Whether you are designing your own raw edge pattern or using a purchased pattern, fabric choice is critical to loving the result. I have found in my own design journey there are times when fabric choice is a struggle, and quite frankly, will prevent me from starting that project. At best, it will delay it. I have an idea in my head, but nothing fits. I don’t want this to be you. If you feel this way, just start with something…anything…

Other times I find a fabric and think, I must make something out of this. Those are the best, right?!?!

With raw edge, the image usually represents a “real person, place or thing.” Raw edge, isn’t like piecing, which is more often a group of shapes.

First, let me say, nothing is permanent until you press the fusible. If you don’t like your initial result you can always change mid-applique. What’s a little time and fabric in the trash, really? There is seriously no shame in regrouping and starting some of the project over.

There are different types of fabrics. For our purposes, lets divide fabrics into four basic categories of solids, blenders, large prints and small prints. Your vision for the quilt will determine your choice and whether or not you mix some of them up.

Begin with a coloring sheet. I include coloring sheets in all my raw edge patterns. If you have a pattern that doesn’t have a coloring sheet included, take a picture of the pattern. Print it in outline form. If you can’t print in outline form, print it and then trace it onto a plain piece of white paper. Make a couple copies so you can try couple of different options.  Gather some fabrics you are considering and then color your sheet(s) accordingly. You don’t have to color in all the print images but do color in spots of matching color to mimic the print.

1.      Solids are defined for my purposes as a fabric of only one color with no picture or image (print) on it. Solids will help accent parts of the pattern, especially on animals or people, needed to help establish the outline of the object. I always use solids for things like eyes and nostrils. I also use them regularly on the inside of ear turns. (If your image is larger, solids may not be necessary to establish body parts.) Solids may also be used for an entire piece, and will give the quilt a clean, crisp feel. Some fabric options include Moda Bellas or Kona Solids.


2.      Blenders are defined for my purposes as a fabric that reads to the eye as a solid but may have a small print in the same color but a different saturation. A good Blender is like using a solid but provides texture to the final image under the thread painting. Blenders too, may be used for an entire piece. Some fabrics include designers like Alison Glass or this bundle by Robert Kaufman.

3.  Large Prints are fabrics that have a print “focus” of more than 2” in diameter. The images may be flowers, animals, abstracts, etc. Regardless of the print image, the size is large enough that you could “fussy cut” it for parts of the quilt. Some designers that come to mind are Tula Pink and Amy Butler.

4.      Small Prints are fabrics that have a print “focus” of less than 2” in diameter. Like large prints the images may be flowers, animals, abstracts, etc. The small image may or may not be multiple colors. This will need to be considered in placement as well. Some of my favorite small print fabrics for raw edge applique are batiks and of course, Kaffe Fassett. Note that batiks can often read as blenders, and Hoffman uses a process to clean all their water before putting it back into the environment or reusing it. For details listen to Abby Glassenburg’s podcast here.


In the Painted Cow Pattern, to show the extreme differences between small prints and solids, I completed one version of each. As you study them, think about which version you are more attracted to and why. Do you like the crisp lines of the solid? Do you like how the small print version reads more cohesive? Do you like whimsy? Do you like simple? How you feel about these two versions, can provide a clearer view into what you will appreciate about your own final product and help you choose fabrics for your next raw edge applique or “Painted” pattern.

Let me know below in the comments what your thoughts are on fabric directions, and thanks for reading!

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