Working with Gradients

Ombre, Gradient, color beed—it goes by many names, but we all know what we’re trying to say:

Gorgeous fabrics that take a little more planning! (but are 100% worth it)

Today I want to talk about some of the special considerations to take into account when working with ombre fabrics, and some of the incredible opportunities that are available when you use them!

As you may have seen, we are just getting started on my Hypersonic Sew Along (there’s still time to join!). This pattern isn’t intended for Ombre fabrics, but I just had to use the SKY collection by Jennifer Sampou for this one—it’s the perfect way to show off her beautiful fabrics!

And of course, like anything worth doing, it is going to take a little bit of extra effort! So, today I want to help you think ahead about some details when working with gradients in any project.

Fabric Layouts

There are two different types of gradients that you can buy:

Some gradients follow the whole width of fabric (image left).

Some mirror from selvage to selvage (image right)

This means that when you’re creating quilts, like my Gelato pattern, that you need to pay special attention when purchasing fabrics. Because not all gradients work in the same way. Your pattern should always specify if it matters or not. I have a huge image on the fabric requirements page of Gelato, ensuring that you get the right thing!

Designing with Ombre Fabrics

Now, if you’re using a gradient fabric in a pattern that doesn’t call for it, you simply need to take into consideration all the different design elements.

Full Width of Fabric (WOF) Ombre Fabrics

I was lucky enough to attend QuiltCon this year, and Jennifer Sampou was there. When she saw my Hypesonic pattern, she (knowing her fabric line so well) was very excited for the full scope of each gradient to be shown off fully. Her fabrics use the whole width of fabric to show off the gradient colors.

This is a great asset to projects that can use a full width of fabric in it. It’s so eye-pleasing!

Mirrored WOF Ombre Fabrics

There’s also something to be said for fabrics that mirror the gradient as well. Some things don’t lend themselves well to a gradient that requires so much fabric to show off. For example, my gelato quilt would be pretty boring if there was only one shift in color shown, and because of how the quilt is built, there would be an abrupt change where two pieces are sewn together. So, it doesn’t work as-designed with a full WOF gradient.

That said, you can get a really cool step design if you use the full WOF gradient. Check out these quilt tops by my friends Cindy C. and Kathy D!

Interesting, right?! Same pattern, but the fabric choice made them wildly different.

There’s no right or wrong here, just lots more options when planning a quilt using ombre fabrics!

Using Ombre fabrics for Clothing

I found that if you want to create a garment from ombre clothing, you need to think about some additional things: How long is the piece I’m trying to create? For example, a dress for myself would probably need to have two pieces of full WOF gradient sewn together to create the illusion. A dress for my daughter only required half of the WOF from a mirrored gradient.

You’ll also need to consider the grain of the fabric, what way it will run and if that will work with your pattern.

An Ombre Fabric Checklist

That seemed a little scattered, and it can feel that way when working with gradients, but these are all important design decisions that you don’y typically face. Here’s a list to check over before you begin your next Gradient project:

  1. Does my pattern have specific instructions for using gradients?
  2. How is my chosen fabric oriented (whole WOF vs mirrored WOF)?
  3. Does it matter which way the grain of the fabric runs?
  4. How wide/long is the piece I need for this project?
  5. Will I need to piece the fabric to create a continuous gradient?
  6. Does the orientation of the gradient (whole WOF vs mirrored WOF) make an impact on my design?
  7. Where do I want each shade in my project? (for example, do I want the darkest part of the fabric at the bottom of my skirt?)

Make sure to pin this for later!

Want to Create your own Gradient Quilt?

Check out my shop for more Ombre Quilt Patterns

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