Taming African Fabrics

By Barbara Knapp


“Taming African (and other large scale) Prints” features colorful “African Fancy Prints” sewn into unique quilts that reflect the bright colors and vivid patterns of contemporary Africa people. Many quilters are intrigued by African fabrics, are a bit overwhelmed by the colors and designs. Quilt patterns are featured using unique African fabrics as well as large scale American fabrics.

My Story

I fell in love with large print African fabrics about 30 years ago on a trip to Washington DC where I saw women walking down the street wearing dresses created from fabulous material that I’d never seen before. Colors were purposefully bright. Patterns were intentionally huge. Dresses with matching head wraps were audacious in design and the use of color was inspiring. In a plaid skirt and turtleneck sweater my style paled in comparison. I loved African fabric first time I saw it and I’ve been chasing it ever since.

Quilt Show

African Fancy Print quilts don’t really need more than a couple of additional colors so consider your choices carefully. Line them up together and examine your options up close. Use a viewing square (the little red squares that reveal color intensities) up close and at a distance. If you see no change in color intensities, try a different value of the same color. When you can see dimension and movement between your choices, you are on the right track.

Other Topics


There are no shopping malls in third-world countries, only open air markets that stand on locations that have attracted vendors for centuries. Some of these markets might cover a couple of city blocks – if the town had blocks. 

Selecting Fabrics

African Fancy Prints often have the same intensity of colors across a single fabric – you have to add “visual respite” to define quilt patterns and add dimension.

Where to Order Fabrics Online

You don’t have to take a plane to find African Fabric – it is as close as the Internet.  Read more to learn about the fabric sellers.  Caution:  African fabric can be purchased from many other online sites but the sellers might not be as knowledgeable about the content.  

Taming Large Prints

The designs in Western Africa’s cotton Fancy Prints are very different from most American fabrics. They are not dominated by wild animals, village life, primitive masks or flowers.

Contact Me

  • Barbara Knapp
  • Anchorage, Alaska 
  • (907) 334-9683

2012 - Taming Large Prints and Other African Fabrics