How to Mix Fabric Patterns Like a Pro

Do you see what I see?  Sooooo many pretty fabric combinations right?

When I sat down to come up with some examples to show you guys how to mix fabric patterns like a pro, I thought it would be quick.  Problem is….I’m sorta like a kid in a candy store when it comes to fabric.

I could look at it all. day. long and love playing around with the different colors and patterns.  So 3 hours later, I’m finally sitting down to write this post after having way too much fun playing with all of the different fabric combinations.

One of the questions I get from readers most often is how to mix patterns. And since we most often use pattern on the fabrics we use in our home, let’s start there.

Of course these tips can be applied to pattern throughout your space too. So let’s get to some easy tips that will have you choosing fabric for your space to add an instant pop of your personality.
how to mix fabric patterns like a pro

I typically like to use 3 patterns in a space.  This is just enough to make it interesting, but not so much that it will seem too busy.  But don’t be afraid to break this rule.  It will totally depend on the look you are going for. This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure.

Many of us are struggling with breaking up with the matchy-matchy look that our mom’s were so good at.  Remember that your patterns don’t have to match, they just have to go.  By that I mean they have to have some element in common.  That might be color, style, or scale.

So if we are choosing 3 patterns to go together we are going to choose one of each

  • Floral/Organic
  • Geometric
  • Scale that is much smaller or much larger than your other 2 choices.

1. Start with a pattern that you love.

This will be the jumping off point for the other fabrics that you choose so of course it makes sense to start with one pattern that you can’t get out of your head.  Chances are this pattern is going to say something about your personality and the colors will make you feel good.

2. Does your first choice pattern have a organic origin or is it a geometric?

Let me explain.  Almost all pattern will be either organic or geometric.

  • Organic patterns can include floral patterns or anything inspired by nature.  They can be very literal or a bit more abstract. Organic patterns can have a lot of swirl and movement and it is typically difficult to see where the pattern repeats itself.
  • Geometric patterns are those that have a definite pattern to them and typically have a lot of contrast too.  The simplest geometric patterns are polka dots or stripes, but there are a lot of really interesting and more complicated geometric patterns too.

If your first choice is organic inspired, you are going to want to choose a geometric next. If your first choice is geometric, you will want to choose something nature inspired.

Let’s do an example.

Let’s pretend we are going to be doing a little girls room or nursery and we have fallen in love with this floral fabric.  Since this is a floral I’m going to want to choose a geometric next.

purple floral fabric

3. Consider color.

Is there a color in your first choice fabric that you want to highlight?  Use that color to make your second fabric choice.

Back to our example… 

I decided to bring out the green and found a geometric pattern that mimics lattice to go with a sort of garden feel.

floral and geometric pattern combo


4. Now think about scale.

Large scale prints and patterns work best on large pieces like curtain panels and duvet covers and small scale prints and patterns tend to work best on smaller items like throw pillows, lamp shades, or valences. Take that into consideration, but don’t be afraid to break the rules a bit.  I’m a sucker for a throw pillow with a large scale pattern on it.

That said, for your 3rd pattern choice you are going to want to consider scale. If both of your choices so far are medium to large scale, you will want to choose a small scale pattern for your third choice.  But if your choices so far are smaller in scale, you will want to choose a large scale pattern.  This is also a perfect opportunity to pull out another color from your choices so far.

**Just a note that when you are buying fabric online, you will see the pattern repeat listed in the details of each fabric.  Some sites even have a ruler on the photo of the fabric to give you an idea of the scale of the pattern.

Back to our example…

My first 2 choices are medium in scale so I decided to go very small scale with this lilac gingham.  Not only is it perfect for the feel of a little girl’s room, but it pulls out the purple perfectly and because the pattern is so small, almost acts as a solid without being a boring solid.  This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure.fabric for a little girl's room

Green Lattice ||  Purple Floral ||  Purple Gingham

Now that wasn’t so hard was it?

I love to shop for fabrics online and usually pin them to a secret Pinterest board when I’m brainstorming so that I can see my choices all together.  Then I can go to the board and see them all next to each other to make my final choices.  I would suggest that you always order swatches first if you are ordering online since the colors and textures can be a little off on your screen.

So that isn’t the only example I have for you.  Remember when I said that I got a bit carried away and was playing with all sorts of fabric patterns?  Here are a few of my favorites that I came up with…

Love this for a “big girl room” or if I was single and had a cute little apartment.

how to mix and match throw pillows

Green Lattice  ||   Pink Blossom   ||  Grey & White Stripe

Maybe for a boy’s room?fabric for little boy's room

Teal Dotted Lines  ||  Vintage Cars  ||  Orange Slub

This fabric combination would work anywhere.mixing pattern on fabrics

Green Lattice  ||  Watercolor Water Drops  ||  Teal Dotted Lines

I love this modern organic inspired fabric!  Here it is 2 ways…modern living room fabric

Green Slub  ||  Modern Foliage  ||  Ikat Diamond
modern living room fabric 3Grey Slub  ||  Modern Foliage  || Small Green Ikat Dot

Super subtle, but very pretty grown up look…mixing patterns on fabricGreen Stripe  ||  Watercolor Floral  ||  Grey Tetris Geometric

So, did you fall in love with any one fabric or combination?  I’d love to hear where you would use it so leave a comment below!

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About Corey

Corey is the creative behind Hey There, Home (formerly TinySidkeick,) where she shares easy-to-follow and beautiful home decor and entertaining ideas. Her mission? To make home decor accessible to everyone, even if you don't consider yourself crafty, and to empower people to decorate their homes in a way that they can actually be lived in, not just looked at.

51 thoughts on “How to Mix Fabric Patterns Like a Pro

  1. Peggy Ledesma says:

    Nice post!

  2. Sheri says:

    I totally love all your combinations. I am going to start a quilt soon answer will keep your post in mind.

  3. Sarah says:

    Hello Corey….I found this post very helpful:) However, I love to make quilts and in a bedroom, the quilt is where the decorating colours need to come from. There are so many different fabrics in a quilt that I am usually scared to add anything besides a solid fabric on the windows etc. Do you have any helpful suggestions for this? Thanks!

  4. Terri says:

    I’m having trouble picking out curtains to go with a b/w garden toile quilt and b/w striped bed skirt. Any suggestions. I’m leaning towards b/w gingham but think it might be to busy.

    1. Hi Terri. I think that you should break it up and do a solid color or if you are set on black and white do something that is really large scale so that it doesn’t get so busy. You could even do a solid white. Hope that helps!

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