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!

Related:
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This post is the best description of how to choose fabrics for your home! I totally know what I'm doing now!

About Corey

Corey is the creative behind Hey There, Home 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.

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

  1. Hi Corey!
    Your article was great putting into words what I have done by instinct in the past. One thing that I saw in your wonderful demo is that the “pivotal” patterns were multicolored, and the coordinates were one color with white. That really helps make this process much less overwhelming!
    Thank you! Well written!

    1. Corey Willis says:

      You’re so welcome Elaine!

  2. So glad I found this information on coordinating fabrics…I am interested in points for children’s apparel and then, of course, up into adult sizes…..but for now, it is children’s apparel….again, there is so MANY fabric designs and I LOVE ’em ALL. I have no trouble picking out a main fabric when I see it and usually it falls into the category of zoo animals, sarfari, domestic animals, florals, metalics etc., or maybe it is a BEAUTIFUL color of the fabric itself or a plaid (I love plaids)….I know the color combination I want for the contrast material….(which comes from the main fabric) , but its the design I’m having trouble with….and I know about “breaking the rule”, and I keep in mind the size factor of little to big or big to little in the contrasts. Right now I have a fabric of giraffes in different
    shades of yellows, grays, whites on a black background and I’ve tried designs
    of tree foliage, tropical leaves, polka dots, hearts, and, (others I cannot remember at this time) in contrast colors of white/gray, but nothing strikes me
    as the “one” for the contrast fabric…incidentally, this material is a skirt bottom
    and the top is knit top in pale yellow with black ribbing at neck and sleeves.. I
    was thinking of a wide bias for the bottom of skirt and a narrower strip of the
    bias woven into eyelets at the waist. Thanks for any suggestions and I’ve
    signed up for the workbook..

    m

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Francese! I can’t speak specifically to clothing design as it isn’t my forte (or passion) but I do know that the trend in kids clothing is that the more pattern mixing the better right now. So if you come up with a combo and it makes you smile inside (or outside) I say go for it!

  3. Liana Gallant says:

    I’m stuck! This is what I have……drapery is tempo mambo a large scale vintage floral and my bench cover is Cameron, Pewter/Natura a small dark gray chevron. I can’t for the life of me pick a third fabric for accent pillows. Ideas?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Liana! would do a larger scale print with the green or the turquoise being the star of the show. Maybe something like this.

      You could also go with a solid in one of the colors. Hope this helps!!

  4. What a great guide. I’ve always been afraid of mixing patterns, but you made me feel much more assured. Thank you for the tips!

    1. Corey Willis says:

      You’re so welcome Diego!

  5. I like your tip to mix up organic patterns and geometric patterns for the best look. My mother told me to buy her some fabric for a quilt she’s working on and I’m not sure what to get. I’m not good with matching, so your guide helps a lot.

  6. Mary says:

    Your post is very helpful and I like the examples you showed. I am stuck; we bought a sofa that is in a heathered graphite color, a chair and a half in a large black and white houndstooth pattern. We have an ottoman that is 36 x 48 inches and I want to have it reupholstered, I just can not seem to make a decision on what the fabric should be. We have hardwood floors in the room (family room) and those are the only three piece of upholstered furniture that will be in the room. Once I decide on the fabric then I will purchase an area rug.

  7. Debra says:

    Hi Corey, Thank you for this post. I spent several hours at the online store using your method and it worked fantastically. I was very happy with each of the selections I made- even those that were outside of my usual comfort zone of colour. I will now apply this method to my stash and maybe I will actually make something rather than just admiring the pretty fabrics:). Cheerz

    1. Corey Willis says:

      That’s so awesome, Debra! I’m so happy it worked for you. I know what you mean about spending time admiring fabrics 🙂 Best wishes!

  8. christine king says:

    A GREAT BIG SIGH OF RELIEF and an even BIGGER THANK YOU. I love color BUT mix’n’match eugh, ah! – PANIC, I am sure like a lot of others I end up coming home with AT LEAST six or seven mixers when I NOW KNOW I only need two maybe three.
    Needless to say I am a beginner and fall in love with the material before I even have a pattern. Aagh I come home with material without the pattern in mind, hence I haven’t actually co-ordinated pieces of material at time of purchase, I have a great stash (disgusting really) any tips at this point in time. It’s OK to have a stash BUT to be realistic MY STASH = MONEY not always wisely spent.
    I really like the “big girls room” and “organic combinations” despite personal preference being for strong color and an absolute love (almost obsession) for japanese/asian prints.
    Another HUGE THANK YOU I now know spots and stripes fall into the geometric category. I live in Australia,
    I live in a village of 1000 people nearest towns 60k north and the other 45k south and I get to town once a fortnight, SO to have an idea when buying my fabric would be an ENORMOUS advantage for me.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    NOW I NEED TO KNOW:
    HOW MUCH THE FULL COURSE WOULD COST ME TO UNDERTAKE WITH YOU.
    also, WOULD THE ON-LINE TUTORIALS BE DOWNLOADABLE, and
    once having paid for tutorial HOW LONG A TIME WOULD I BE ABLE TO ACCESS THE MODULES?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hi Christine, welcome to the Hey There Home. Glad you are finding the help you need here! All the details you need for the full course tutorial (Style Your Way Home) is here. I’m excited with you as you take your first steps to learning the secrets of having an amazing home!

  9. Tricia says:

    Ive been searching online for fabric for a 1959 trailer. The lesson was perfect. I CAN go out and put together something fantastic.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Yes, you can Tricia! Check back in and let us see your results!

  10. Lisa says:

    Thank you! I’m terrible at mix and matching, you have given me a simple process THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE! So many years struggling at the fabric store, terrorized by all the options, drowning in shapes and colors! THANK YOU!

    1. Corey Willis says:

      You’re so very welcome, Lisa. Glad to have you be part of the Hey There Home family!

  11. Sandra says:

    Loved all the combinations but really like the boy’s combo. It is so hard to do for boys that don’t over use prints of cars, planes, etc. The Blue/Orange is a perfect combination for a toddler boy that can grow with him.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      So true, Sandra! I love that color combo, too!

  12. Darlene says:

    Love this post, I have a floral bedspread(big pattern) that only has two colors beige and red … I want to get an accent chair and because it’s only two colors how would you mix patterns for that -just stick with the two colors or add a third ?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hi Darlene, so happy you found it helpful! And I’ve got great news for you – you can sign up for my brand new free mini decor course, and the first lesson gives that much needed clarity about color! Click here to get three free lessons delivered to your inbox. Best wishes!

  13. Cindy matthews says:

    Love this post! I’m challenged when it comes to decor and especially color. I have deep wine colored sofa, chair and ottoman. I have deep tan walls, I want to recover a retro looking arm chair in something exciting. Any suggestions? I love nature

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey, Cindy, thanks for reading and being part of the Hey There, Home family. Unfortunately, I’m not able to give specific interior decorating advice; perhaps you could work with someone in your local area who could provide suggestions. Best wishes!

  14. Peggy Ledesma says:

    Nice post!

  15. Sheri says:

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

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. Lexi says:

    Your post was so helpful. I recently got (for my backyard) pink chevron chair cushions and a green lattice tablecloth that I thought seemed to work well together. Then I was torn on placemats- I was going to just get the ones that matched the tablecloths, or maybe a solid, but you inspired me to go for a floral-type organic print that brings in both colors. I checked out Etsy and fell in love with one by Tanya Whelan- the only downside was the disappointment in learning that it doesn’t come in placemats, but hoping the shopkeeper will be willing to make a set. Thanks again for demystifying the process for those of us who don’t come by it naturally! 🙂

  19. So helpful — I am always so overwhelmed by patterns that I always end up picking a solid color.

  20. Roberta Sensenig says:

    This is an excellent site, you have really helped me, I go to the fabric store and get so confused, in my mind know what I want, but so many choices, this has given me a foundation to go by,thanks so much

  21. Cathie says:

    Choosing a turquoise and white rug, beige sofa, credenza in dark blue and turquoise and gold. What fabric for chairs and pillows?

  22. Denisse says:

    What color curtains can I use for a bedroom with a light blue Moroccan print headboard?

    1. I think I would go dark blue, maybe even navy. It will create drama and keep the space cozy.

  23. Frani says:

    What an excellent article! I have always flown by the seat of my pants when mixing. It is so nice to have it explained. Good job and thanks!!!
    From a newbie here

  24. Ashoo says:

    Awesome! earlier I would go by instinct but now I will be more sure👍🏻😄

  25. Barb Spies says:

    I love your site! Can’t wait to see more.

  26. Thank you for your information. As I am in the middle of a remodel and wishing to get a whole new look, I will certainly keep your info in mind when selecting patterns.

  27. Valerie says:

    I’m a COMPLETE newbie to patchwork and I thank you, thank you, thank you for this article. Now I have some direction, am feeling excited about my very first project. Still have to decide what that will be, probably something small like a throw cushion for my bed …. although, I’ve never been afraid to dive in feet first. So maybe a duvet cover AND a complementing cushion?

    1. You are very welcome Valerie! So happy that it has you inspired to create. I’m a fan of feet first too, go for it!

  28. Thanks for the great advice!! You really did breaknit down so well. I am always afraid of patterns not going together! I am going to try mixing patterns for my bedroom. Will tell you how it turns out!

    1. Yes, please let me know how it goes Anika! I’d love to see a photo.

  29. Bidhan Desai says:

    Wish you and your family a very happy and prosperous new year.
    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful tutorials. I like all the combinations. Incase if I’m using any of the above, I’ll certainly share with you.

    Warm regards

    Bidhan Desai

  30. Blake says:

    thanks for sharing this! It’s great advice and love all your examples! What would you suggest if you are planning to do more than three patterns or colors? Would you prioritize one of the three categories over another?

  31. Karen Mangum says:

    how I wish you were here. Love the teaching! I bought slate gray from pottery barn-sofa. Waiting for its arrival I bought a small geo chair black polka dots thinking it would be easy to tie in. Then my man bought an awesome chair and ottoman with fabric and wood-very studyish!! that is light blue and black almost houndstooth. Very small in print. Believe it or not they all are ok in the room. Now I need to pull all of it together with a chair and I’m spent!!!!! I read your teaching- love it and don’t know what way to go. Coffe in hand rain outside with a gentle breeze – and I’m at a loss bur loving the fall! Maybe inspiration will blow in thru the open window! Be blessed!

    1. Thanks Karen! Maybe a solid but in a color that ties into the slight color in your husbands chair. Then of course dress everything up and tie it all together with some fun pillows in different prints!

  32. […] geometric fabric is just one of the 3 key ingredients that I’ve taught you when it comes to mixing and matching fabrics, but one of these might just be your jumping off […]

  33. vittoria seaman says:

    Can you please tell me where you got the watercolor water drop fabric in your how to mix pattern example. I found the other two in the group but really love that one. I have searched everywhere.

    1. Each fabric name is clickable and goes directly to where you can buy it. I just tested that link and it works for me, but if you are having trouble let me know.

  34. Jaswinder says:

    Jlove this.Because of u now I come to know how to do mix & match.Thanks a lot Corey

  35. lois says:

    I Love the first and second combination-am in the slow process of decorating my house,the base color i have chosen is olive green for my couches and am trying to work on my scatter cushions but cant seem to decide on the final look.
    I have bought 2 fabrics,one stripped green and white and the other a zig zag summer yellow and white(i love yellow), now am trying to decide on the third fabric pattern. Thanks for tips above,i think these will help me alot!!

    1. You are so welcome Lois! I would definitely go with something organic in nature for your 3rd choice since you have 2 geometrics.

  36. Celeste says:

    Great site with super ideas and helpful guides for fabric choices.

  37. Thanks so much for writing this! I love all your fabric pairings and how you detailed in mixing patterns, colors, and scales to make them work together. I found this super helpful. 🙂

  38. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have read many posts that claim they will explain how to mix and match patterns, but you are the first one who actually did it. Your explanation is so clear that it makes me feel confident that I can mix patterns now too! Thank you!

  39. Joanna says:

    This article has really helped me. I’ve never been quite sure how to combine fabrics & usually end up with a jumble of patterns that I love individually but that don’t quite go together! In future, I will try to limit myself to working within your guidelines- your combinations look great – which might result in a more coordinated scheme! Thank you for sharing.

  40. Sabrina says:

    This works with apparel fashion also. This how K-pop hip-hop image looks like. Your extra examples are helpful it would be much helpful if you put what sizes you used for each pattern i.e. xs, s, m, or L so that we could check if we are doing it right.
    I also recommend using a color not from either of the previous choices which are metals (gold, silver, bronze), shades (black, white, gray/grey, almost-black violet/purple), and earths (browns, or beige).

  41. Lisa Bell says:

    I found your article helpful. I love all of your fabric choices ????

  42. Rhonda C says:

    I’m so glad I found this post. I am renovating my home, and to say I am challenged at decorating would be an understatement. This information will help me so much. Thank you.

  43. Another incredibly helpful decorating post! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! Perhaps you mentioned this, but I noticed that at least one of the patterns in each grouping contains the colors of the paired fabrics, and usually you had one very colorful pattern paired with mostly monochromatic patterns. It all looks great!

  44. Jackie says:

    Thank you for this post – you make it sound so easy, but with the guidance I feel more confidence already!

    1. You are very welcome Jackie!

  45. Michelle says:

    Wow, that WAS easy!!! I always wondered how they mixed and matched like that! Thank you. Maybe this will also help me when choosing fabrics to eventually make my first
    quilt….someday!

  46. Suzy Q says:

    Thank you so much for the “extra mile” with all the examples. It really helped me “get it” when I saw the fabric combinations morph from little girl to big girl, to sophisticated, etc.

    1. You are very welcome! I know for me I have to see it to get it, so I try my best to give lots of examples and pictures of what I’m talking about. Thanks for stopping by!

  47. Martha says:

    Wow this is the best explanation I’ve found on how to coordinate fabric!! Thank you, thank you, thank you so much!! I love sewing and I have a plethora of pattern but always draw blank when it comes to “matching” fabrics. Now it all makes sense. Sewing room here I come!!! 🙂

    1. Hooray Martha! So happy you are feeling inspired to create!

  48. Heather says:

    I just started sewing children’s clothing, and this is so helpful to me! I have a problem with falling in love with patterns, but have trouble matching coordinating fabrics. Your guidelines will help me tremendously!! Thanks so much for your guidance.

    1. You are very welcome Heather!

  49. […] How awesome that I came across this little pin! Here’s a link to the original post. I’m going to remember this the next time I’m pulling fabric for a project. If you get a […]

  50. Racheal says:

    This is a fantastic post! I have been coordinating fabricsfor years but this is a great refresher! I just have to have the bottom middle (aqua, green, Grey floral) print. I love love love it! Its exactly what I’ve been looking for for ages.

    1. Hooray! I love that one too and I’m so glad you found this helpful 🙂

  51. puspita says:

    Very inspiring me, thank you for sharing

  52. Great choices to demonstrate how to mix colors and patterns. Love the color palettes you have chosen – with quilting, I will look at the 5th dot on the selvedge to help with choosing a color to complement my main fabric choice or play with the color wheel. I could spend all day playing with fabric combinations – not sure if my husband would like me playing with my favorite color combos in our living areas!!!

  53. I really liked the big girl room. You know me I’m a sucker for hot ink and grey of the or. I also like the 2nd choice of the organic inspired fabric. That would look great in a sunroom. Thanks for the tips!

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