Using a Bold Print


As always, thank you for sharing your comments with me last week! I had so much fun talking to you about inspiration that I thought I’d continue the theme and get straight to the promised post about using an inspiration fabric.

Specifically, I thought it would be fun to go in depth into how to use a bold inspiration fabric, such as a large-scale, multicolor print, since this is one of my favorite ways to get a new project started.

Finding the Fabric

Finding the fabric itself is fairly easy. It’s just a matter of waiting until one speaks to you. When I begin a quilt this way, I usually just browse the aisles of my local quilt shop until a fabric jumps out at me.

I usually know it is a “good” inspiration fabric when 1) it makes me feel excited about my new project, 2) it has multiple colors in it, and 3) the print itself is something I like enough to make the “main attraction” of the finished quilt.

Picking a Pattern

What I mean by that is that it can be a bit visually overwhelming to have a busy print and a busy pattern! So I have to be comfortable featuring the print instead of the pattern. I keep the pattern simple, with large pieces, so the print can be showcased instead of chopped up.

Avoiding chopping the large-scale print into pieces too small allows the print to really shine - Imagine chopping up a farm animal fabric for a baby quilt, for example. If you don’t use a pattern with big enough pieces, you might just end up with a bunch of cow rear-ends, pig feet, and chicken heads instead of adorable, whole animals. Yikes!

Choosing Accompanying Fabrics

The reason I like to pick a multicolored print as my inspiration fabric is because it makes picking the rest of the fabrics for the quilt much easier! The way I see it, there are two ways to go.

  1. Pick your other fabrics to match the colors in the inspiration print.
  2. Pick a neutral color set, such as greys, whites, blacks, or even blues, to put the loud print against.

If you choose option 1, you might end up with a quilt that looks like this:

The inspiration here was the floral print. Note that the other colors surrounding the busy print are not solids. Although solids would certainly work and can be beautiful, I really love to inject a little extra pizzazz into my quilts by using prints that read solid to accompany my large-scale print.

Definition of “A fabric that reads solid” - a print that is mostly one color, but which has some dimension or a small scale print that gives it some extra visual interest.

Option 2 is my favorite to use when I have picked an inspiration fabric that is proving hard to work with. Sometimes I end up with a large-scale print that has colors that are difficult to find in other coordinating fabrics, and it doesn’t seem to play nicely with anything else. Or sometimes too many colors accompanying a wild print can feel too chaotic!

Neutrals go with everything and are a sure-fire way to make any bold inspiration fabric work.

In this quilt, I had a very bold print and I tried approach #1, but it ended up looking insane! Even I, Carolyn - Lover of Color - can get overwhelmed by too much color sometimes! So I unsewed the whole thing, threw out my other fabrics (just kidding. I carefully folded them and put them away.), and picked just one neutral. In this case, a dusty pink!

How do you work with bold prints? Share your favorite bold-print-inspired project with Quilter’s Mart by emailing a picture of it to We love seeing and sharing your projects on our Facebook and Instagram pages!

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  • Carolyn Knees
Comments 2
  • Mary

    Great topic! I find that the print I start with really inspires my choices in color combinations, but I usually end up removing it from the pile by the end of the selection process. Even though that inspiration piece is no longer there, my fabric selection is so much better having used the inspiration piece to start then it would have been without it.

  • Susan

    Thanks for this post! I have a few bold prints in my saving section 😄 . Know I feel the motivation to dig them out, thanks and I love that quilt top.

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