Taming Large Prints

Controlling Large African 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. They do feature unconventional content. Imagine designs with high heel shoes, briefcases, aerosol cans, or huge geometric patterns. Sometimes a gold metallic finishing coat in a different design is imposed on top. They are awesome and a bit intimidating.

Bold and beautiful African Fancy Prints can elevate an ordinary quilting project to extraordinary. The designs and prints commonly sold in marketplaces half-a-world-away can stand alone, be used as accents, and make unique new quilt designs.


Contrary to what you pull up in a computer search engine, African fabrics are not dominated by tribal designs and do not generally feature African animals or primitive masks. Flowers are rare and unexpected content is common. Vlisco, the oldest producer of fabrics of batik prints is not afraid to incorporate unusual, if not really odd, items. The widely admired and frequently copied Vlisco designers regularly produce – and sell – fabrics incorporating briefcases, portable electric room fans and aerosol spray cans – each in separate fabrics. Contemporary clothing made from Vlisco fabrics wow audiences during Fashion Week shows every year. I don’t know many who can wear the fashions, but I everyone who sees African fabric admires it.

African fabrics make dynamic statements with big designs and bold colors. But, as tantalizing as they are to the eye they can be a challenge to use.

2012 - Taming Large Prints and Other African Fabrics