What type of prints do you like?

I love prints. No surprise there – my whole wardrobe is made of bright prints layered with solid basics.

Not all prints are created equal though, and I thought it would be fun to tease apart just what kind of prints we each are attracted too!

What type of prints do you like?

Left 1, 2, 3, 4 and Right 1, 2, 3, 4

1. Large- or small-scale? Large-scale prints are bold and make a statement from a distance. To me, flowers the size of my palm would be large-scale, or stripes of at least an inch wide. Small scale prints are delicate and can look like solids from a distance. Liberty prints are a typically small scale, as are many tweeds or check shirtings.

 

What type of prints do you like?

Left 1, 2, 3, 4 and Right 1, 2, 3, 4

2. Geometric or organic? 

Geometric prints include stripes, dots, checks and plaids. I’d argue they also include graphics with a linear repeat, like little pineapples all in a row, or flowers in a strict grid layout.

Organic prints have curvier, looser, more imperfect shapes. Examples include loose florals, painterly designs, or patterns without a clear repeat.

 

What type of prints do you like?

Left 1, 2, 3, 4 and Right 1, 2, 3, 4

3. High- or low-contrast?  High-contrast prints have shades of dark and light side-by-side, like a black and white gingham or bright pink roses on a black background. Low contrast-prints mix similar tones, like camel and cream stripes or a pastel floral.

What type of prints do you like?

Left 1, 2, 3, 4 and Right 1, 2, 3, 4

 4. Monochromatic or multi-coloured? 

Monochromatic prints are generally a single colour patterned with white or black, or shades of one colour contrasted with lighter and darker shades.

Multi-coloured prints are at least two colours, and possibly a whole rainbow! More is more, right?

So? Which descriptors did you choose?

My ideal print comes out as  “Large-scale, organic, high-contrast, and multi-coloured”, which I have to say, describes a lot of the prints I chose. Here are some examples:

What type of prints do you like?

It can be hard to find “Large-scale, organic, high-contrast, and multi-coloured” prints (doesn’t it just roll off the tongue?) so I often settle for monochromatic prints instead, like these:

What type of prints do you like?

They aren’t ever my absolute favourite thing to put on, but they are close enough!

I’d love to know which descriptors you chose, and if you think it matches the kinds of prints you actually like! Did I miss any key criteria? Did you find it easy or hard to chose between the two options? For me it’s very clear cut, but it may not be for everyone!

 


22 thoughts on “What type of prints do you like?

  1. As always Gillian another delicious and provocative article! I would have thought small scale, organic, low contrast, monochromatic but then noticed a couple of prints in your palettes that I actually own (that was exciting considering how many prints there are out there – it was like seeing a friend at the CNE!) So I would say my very favourites are small scale, organic, low contrast and multicoloured a little more often although they’re close. You’re right though we tend towards certain colours and prints. I’m more of a solid colour sewist. I do some prints but they are relatively rare. It’s much more difficult I’ve found to match fabric prints to pattern than fabric types to pattern.

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  2. Love your column. It always makes me stop and think. I scored the same as you. Would have a hard time sewing clothes now. I’m a mender and quilter. Keep the information coming and know that your fans are out there waiting to see what you tackle next.

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  3. This is such a great topic for thought and discussion! It’s so easy to just buy a print because you like how it looks, but that’s a different matter entirely to actually wanting to wear it. Your timing is impeccable, as I just finished a dress in a print that is definitely not my best look. I hadn’t thought about it when I purchased the fabric originally, but it’s too low-contrast to work well. (I actually mentioned the lack of contrast in my blog post draft–great minds!) It’s also a really small scale design, which is another “nope” for me most of the time. I like bright, bold colors, or at least a lot of contrast between the colors in a print; organic vs. geometric isn’t really a big consideration for me compared to all the others you listed. (Incidentally, my dislike of most Liberty prints is easily explained by my preferences in all of these categories, haha!) I’ve found that high contrasts and bold colors are really important to both my happiness with a finished garment and with how “flattering” it is on me; I think most of that is down to my hair, which has a high contrast with itself AND with my skin tone. But it took me a while to figure that out and apply that analysis to projects and purchases!

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  4. Large scale, organic, low contrast, monochromatic. The large scale part kind of surprised me, I’m not one with a large personality to match! All of my favorite prints are large scale, though I usually break them up with seaming or pleats. So we can probably add “florals that are now mostly abstract” to the description list!

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  5. I like large scale prints! A couple of years ago I purchased a lot of yardage of a very pretty, but small scale print and I still haven’t figured out with to do with it. It’s beautiful but busy!

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  6. Wow! Great minds think alike and all that – last week I was just thinking about how to describe my emerging style and the “perfect print” for me. I have been drawn toward solids and tweeds in the past, but I’m looking more toward prints. I’d describe my perfect print as soft geometric. (That means not hard lines or high contrast, such as a black and white plaid.) I’m favoring something like the nightfall jersey above (mustard moon shapes) for the design, but with rich, deep colors. Thanks for all the great examples shown above!

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  7. I really like your analysis of which fabrics you are drawn to. I love all the “Large-scale, organic, high-contrast, and multi-coloured” fabrics that you show, especially the red/grey and blue/green ones. Monochrome is good too and a nice animal print never goes wring in my book. 🙂 I am just sitting looking at some clear plastic fabric boxes that I have my port-a-stash in and they seem to be either checks/stripes or large florals. Absolutely no rhyme or reason to them colour-wise except that there is a lot of pink (I am normally in black ALL the time). I suppose that this highlights my love of colour but lack of putting myself in it, Thank you for making me think about this. I might reconsider on my next online shopping splurge. Xx

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  8. Interesting! I can easily choose large scale and high contrast, but the other two are bit harder to pin down for me. My love of plaid (which I’m too terrified/lazy to sew–all that matching!) battles my typical call to organic prints, and I like both monochromatic and multi-colored prints. But mostly I love ocelot and grey toned snakeskin prints. 😉

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  9. I’m such a solids lover, but a great print is a great print, whatever it’s constituent parts. But I find it’s tough to settle for something once I have an idea in my head, and the prints I love don’t pop up in fabric stores too often. Hence the default to solids. Or solids with just a hint of texture!

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  10. I think about this a lot! I’m so fussy about prints – I love them but I don’t always love wearing them.

    I’ve distilled it down to this. I like large scale prints with high contrast – preferably jewel tones on a dark background. I like abstract organic shapes or soft geometrics – there are exceptions but I tend not to care too much for spots, although I love a plaid. It needs to have a certain amount of movement in the design and layout, I think. I REALLY like florals but I am REALLY fussy about them – they have to be exactly abstract enough. And I like monochromatic or with only a few colours – five or so is ok if it’s got a main colour to it.

    The real important one though is that I don’t care for prints on my torso. I love printed skirts but I need a solid near my face. I don’t know why! I think objectively it looks fine but I just feel weird if I wear something printed on top. In summer I do sometimes wear print knit dresses but they need to be monochrome and more sort of… variegated and patterned than an object print if that makes sense.

    I have spent a lot of time thinking about this because I have to get it right if i want to wear prints – and I do!

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  11. Firstly: man, I love the way you interact with your readers. You ask questions that really don’t feel like they’re rhetorical. That’s…kind of uncommon in the SBC, I feel.

    Secondly: this is a really great breakdown and analysis! I’ve only ever thought about solids vs prints, not what KIND of prints. For me, it’s kind of a flow chart:

    Always large scale, and then [if geometric, then high contrast & monochromatic]; [if organic, generally a lower contrast & multi-colored]. (“Low contrast” is subjective, though; it’s almost always bright colors, so “low contrast” can mean “fluorescent pink and orange” ha!)

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  12. Looking at my overflowing stash, I’d say pretty much anything goes! I bought anything colourful I could lay my hands on when I started sewing thinking about all the pretty things I’d make and that fabric is still sitting there…. destined for a destash page on Facebook no doubt! Although I will admit to digging down and using something unusual when the right pattern came up! At the moment I would say my preference is for dark backgrounds with large floral prints…. possibly due to it being cold and miserable here in NZ right now. My all time favourite fabric is Anna Maria Horners LouLouThi Clippings. One day I shall bite the bullet and order it from the States!

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  13. Great question! I think that in general, I’d choose the same things as you, but as long as 3/4 of them are there, I’m good. For instance, I recently bought that moon print that you have in the monochromatic, but in plum. So it’s large scale/high contrast/organic. I also do like some geometrics, especially plaid. But more often than not, bolder colors and larger prints are a must. I’ve really never seen a Liberty print that I’ve liked, which is probably good since they’re crazy expensive anyway.

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  14. Is there any possibility that you could tell us which pattern you used for the third from the left in the bottom set of pictures? I really, really love that! I thought it might be a Groove but I’m not sure, and I’d love to make myself one!

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  15. An interesting question, made difficult to answer because I’m pretty flexible. Honestly, the only choice of the four that I felt definite on was the large scale vs. small: I prefer small. I like things that will read somewhat solid, but that give more interest as you look closer, and give more visual texture as a result, and I feel that solid-ish do that more than prints, which means that large-scale feels overwhelming and less interesting as a result. But I mainly feel that way about what’s on me, not what’s on other people — I like your style…on you.

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  16. I suppose that I also like large-scale, organic, high-contrast, and multi-colored prints. I particularity like prints that my mum and I call painterly. I absolutely love your Paint Daub Maxi! I wish the fabric was still in stock!

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