Friday, October 26, 2012

Mixing It: Patterns and Prints

I suspect my sewing time will be limited this weekend, with the excitement of a visit from The Girl - yay!
But it doesn't stop me thinking about sewing.
It is snowing today.  Not much, but quite persistently, and I take it as a warning:  winter is imminent!
I have been managing to get by with my current wardrobe, but it requires me to stay firmly on top of the washing.

A Domestic Note:
I usually only run the washing machine on Friday and Saturday nights, once FL has gone to bed.  He can't stand the disturbance caused by the machine which is in the kitchen / sitting room, and because of his nocturnal writing habits and my 9 to 5 job, the best compromise I can find is to have a routine of one light and one dark wash on the nights when he is most likely to be asleep longest (the Post-Dexy Crash). Sometimes I sneak in an extra daytime wash on a Saturday if he goes to the Golf Club to see his pals - I am such a rebel!
Where was I?
So, yes, I am coping with my 5-top wardrobe, but it is precarious.  As noted on so many occasions, I need more long-sleeved tops, and I want to make them rather than resort to retail.

So now we reach the real topic of today's post:  prints, and the mixing of them.  I need help!

I love the Airelle blouse pattern, but I can't seem to pin down a combination of main fabric and collar/cuff contrast that doesn't look like some sort of uniform.  And having the collar in the same fabric as the body looks dangerously "home-made" in this style.  Why is that?  Maybe it's the darts.  Shop-bought tops aren't that shape are they?
So... let's say I use this remnant of Black Watch brushed cotton in the stash as my starting point (far left). 
I have enough fabric to make the back and front of an Airelle and perhaps the cuffs, but definitely not the sleeves.  So I have been trying to find something to balance well with the tartan in both colour and weight, to use for the sleeves and collar.  And I am stumped.
This picture shows the Black Watch next to the Liberty print I used for my Sencha and some purple cotton.  Although I think the colours go well together, I can imagine the Liberty with the purple, but not with the tartan.  And I am not sure about the purple with the tartan either!
It ought to work with navy or dark green or black, or a print that uses some or all of those colours.  But I am struggling to judge the scale, and whether different textures will work together in the same garment.
For example, I could buy a piece of this Liberty Tana lawn (Morvern's Secret).  But would the fabric be too lightweight and the print too big?
Tell me, what are the secrets to mixing prints, or indeed colours, within the same garment?
There are a few sewing bloggers out there who seem to do this effortlessly.
I came across a French-language sewing  blogger last night with awe-inspiring print-mixing skills.
But if I did this, I fear I would look like an overgrown toddler.

What do you think, oh style gurus?

Am I approaching this the wrong way?  Should I just buy enough fabric in the first place and add a plain coloured collar to a patterned blouse and patterned to a plain, picking out a colour from the pattern for the plain?

Or is there a secret to mixing it up with prints?


LinB said...

As long as the prints have at least one color in common, you can successfully mix them. It has be be a near-perfect match, though -- and the more you have in common, the better. You also need to think about scale: two large prints don't work as well as a large and a medium or a large and a small, for instance. I think that if you use the tartan and the solid, but always separate them from one another by a small piece of the floral, the combination you are struggling with will work just fine. Add a fourth and/or fifth print in a small scale, that brings in the purple, the teal, and maybe the ... dark olive? drab hunter green? ... of the floral, and use it for accents like collar stand, cuffs, tabs or flaps, narrow ties, etc. and you may be happier with the mix. Or unhappier, lol. Just be sure to repeat each fabric at least once, somewhere on the garment. I often end up using an "orphan" as ties instead of buttons -- I still make buttonholes, but anchor the tie in the center, where a button would be. I push one end through the buttonhole and then tie a square knot or a bow.

shivani said...

an interesting conundrum - I look forward to reading the comments, as I struggle with this too.

sylkotwist said...

I know what you mean, I'm sure I used to mix my patterns in the things I wore with far more confidence than I do nowadays. I love the link, the fabrics are good together and to borrow an idea (ahem), perhaps a navy with a coloured polkadot would be nice with your tartan? I'm not sure about too many 'busy' patterns together and white in the complementary pattern is quite distracting for me. I think I'd keep the tones the same. Goodness what a waffle, actually, sod it, the crazier the better! Oh and have a lovely time with your girl!

Lizzi said...

I really like the facings, collar linings etc. in another fabric. You just get a glimpse of something different without it being to 'in your face'. Just a thought.

lizzi said...

Sorry, I meant too, not to. Tut tut Lizzi, bad grammar/spelling.

Flossie said...

I think the tartan and the tana lawn you are thinking of buying would look great together; the colours look like they match very well and I really like the strong geometry of the tartan with the fluidity or organic nature of the tana lawn.

I agree with LinB above, mixing the scale of prints works best. It's what I tend to do when making things such as bags: pick a print and a solid with a matching colour or mix a large and small print in complementary or matching colours. I take the same approach when picking fabrics for quilts.

It does take a bit of trial and error.

Oh, also think about the kinds of clothes you wear when you are putting an outfit together. You wouldn't necessarily match colours in a pair of trousers and blouse, but might mix complementary or even clashing colours. Take your 'outfit' approach and try it in a garment.

Sorry I went on a bit then!

Scruffybadger said...

This is also something that I am not very daring about! I think I'd naturally choose a contrast in something with a matching colour and maybe a small scale print like polka dots if I was being radical!! Enjoy your weekend :-)

Linda C said...

I tried two this week - I think one worked, not sure about the other. One of my daughters gave me a long scarf/shawl for Christmas last year. It is sort of a medium blue/green mostly that is a plaid with almost every color in it, I wore it with a sailor type jersey which is white or cream with coral stripes and a dark denim skirt. I think the combo was sucess because two young girls in the grocery told me they liked my scarf. They said it was pretty. The second outfit was the scarf over a red top with white tiny dots and black shorts. My eldest said, "That is an interesting outfit>" Is that being complimentary or just tactful ?

Try the tartan with the Tana lawn. What bottom were you planning to wear this with?


Anonymous said...

I like your suggestion of a plain fabric with a pattern. I also admit that I disagree that one fabric will look odd. Store bought blouses rarely have contrast sections. Maybe I just want a blouse made of the Tana Lawn...

jessica said...

Pattern mixing! One of my big loves. Has to match with your personal style and comfort though :-). (Wha --- if I layer a striped sweater over a green glasses dress and then add striped knee socks and hi-tops with girls painted on them, people will look at me strange? That's not too many patterns!!! Haha)

My personal strategy is to mix "safe" or "traditional" patterns (stripes, dots, checks) with 1 big/loud/statement pattern (note in example above, glasses mixed with stripes). I probably miss out on some grand adventurous fun, but it shaves time off figuring out what to wear each morning, so hey.

When I look at the link, I see that she picked up on 1 of the colors in her main print, repeated it in her secondary print, and had the secondary print in smaller scale and a 'neutral'-esque print i.e. dots. Along the way, that large/small scale contrast that LinB mentioned. So if I was to take that and translate back to the fabrics you have pulled, I'd be inclined to say use the Liberty and match it up with a dotted fabric that picks up on one of the colors in the fabric, the darker green would be less 'in your face' and the lighter green would be more flashy but also spring-y, and brown would be an interesting dark horse.

But you asked about the tartan! I actually think the purple would be pretty in a very striking way, although I'm torn about whether I'd like it as both collar and sleeves. I think if you had enough Tartan for the sleeves, that would make for one of those "it's dark, I want a cheerful blouse!" garments that could get worn a lot. The reason I stray away from the Liberty with the Tartan is that the print scales are rather similar. I do like the idea of the Tartan with a small dot in a coordinating color like navy. A dot in that peacocky blue would walk that fabulous/hideous line, I think in a good way, but maybe if it is a spot on match.

Hm ... not sure that helped ...

Roobeedoo said...

Wow - so much great advice! :)
Scale, colour, details... keep it coming! :D

House of Pinheiro said...

im afraid the secret is to trust your own feelings. if it feels wrong don't do it.. because its all personal taste in the end and you have to love it to wear it...

velosewer said...

Have a think about what your style is before you decide on mixing fabrics. The mix might work but then it might not suit your style.
Bt the way, I should take my own advice too :))

superheidi said...

Wish I knew how it works. No advice from me as I mismatched horribly twice.

But if you mix cottons and you're not really happy with the result, you could dye it in one colour. Years ago I sewed squares of different scraps of fabric together and dyed it all purple. Looked really nice as all scraps came out differently but all had the same hue.

But let's say you pick and match excellently we'll be learning from you. :-)

acharmofmagpies said...

I too am terrible at this amd trying to get better at it, so reading the comments has been great! You could think about what fabric you would wear it with made up into a different garment, such as a skirt, and then work that into the garment itself. I'm terrible at combining different printed garments as well though. What I've been doing, being scientifically inclined, is examining the print matching of those who do it well to see if I can glean the tricks. Two who I know who do it well: another of my favourite bloggers, Oonaballoona (I love her stuff!) and a local designer called Annah Stretton. I'm not such a bit fan of Annah Stretton silhouettes but her print matching is amazing - often literally half a dozen different printed and textured fabrics in one design, and all working perfectly! Which, right now as I type, suddenly leads me to think about whether it is actually easier to match patterns when you have MORE of them. MrsC calls this maximalism, which is not simply having lots of stuff going on but the art of adding one more thing at a time until it suddenly all gels together. Obviously quilters can add a bunch of different fabrics together and make it work so maybe you should add a third fabric - body, sleeves, collar - and see if that pulls it together? Even add different buttons or trim as well? Of course, this could end up looking like a clown tripped over in a paint factory too. Hmm, now I'm off to ponder prints and print combining and browse more pretty pictures online.