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A Romantic Bedroom Retreat with Rowan & FreeSpirit Fabrics: How to Mix and Match Designer Fabric Collections

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I often tell people fabric collections are kind of like the "Garanimals" (remember them?!) of the sewing world. If you stay within a designer's collection, you can be more confident everything will look great together. Many sewers mix between collections all the time, especially quilters. However, it can be intimidating, and the results can be less than stellar without a rationale for making choices. But, when done successfully, it is certainly possible to combine designers and collections to come up with a wonderfully unique look. In fact, our Romantic Bedroom Retreat series with Rowan & FreeSpirit Fabrics bends and perhaps breaks a few "rules" of mixing patterns and color. For an eclectic room like we've built, this is not only okay, it may be the only way to reach your goal. In fact, it's okay on many levels. If you have the belief and courage to do this successfully, you can create something that far exceeds what you would get if you strictly followed all the rules. From an entire room to an individual project, whatever you're working on, having the confidence to look at all the possibilities gives you wide-open potential for creativity.

Blending fabric collections requires more thinking than does sticking with one collection, but then... all good things take a little work. The Romantic Bedroom Retreat features four collections from Westminster Fibers Lifestyle Fabrics: FreeSpirit Pagoda Lullaby by Tina Givens, FreeSpirit The Birds & The Bees by Tula Pink, Rowan Bromley by Victoria & Albert and Rowan Cameo by Amy Butler

Our assignment: show you how we took these four new, and somewhat disparate collections, and brought them together into a harmonious theme. As an added swirl in our blend, we also wanted to show you how fun it is to bring in some of the new fabric substrates, such as voile, cotton sateen and laminates. Westminster Fibers Lifestyle Fabrics is an industry leader when it comes to offering a wide variety of substrates within their collections. You'll love the added texture, depth and movement these options add when intermixed with the more standard quilting cottons. 

Find the commonalities: a balance of color, pattern and scale is key

The best way to bend or break rules is to first understand them and why they are in place. Then, your underlying rationale can be... I know why this should be a certain way, but I’m going for an unexpected twist and here’s why. That said, it's advisable to break just a few rules, not all of them or the “unexpected twist” becomes a disconcerting mess.

Color scheme

Start with a basic color scheme in mind. Decide whether you want a room with warm undertones (reds, pinks, yellows, oranges), cool (blues, greens) or neutrals (off-whites, tans, grays). Within those tones, consider whether you want them to be vivid and energetic, pale and serene, or dark and intense. Although not always true, too vivid can look garish, too pale can appear stark or washed out, and too dark may feel somber.

If you decide to remake your bedroom, remember you spend nearly a third of your life there. It should be a relaxing, calming and comfortable place; a romantic retreat that makes you feel sheltered and safe. The colors you choose are crucial to creating both mood and a good night's sleep. Choose color wisely and you'll fashion a room that whispers rather than shouts its charms.

Remember, most designer fabric collections use what are called colorways. Colorway is a textile industry term used to describe versions of the same design produced in different colors. This means a pattern you love is likely to be available in a variety of color combinations. You may be used to working within just one colorway. However, with well-designed collections like the ones we worked with, you can confidently be more adventuresome.

Color balance 


Choose a primary color, secondary color and accent color. For the Romantic Bedroom Retreat, our primary color is Citron, the secondary color is Pink, and our accent color is Black. To achieve the most visually pleasing composition, keep the balance of color at roughly 60% primary, 25-30% secondary and 10-15% accent.

Your color priorities should start with the room's anchor project. In our case, the dominant piece is the Layered Bed Curtain Backdrop with Velvet Valance. We wanted a primary color with staying power –– one that felt restful in a bedroom and partnered nicely with many other colors. We chose citron for this position. The secondary color can be a flexible color, the one you can change-out down the road for a whole new look. In fact, we purposefully kept pink out of the bed curtains so they could remain a constant and a new secondary color could be added in the future to refresh the room. The bold accent color was chosen because of the antiqued black of the bed, which is the focal point of the room (as the bed is in most bedrooms). 

The balance of colors should also take into account placement –- what's next to what. As we "built our bed," we took into account the proximity of the shams to the throw pillows, bolster and coverlet. Flow from your anchor project, and begin to introduce the secondary color. We did this with a hint of pink in the pillow shams. The toss pillows then brought in additional pink as well as an "aqua blast" of color in the one round pillow that matches the touch of aqua in the knotted bolster. The aqua is a little "color surprise" and shouldn't be used more than once in an area or the impact will be lost.

Proportion, style and scale

It's better to use varying amounts of each fabric within a project. In other words, three equal size pieces of fabric are not as appealing as a dominant or primary fabric combined with a smaller cut of a secondary fabric and then just a small accent amount of the third. Even if you only use two different fabrics, avoid using the same amount of each.

Stay away from the same size print motif from one fabric to the next. Stir it up with some large prints, medium prints and 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. 

Mix and mingle your patterns. Florals, stripes, plaids, polka dots -- they can be blended together beautifully. The key is variety. For example don't use three same-size polka dot patterns and expect a winning result. A small plaid looks pleasing with a large floral. Stripes and polka dots look terrific together. This said, if you go to your next event wearing a polka dot jacket, plaid shorts and a floral vest... we will not be held responsible!

It's also important to think about how size relates to the overall room and how items or patterns in a room relate to one another. A good example is the large size of a bed – even a twin. Because a bed is a proportionally bigger item, a small print can become lost on it, and will visually appear to blur into a block of bland color.

As we mentioned earlier, it's also a great idea to blend fabric substrates. Not everything has to be home décor fabric or quilting cottons. We added in voile, sateen, velvet, and laminated cottons.

Add some texture

Mixing textures is not difficult, but use restraint. A texture is most appreciated when it's not competing with too many other textures. You can break this rule successfully if you focus on the texture and choose more solids than prints. We added several types of velvet: upholstery, stretch and cotton velveteen; as well as a heavy lace.

In addition to fabric texture, trims can add a professional finish, but again, don't use too many styles and colors. We use a tasseled fringe on the valance, which  is part of our Layered Bed Curtain Backdrop, and repeated this trim on the bed's knotted bolster pillow. Then, rather than adding another opulent tasseled trim, we went with understated black chainette fringe on the upcoming coverlet for a simpler and more luxurious look. 

Mastering mixology

One of the easiest ways to mix patterns is to gather up fabric swatches, toss them on the table (or digitally on your computer) and start moving them around. Plan to play with at least three to five times as many swatches as you want to end up with. In other words, if you are thinking about having five prints in your final mix, start with between fifteen to twenty-five options to begin. You want enough prints to be able to easily let go of the ones that don't work. You may need to go back for more swatches, but that's okay, because you're getting closer. Eventually you should feel that ta-da! moment when they all fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle.

Digital doodling

At Sew4Home, we do our fabric searching online because we find it faster and easier. Plus, it allows us a virtually unlimited number of options and swatches at our fingertips. If you use this method, be sure to pay attention to the actual size of the swatch and the repeat (the distance between the beginning of one complete motif and the beginning of the next one). Not all fabric sellers and manufacturers indicate size and repeat. Look for this information, don't assume. Otherwise, you won't know if a swatch is six inches or a foot. That can really throw your scale planning into a tailspin! You want to do your mixing and matching with swatches at the same scale.

Try before you buy

Many stores and sites also allow you to buy a very small amount of each of the fabrics in which you're interested. You can then cut your own swatches and move them around until you get the effect you want. Then, place your final order for full yardage.

A design board

A design board (as shown at the top of this page) helps you to work out the details of and pitfalls in an entire room (or a single project) before you begin. You can make design boards on your computer (copy and paste photos or online images), or by hand, using a piece of white card stock (cut photos from catalogs and pick up swatches from your fabric supplier). What often happens is you quickly see a sore thumb – something that sticks out as not belonging. It gives you a chance to try other options until you get a final effect that's pleasing to you.

Fabric: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Like fashionable apparel, popular fabrics come and go. At some point, even the most gorgeous fabrics are no longer available. Hint: if you really, REALLY love a fabric and think you can come back anytime to buy it... think twice and buy it while can.

Westminster helped us put together a very handy Where to Buy Retailer Locator for our Series, giving you a fast and easy way to source the fabrics we are featuring from both brick and mortar stores in your area (the page is broken out by state) as well as online options. The collections are just coming out in-store and online.



Comments (70)

Fabric Collection NY said:
Fabric Collection NY's picture

They will really make a quilt outstanding with the beautiful colors. 

Taja said:
Taja's picture

Terrific tutorial! It reinforces the information from my art classes a century or so ago. At least it seems that long ago!

For some reason I have a good eye for color, scale and balance--although there may be many raised eyebrows along the way! About 95% of my projects work beautifully, the remaining 5% have technical or fabric choice issues. It's great that you offer this information so all of us have an opportunity to expand our horizons!

Dawn905 said:
Dawn905's picture

Great tips! I'm saving this article and will apply the info here to other rooms in my house too. 

ChristyL said:
ChristyL's picture

Excellent article!  I tend to fall in love with fabrics before I have projects in mind so I end up with lots of mix-and-match.  I've printed this article as a reference, thanks!

Jane Bitz said:
Jane Bitz's picture

I usually mix and match because I'm a quilter and I want to make something unique and less programmed. This tutorial is a wonderful guide to finding that perfect mix. Thanks for all the great tips & for demonstrating with these amazing fabrics!

Paula Brackett said:
Paula Brackett's picture

Thank for the great article!  My mind is spinning with endless ideas!

lindzfamily said:
lindzfamily's picture

This article is awesome!  And gave me courage to try several different patterns on a sofa re-do :)  Thanks for the knowledge.

gibbylet said:
gibbylet's picture

Ok, this is definately bookmarked to go over again - I've already done my bedroom over twice in 4 years, and now that I'm quilting, I'm making more things for the home and want to redo the bedroom.  I want to repaint and start from scratch but I haven't had a clue how to really make sure it works out this time with the right colors, this is VERY helpful!

mom of two monkeys said:
mom of two monkeys's picture

Thank you so much for the information on this post.  I always question my "eye" for combinations.  This gives me rules to follow.

icouldbefake said:
icouldbefake's picture

I'd love to update any one of the four bedrooms in the house...

jane said:
jane's picture

Very informative article...  Thank you!  Inspires me to do some updating in my bedroom. 

elcrisovan said:
elcrisovan's picture

Thanks for the great information, it will be helpful in picking out fabric in the future!

Kathyatemily said:
Kathyatemily's picture

What a great article.  I don't always purchase a full line of colorway.  Need to do some more experimenting. 

sewingsusan said:
sewingsusan's picture

This tutorial was so helpful. The part about the curtains being one of the dominant  chosen colors that could be used in different future color schemes was a really thoughtful great money saving idea.

luvdafroggy said:
luvdafroggy's picture

So many fantastic ideas!  Love Free Spirit fabrics; can't wait to get to my sewing machine!  Thanks.  =)

Kathleen Ann said:
Kathleen Ann's picture

Now here's the kind of help I need! I'm going to save a pdf of this post! Thank you so much!

Lisa K said:
Lisa K's picture

I am confused by the proportions vs. what was done.  The article states one should balance the colors using the formula of 60% primary, 30% secondary, and 10% accent and said that you used Citron as your primary with pink as the secondary.  I expected to see a room with 60% of the color citron.  Instead, it seems that the citron is only actually about 20% of the color in the room.  Can you explain?

alicia.thommas said:

Because we focus on specific projects, you don't see the full room to get a feel for proportion. That's a tough photo to take without extreme camera gear. The bed is so huge and there is a lot of fabric in the citron bed curtain that drapes onto the carpet that is often cropped to focus in on a project. The coverlet has a citron reverse which is only shown in one photo, and we folded the coverlet so we actually covered up citron with pink. In proportion to the room and the bed, the very pink vanity is quite small. As a single project, it is more pink than citron, but adds interest in a room that is still more citron than pink. Other furnishings that are not projects, such as citron leather chair that may be in the background on some shots - were not the focus of the photography. We do think that overall it's 60% citron in the room, but as you point out, it may seem to have a higher percentage of pink because of the photography.

meyerslemon said:
meyerslemon's picture

Thanks for the info...honestly it's a lot of pattern for my taste, as I like more minimal looks and this feel "froofy" to me, but I can use the techniques to choose my more subdued fabrics!

Janet Pierce said:
Janet Pierce's picture

Great information.  Very, very helpful.  Thank you so much for all the good info.

loopylamb said:
loopylamb's picture

My bedding is in serious need of a makeover. I love color and mixing patterns, so this guide is very helpful.

Michele Van Epps said:
Michele Van Epps's picture

these tips will help me be braver when it comes to mixing colors and patterns.  Thanks!

cascra825 said:
cascra825's picture

I'm a graphic design major and a lot of this information feels the same as what we learn in school...which makes me happy to know! Thanks so much for an article that doesn't just help with technique, but also with developing an eye for picking the fabric for all of the great projects on Sew4Home.

Lindsey Waters said:
Lindsey Waters's picture

this is an inspiring color mix!  I am loving ALL of them!  this series rocked!

erinberrypie said:
erinberrypie's picture

Great article! Love the combinations of fabrics, will definitely keep all this in mind for my next project.

Parthena Wollen said:
Parthena Wollen's picture

  Being a new quilter, mixing fabrics from different lines scares me.  You give  great tips for mixing with color, texture, and scale. Looking forward to trying this on a new room in our new home.

sarahkate said:
sarahkate's picture

Great advice! Chossing a color scheme is so important and actually bringing your fabric choices into the store is so key. Also looking at your choices in different lighting helps, if you are in a store with a window bringing it to the window to see it in the sun really helps with matching.

MargaretG said:
MargaretG's picture

I have a tendency to stay within fabric collections, but these tips will help me break out of that habit!

Haslina Mohd Salleh said:
Haslina Mohd Salleh's picture

One can never say they have know enough....this is definitely new lessons to me...thanks for sharing

Haslina Mohd Salleh said:
Haslina Mohd Salleh's picture

Ever since I knew abt westminster and Rowan...I fell in love with their exquisite designs...thanks so much for the tute

quilting with altitude said:
quilting with altitude's picture

Is it true that we aren't allowed to leave comments if we areunable to read the articles on the daythey are posted?  I haven't been near a computer for a couple days.  If I am readingthese articles, I would like to be able to comment.

alicia.thommas said:

@quilting with attitude: There are no time limits on leaving comments. You can comment on any article on Sew4Home any time you'd like. We're always happy to see what readers have to say! 

Banderson said:
Banderson's picture

Thank you for such a great tutorial!  It nice to have something laid out and described so well with examples.  I am in the process of re working the fabric in my guest bedroom and this was perfect to see.  You are a life saver!

Linda H. said:
Linda H.'s picture

Gee, I learned a lot here with these tutorials.Thanks for sharing.So glad I belong to this group.

lydianna said:
lydianna's picture

I so appreciate the tutorials and these look like especially good ones.