Tips for Coordinating Fabrics


Martha Demere’s darling dress samples made using Lyn Week’s “Frannie” pattern and Liberty lawns.

Selecting fabric for a new project is always fun, but trying to mix and match multiple prints in one design can be tricky. Below, I’d like to share a few print-pairing tips from designer and teacher Martha Demere. Martha, who has studied embroidery technique both in the U.S. and abroad, graduated with distinction from The Royal School of Needlework in London, England and also completed several classes at Lesage in France. A longtime contributor to Sew Beautiful, she shared these helpful pointers for mixing and matching fabrics in our March/April 2009 edition of the magazine. Martha’s dress samples shown here were made using Lyn Week’s “Frannie” pattern from the Sew Beautiful Pattern Collection, which is available in our online store.

Note from Martha Demere: Do you ever think about what inspires you? I had been looking forward to trying Lyn Week’s “Frannie” pattern for some time, but approaching it the same way I do most dresses, frankly, seemed like a lost opportunity. “Frannie” inspired me to do something a little different. Both the simplicity of the silhouette and the vintage quality of the design led me to Liberty lawns, but once I tried to narrow down my selection to one print, I found I couldn’t do it. Instead, I picked a few of my favorites and used piping to tie them together. After spending a good bit of time mixing, matching and coordinating fabrics, I realized that combining prints can present a challenge even for a seasoned sewer like myself; so, the teacher in me came up with some print pointers based on my “Frannie” project –

• Pay attention to balance and scale; you don’t want the garment to wear the child.

• Picture the dress in your head. If you pick all very small prints there will be no interest or contrast; whereas, three large prints would be overwhelming. You need to combine small, medium and large prints for interest and use piping to tie everything together.

• You also need a combination of colors. I used a light, medium and dark shade. In my experience, the light color generally works best next to the face, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. One of my students used dark next to the face because of the density of her print – a green fabric with rosebuds. She then balanced the darker color at the top by selecting strong prints for the bottom two sections.

• If your pattern has a collar, make it a solid, preferably white or off-white. A patterned collar would be over-kill.

• Coordinate the slip and dress by repeating the use of a particular edging trim, lace or piping around the bottom. When your little one is sitting down, the inside of her ensemble will be just as pretty as the outside.

In short, think like a quilter. Select a combination of prints and then a combination of colors. Use big, medium and small prints, then light, medium and dark colors and tie it all together with piping and other detailing.

Shop coordinating fabric prints for your next project in our online store. Some of the collections we have that are perfect for mixing and matching include the “Stiles Collection” from Liberty Lifestyle of Liberty Art Fabrics and the “Wildflower Meadow” collection by Melly & Me at Riley Blake Fabrics. Shop all of our fabrics here!

Happy Sewing,