How to Mix and Match Print Fabrics for Sewing : Part 1

On one of the Facebook groups I follow, a question was recently posed about how to mix and match fabrics.  Some of the people in the discussion seemed to think that it was just a talent that they didn't possess.  I'm here to tell you that that is just NONSENSE.  I truly believe that ANYONE can learn to mix and match fabrics if you learn a few basic tricks and give it some practice.

Over the next few posts, I thought I'd just share with you some of the tricks that I have learned through all of my years of "playing fabric" as I often like to call it.

I've broken this up into 4 different posts and I plan to share one each week with you.

Part 1: Choosing a "Base Fabric"
Part 2: Choosing Fabrics for a Softer Look
Part 3: Making Choices for a More Bold Look
Part 4: Fabrics That Don't Work and Why

Choosing a "Base Fabric"

I once heard someone on some HGTV show ages and ages ago talk about picking paint colors for a room by starting with an "inspiration piece" such as a pillow or a painting.  That person said to really look at the piece and pick out what colors were in it and to draw your paint color from one of the colors in the piece.  I figured if it works in interior design, it could work for fabric too.  Why not?

What I do when I decide to make a dress or an outfit is I usually pick a base fabric to start with. I have a love of floral prints and so mine is usually a floral print of some sort, but you could also use a novelty print and they work just as well.  Something like this works well:

There are a few things to consider when choosing your base fabric.
First, think about the application.  What will you be using this fabric to make?  Is it for a bag, is it a garment, is it for an adult, is it for a child?  Who will be using it?  What is their personality?

All of those things play into your initial fabric choice. A very large print like the one I have chosen for my example may not be the best choice for a baby or a very small child.  There are at least a couple of reasons for that.  Firstly, if you are sewing for a baby, remember that the pieces you are cutting out will be very small.  One piece may not encompass enough of the print to really show it off.  Secondly, large prints with a lot of colors tend to overwhelm a baby's features.  In short, you see the dress and not the child.  For a baby or a smaller child it might be better to choose a smaller scale print.

However, this fabric might be great for an older child or a teenager, maybe an adult or perhaps for a bag, pillow or other household item.

Whatever fabric you choose I believe that the same basic principles apply, whether it be a large scale like the example I will use here, or a smaller scale print that you might choose.

Here are those principles in a nutshell:

1. Choose your colors from the palette in your base fabric.
2. Vary the scale.
3. Find something to echo when you can.
4. Keep the "feeling" or "vibe" of your fabrics the same.

For my example I have chosen this Anna Maria Horner print.  I found all of the fabric swatches that I will use at I chose this one because there are really a lot of ways that you can pair this fabric.

Look closely at the fabric and see what colors are in it.  Also look at the lines and try to get a sense of the mood that the fabric gives off.

When looking at the fabric below... what do you see?

I see, first of all, that it is a very large scale print. I also see about 8 or 9 different colors.  There are two shades of both the aqua blue and the pink, there is also brown, gold, soft white, and even a tiny bit of orange if you look closely at the centers of the dark pink flowers.

Another thing that I see is the clean lines of the stems and flowers.  The edges are very crisp and there's no fuzziness to the print.  The vibe that this fabric gives off is a very funky, modern, almost Bohemian, but not quite, feel.  It isn't super "cutesy", but it is very feminine and there is a certain playfulness to it as well.  There is a lot of "motion" happening with the curved lines and the scattered flowers.

Once I have studied the base fabric for both the colors and the overall feel that the fabric gives then I can think about starting to choose coordinating fabrics.  This is a fabric that could either be played up or toned down depending on the fabrics that you choose to place with it.

In the next installment we will begin to look at pairings that will tone down the boldness of this print and soften the overall look and feel that it gives off.  Until then, I challenge you to choose your own "base" fabric to play with when we meet next time.

Until next time, Happy Sewing!

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