How to Choose Prints for a Patchwork Project

We've been hard at work on Stitch Spring 2014, (while also simultaneously getting Stitch Gifts out the door!), and mixing prints and patterns has been much on my mind because the Spring 2014 issue theme is "Pattern Play." From fabric to fashion, mixed-up prints are hot for spring, and I see some glorious options in your future.

This Windham Briar Rose charm pack
by Heather Ross's had me at hello.

  I can't get enough of Moda's
Glamping by Mary Jane.

It is especially because I have been working with designers on the 30+ projects for Stitch Spring that I have been learning a lot about working with prints. Every designer has a different take. Some are bold; some are subtle. All are superbly talented and intuitive about their fabric choices.

I would say that I myself fall on the reckless end of the curve. I am always tending toward the outrageous with color and print, which can result in stunning success and fabulous failure.

Patchwork is of course one of the staples of Stitch magazine, and how the fabrics go together can make or break a project.

So what is the big lesson I have walked away with on prints and patchwork? This is going to sound really wimpy after all my chest-beating about how audacious I can be, but I would say to stick with the coordinates.

I have found that if I really fall in love with one fat quarter in a charm pack or jelly roll, the chances are good that I am going to adore everything else in the collection. And if I am going to put all that work into a patchwork project, where badly-mixed prints will stick out like a sore thumb, I want to be sure I absolutely adore the fabrics on their own to begin with.

There are so many amazing collections out there these days, and they just keep getting better and better, as fabric companies woo extraordinary designers. Why start trouble? I prefer to trust the experts on this one.

For lots of lovely patchwork projects, you can pre-order Housewarming Patchwork in the Sew Daily Shop.  

How do you select your prints for a patchwork project? Do you stick to coordinates or go commando? I would love to know!

Happy stitching!




Other sewing topics you may enjoy:



About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

8 thoughts on “How to Choose Prints for a Patchwork Project

  1. Failure is a necessary part of any creative process. If we let someone else make all the decisions for us, we can’t possibly learn and grow. Then it turns into a “paint by number” endeavor, which for me would take away the fun, albeit difficult part of quilting.

  2. While I do use fabrics out of collections, I have to say your comments are a great advertisement for the fabric industry and staying safe. For me one of the best parts of quilting is fabric selection. Why would I relinquish that process to someone else? Trust your gut. (And I whole heartily agree with the comment above)

  3. Ditto for me. I like the idea of collections because they can act as a jumping off point. I will sometimes use a pair of prints from a collection, but I always mix it up with something else of my own choosing. It makes my pieces more original, more ‘me’. It is the upside down purple trees in me that keeps coming out.

  4. Have to say RENEGADE ! Wasn’t always so and there is no rule. Just creativity, color, scale and all the other scrumptious parts of quilting/fiber arts…so FEAST !

  5. In my opinion sticking to a single collection whilst easy tends to yield a bland quilt. It’s the random elements that make a quilt truly unique and “pop” the quilt design. For me the exception is quick quilts, usually for fundraisers, when I use pre-cuts. Choosing fabrics is one of the pleasures and challenges of creating a quilt and whilst I admire and drool over fabric collections it is stepping outside those parameters that excites me and keeps me quilting.

  6. I ditto the above comments. Choosing fabrics is one of the most exciting elements of quilt-making. Using one designer’s fabric looks like a decor in most hotels: not too objectionable – except for the cheesy art on the wall – but dull, dull, dull. I generally pick one fabulous print that I love and that has a number of color themes going on in it. After determining the mood of the quilt, I raid my stash to cull all the fabrics the pick up the colors in the feature fabric, or nicely contrast with it, or just give a zing when placed near it or the other fabrics. If I don’t have enough fabric – and I’ve been known to use 30 fabrics in a 12′ block – I go fabric shopping to round things out. At this point, serious culling of I-must-have-been-out-of-my-mind prints occurs. As I piece blocks together – often each block style is different but is tied to the other blocks by theme (e.g. stars) or provenance (Japanese quilter block creations), here is where the real color magic takes place, as I audition one fabric after another to get just the right effect.

  7. A bit late coming to this post. I’ve bought a collection in the form a jelly roll and a layer cake just once so far. I much prefer to start pulling from my stash and finding things that click when thrown together. Using fabrics from different lines/designers but the same manufacturer can work when you want more of a mix. For example Amy Butler and Kaffe Fassett often mix well because they are both from Westminster and the color dyes are similar. For anyone who is unsure in selecting fabrics I find nothing wrong with using a collection or precuts. They can produce lovely quilts, just not as uniques as your own choices would be. So I say give your own ideas a try.