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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.
Smaller prints work well as “solids”. You might be surprised how a small print gives depth and dimension where a true solid color may look like a colorful hole. Batiks work really well combine well because they have color variation without defined patterns and there are many batiks that contain little gray.
It seems as if it would be easy to find a color to match a one in an African Fancy Print – but it can be harder than you think. If you are not having any luck, try working with a color wheel. Locate the two main colors in your fabric. Then locate a color that is very close by on the color wheel.
If bright red and bright green are in the African Fancy Print, try the yellow-green or Maasai red next to them. If you find one fabric with both colors consider yourself lucky.
If you have chosen colors that can be equally spaced to make a triad color scheme (a triangle with three equal sides) the third color should be a good.
Once you’ve added a new color, you can take another step away on the color wheel. This should help you find more colors to use in your pattern..
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.
Another bonus you may find is that African Fancy Prints often have two completely different patterns combined within a fabric. Sometimes a border or setting blocks can be isolated quite easily and the colors match perfectly.
It is easy to fussy-cut large scale prints to a point where it is almost impossible to identify the original design. To successfully tame a wildly colored print you should be able to lay the project next to the original fabric and see there is a relationship between the two. There are many easier ways to capture little bits and colors than dissecting a large print fabric.
Something I learned in my first college sewing class was how to test fabrics for fiber content. Test a variety of fibers before you leave home and it will be easier to identify cotton from synthetics you find in a market. Can you tell which of the fabrics in the photo is high quality cotton? (It’s the blue and yellow piece – the rest are synthetic.)
Take a small sample of fabric (about 1”x2”), place it on a small glass or metal surface, and light one end with a match. (See images below):
Cotton fibers burn quickly giving off white smoke that smells like burning wood. The ash left over resembles what you see after a campfire – no lumps or bumps.
Synthetics don’t really burn – they melt. When the flame is out the whole piece may not have burned, sealing the edge. The smoke is dark in color, and the residue left over is black – often little black balls. It is not easily confused with cotton.
Wool and silk are both animal fibers – so they smell like burning hair.
Combined fibers – Often a synthetic-cotton blend will burn as might be expected – a bit woodsy smelling smoke, with some black balls left when the flame goes out.