Low Volume Quilts and Fabrics are the ‘New Neutral’
What Is A Low Volume Quilt?
A low volume quilt is not a monochromatic color scheme. Low Volume simply describes the value or intensity of the colors used. Any color may be used in a LV quilt as long as it’s subtle and subdued with low contrast.
Low volume quilts and fabrics are neutral, light colored, prints used in an all over pattern. They are not new, but I somehow missed their debut a few years ago. Discovering them only recently, I am totally smitten with these soft, quiet fabrics. Low Volume quilting is similar to designing a collage background to display your showpiece fabrics. These subtle fabrics are used in many different styles of low volume quilts and play an important role in each one.
Low volume quilts may be muted or designed with high contrast. Using all low volume fabrics for a light, pastel quilt is an easy way to familiarize yourself with exclusively quilting with these fabrics. Try choosing subdued fabrics in your primary pattern for an overall gentle, quiet look. This method results in a neutral wash of pale, light colors.
Choosing Low Volume Fabrics
Learning how to choose low volume fabrics isn’t difficult. Low volume fabrics are commonly shades of white, beige, gray and pale pastels with low-contrast prints. Many have graphic designs such as text, dots, florals and novelty prints. The distinction of low volume fabrics is that the overall color and design are neutral enough to be considered a background fabric. Subtle and understated, low volume fabrics blend together well creating a beautiful backdrop for your showcase fabric pieces.
Low Volume Quilt Companion Fabrics
Adding some pastel print fabrics will bring more vibrancy to a focused design or pattern against your low volume background. If you prefer high contrasting colors, low volume fabrics create an organic neutral background to let your brighter fabrics shine. Whatever the method, low volume fabrics are definitely fun and creative to work with.
These are precut strips for my first low volume quilt. This low volume fabric selection primarily includes very soft, neutral prints along with a few pink fabrics with small patterns. I cut enough for two baby quilts and will try a couple of piecing ideas to see which I like best.
Easy Low Volume Quilting Method
The easiest way to introduce low volume fabrics into your quilts is to replace solid backgrounds with low-volume fabrics. You will still see the neutral background surrounding your focal design, but the overall quilt becomes much more interesting. When looking closer, little patterns and prints become visible that otherwise blend into the background.
Low Volume Quilt Fabric Bundles
This is where collecting FQs is a necessity! The more low volume fabrics you use, the better the total look with be. Let all the low volume fabrics blend together to create a fabulously understated background for your chosen design. Don’t be afraid to use low volume prints with a bit of color. These flecks of color add a pleasing diversion when looking at a completed low volume quilt.
Since more is better, it makes sense to purchase curated bundles of low volume fabrics, too. Not many local quilt stores may stock a multitude of these fabrics by the yard. Fortunately there are many, many different collections to mix and match. I found quite a few beautiful assortments at QuiltCon last month. Actually, that was my primary quest and I hit the jackpot as you’ll see in my first photo above!
Choosing Low Volume Fabrics
As a general rule, if you do buy your prints individually rather than a curated bundle, lay them out together to ensure none of the fabrics appear to stark. All the low volume fabrics should blend well together as any background fabric would. If one really stands out when assembled in the fabric group, it will definitely draw attention in your quilt. Consider if that’s what you are looking for.
3 Easy Tips to Choosing Low Volume Fabrics
Neutral color is the primary characteristic of low volume fabrics. Generally including shades of white to beige to grey, there is an incredible spectrum to select from. Then add a few pastels and you’ll be amazed at how many different fabrics you’ll have to work with. Take it a step further by adding some vibrant, bright colors and you’ll love the contrast.
Low Color Value
Low color value is a truer definition of what low volume fabrics are. Quite simply, they have minimal color intensity making them very subtle. The all over color is very soft and any colors in the design will be more of a pastel.
Low Contrast Print
A low contrast print maintains the understated nature of low volume fabrics. The print is often tone-on-tone or a gentle contrast in colors. This aspect makes them a perfect blending fabric for either a background or design element. The prints vary from graphic to organic lines, from text to novelty prints, and often feature fun and interesting motifs. Beware, low volume fabrics are surprisingly fun to shop for given they are almost all the same color!
Beginner Friendly Low Volume Quilt
Easy Low Volume Quilt Ideas
Begin small and easy. For me, baby quilts are perfect for testing new ideas. They only require a couple yards of fabric, it takes much less time to make. Besides, there’s always someone looking for a baby quilt. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Super Easy Strip Piecing with No Seams to Match
Sewing long strips of blocks together is a quick way to start a quilt. Assembling your strips with no matching seams makes this method especially super easy.
This pink, low volume baby quilt is made with 23 strips of 2 ½” squares. Each strip is 21 squares long. Cutting nearly 500 square takes a lot of time. Instead of all that individual cutting and sewing, I strip-pieced my squares. This super easy strip piecing method goes together quickly and especially wonderful because there are no seams to match!
Use These Tips to Create A Quick and Easy Quilt Top in No Time!
Cutting each 2 ½” square individually takes too much time. Instead, cut your fabric in longer 2 ½” strips, sew six different fabric strips together, then cross-cut into 2 ½”. Now you have multiple strips that are each 6 squares long. Sew these end-to-end to get the length you want for your quilt.
Since I had purchased a few different bundles of fat quarters, some of the cutting was already done. Fat quarters work perfectly for this piecing method. Cut your 2 ½“ strips from the 20” long edge of the fat quarter. Then cut each one into a 10” length. Cut two or three 2 ½” x 10” strips from each FQ depending on how many fabrics you’re using. Fabrics vary in width from 40” to 42”. After cutting you 20” strips, cut off the selvage and save the small short pieces for later.
Tip 1: Save the scraps from cutting your 2 ½“ strips.
Begin sewing these 2 ½” x 10” strips together randomly to mix up your fabric order. Use the same fabrics but mix up the order so your pieced units are not the same. For this pattern, make each unit six strips long.
Once your strips are sewn together, cross-cut each unit into four 2 ½” strips that will have six different 2 ½” squares. Mixing up your strip sets, sew four together end to end. You should now have multiple strips that are 21 squares long. Lay out your strips to begin piecing your quilt top together.
Tip 2: Offset the beginning of every other strip so there are no seams to match.
Ordinarily you’d start sewing these strips together from one end to the other. That method requires matching 20 seams for every strip. That’s a lot of matching. Instead, sew the small pieces you saved when cutting your strips at the beginning of every other row to offset the seams. Then simply trim off the same amount from the opposite end of the same strip. Now you can sew from one end to the other without matching any seams at all.
Tip 3: Add an Eye-Catching Binding
Since low volume fabrics are very subdued, take the opportunity to add some pizazz with an eye-catching binding. Whether a bright color, bold pattern, or both, framing your low volume quilt with a great binding is a great finish.
Low Volume Patchwork Blocks
Another quick piecing method is making blocks. My easiest go-to pattern is a 4 or 9-patch block. They are simple to cut and quick to assemble. Since it’s a small quilt and the low volume prints need to blend, the fabric squares should be kept a smaller size too. I find 2 ½” blocks are a perfect fit. They are especially easy to cut from all those precut bundles available. But don’t be afraid to also mix and match your block sizes for fun!
Combine Low Volume Fabrics with Other Quilt Fabrics
For the low volume fabrics to make a statement, they need to be the primary fabrics used. When piecing blocks for a low volume quilt, decide if you’ll use all low-volume fabrics or also include other colors in your design. Using predominantly low volume fabrics in each block will maintain the distinctive, understated look that sets these quilts apart. Therefore, use low volume fabrics for the majority of each block randomly placing other prints to add interest.
If you use a 4-patch block, only include one color square with the other three being low volume. In the 9-patch block, switch between two and three-color squares using low volume for the rest. This will result in a random pattern of color across your quilt, keeping the low volume fabric as the main design element. You may also keep some blocks all low volume fabric making the other fabrics used stand out more.
Replace Solids with Low Volume Fabric
Low volume fabrics may be used in any quilt design. Think of them as a background fabric and consider replacing solid fabrics with these tonal prints. They make a great contrast to brighter fabrics and work great in an alternating block pattern. Pick out a few and try a small project for starters. How ever you choose to design your low volume quilt, you’ll enjoy the journey of delving into these gentle prints. Please be sure to post your projects on Pinterest #createmorebeautyinyourliveeveryday.