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Quilting in Autumn: How to Choose Fabric Colors from Inspiration!

Updated: May 14

Tori McElwain from The Quilt Patch by Tori


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How can you document and translate inspiration from the world around you? During the Autumn seasons, nature brings all the warm tones and colors. I love the way they play together!

I normally move toward cool colors when pulling fabric for a quilt (turquoise, blue, purple, greens, etc.) However, Autumn mixes warm tones in a way that lights up my creativity. It gives my brain a way to match different reds, yellows, oranges, and even greens - a task that can normally be a struggle. However, standing outside with my dog (letting her do her dog duty), I'm staring in awe and fascination at all the different colored leaves that mix so effortlessly.

Let's see how this inspiration translates to a fabric for a quilt!

Matching different tones is one of the hardest skills when it comes to matching fabric. You may have an eye for this, where matching tones comes easily or you may struggle. If you struggle (you're not alone!), you may see that red and orange go together, but when you try to pull the fabric it just looks off.

For example, Autumn tones have brown mixed into very bright, very substantial colors. If you are trying to mix in a fabric that has a bright and substantial color but does not have a brown undertone, that fabric will look off. Like it doesn't quite fit.

The good news is, the more you look for the undertones the easier they are to see and mix/match!

We now know that an Autumn palette has a brown undertone. This is great to know when working with these beautiful warm tones. So you can look for those warm tones in each fabric you pull for your quilt.

Let's use the pictures in this post for inspiration. The picture in the window pane (above) has leaves with more pink in their color. I love the way it looks with the dark green oak behind it! Also, notice the white window pane in shadow, looks grey in the picture. It's a grey that works well with the other colors in the picture. So, if I wanted to work in a neutral, a grey similar to the window pane color may be a nice compliment!

Let's break down the picture below for a fabric palette:

The star of this picture (color-wise) would be the orange. It pops and almost seems to glow! Take a look at the colors next to it that allows the orange to shine. The yellow, light green, dark green, and grey of the sky and fence all make great blenders/background colors for a quilt pattern. The cream of the house and the skeleton can also be worked in if your quilt pattern calls for a lighter neutral.

Here is the same tree from a different view (it was my favorite color combo!)

Here is an example in fabric! When you initially pull colors, I encourage you to pull multiple colors - whatever you think will look good! Then you can filter out any fabric where the colors are feeling off. It also gives you ample colors to work into the quilt pattern you are pulling for. It's almost like a brain dump:

Then filter out the fabrics that just aren't working for you! The green was a struggle in this instance, as well as the orange. These fabrics look pretty good, but not quite what was matching the image in my head or my inspirational pictures above. So, I pulled some fabrics out and put others in over and over until I found a combination that I loved!

Keep in mind, this is also about your personal preference! Mix and match until you are happy with the combination. Our pictures are an inspiration, not the rule.

What happens when you find the combo you love but you do not have enough fabric? Take what you have to the fabric store and find its color match. You can also play with fabric there and you may find an even better one!

Here are a few Autumn Palette Quilts to get your creativity going:

Fabrics are mixed and matched from different lines. All Patterns above are designed by Tori McElwain with The Quilt Patch by Tori.



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