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Wearable Art, Part II -- Choosing Fabrics
By Kathleen Brown, Of My Hands

As excerpted from The Finishing Touch, By Kathleen Brown

Ultimately, you will be the one living with your fabric choices. These guidelines are just that -- guidelines. I have come to these realizations about the ways in which I choose fabrics simply by doing it. My students have forced me to analyze how I do this so that I am able to share it with others.

  1. Choose one fabric that jumps out at you in the fabric shop: one you particularly like or can not possibly live without. Sometimes, this fabric will suggest a theme to me, which is obvious when you look at the vest and jackets I have created; i.e. Spring, the Sea, Parties, a Forest …
  2. Coordinate your other fabric choices with your first choice. Some manufacturers print the colors used within their fabrics on the salvage borders. These dots of color can be used to match coordinate and contrasting fabrics.
  3. I categorize fabrics into two basic groups: cute and elegant. There are some fabrics that seem to be able to fall into either group, depending upon which fabrics are their companions. When choosing fabrics, I try to keep all my choices for a particular project in either the cute or elegant group. I would not put an elegant fabric with a cute fabric grouping and vise versa.
  4. I like to choose fabrics that contrast with each other so that when they are placed together, the viewer can see definite fabrics. If I am going to take all the time to piece fabrics together, I want to know that when I look at the finished piece.
  5. Therefore, I choose fabrics of different sizes and types of prints -- solids, stripes, plaids and checks, large florals, small calicoes, and tone-on-tone prints. Sometimes, I find that the fabric I do not particularly like initially, becomes one of the most important in the overall construction of a project. Be sure to include some solids or fabrics that act as solids (tone-on-tones or tiny, tiny prints). These let the eye rest and will show off the bolder prints and geometrics.
  6. I always like to include a surprise fabric -- one that you might not expect to find in the combination -- a bright turquoise or shimmery lamé in the midst of a mostly pink/fucshia combination, for example.
  7. Look at your fabrics, stacked up together (on bolts or as individual cuts). If any stick out like a weed, pull them. You will usually see the weeds if you stand back a bit.
  8. Every finished piece I have seen is a true work of art. Have faith in yourself -- you know what looks good to you.
  9. This is often times the most all-consuming part of creating your work of art. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy your lovely choices. You may even want to make up a little bundle of your fabrics, tie it with a pretty ribbon or find a great-looking basket in which to put them. Display them somewhere prominent in your home or workplace to enjoy for awhile before cutting.

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