Pair Patterned Fabrics Like a Pro


Lindsay combined five different prints to create this fun little dress.

Coordinating fabrics can be one of the most creative parts of sewing, but often one of the most challenging as well. Designer Lindsay Wilkes – who many of you know from her popular blog, The Cottage Mama, as well as our School of Art Fashion and technique DVDs – has built her signature style around mixing and matching patterned fabrics. Below, discover a few of Lindsay’s tips and tricks for pairing prints from her book Sew Classic Clothes for Girls, published by KP Craft. This excerpt also appeared in issue #150 of Sew Beautiful:

“Pairing patterned fabrics might be a bit challenging at first, but once you get the hang of it, you may find it the most fun, creative part of sewing. I know I do!

Fabric selection can make or break a garment. On one hand, if the fabrics are paired properly, they can create a definite “wow” statement; if paired incorrectly, they can make the garment look, well…wrong. Luckily, today’s quilting fabric designers make coordinating fabrics fairly simple by offering complementary fabrics that are designed to go together. Within a designer’s collection are typically various color ways, or fabrics that are similar in color and tone. However, just because fabric coordinates with another doesn’t mean it’s going to work well for a child’s garment.

The key to successfully combining patterned fabrics is to properly select and place fabrics of varying scales. A good rule of thumb is to never have more than one large-scale print per garment. A child’s garment is fairly small and too many large prints will overwhelm the look. However, this doesn’t mean you should use only small-scale prints either. Sometimes too many small-scale prints can result in a bland or dated look.

When coordinating three patterned fabrics, try to select one large print, one medium print and a small print, or a medium print and two small prints. If you are combining more than three fabrics, never select more than one large print and one medium print; the rest should be small scale and/or solid colors.

A great way to help select fabrics is to focus on the colors. Look closely at the main print and pull out the individual colors. You will have a main focus color and several coordinating accent colors. Sometimes focusing on the accent colors can really help during this process. The accent colors seem to go somewhat unnoticed, but when brought out with coordinating prints (and trims), these colors can really create a stunning look. After you have narrowed in on a couple colors, go to your local fabric shop or dig into your fabric stash and play around. Get out fabrics and lay them on top of one another. How does the combination make you feel? Does it work for you? Does it give you the feeling you want? You are going to be your best judge. If you think that things don’t look right, then pull out more fabrics. Mix and match until you have a coordinated look that you love.

Consider bringing in pattern prints such as gingham, polka dots, stripes, damask, or small-scale florals as accent fabrics. You can always play it safe with solids, and sometimes that can be the best choice, but I encourage you to challenge yourself to create a look from all patterned fabrics. I think you’ll truly surprise yourself with the amazing garments you can create.”

Discover more from Lindsay Wilkes with our Charlotte Apron Dress Kit! An original sewing pattern published by The Cottage Mama, this adorable gathered skirt dress (sizes 6 months through 8 years) offers many different design variations. The fabrics were hand-picked by Lindsay, which truly gives it that Cottage Mama look.


The prices of 16 kits, including the Charlotte Apron Dress Kit, just got even lower! Be sure to snag them before they are gone, as there is a very limited quantity left. These low prices end Oct 22, 2014 at midnight MST. Shop all kits now!