Friday, May 8

Turn That Thing Down! – Low Volume Fabric & Invitation

This was fun to make!

What did you think when you first heard the words “low volume” used as a way to describe fabric? The first time I heard that phrase, it left me puzzled.  After a little more thought, it struck me as the perfect metaphor, because the first thing that came to my mind was "volume" as it relates to sound.  It is interesting how the word "tone" is also used to describe both color and sound.  Fabrics categorized as low volume usually have a more muted tone and therefore seem quieter.  When used in groups in a background, our eyes simply read them as solids, and we tend not to notice all the designs in the prints until we look closely. (Unless we are low volume fabric collectors, in which case we are eager to see what prints were used to create the effect.)

Even though the term “low volume” has come into use for quilting in recent years, quilters have always used softer prints in contrast with other fabrics.  So what do you think makes it so different nowadays?  After the last year of looking around Blogland and Pinterest at low volume quilts, I have come to the conclusion that the way low volume fabrics are used today really is something new under the sun.  I am no quilt historian though and welcome your thoughts on this. 

There seem to be two main ways low volume quilts are created:  
     Sometimes whole quilts are made in quiet colors, with no strong contrasts.  The effect is very soft and beautiful.  These quilts look quite different from the pastel quilts of the 80's and 90's. (See my Edit below.)
     The other way low volume quilts are made is to use these fabrics as a background, with bolder, more vivid fabrics taking center stage.  Often, today’s quilters are after almost a mixed media, collage type like look and they are very adventurous in their choices of what “goes” with other fabrics.  It’s really very exciting to see the artistic effect that using low volume fabrics gives to quilts. 

Manufacturers and retailers have recognized the trend and that is something to be delighted about!  I would like to give low volume quilting a try, so last autumn I began catching sales and building a stash.  There were too many great fabrics to choose from and I was not sure which way I wanted to take it.  I decided to make a quilt in vivid colors, with these fabrics used as a scrappy, collaged background.  (Is it still scrappy if the fabric doesn't come from scraps?) 

Here is what I've collected so far.  You can see that I started a bit dark and was restricting myself to creams and greys with black print.  Then, both literally and figuratively, my choices lightened up as I got more adventurous.  Now I need ideas for what to do with this stash.  

From left to right:  
Molly B's Studio Branches Cream - Marcus Brothers
Flutter - Leaves Silver Yardage by Alex Anderson for RJR Fabrics
3 Sisters Moda Etchings - Etched Scrolls in Slate
Tim Holtz Eclectic Elements Dictionary Neutral
Tim Holtz Eclectic Elements Symphony Neutral
Chantilly by Timeless Treasures - Medallion Geo Cream
Old Script Black - Michael Miller
Twilight Blooms by Wilmington Prints - Leaves All Over – Ivory
Baby Jane - Grey by Cosmo Cricket for Moda

From left to right:
Small daisies on grey – JoAnn Fabrics
Birds of a Feather Tossed Combs Grey by Kaye England for Wilmington Studios
Birds of a Feather Crescent Swirl Light Grey by Kaye England for Wilmington Studios
Camelot Cottons Day at the Zoo 31409 01 Cream Bark
Around Town by Terri Degenkolb of Whimsicals for Red Rooster Style 4383
Trail Mix Leaves in Cream by Bo Bunny for Riley Blake Designs
Moda Sweetwater - Boo Crew Monsters on Cream
Timeless Treasures Tres Jolie C2815 Cream Antique Safety Pins

Gatsby Tonal Swing Roaring 20' in Cream from Andover Fabrics
Sweet Life Fresh Linen Grey by Pat Sloan for Moda
Sugar Berry Dimity Dot by Eleanor Burns for Benartex
Minny Muu Fall 2014 Lecien - Caterpillars with words
Daysail tiny script white green text word by Bonnie and Camille for Moda
Winged - Flyaway Petalums in Sky by Bonnie Christine for Art Gallery Fabrics
Maker Makes - Draft Paper - Art Gallery Fabrics
Fun and Games Orange Maze for Riley Blake
Good Natured Dandelion by Marrin Sutton for Riley Blake
Maker Make the Cut Sharp Art Gallery Fabric
Ivory Kitten and Notes by Quilt Gate Dear Little World Collection


~The Invitation~

To collect ideas, I've started a Low Volume Quilt board on Pinterest, called "Turn That Thing Down"   If you would like to become a co-pinner and join me, we could make it a group board and share low volume quilts we love. Group boards are also a great way to get your pins seen by a lot more people and grow your own following.  I would love to send you an invite!   All you need to do is follow the TTTD board or follow me and then let me know you would like to play.  Go take a peek and let me know what you think. 

If you do become a co-pinner on this board, by all means invite other Quilty Pinners to pin too. As long as your friend follows either you or the board, you will be able to send them an invitation to join. Together we might create a great source of Low Volume inspiration!  

(Edit 5/9: Christine - of Quilting Stories - just pinned the most lovely antique quilt made roughly 100 years ago.  It shows us a perfect example of a low volume quilt in all soft and muted shades, and is made with shirtings.  Any modern quilter would be proud to have made it.  I look forward to seeing a lot more wonderful examples, both new and old.  Thank you to all the pinners for the great quilts you have shared so far!)

What are some of your favorite low volume quilt designs?  Feel free to link to your own website in these comments if you would like to share a project or your own stash of low volume fabrics.


Today is Sandra's day for Creative Space Tag! Make sure to go and visit Sandra's Diamond in the Rough - her space where she creates so much Quilty Wonderfulness!  

Click on the pup to leave a comment...


  1. You have collected some great prints Lara! I also have been collecting for awhile now. I really love low volume quilts!

  2. Oh my, kittens & music in the same print !

    I really like the look of low volume with (fairly) traditional patchwork, and the more prints the better!

  3. I also have been collecting! I am in for this kind was inspiration :)

  4. Like you, when I first heard the expression I thought, "What does it mean?" When I figured it out I thought, "That's stupid; quilters have done this all along!" Now I "get it." There is a bit of a difference and I think, in "Modern" terms, it's the higher proportion of low volume to colors that creates "the look." In general, I find overall low volume to be very serene.

  5. PS: This is a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

  6. Great post! I shared it with my modern guild. We are having an upcoming low-volume swap and the info you gave is very helpful. Thanks

  7. Your post is a fun approach to LV...and I love seeing how you grew your stash! I think a super LV pattern is the Plus pattern with brights/solids as the plusses and LVs in the background...I also love to see them in New York Beauties...don't ask me why, but these are the two LV options that came to mind :) Way back when (late 80s?) I made a Log Cabin...one of my first forays into machine piecing, and my goal was to make it look really soft, and yes, quiet..already well loved..each "cabin" was half muslin and the other half used small scale various colored logs...it was fun to remember that quilt when low volume began to be "a thing"...and to think "huh, I'm on the same page already" :) (apologies for the too-lengthy comment....home alone, too much time on my hands, lol!)

    1. Lengthy and thoughtful comments are the very best Sarah! I adore NY Beauties and that is a great idea to do one in LV fabrics. Check out what Linda just pinned on "Turn That Thing Down" - A gorgeous low volume Plus patterned quilt! Great minds think alike, LOL

  8. Great post, Lara! I am oohing and aahing over your low volume stash enhancements. I have a deficit of low volume stash, which I think must be rectified soon. Going to check out your Pinterest board!

  9. Fun post! It is scrappy if it comes from scraps and it's a "scrappy look" if it doesn't ... I am a fan of scrappy (look) quilts and it doesn't always comes from scraps (I don't have enough scraps anyway). :-) I love low volumes, but I think it's at its best with bits of colors, not only black and white. tan and black, etc ... Just like the third bundle, I LOVE IT!! These little cats are very cute ... :-)

  10. I don't have much LV in my stash but I sure do like the look. I accepted the invitation and will be keeping my eyes open, you already have some of my favorites on the board.

  11. I love your collections of Low Volume fabrics! This is a wonderful post, filled with lots of interesting things to think about !
    I'll share a link - I recently made a mini quilt, using all low volume fabrics..... at http://susiessunroom.blogspot.com/2015/05/a-low-volume-forest.html. I will love seeing what you make with your LV stash!!

    1. I was hoping you would post that link Susie. I love your low volume forest! And your great sense of humor too!

  12. Hello Lara! I read your post with the highest interest as I discovered myself quite recently the "low volume" expression used for quilts. I was instantly attracted. Well I did not philosophize on the subject, I just figured out that it should mean quilts with no strong contrasts, that all the prints should be the same low value (in terms of tonality). I would say like Moliere's Mr Jourdain : I was making low-volume quilts and did not even know it!
    I thank you for your invitation and would love to become a co-pinner of your board on Pinterest. How can I do so?
    PS : Most of my scrappy quilts are not done with scraps!

  13. I have just started collecting low volume prints. I would love to make a low volume quilt. I am following your pinterest board when I get more of a collection I can get some inspiration from it.

  14. Most of my low volume stash involve text. . . I don't know why but I'm a bit obsessed! :) I just love the look of a block with a bright solid and text background! No, haven't made a quilt like that yet but I have the stash to accomplish the task :D

  15. Love your LV stash. Your Pinterst board is off to a great start. I can't get that Dimensions (Amy Ellis) quilt out of my head. That would be so awesome to make! Going to check out your movie poster maker too! What a blast!

  16. I enjoyed this post as much as the others who have already commented. Your collection is beautiful, and I especially love the choices you're making as you become more adventurous. It's so funny that the "best" quilts are usually the ones where the maker tries something unexpected, yet most people think it's better to go the safe route. I think I would like seeing a low-volume quilt that has just a punch of color, like a strip of flying geese blocks, slightly off-center.

  17. What a great idea, and very thoughtful post. I love the serene look that people often get with low volume fabrics, but also the way they can be used for contrast to make the strong colours sing. I don't really have much LV in my stash but some day I want to try this. I'd love to be a co-pinner.

  18. I don't have many low volume pieces in my stash at all, but after reading your post, Lara, I'm going to have to start looking for some myself. Low Volume quilts are almost like a secret to me....from afar they don't look like much, but get up close and you can see all of the surprises in the fabrics. Your collection is great! I'll look forward to seeing what you create from these.

  19. What a great Idea to show your progress as a "low volumer." It really shows what studying the technique can do. Ii'd like to co-pin, too..

  20. Great start on your stash! I have always liked to use multiple fabrics of the same value for mixed backgrounds,sashings, and borders. One of the first classes I even took--too many years ago---was with an artist turned quilter. In her first quilt, she ran out of fabric and was unable to find any more for the border. Instead of panicking she simply used 4 different fabrics of similar print/style/value to finish off the quilt....and it was beautiful. It was my first introduction into value, and I learned my lessons from it. As for your stash, the log cabin block is quite versatile and looks great done in low volume fabrics. Ditto for most traditional blocks....like bow tie and churn dash.

  21. I love low volume quilt. I love the idea of creating a collective Pinterest board. I'd love to be part of it.
    Your low volume fabric collection is amazing!

  22. I share the westwood acres bundles every month with a friend and they call their low volume club Inside Voices - i quite like that. again it seems to fit but i don't know why!

  23. The lady over at Every Stitch has been working on an auntie green in neutrals. She's not shown the entire quilt...only glimpses, as it is a gift but if you want to have a peek, if you've not seen it yet she's got a few shots in this post :
    Her applique is finished and she's been hand-quilting it for a few months now.

  24. I am following your board (I've ALWAYS loved low volume quilts) also creating a background fabric of a variety of fabrics that all read the same for use as either a background for appliqué, other patchwork, or even to construct a garment (made a few couple jackets...). I am following your board and would like to pin Seaside Rose, as an example.

  25. A lovely collection of low volume, and so well explained. A great idea to get an inspiring collection together on a shared board!

  26. This is such a wonderful explanation of low volume! It's something I definitely see ALL THE TIME now online, and your fabric examples do such a great job demonstrating the concept.

    I came here from the Let's Bee Social link-up, and wanted to invite you to one we host called Crafty Comment Karma. It goes up each Friday and is open to any crafty, quilting or sewing links! I hope you'll come join us: http://www.prairiesewnstudios.com/search/label/Crafty%20Comment%20Karma

  27. What a fabulous idea! Thanks for the invite to join your board, Lara. You have a great start and it is wonderful to have so many helpers adding pins. Love your stash of low volume. What a pretty pile!