Several years ago I attended a garden pond seminar hosted by a local Koi club that featured tips on maintaining a backyard garden pond.  As the guest speaker described how to maintain efficient levels of oxygen in the water he described using plants in 3 ways to make the most of the plants in the pond and in your containers.  I know, you’re wondering why am I telling you this in a blog about quilts.  I’ll get to that in a minute… but there is a relationship. You’ll see.


Here’s the thing: In a container or garden pond we select plants for three essential concepts.  First, we select a THRILLER.  These are the starting point of your aquatic and container composition. A focal point. They are the  plants that will add drama and excitement to the garden. They are the first thing you see when you envision your composition. Next,  we’ll select the SPILLER’s.  A properly selected SPILLER will accentuate and compliment the THRILLER. It presents just a hint of color, a bold contrast, a pop!  It might add action, or create movement in the picture.  Finally, we’ll select the FILLER. In the garden, the fillers are the background. Their job is to create depth without being overwhelming to the THRILLER’s who are – as they should be – the star of the show!  A keenly selected SPILLER will also add texture and establish a visual resting place. When you have an aquatic garden filled with THRILLERS, SPILLERS, and FILLERS – you have a garden that is rich in color and contrast.

I’m sure by now you’re thinking that this concept can be translated into your quilting work.  So often I’ve heard people comment on quilts that they see at shows, guild meetings, and in print – ‘WOW – That is a great use of color and contrast’.  If we think about these ideas when we are choosing our fabrics, we may end up with a design that is balanced in color, scale, and depth. Why not think of our quilts this way?


For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told that the first fabric we select for a quilt is our focus fabric.  This, like the THRILLER, is the print that will be the star of the show. It will be the fabric that helps you select the fabrics for the rest of your quilt.  When you find something you like, lay it out, step back and take a look at all of the details. As you choose the supporting actors, work to create a palette that unifies the colors and textures.  Try not to over think it,  you don’t have to have equal amounts of each color. In fact, a variety of colors and values will add interest to the project too!

Take a few minutes now to take a THRILLER, SPILLER and FILLER tour of quilts online. Go to your search bar and enter “Quilt show winners”.  I did. Here is just a small sample of what I found. Can you pick out the focus fabric, the complimentary fabrics, and the background in these outstanding quilts?

quilt show winners
It’s spring! Its time to think about a new composition. Time to create something new.

Happy Quilting!