We have all been there. Love the fabric but can’t find a pattern you like for it. Love the pattern, but not the fabric the designer chose for it. Believe it or not, the second quandary is not so hard to fix.

The reason you may like the pattern is the movement, the design, the contrast, and the gradation, etc. All of these thing come into play. Let’s take this quilt as an example. The first step is decide what you do like, the things that first caught your eye. You like the gradient stars and the chains connecting them. You like the light background and simple borders. Now, what don’t you like. You aren’t into a patriotic theme for your kitchen. You also don’t like the little critters on the fabrics- who wants critters in their kitchen?? Right? This background is bland. You also aren’t thrilled about the small print on the outer border. It makes you nauseous.

So how do we change this to something you do like? Let’s start with color as that is generally the easiest thing to tackle. You are a nifty-fifties gal and love polka dots, pink and black. Your kitchen is totally retro. That stuff isn’t easy to find you know. Ok, then we need to find four shades of pink to replace the four shades of red and two shades of black to replace the blue. We keep the gradients in the same place – light pink on the inside moving to dark pink on the outside. This keeps the same movement within the quilt. If you change that gradient, the quilt will have a different movement than what initially caught your eye. There are not quilt police, so it isn’t wrong to change the gradient, but it will move differently. As you can see, your eye is drawn toward the light center in the stars from the initial pattern. It tend to move toward the light of the background in the inverted gradient. My eyes tend to move to light spots, so they slide away from the stars rather than toward them. They look and move differently.

Note: If you are dealing with multicolored fabric, it may be hard to tell where it falls on the color gradient from light to dark. Sometimes, a black and white photo of the fabric will help establish the gradient. It is usually easier to determine gradients on a gray scale.

So the pink and gray are better than the red and blue – right? Kind of… The colors overall are better. But the background is still bland…. Ok – stick to a light fabric so that you get a contrast. Maybe something light with a small print? Small prints “read” like the background color. How about a light background with more polka dots? Yes – that is better for our nifty-fifties gal. It has a little more character, without losing the contrast between the background and the design.

But that border is still nauseating. Ok, we need a larger print there. In general, big prints do better in big places. That isn’t to say you can’t make them work in small spaces. It just takes the right touch. Small prints get lost in large space, which is why the small polka dots were acceptable on the background (if you like polka dots). Is there a larger print you like – how about floral? No. Strips? Yuck. Paisley? Yeah! Phew, we were running out of options. How does this look? The large print is much better for the space. Even through the backgrounds were similar hues, the understated print makes it appear darker, which provides a better frame.

The most important step after picking your new fabric is to modify the pattern. Make a new key with the list of the designers fabrics on one side and your new corresponding fabric on the other side. Then, replace the fabric names throughout the pattern so that you don’t get confused! Trust me, I have made the mistake of note making good notes on the pattern. Two years later as a UFO, I struggled to remember what I had done.

I hope this helps you convert patterns that you like to patterns that you LOVE. Use the designers ideas of gradient and movement and adapt them to what you like. Fabric choices and fabric placement can make a huge difference as to whether your quilting effort become eye candy to you, or something you would rather donate when you are done. If you want to learn more about this, please let me know by adding a comment.

Happy Quilting!


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