Monday 7 December 2015

Low Volume Fabric ~ What Does It Mean?

I need your help. When I made my Tic Tac Toe quilt blocks, I had trouble understanding what low volume meant. After reading several blog posts on the topic, I was still unsure at to what type of fabrics low volume was referring to. 


And so I played it safe and chose fabrics that were very light coloured and with an extremely subtle print. Problem was, the fabrics were so similar, there was little to no contrast between the low volume fabrics. When I looked at the quilt blocks made by others, I confirmed what I suspected - I did not have a good understanding of low volume fabrics.


Quilting with Low Volume Fabrics: Soft Backgrounds with Style - this post refers to low volume as fabric which shows up as a light solid (or nearly solid) in a black and white photograph. That makes perfect sense to me.

However, when I look at the examples of low volume fabrics in the post, I can't visualise some of them as a solid or near solid.


Shabby Chic Quilting: What Is Low-Volume Fabric?
 - defines low volume as fabrics that “read” as light fabrics but at the same time have a secondary pattern or design. That sort of makes sense to me - the overall feel is light, but with a small pattern.


Low Volume? - talks about low volume as whites/creams with small prints. Yep, that makes sense - white or cream backgrounds with small prints.


Low Volume Fabrics - A Guide - says your eye sees them as soft colours even though they are not entirely plain. I'm not totally sure as to the exact meaning of the word soft in this context.


Some low volume fun - calls low volume, fabric that reads as light but without worrying too much about scale or style. There's an awesome low volume quilt in this post.


What is Low Volume Quilting? - describes low volume fabrics as low contrast, using a lot of white, light grey and pastels while avoiding bright or saturated colours, but then goes on to say this is not strictly correct. - brighter colours can be thrown in for interest.


A low Volume Scrap Busting Quilt - low volume meaning a quilt with very little contrast.


Colour Theory 101: Value and Low Volume - The trick to low volume is to consider value and how contrast is created in the ways..... such as color, pattern, scale, and value. This post is very detailed, but my knowledge is too limited to understand much of it yet.


There's a wealth of information in the blog posts I've listed. The problem for me, is that I'm still unsure as to what fabrics are classed as low volume.


And here's where I need your help. I've photographed fabrics from my stash that are possibly(?) low volume. Which of these fabric would you classify as low volume?


If you have a simple way of explaining low volume, as regards to quilting, I would so appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. By all means, leave links to posts that may help with your explanation.

Thanks in advance, for all your help.

... Pam


  1. I rarely quilt but retain weird bits of awesomeness in my head.
    Use the b&w camera feature to snap photos of the fabrics you are considering.
    This helps you identify low volume as well as color tones. ( i.e. not all black tones play nice together)
    Low volume to me means fabric that comes across as solids from afar. Up close, they may have subtle patterns - key word is subtle.
    Soft is like playing piano. Forte is loud, piannos--ment (sp?) is soft.
    You can still hear the tune but you need to look (hear) more closely. Loud can be jarring or shocking in contrast.
    This is probably why I don't quilt. Too many rules....

  2. I'm still trying to explain low volume to my Burpham Babes quilt group they too express their dismay at figuring it out. By my estimation 13 and 9 have too much contrast to be true low volume but all the rest I would say are. The two in question would be difficult to work with a wide spectrum of other feature colours. 11 works as LV but would again play nicely with a limited palate but more than the previous two. You are on the right tract and as I told the Babes it reall just takes practice.

    1. Glad to hear I'm on the right track, Mary. Thank you so much for your input. It is such a confusing topic for me, but I am learning. Practice is the key to most things in life.

  3. I don't know what low volume technically means - I wouldn't expect it to appear as a solid, but more as a quiet neutralish print (not a TOT). I also don't see bright colours as being part of a LV print - mainly softer muted colours mixed with white/off white/grey.I wonder if the categorization depends on the surrounding fabrics - a loudish LV print may look definitely LV if it's beside a really REALLY loud print. It seems like a subjective categorization, differing from person to person, so I wouldn't be concerned with technicalities. Whatever works for you, with your project, which provides the amount of contrast you want, and which you like the look of is just right :)

  4. Love TOT and low volume prints/ shirtings. Vickie
    Victimlewis at

  5. Pam low volume is a weird term, but it is a fabric that isn't too busy and reads as solid or near solid from a distance as to not compete with other "high volume" fabrics that are busy or more colorful. So think "background" fabric. You just want to have enough contrast with the other fabrics you are using so they are not fighting one another.

  6. I remembered reading Bonnie Hunter's blog post where she mentioned "Low Volume" and what she said it meant. You will find that here You will find what she said near the bottom of her post not too far underneath the last picture of the post

  7. I don't quilt, so not sure what the right answer is, but I always thought "low volume" was something subtle and that does not get your attention. I guess some letter prints can be low volume too, but I always find myself trying to read them...they definitely get my attention ;) Looks like I have a lot of readings to do too!

  8. This is an interesting post for me at the moment, I've not done much with low volumes myself but I have a quilt in the works (when I get round to it!) which will use them. Personally I would be very wary about numbers 3 and 11, but numbers 9 and 13 might be slightly wrong too. I'm probably commenting far too late to be any use anyway! I always think the way to go is to take a B & W photo, and I don't worry about whether or not they look solid, but just whether they all blend together and none of them stand out glaringly from the others. Hope there'll be more to read on this as I catch up!


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