I teach workshops all over the U.S. and hear over and over from quilters that they struggle knowing what colors go together. They struggle to pull a color palette for a project and often only feel confident about their fabric selection if it is from a kit, precut, or all from the same fabric collection.

If that sounds familiar, you are in the right place!

There are 2 key traits that play into being able to pull together an original color palette that you love and know looks great: science + intuition — knowledge of how colors work and strengthening your color intuition, or your “eye for color”.

In this series, Color Confidence for Quilters, we are exploring/growing both of those elements. Every other week, we’ll have a lesson about how colors work (also called Color Theory), and the weeks in between, we will be training our “eye for color” and building color palettes using inspiration photos. If you missed the first 2 posts, you can find them below.

Color Confidence for Quilters:


Classic Color Palettes: Monochromatic

Over the next few weeks we will be learning about and exploring examples of classic color palettes. First up, the seemingly simple, but extremely versatile, Monochromatic Palette.

Mono- prefix meaning ‘one’
chroma- referring to color

A monochromatic color palette is made entirely from a single hue.

Monochromatic Wheel via shannon-brinkley.com


Monochromatic palettes, while at first can seem simple or even boring, can actually create really bold and interesting effects. Also, a simple palette can often really show off a stunning quilt design. Below are several examples of monochromatic color palettes.

Color Confidence for Quilters: Monochromatic Color Palettes


There are so many different and fun ways you can use a monochromatic palette. Below are 5 different effects you can create from the same palette of blues by playing with the values. Remember, value is the lightness are darkness of a color. You can create really different effects by pairing different values together or by arranging the values in a particular manner.

Tip: Play with Value!

Color Confidence for Quilters -- Monochromatic Palette Effects

Tip: Pair a Monochromatic palette with neutrals.

Below are 4 different quilts I’ve made using a monochromatic palette. The Kraken quilt in the bottom left is made of a bunch of purples and grays and is placed on a light gray background. These fabrics make for a moody, murky underwater look.

The bear in the upper left is made from a bunch of different greens, but I’ve also included a few neutrals — there is a black and white print in the bear along with a cream, and the background is a light coffee color. I also included a fun multi-colored print, which is my next tip.

Tip: Include a multi-colored print that contains the color from your monochromatic palette. The other colors in it will add fun & subtle pops!

In the narwhal and bunny quilts, I have a monochromatic appliqué piece on a white background. But what makes these more interesting, I think, is that I also included a print that has the predominant color, but also includes pops. (In the narwhal, I included that floral that has a blue background but also had pink and gold in it; and in the bunny, is another floral that has a lot of gold, but also pops of pink and green). Since the print has the predominant color in my palette, it will blend in nicely with the rest of the fabrics, and the other colors add fun pops! (I know those aren’t technically monochromatic palettes, but I thought I’d still include this tip here, because it is a subtle way to add a lot of interest to a monochromatic palette.)

Scrappy Applique Quilts with Monochromatic Palettes

You can find the patterns for these quilts here: Wandering Bear, Narwhal, the Kraken, and Bunny.


The Exercise: Pull a Monochromatic Color Palette 

Color Confidence for Quilters: Monochromatic Fabric Bundles

This should be super easy if you did the exercise from the last lesson (Organize your Stash). Using the fabrics in your stash, pull a few for a sample palette. You don’t have to actually use them for a project, this is just to help train your eye. Use your Color Wheel (or download my free Color Wheel here ) to help you distinguish a specific hue (sometimes light blue is hard to tell apart from light turquoise, for example). We are not worrying about perfection, just progress and play.

Use some of the tips from earlier in the lesson: vary the value, pair with neutrals, and play with multicolored fabrics for pops!

Monochromatic Fabrics

I love including a few solids, textured solids, monochromatic prints, and even batiks for a really dynamic palette.

Color Confidence for Quilters: Monochromatic Fabric Bundles

Maybe try to pull an entirely neutral palette…

Color Confidence for Quilters: Monochromatic Fabric Bundles

The more you play with color palettes, use your color wheel, and think about/notice color, the stronger your color intuition will grow.

Next week, we’ll explore another inspirational palette, and the week after we’ll continue learning about classic color palettes, moving on to Analogous Color Palettes!

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Now, I’d love to hear from you! What is one insight you took away from this? Have you used monochromatic color palettes in quilts in the past?