Choose Fabrics That Go Together In 4 Easy Steps

Are you looking to redecorate a room? Fabric is a great way to make your color palette shine in any room. Choosing fabric patterns that go together for a more cohesive look is challenging.

I’m going to share a foolproof formula for mixing fabric with different patterns and give you tips for where to shop for fabric to make it easier.

If you just go to the fabric store or online shop, the sheer number of choices makes buying fabric a daunting task. This is a 4 step process for choosing three fabrics that go together. At the end, you’ll have three fabrics that you can use for throw pillows, an accent chair and other accent pieces. I don’t necessarily use these fabrics for upholstery or drapes because I like to keep these neutral.

choosing fabric

Why choose three fabrics? The “rule of three” is something interior designers follow. Things look better to the eye in odd numbers. One fabric is not enough visual interest. Three is the magic number because it gives your eye variety without being overwhelming.

Step1 – Decide Your Color Palette

If you have no idea what your color scheme is, click here to read all about how to choose a color palette for your room. You need an inspiration piece to help you choose your colors, not a color wheel. Once you have a piece of art or a rug or one thing that inspires you, choosing your colors is much easier. In this example, I’m using art.

It’s important to choose your color palette before you choose your fabrics. Take a picture of your inspiration piece so you have it handy while you’re shopping for fabric. You can keep it on your phone or make a mood board.

For the sake of an example, my inspiration artwork has sage green (60%) brown (30%) and orange (10%). If you hate these colors, please keep reading. Truth be told, I would never use orange accent colors. What’s important is identifying the different colors that complement your inspiration piece.

Step 2 – Find One Pattern You LOVE With Your Primary Color

The number of fabrics to choose from is so huge that I like to limit my shopping to one site. My current favorite is Spoonflower. It’s a great place for ideas, even if you don’t buy the fabric there. You can easily find one print that you love and use that to find something similar, but less expensive on another site.

Here’s how to narrow down your fabric choices for your first print. In the Spoonflower search bar put in your primary color plus a type of fabric pattern you like. Here are examples:

  • green geometric pattern,
  • pink floral fabric,
  • blue check patterns
  • yellow plaid fabric
  • purple polka dot fabric
  • Blue stripe fabric

If you don’t know what pattern you like, try scrolling down the sidebar under “shape” and choose one that you are drawn to that is in your color palette.

What I like about using Spoonflower is that there aren’t a thousand choices. They have a good selection of popular fabric patterns. If you narrow your search in this way it will show you a maximum of about 100 fabrics (vs. thousands on Fabric.com). I dare you to get through the first 4 screens without finding one that you really love.

You can narrow your choices further if you narrow the color down. For example, sage green instead of just green. Butter yellow instead of yellow. Indigo instead of blue.

Step 3 – Choose A Second Pattern With A Different Scale

If the fabric you found in step 2 has a large-scale pattern, you need a coordinating fabric with a small-scale pattern. The key to mixing fabric is using different sizes and scales vs matching patterns. Use one large pattern and one small scale pattern. Patterns mixing isn’t hard once you know your color palette and you know you need one smaller and one larger print.

You might be wondering how to tell if a fabric has large-scale patterns or small if you’re buying fabric online. Here’s what to look for. Spoonflower shows the fabric in a grid with a ruler that shows you how large the pattern is. Fabric.com also shows a ruler. Some sites tell you how often the pattern repeats. This tells you the scale.

how to tell fabric scale

The nice thing about Spoonflower is that it shows you each fabric on a throw pillow. This helps you to see the scale of each fabric if you have a hard time visualizing it.

The second fabric can be a different scale print in the same color or in one of the other colors in your palette.

Step 4 – Choose a SOLID Fabric

You can choose a third print, but I often mix two prints and a solid color. Choosing a solid with a different texture is enough of a contrast to complete your pattern mix.

If you decide you prefer a third print instead of a solid, look for a medium pattern. Choose something in between the first two fabrics that fits your color scheme.

If you are looking for fabric for drapery panels or large furniture, I suggest using a solid fabric. Larger pieces are expensive and make a big visual impact. Using a bold fabric can increase the odds that you will want a change after a year or two. Replacing a few pillows is much easier to do than a sofa.

Where to Buy Fabric?

I use Spoonflower for inspiration, but it can be expensive if you are getting lots of yardage. Once I find a fabric I love if I need more than a yard or two, I use the fabric’s description and I look for a similar fabric at less expensive sources like Fabric.com and Amazon.

Read this for more ideas about where to buy fabric online.

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