Applique with Prints – Tips for Color Choices

Applique with Prints - Tips for Color Choices from Shiny Happy World

When I showed the lovely fabrics I was planning to use for this free receiving blanket pattern, a couple of people said they were eager to see how I used the prints, since I usually stick to solids and near-solids.

The reason I usually stick with solids and near-solids is because they’re so much easier to work with! Especially for applique where you don’t want the design to get lost in the background fabric. It’s soooo easy to end up with a block that you’re not happy with!

So – here’s the fabric.

Into the Woods fabric collection from Michael Miller Fabrics

It’s the Into the Woods collection from Michael Miller Fabrics, available here at Hawthorne Threads.

Gorgeous, right? Especially that larger scale print with the foxes and foliage.

But that’s exactly the print I didn’t want to use for my background. I used it for the back of the receiving blanket instead.

Why?

Because it contained all the colors I wanted to use in my applique fox face.

To show you why that would be a problem, I cut out a wonky little oval from the main fox color and laid it on that pretty fabric.

Applique with Prints - Tips for Color Choices from Shiny Happy World

You can see the oval just fine, right?

But your brain is actually kind of fighting to see the oval. Your brain wants to merge all the same colors into one shape, so it actually sees a shape like this.

Applique with Prints - Tips for Color Choices from Shiny Happy World

See?

Applique with Prints - Tips for Color Choices from Shiny Happy World

(This tendency is what makes it so much fun to play with negative space in traditional quilt designs. Your brain wants to merge those spaces together into new shapes.)

Again – you can still see the oval. It’s just that you’re having to overcome your brain’s natural tendency to see something else, and that will make for a less successful design overall.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use fun prints. It just means you have to pick your background very carefully. Here’s what I ended up choosing.

Applique with Prints - Tips for Color Choices from Shiny Happy World

That pretty floral I used in the background has dark blue, light blue, and green. No orange or gold or white – the colors in the fox applique. The green and gold are awfully similar – but ultimately I decided they were different enough for the combination to work.

And I still got that pretty fox and foliage print in there – just on the back of the blanket where it wouldn’t muddle the applique. 🙂

These color lessons apply to more than applique. Think about embroidering on a printed fabric, or using a print for a softie, or even a variegated yarn for a crochet amigurumi – the same color “rules” apply.

Want to learn more about how I work with color and some of the rules I follow? This post has lots of info.

And this post from Stacey has lots of good info about classic color combinations.

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

SHARE THIS

COMMENTS

Get sneak peeks, free patterns, discounts and happiness. 🙂