order these fabrics from light to dark? Hmm…

Contrast is key to creating sharp, clear designs in your quilts—that’s where value comes in. Believe it or not, the best way to find contrast is to take the colors out of fabrics. Because once colors are gone, only values remain.

There are many homegrown methods for “removing” colors from fabrics. Looking at quilts through doorway peepholes, peeking through the wrong end of binoculars, and good-old fashioned squinting are just a few. But there’s also a tool that offers an easy way to make colors go away—the Ruby Beholder.

Ruby Beholder

Many painters, photographers, and of course quilters swear by the Ruby Beholder to help them see values. See how the tool works in this quick video:


Do you find value in considering value when you make your quilts? Tell us in the comments!


You might also like:
How to find quilt values? Trust Ruby


21 Comments (leave a comment)

  • Absolutely a vital tool in my sewing room! From watercolor and colorwash quilts—which I do a lot—to traditional scrap quilts, the name of the game for me is value. I enjoy the sharp contrast in scrap quilts, so sorting the fabrics by value is very important. Every quilter needs a Ruby Beholder!

    Debbie on October 23, 2014
  • Oh, yes, I value value when choosing fabric for a quilt. I think it is instrumental in keeping the viewer’s eye moving around the quilt, and taking it all in. Sometimes the viewer doesn’t even know why he/she does that; but us quilters do, and we are delighted when it happens and we hear it! My husband is my test-viewer. I do not have a Red Ruby, and really needed one for a past project. So I scanned the fabrics laid out in value order (so I thought). I then printed the scan in black and white only, which made it much easier to value the colors.

    —Karen Poulson on October 23, 2014
  • I have only just got into quilting and even more recently graduating/contrast quilts. I did not know that this tool existed but it is now on my "TO BUY" list. Thank you for sharing.

    —Monica Lewis on October 23, 2014
  • Knowing the value of each piece of fabric in a quilt is very important. I have a pair of red lens glasses that help me. I like to visually order the fabric from light to dark and then check out the value with the glasses. Sometimes I’m really surprised by a dark fabric with light value or vice versa.

    —Virginia Degnan on October 23, 2014
  • Yes, I always consider the value of the fabrics I use in quilts.

    —Roberta Johnson on October 23, 2014
  • I USE a vinyl red file folder-it’s cheap and works great.

    —sara bates on October 23, 2014
  • The value of the fabric is so important. I made a water color quilt years ago and needed all of the values from light, light med., light dark through dark light, dark med., to dark dark. It was difficult! I had to use the method of photocopying all of the pieces in black and white. That worked ok but was lots of work. Wish I had owned a Ruby Beholder at the time.

    —Marsha Nelson on October 23, 2014
  • I try to determine value when I do my quilts. Some fabrics are very difficult The Ruby Beholder would help allot.

    —Quilting Tangent on October 23, 2014
  • The Ruby Beholder would help. I try to do value by moving the fabric next to each other but that doesn’t always work.

    —D. Reeves on October 23, 2014
  • I try to determine the values of the fabric. Some pieces are very tricky. The Ruby Beholder looks like it would help allot.

    —Quilting Tangent on October 23, 2014
  • im confused about value….. i tend to have help from my local quilt shop owner as i am still a relatively new quilter…. i was told to use the dots on fabric as a guide & find that helpfull but love the idea of the ruby beholder….

    —Suzanne Keal on October 23, 2014
  • I LOVE picking out fabric and have never used one of these tools.

    —Ann Barlament on October 23, 2014
  • I am not sure I do. The old quilt books use to have only black and white. Sometime I go see the colors and other times not. As my eyes have gotten bad I could not see red at all. It really has been interesting viewing the colors I have used in my quilts before the new implants lends in my eyes a few months ago.

    —Linda Christianson on October 23, 2014
  • My above message does not let me edit. I would love to know how to write quilt books. What makes a quilt book sell?

    Hi Linda, That’s a difficult and complex question! There are a lot of things that go into making a best selling book, starting with a great idea from a potential author. To see our proposal packet and read our guidelines, click here.
    ~Cornelia/Customer Service

    —Linda Christianson on October 23, 2014
  • Yes. I do find value when making my quilts. I was such a putz at putting fabrics together, until a quilting friend showed me how to select fabric with value! That little tool would really help a lot…or I select what please me at times too.:)

    —Jeanette on October 23, 2014
  • Unless you are working with red fabric!

    —Marianne on October 23, 2014
  • My tip: if you have a phone that allows for black and white photography, use that with your fabrics. You can see the gradation with ease.

    —Bro AJK on October 24, 2014
  • I have been using a (red) value finder for many years. It’s an essential tool in my sewing room. My only struggle is judging value of red fabrics. I was told a green value finder would do the trick but haven’t found one yet. Do the ‘Ruby Beholder’ folks make a green one?

    —Evelyn on October 24, 2014
  • I do find value to determining value. Thanks for the tip and the product information.

    —Jane on October 24, 2014
  • For the most part, I back up 10 feet and view my fabrics at a distance. However, there are times when I’m still "not sure" so I take a strip of each of the fabrics I’m considering to my local Staples or Office Depot and photocopy them together using black ink. If they all look alike, then I take out a color, add another color, until I have my values.
    Works for me!

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on October 26, 2014
  • Happy to own a Ruby Beholder. I’m just learning acrylic painting and it helps in art as well.

    Laura B on October 26, 2014

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