Keep hearing the phrase 'low volume' in relation to fabrics, but not sure what it means? We take a look at all things 'LV' in this handy guide.

As quilters, we are on a journey. Not only in terms of learning new skills, we’re learning about pattern and print, scale, color, tone, value, what works and what doesn’t. One of the other things we’re constantly learning is the language of quilting. There’s so many acronyms, abbreviations and terminology, it can take a while to know it all!

Today we’re talking about low-volume fabrics. Lots of quilters talk about fabrics as being ‘low-volume’ but this is a relatively new term, so we thought we’d explore what it means. So here’s the ‘low-down’ on low volume, giving you a better understanding of low-volume prints, the different types, and how to use them in your quilts and projects.

What do we mean by low-volume?

Subtle, white, off-white, neutral or pale are often words used to describe low-volume fabrics. They are great to pair with bright colors and patterned prints, as they provide good contrast and more interest than a solid color fabric. The overall look can be ‘softer’ and when you stand back from them they read as one color. They can also be quite fun as they often include words or pictures too, so they add an additional layer of interest.  This  ‘I make stuff’ print is one of my favourites!

How should we use them?

Low volume fabrics work wonderfully well paired with bright colors, like in the mini quilt above, because you get a really nice contrast between the ‘hero’ bright prints and the subtlety of the low volume prints.

Other times, you might still want contrast, but a slightly ‘softer’ look. In this log cabin block, the bright fabrics are lighter in tone and the low volume prints are  colorful but subtle, creating a more gentle effect over all.

Text Print Talk

One thing us modern quilters love is a text print. And the great thing about low volume text prints is they can be bold and make a statement, particularly if they use large lettering, bold fonts and colors, or they might have a smaller print, sometimes be tone on tone, and can act as a ‘blender’ so that the other ‘hero’ prints can shine.  Here is just a small selection of text prints.  They are all so different, with some ‘loud’ and others much softer.  The scale also varies too, so you have to think about the project you’re working on and what will work.

Low volume prints with color

You might want to use low volume prints for all of your project. This lovely ‘Serenity Fusion’ collection by Art Gallery Fabrics has that wonderful muted effect that creates a lovely soft palette.  Although all of the prints are low-volume, there’s a good variation in scale of pattern and design, to create an interesting, cohesive collection.

Do I need them?

It’s always useful to have a stash of low-volume prints to pair with other fabrics, particularly if you’re someone who likes to use bright graphic illustrated prints, but you want to ‘break up’ the busy-ness of the bright colors and add more interest than just using solid fabrics. I like to have a selection of low volume text prints, dots, stripes, tone on tone illustrations. Many fabric shops sell bundles or fat quarter packs of low-volume prints so that quilters can have a good selection to choose from. Before you know it, you’ll be hoarding low-volumes as much as the print and illustrated fabrics. It can become a bit of an obsession!

How can I learn more about color theory?

The great news is, in the Quilter’s Planner there’s a whole page devoted to color theory! Take a look and get a better understanding of saturation, value, hue, shade, tint and tone, and learn the difference between the chromatic relationship of different colors using the color wheel.

We hope this has helped with your understanding of low-volume fabrics and that you feel inspired to play with them and incorporate them into your quilts and projects. You might find a few ‘accidentally’ jump into your shopping cart next time you do some fabric shopping too!