Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How To Choose Fabric

I've had lots people ask me about how I put together fabric combinations and choose my fabric for different projects. A few of very lovely people (Hi Fiona! Hi Mum!) tell me I have a knack for putting fabric together, which is a lovely compliment! So I thought I'd share a few tips and tricks I have for choosing fabric combinations that look great together.

The Rule of Three

When selecting fabric for a project, I like to work in threes. It might be three colours, or three fabrics that have a theme, like the above picture with the Liberty floral, mustard cross print and solid - all with a rusty red theme. The cross and floral on their own wouldn't work, but the solid ties them together.

Three works for most projects, whether it be a quilt, a bag or even a garment. With a garment you might just have two fabrics but the third coordinate might be buttons, piping or a lining.

Solids and White

The homespun section in the fabric store can be a bit boring. Not quite the visual appeal of the lovely florals, geometrics and prints of all the designer cottons. However a good eye in this department is critical! A good solid used well can really showcase your chosen print or make a feature of the pattern you are sewing.

There has been a trend in modern quilting lately to use mostly or all solids for projects, and they really look amazing. Many of the fabric manufacturers are making huge ranges of solids now, and there is barely a shade you cannot purchase.

Having some yardage of white in your stash is a good idea. It provides a great background for almost anything and can be used as a fall back coordinate. Purchasing a small amount of cream can also be helpful as some fabric prints can have a cream base.

Polka Dots are Key.

Uh huh. You can never go wrong with a polka dot. They are many and varied and they go with everything. They are probably my most used fabric style in my stash.

Reasons why they are good - they are usually directionless which makes them very versatile. Their small size makes them an ideal coordinate but also a feature or even a great choice for a quilt binding.

Build Up Your Collection of Ditsy Prints

What is a ditsy print? It is a small scale pattern that is random. The pattern is not linear or geometric. Similar to what I said about polka dots, their random, directionless nature means that they can be used as a versatile coordinate. In the below picture, the pink fabric with the red floral wreaths would be considered a ditsy print.

When working with large scale prints, they often become the feature of the project. If you use a smaller scale print or ditsy, the actual design of the bag or garment will become the focus.

Smaller scale prints are also a great way to feature colour without using a solid.

Shop Smart - write a list and limit purchases of feature prints.

Impulsively buying fabric at your local store is one of life's little luxuries. Especially when you are without your kids and your partner isn't standing there rolling their eyes saying 'hurry up!'.

BUT there are a few traps I used to fall into.

Prints. I love big prints. Bold colours, cute kid designs, large scale pictures. Every fabric range has one or two feature prints that draws they eye. Seemingly the rest of the fabric range is just a coordinate to go with the feature.

I kept buying prints because while shopping they were noticeable and got my attention. Then I realised later that I had nothing to coordinate with them, and some were too big and overwhelming for smaller projects and patchwork.

If you buy a print, also grab at least one other fabric that will coordinate. You won't be sorry and you'll have a more diverse stash as a result.

Writing a shopping list sounds obvious but it's easy to be distracted and come out of the store with a bag full of fabric and completely forget the one item you went shopping for in the first place!

Copy Your Favourites!

The fact that you are reading this tells me that you probably follow sewing blogs, using pinterest and following sewing Facebook pages to get your project inspiration.

See something you like? Copy it! Love my nautical pouch with the gold denim? Make one too! I am always inspired by different fabric combinations and designs I see on other blogs and I'm certain it's contributed to my style.

But finally....

Do you love that fabric? Does it make you feel happy? Do you want to look at it every day?



  1. That is helpful advice. I'm not very confident with colours. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Such good advice re not getting seduced into buying too many prints. It's a mistake I have made often...I love them all, but what to do with them?

    1. I know!! I have the same problem. Good for large garments or quilt backs. Fussy cutting can also be a good use depending on the print.

  3. Never heard about the rule of 3 before - really useful! and couldn't agree with you more about dots!!

    1. The rule of three isn't really a rule as such...just a technique that works well for me! :) Dots are the best!

  4. Thanks for this, it's really helpful! I buy the eye catcher prints all the time and end up siting on a shelf because I have nothing to coordinate them with. Now I know how to fix it. Off to do some shopping...

    1. Enjoy! Any excuse for a good session of fabric shopping :)

  5. Totally agree - you can't go wrong with polka dots, Ros. I'm always buying large prints and not smaller.

  6. I loved reading this Ros and yes, I too have been guilty of shopping the big prints! I now have to try to clear some of them! :)

    1. Sounds like a lot of us are big print purchasers!

  7. Great post Ros. I loved reading this. I buy fabrics for a very different purpose to you. I will however use this theory to potential 'shop my stash' for other projects. Thanks for the guidelines.

  8. Excuse the gush but Ros you are awesome! I've always admired your gorgeous fabric choices and combos. I definitely need to stock up on some more coordinating prints (particularly monochromes). Trying to pull out some scraps tonight for the quilt block and this is becoming very obvious!! Thanks for a great post :)

  9. Great post! I'm definitely pinning this one for future reference!


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