They're everywhere this season: oversized prints in gorgeous, bright colors. Some have border designs, some have edge trim on the selvedge, and some have variegated rows of color. They're beautiful!
While these prints are lovely, they are often challenging to use. A large print used inappropriately can lose its inherent charm. Many sewists might feel a bit overwhelmed by the scale of some of the patterns; others may find the borders beautiful, but find placement of the border pattern to be a challenge. Learning where and how to use these prints is not a difficult task. By pairing them with the right types of garment patterns, and by using the fabrics to showcase their special features, you'll find these fabrics a pleasure to sew.
When sewing with a fabric of this type, it is important to remember that the fabric wants to be the star. Keep your design lines on the simple side when working with large prints or borders. Avoid multiple seamlines that will break up the prints or the border designs; instead, opt for simple, clean-lined garment patterns such as simple skirts, tunics, cardigans, and tees. Multiple seams and fine details will be lost in the large prints. Save those techniques for other projects.
Large patterns benefit from care in cutting. For instance, you'll want to match large motifs whenever possible, particularly along the center front of a garment.
One good method for testing the placement of your print is to trace the largest motif from the fabric onto a piece of paper. Stand in front of a mirror, and position the paper motif in several locations on your body. Where is it the most (or least) flattering? Is there an area that will be the best for placement? Can you manipulate the fabric for an interesting motif effect?
As an example, a recent ready-to-wear offering used a large floral motif successfully by placing the largest flowers directly on the cap of the sleeve. The stems of the flowers were positioned to run down the arm, giving the effect of a flower blooming on the shoulder. The same floral motif was reversed on the body of the blouse to border the hemline of the blouse, giving the viewer the idea of a bouquet of flowers around the waist. Borders can be used vertically or horizontally to good effect. Self-trimmed selvedges can be cut and used separately, or the fabric can be used as is for a low-fuss finish. Some borders can be positioned so that the border is vertical on the garment; small border motifs work very well in this manner. Border motifs can be cut and separately used for a coordinated appearance with a bit of a twist; for example, use the border as the collar and cuffs, or for a pocket, and use the remainder of the fabric as the body of the garment. Borders also work well when cut on the crossgrain. Skirts are particularly well-suited to this type of border placement.
For most of these fabrics, a simple closure such as a zipper or a simple button is the best choice. Artsy closures will be lost in many oversized prints. If you choose to pair the fabric with a second fabric in the garment, such as for a contrast color, keep the contrast fabric solid or subtle in texture so as not to compete with the oversized print. Be on the lookout for stripes, plaids, and small prints that coordinate with two or more of the colors in your oversized print, to be used as trim.
Oversized prints are great for making bindings, linings, appliqués, and accessories. Small leftover pieces are often just enough to give pizzazz to a simple project!