Mix It Up Quilts! 5 Tips for Mixing Fabrics & Combining Patterns

Mixing fabrics: How do you know what patterns and fabrics will look good together when you’re planning your next quilt? Some quilters just jump right in with an “anything goes” palette and others are more comfortable with having more control. Whether you’re shopping for your next quilt from your “stash” or headed to the fabric store, these tips will help you make successful fabric choices.

Create fabulous design combinations with these 5 tips for mixing fabrics!

Looking for more quilt project inspiration? Check out Craftsy’s collection of quilting kits, full of fun fabrics and exciting pattern designs you’ll love to mix and match!

Rainbow quilt using a wide variety of fabrics

1. Start with your favorite color.

Fabric choice is a very personal decision. What colors will you use? What is the mood of your quilt — bright and cheerful or more subdued and calm? Do you want the fabrics to “match” or are you willing to be a little adventurous?

Even if you think you have trouble picking colors, all you need to do is look at the clothes you wear and the way your home is decorated for clues about the colors and fabrics that make you feel most comfortable. Maybe your favorite color is blue: Look through the fabric you already own and pull out all the blue fabrics. Chances are they range from light to dark, and maybe from blue-green to blue-violet. That’s a great beginning! 

Quilt with a variety of red fabrics

2. Make a dual-color or scrappy quilt.

One way to get started combining different fabrics and patterns is to make a two-color quilt. One of the colors can be a background of just one fabric, and the other can use a variety of choices. If you’re using red, for example, gather together a wide range of reds, from orange to true red to burgundy.

It’s OK if the the fabrics don’t match. The variety makes the eye move around searching for connections, and the spark provided by a piece that’s a little brighter than the others will make your design sing. Or, you might want to make a scrap quilt where the different fabrics in the blocks are unified with a single color sashing or border. 
Beautiful, colorful quilt ising a focus fabric

3. Use a focus fabric.

Another tip is to start with a focus fabric. A focus fabric typically is a busy piece with a lot going on in it — several different colors and a complex design like you would find in a splashy floral, for example. It will play the leading role.

Place the focus fabric out on your cutting table, and pull together other “supporting” fabrics that have some of the same colors. It doesn’t have to be fabric by the same manufacturer, and it’s more interesting if it has some different textures than the focus piece. You might even want to use the focus fabric in the border to tie everything together. 

Green and Blue Fabrics in a variety of scale

4. Have a variety of Scale

An important tip to remember is to use a variety of scale when you’re combining fabrics. Use small tone-on-tone prints, dots, geometrics, large florals and medium scale abstracts to add interest to your design.

Within each color family, you should also have a range of light, medium and dark values. This usually happens naturally when you’re using fabrics with a variety of scale, but it’s something to keep in mind as you’re making your choices. 

5. Be prepared to deal with an “oddball.”

What if you have an “oddball” fabric that doesn’t seem to play well with the others? Some colors, like yellow and orange, are more prone to this problem because they are so strong. There are several choices to deal with this issue. Obviously, you could take the offending piece out. But, that might defeat the purpose of combining fabric and pattern in your quilt!

Strong orange color in a beautiful heirloom quilt
One of the best ways to handle it is to add more of the color or texture that is standing out, preferably in another section of the quilt and maybe more than once. That way the viewer’s eye is forced to move around the design instead of zeroing in on one block.

There really aren’t any hard and fast “rules” about what fabrics and patterns go together. With a little experimentation, you can find what works for you and make your next quilt dazzling!

Do you have a favorite tip for combining fabrics and patterns in the same quilt? 

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