Help with Fabric & Pattern

Help with Mixing Fabric & Patterns

There are so many different fabrics. How many should I use?

Use 3, enough to create interest without it seeming chaotic

How do you figure out what goes together?

Your patterns don’t have to match, though they need to look good together. That means they have to have something in common, which could be colour, style or scale. So for example you might choose one floral, one geometric and one of a much smaller or much larger, scale.

Organic Patterns take their inspiration from the natural world. There is a lot of movement in the pattern and the pattern repeat is not always obvious

Geometric Patterns have an obvious pattern containing a high degree of contrast. They range from a simple polkadot or stripe to something much more complicated.

Foreground should be a strong tonal contrast to the background

How To Begin

Use as your starting point something you love and are drawn to.  If you choose floral first, look for a geometric. If you choose something geometric with a clear pattern repeat, then choose something swirly and garden inspired.

Is there a particular colour you love in the first fabric you chose? Use that to look for a second fabric. So if you chose a floral pattern first and you love the lime green of the leaves, choose a geometric in a similar green. You can then incorporate another colour from the first fabric for your third fabric choice. If the floral had a mottled grey background, you might look for a grey stripe.

Large and Small prints

If the fabrics you have chose are both medium in scale, go for a small print

If you have choses two small scale patterns, go for a larger scale.

This is not a set of rules, just a guide, so if you find something that doesn’t fit this idea but looks and feels right, use it!


Some people prefer not to pre-wash but when you do, you can pre-shrink, check for colourfastness and remove chemical coatings. Alternatively, to check for colour fastness only, cut a triangle of fabric and pin it to white cloth or a chunk of batting. Put in a jar of warm sudsy water, secure with a cap and shake vigorously. Do this for each one separately and check the cloth. Any dye means you need to wash the fabric by itself , dry and press. If you plan to prewash your fabric add 1/8 yd more fabric to allow for shrinkage.

Fabrics – Good to Have

A good range of lights mediums and darks in all colours. eg. blue from pale powder through aqua and cerulean to navy. Within these colours, also small and large prints and always spots and stripes.

Lots of small graphics – little flowers, small checks and spots, tiny motifs and pin stripes. Stripes with no white are softer.

Medium sized florals – tone on tone, stripes checks and spots

Large prints – It’s worth cutting large prints into small pieces for diversity and interest. Blowsy flowers are good for borders.

Tule and cheesecloth to soften

Organza and lace can be  painted.

Tone on tone whites make better backgrounds than stark whites.

Background neutrals are Olive, light grey, dark grey, taupe, chalk, ochre and rust. Pale blue works as a neutral too.

Green on green and blue on blue are good for grass and sky.

Black and white spots, checks and stripes are good for borders or with grey backgrounds.

Text and maps

Try using hand dyed/natural dyed fabrics and Batiks

Homespuns and plaids

Shot cottons, cross weaves nd chamber – often have different colour blends in the fabric. These give dimension and change under different lights.

Light refers to pastels or prints with light or white backgrounds.

Dark refers to most saturated colours, no light backgrounds, no large white accents,

Value light med or dark. The contrast makes your design  morevisible. High contrast next to each other makes design strand out. If you want a softer area, lower the contrast. Use both. Remember value is relative

Pre-Cuts are Useful:

Fat quarters

1 Fat Quarter measures 55 x 50 cms

2 Fat Quarters measures half metre (112 x 50)

3 Fat Quarters measures 112 x 75cm 

You can get 14 four inch squares out of a fat quarter

You can use fat quarters for a jelly roll quilt but the length of a strip cut from a fat quarter is half that of one cut from the whole width – so you would need double the number of strips.

Jelly Roll – a roll of 40 fabrics cut into two and a half inches or six and a quarter centimetres lengths across the width of the fabric 42 inches/105 cms approx. Half a jelly roll is 20 two and half strips of fabric.

Charm Pack – collection of 40 five-inch squares of a named range. Has at least one of each pattern and all of them co-ordinate.


One of Moda’s gorgeous charm packs

Layer Cake – contains forty 10-inch square patches