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Choosing Fabrics for the Bird Quilt

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy WorldChoosing fabric for a quilt is one of my very favorite parts. It’s so much fun to play with the colors – trying this and that until you get a combination that really sings.

But sometimes choosing colors can be hard – and a lot of people feel unsure about whether they’re doing it “right.” Every time I release a new quilt pattern I get a ton of emails asking me about the fabrics. . .

  • What did I use?
  • Is it still available?
  • Is it hard to find?
  • Can I send a list?

I’ve started including links to all the fabrics I used in each pattern, but I think it’s also useful for share why I chose the fabrics I did. So that’s what I’m doing here. 🙂

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy WorldBackground Fabrics

First – let’s talk about the background fabrics.

The illustration style of my quilts is all very similar. I like big cartoony shapes with smooth curves that are easy to applique and don’t have too many tiny bits.

But I don’t want all my quilts to look exactly the same – so I like to mix things up with the fabrics I choose. For the Safari Quilt and the Peekaboo Bear Quilt I used a mix of prints for the background, with solids for all the faces. For the dog quilt and the cat quilt I did just the opposite – solid backgrounds with prints for the faces.

For the bird quilt I decided to use prints everywhere – but I still wanted a clear distinction between the background and the birds. I wanted all these wild and crazy colored birds to look like they were sitting in an almost-real tree or hedge – just a smear of varied greens in the background.

When I’m going for a dappled smear of color I always choose batiks. Timeless Treasures has a great line of batiks with all kinds of beautiful patterns – but I stuck to the Tonga Java Blenders – those delicious smears of color without any clearly defined pattern.

I looked at all the greens. (They have a lot – did you know that the human eye can distinguish more shades of green than any other color? That’s part of the reason why green is such a hard color to match.) I decided to stick with earthy, natural greens – nothing too bright or with too much yellow. I ended up choosing six colors – mostly medium shades – but with a couple of darker and one lighter one thrown in. I wanted most of the blocks to kind of blur together, with sharper lines between some of them.

Update – I now sell a bundle of green batiks perfect for backgrounds. I keep it updated with a nice mix and specific colors come and go. You can get it here.

The Bird Fabrics

Here’s where you can really play around! Birds in nature come in so many different colors – it’s hard to do anything that looks really wrong. To keep things from getting too crazy, for most of the birds I chose various shades of just one or two colors. They’re mostly brights – but I threw in a few neutrals too, just to give your eyes a rest every once in a while. 🙂

I wanted the texture of the birds to really contrast with the background so I didn’t choose anything dapply or irregular. I went with tone-on-tone prints from a few different collections. . .

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy World

Sketch is a great collection of crosshatching. I think this is my favorite basics collection of them all – it has such a nice hand-drawn quality to it. Buzz here uses Sketch in purple for the body and tail.

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy World

Ziggy is the texture of Sketch – but with zigzags. Love! Floozy here uses Ziggy in aqua for her body.

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy World

Dream is a new collection with small-scale polkadots arrayed in gentle curves. I love that it has a little bit of direction to it, rather than a totally random polkadot. It’s subtle and terrific. Arizona here uses Dream in taupe for the body.

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy World

Rain is a really dense tiny raindrop print. It gives a slightly different effect depending on which way you turn the fabric and I like that a lot.

Dixie here uses Rain in yellow for the body, Sketch in daffodil for the tail, and Dream in lemon for the belly.

Most of these collections are out of print now, but I keep fat quarter bundles up to date as collections come and go. The Rainbow Brights collection is all brights, and the Warm Neutrals collection is all browns, creams, greys, rusts, and golds.

That mixing and matching between collections is one of the things I really enjoy about working with fabrics from one company. I live in a remote rural area, which means I choose a lot of my fabric online. It’s almost impossible to get an accurate color on a computer screen. You can easily get an idea – but an accurate enough picture to match colors is hard. That’s why I sell fabrics in bundles – so you know everything in the bundle will work together.

But What About the Back?

Chirp - a bird quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

For the back I went in a whole different direction.

My daughter Jo is crazy about this Cuddle Fleece. At her request I used it for the back of the Cat Quilt.

She loved it – and asked for it again for the back of these birds. I think this is going to live on our couch where I’ll wrap up in it more than she will – but I love the Cuddle Fleece too – so I said yes. The olive green was a perfect match for all of those batiks on the front.

I didn’t want any kind of border or frame effect, so I bound the quilt in leftover strips of all the green batiks.

So that’s it! How I chose all the fabrics for my newest quilt. 🙂 You can get the Bird Quilt pattern here. You can get one of the bird applique patterns for free here.

You can read about how I chose the fabric for the Cat Quilt here.

Happy quilting!

That's me!




  1. Gayle van Heerden SAYS...

    Tx so much for the free bear.
    Please tell me how you joined the quilt as you go bird blocks without extra binding to cover the joins. or did you join the front blocks first and then quilt to prevent extra thickness.

  2. Marsha SAYS...

    Thank you for all the info and the info on the fabric. I see that Timeless Treasures only sells wholesale. Any suggestions as to where you can get the background material for the bird quilt?

    Thanks, Marsha

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      They are a major company that are sold in TONS of fabric shops and lots of online stores. If you go to their website ( they have a “where to buy” tab at the top of every page. Click that and choose online or brick & mortar shops and you’ll find a bunch of places. One thing to consider – some fabric stores are weird about batiks. (That’s what the background fabrics are.) You might have a hard time finding the background fabrics and the bird fabrics in the same shop. I know that Hawthorne Threads and Pink Castle carry all the basics I used for the birds (Sketch, Rain, Dream, etc.) but for the batiks you might need to look at one of the online shops that specialize in batiks. Good luck!