Monday, January 19, 2009

mixin n matchin

Dawn asked for pointers on mixing prints. I get asked this one now and then, so I thought I'd toss out some things I consider when mixing prints for projects. (She also asked for photo tips a while back and I'm still working on that post for ya Dawn!)

First, TRY IT! Don't be timid! It is scary at first, and things may not "go" to your eye. You have to retrain how you view prints, and more specifically certain types of prints.

For example, dots are solid. Repeat after me...DOTS ARE SOLIDS. I'm serious. I don't even consider dots (and mostly stripes & checks) a print. If the background or the dot matches a color in your main fabric, it goes. I promise. Here's an example, where I pulled a check in a coordinating color and a dot in another coordinating color to match this rose print fabric.

Once you've got the hang of dots and checks, let's go a step further. There are other "solids" out there if you look hard enough. Two-color prints that combine white or cream (or black to a certain extent) can also act as a coordinating solid. Damask prints for example. Damasks are just a repeating print (like dots or checks). See...

And once you're comfy with the dots and the damasks, here's a cream/pink floral print that has a much larger repeat, but can still coordinate as easily as a dot or damask, even though it is not remotely similar in "feel" to the rose print.

Here's another example of using a "not a solid" print. I love this red Asian print fabric. I've used it a couple of different times for Lu and still have some in stash. If you look really carefully at this print, there is the tiniest bit of medium blue. It's not often and not entirely obvious at first, but it is definitely there. Pair it with that exact blue in another Asian-y print and you have an amazing combo.

You can really see the blue now, whereas before, it was hardly noticeable the strong red print had any blue at all.

Here's one more example. I LOVE this cream rose print. It has a lot of browns and olives and golds in there too, and I found the PERFECT coordinating print by chance one day. It's a dark gold dragonfly print.

Note that it's basically a solid. But has enough of a pattern to break it up and make it interesting, whereas a solid would be a little boring, to be honest.

Let's talk about colors for a second. I start combining usually in one of 2 ways. I either pull from the colors in one print (as all of the examples above) OR I combine prints of the same value. The second one is harder, but once you get the hang of it, it makes the process a whole lot more fun.

My Candy Dish quilt squares are an example of this "values" type of mixing. All of those prints are the same juicy color palette. Here's a fabric example. These are toned down colors, a soft blue, soft gold, and a medium pink. (Note my pink dot is a little sassy. No reason dots can't be sassy, is there?)

These prints work together because they're all in the same range of value. And I can pull in two dots, because one of them is abstract enough to be a "print" not a dot. Anything that adds more dots is good in my book.

Once in a while, you get a hint from the fabric about what kind of print will work. For this pink paisley print, the paisley's are black & white. What do you know, I have a black & white paisly-esque print in stash! Even though the paisley's are not the same, it works.

Ok one more tip and it's even a nice segue from the tip above. Black & whites are basically "neutral" and go with pretty much anything. Ditto leopard (especially a tonal leopard like I'm going to show you) and zebra. There are certainly places I wouldn't use them, but they add a fabulous punch of whimsy when you're brave enough to take the risk.

This black & white small print floral works equally well as the blue with the red Asian (especially if you hadn't seen the blue first!):

And this tonal leopard works perfectly well with our cream and red floral (as does the deep coral-ish damask).

While you're learning and practicing your print matching, take advantage of quilting fabric lines that already have different prints matched up for you. It's a safe way to play!

For this post, however, I purposefully chose prints that are NOT from the same lines (or even the same manufacturer in all cases.) Because you really can do it yourself. In fact...I prefer to! It's fun!

One more handy tip...paint chips are free at pretty much any paint counter in the world. Go get a bunch and keep them handy in your sewing box. They have the values from lightest to if you're having trouble visualizing the same value range, pull out the paint chips that match the fabrics you're considering and you have a visual cheat sheet!

Happy mixing!


  1. Great examples. You know, I haven't done much mixin/matchin unless they are from a line. That helps alot.

  2. You have a great eye for this, Angie. I love all your work with mixed-up prints. I sew mostly apparel for myself (some for my toddler) so I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to do much of this. I don't know, though-- one example that I still LOVE that springs to mind are the Duro Olowu dresses. Perhaps I shall become more brave!

  3. GREAT POST! That was so helpful! Thanks!

  4. THANK YOU! I love the way you mix prints, especially the big ones. After reading this, I might have the courage to try it myself.

  5. Thanks for putting a "formula" out there. I will have to keep repeating, "dots are solids, dots are solids, dots are sol-lids." to myself. I do love your combinations.

  6. Anonymous12:36 PM

    Thanks, you've really put this mix'n'match stuff in simple terms. I'm sure I'll be back to this post often.

  7. Very helpful Angie! I think some people just have an eye for this type of thing, I for one don't! lol

    BTW, I nominated you today on my blog for an award - please play along if you'd like, if not, no hard feelings. :-)

  8. Anonymous3:25 AM

    This is SUCH a useful post! It really helps to consolidate things and has given me loads of helpful information. Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Beautiful fabrics! I wish I had a few of those in my stash! Quilters use a thing called scale when they combine their prints, a lot like your first example of the large floral print and the dots as solids!

  10. Angie,

    This was such a helpful post. Although I'm not blessed with print matching gene by any means, at least you have posted a starting point for me and some good tips. I will try to remember them.

  11. I just made outfits for my grandaughters that mix patterns. I used dots, paisleys, flowers, stripes and butterflies, all in brown and pink. They turned out ok. Three of the fabrics were side by side at the fabric store, so no confusion there. I'm posting photos of them tomorrow.

  12. Wow...this is just the thing people who are a little "timid" about mixing fabrics should read!

    You did a SUPER job of making what can be complicated principles easily understandable.

    Pam, from ~Off The Cuff Style~

  13. Anonymous3:51 AM

    The most helpful advice I've seen about putting various prints together. Thank you.


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