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One of the most fun things about working with quilting cotton is how you can create your project in such a wide variety of fabrics. There are new collections coming out each season, each one almost more wonderful than the next!

If you’re a S4H regular, you know we take our fabric selection seriously. And although, technically, most any project can be accomplished with any fabric, it does take some mixing and matching expertise to develop the best look. We recently created a patchwork and piped pillow project designed on a classic grid. We then put together four different samples in four different collections, each with its own style and flair.

Below, we detail each of the original collections we chose and showcase the unique finish of each pillow. We’ve also included some of our favorite mixing and matching techniques. You can do it too!

The first step was to find collections with distinct themes. Each pillow needed its own look. We chose the following: the antique elegance of the Tim Holtz Foundations and Worn Croc collections for FreeSpirit Fabrics, the whimsical, crayon-box brights of Bloom Bouquet II from Color Pop Studio for The Blank Quilting Corp., the soothing ocean tones and graceful creatures of Deep Blue Sea by Geoff Allen for Studio E Fabrics, and the sweet pastels and baby animals of You Are Loved by Dawn Rosengren for Henry Glass & Co., Inc.. From the living room to the nursery, there’s an aesthetic for everyone.

Tim Holtz for FreeSpirit Fabrics

We’ve been Tim Holtz fans for years. Many popular projects in our library showcase his innovative fabrics. Tim’s background in paper arts and scrapbooking gives his work a dense detail that rivets your attention. As he describes it, “Whatever your artistic vision is, exploring the imaginative is a chance for creativity to escape understanding.” The Foundations fabrics we chose were similar in their layered images of vintage elements, typographic accents, and botanical illustrations. Yet, there are differences that set them all apart from an expertly placed soft floral bloom, to the sharp relief of a row of antique rulers. Tying it altogether is a textural blender from Tim’s Worn Croc collection.

Color Pop Studio for The Blank Quilting Corp.

With over 30 years of experience in the stationery, gift wrap, and gift industries, Color Pop Studio knows its way around color and design. Spreading a little joy is one of Color Pop Studio’s goals, which they do by incorporating vibrant florals, animals, quotes, and fun typography. Bloom Bouquet II caught our attention with its signature hand painted watercolor style. The florals are whimsical in form and tone, but not so much so that they crossover into cartoonish. It’s a just-right mix of fact and fantasy. This particular pillow uses fewer fabrics than the others because we fell in love with how the geometric plaid and wavy chevrons off-set the florals. They worked together so well, it was a perfect chance to show how creative placement within a patchwork grid can create the illusion of a greater variety of fabrics. This pillow would brighten a teen’s bedroom or liven up a sunroom.

Geoff Allen for Studio E Fabrics

Geoff Allen has advanced degrees in art and currently teaches painting, watercolor, drawing, and two-dimensional design at the college level. And yet, he still found time to create his wonderful fabric collection, Deep Blue Sea. Geoff’s interest in travel and watercolor led him to several Mediterranean destinations, and it’s easy to spot how that corner of the world’s antiquities, climate, and light have influenced his color palette and subject matter. We were drawn to how sandy shades of tan and cream were expertly blended with striking reds and oranges as well as blues and greens as varied as the sea itself. The sea creatures swimming across our pillow sample come in a variety of sizes, from tiny starfish and sea snails to bold seahorses, lobsters, and octopi. This variety of scale is so important when putting together pleasing patchwork.

Dawn Rosengren of Little Love Farm for Henry Glass & Co., Inc.

For her inspiration, all Dawn Rosengren needs to do is look around her own home and the hobby farm where she cares for sheep, horses, bunnies, dogs, and more. As a self-taught watercolor artist, Dawn brings an open heart and positive outlook to her very first fabric line. You Are Loved is a soft symphony of warm neutrals, pale pinks, taupe, and gray. We liked the mix of novelty prints, liked tossed bunnies and llamas and sheep in-a-row, which could then be combined with a selection of simple dots, a gingham check, a field of cotton, and florals in a variety of sizes. The sweet style of this collection led us to create an alternative closure for this pillow. Rather than buttons and buttonholes, we added three beautiful bows in the same polka dot fabric used for the perimeter piping. It would make a lovely addition to a nursery and would win rave reviews as a baby shower gift.

How to bring it all together

With the collections chosen, the next steps are to pull a selection of individual fabrics to create the best blend for each pillow. With patchwork, you are dealing with smaller pieces that live right next to one another. At the end of the day, it’s all about what you like best, but there are some basic tenets of good design that can help you “bring it all together.” We call it, mastering the proper mixology of color and motif. Our Five Top Tips are summarized below.

1) Choose a primary color, secondary color, and accent color. To achieve the most visually pleasing composition, keep the balance of color at roughly 60% primary, 25-30% secondary and 10-15% accent. This balance should also take into account placement –- what’s next to what. Flow from your anchor color, then begin to introduce the secondary color. The accent should be a little “color surprise” and shouldn’t be used much or its impact will be lost.

2) Match colors rather than prints. When colors look good together, chances are prints in those colors will look good together as well.

3) Size matters. Vary scale and proportion. As you plan, stir things up with some large prints, some medium prints, and some smaller prints. Scale creates drama and interest in your finished piece. If all of the patterns are the same scale, the result can be lifeless.

4) Odd versus even. An interesting mix is better than a perfect match. In good design, exactly even amounts of everything tends to become boring and repetitive.

5) One of the ways to bring everything together, and to avoid going overboard with too many prints, is to introduce a solid. A coordinating solid calms things down, grounds your look, and gives the eye somewhere to rest as it takes in all your beautifully blended fabrics.

If you’d like to learn more, check out our full article on the ins and outs of blending colors and prints.

And, don’t forget to take a look at our Vintage Notes Fussy Cut Patchwork Pillow, for all the detailed step-by-step instructions to create your own unique pillow.

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