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When I first began garment sewing, I was overwhelmed with the selection of fabrics I found at my local quilt/fabric store. The colors were beautiful and some came with 10 or more coordinating choices. Of course, I couldn't use them all in one outfit (or could I...I'm still debating!) so making the choice as to which ones and where to use them in a garment became a dilemma. Many quilters-turned-garment sewers may have a bit more insight into this discussion than the average beginner. They have been selecting colors, patterns and prints that all coordinate to create their beautiful quilt designs for years.
There are many books on selecting coordinating colors and fabrics for quilters, but the question still remains - do those "rules" apply to garment sewing as well? The answer is yes - with a little tweaking built in as colors/prints relate to body shape. So where to start? Start with a "focal fabric" or as I like to call it "that fabric you saw that you HAD to have!" For the sake of our discussion, we will use one of my favorite Indygo Junction patterns - Day Shift Dress (IJ807) - as the garment example. This was the first dress I created using multiple coordinating fabrics. I was little scared to use varying prints, and the sheer volume of coordinates to choose from was making my brain hurt.
So I started at the beginning and followed a little "quilter's" advice. I found my "had to have" focal fabric. Next I had to decide where to use it. Our example, the Day Shift Dress uses three basic fabrics - one for the top portion and two for the skirt.
Tip #1: Keep your top area lighter than your bottom for a more flattering fit. Okay - simple enough. Next, choose the two coordinates for the skirt portion. It's perfectly okay to pick your favorites, but look for a variety of print sizes.
Tip #2: Avoid putting that large print on a problem area - for me that was the "back" of the dress.
Tip #3: Keep the colors in the same family. Fabric manufacturers have simplified this process by keeping all of the coordinates in a collection in a specific color palette.
Many times this color palette is printed on the selvedge of your fabric. You can even use this to hunt for other coordinating fabric by other designers (or if you are like me while you hunt through the bargain table or scrap bins). Be sure to lay all your fabrics out (yes, I do this at the store) roughly how they will be placed together in your garment to be sure they "look good" together. Sometimes I even drape them on my body to make sure I like the look. Looking for a more subtle way to use coordinates?
Try creating your own bias binding. Aprons are perfect for this type of embellishing. Take the In Over Your Head Apron (IJ836) for example. The sample shown below uses hand made bias binding in a coordinating fabric for the trim along with coordinating fabric for the pocket. To keep your apron/outfit more cohesive, try using the same coordinate for the trim, pockets and other details.