A Window to Design & Color Blocking

A Window to Design & Color Blocking


"Combining favorite fabrics, techniques and surface design  makes each summer sewing project a highlight experience" Diane


Designing a summer Taos Skirt-

Retreats in New Mexico inspire my summer sewing. A cool and breezy silhouette, The Taos Skirt Pattern is the perfect garment to create as you explore and grow your creativity. Here are my favorite ways to inspire new results with any garment you make. 

1. Create & use a design file. Time to organize all those pictures you save into a useable collection. I use card stock and glue single images or collages of images that feel related.


2.  Design Windows: Using a sheet of cardstock, cut out and use a silhouette of the Taos Skirt (or any pattern) as a window over a collection of images or fabrics to generate new design ideas. See the design cards above used in the designs in the following photos. Any pattern piece (or garment silhouette) can be cut as a window and will give an unexpected view every time...welcome to magic! 

3. Make Fabric First: This always gives a vibrant, fresh look to a garment. In this combination of blues below...the simple torn edge in the design window reminds me how much I like irregular hem edges...so I am repeating that in this blue Taos skirt piece.


Fabrics can be high contrast (which exaggerates seamlines) or variations in one color with  textures, prints, lights and darks as in this blue panel on the way to becoming a skirt.


Openings between some of the pieces and a shaped edge at the bottom will create more interest.

The piecing can be simple: just 1-3 pieces, maybe with a border band, like this linen skirt with a vintage jacquard white tablecloth. 


4. Starting with Printed Fabric -

Color Blocking is perfect for exploring combinations of favorite prints and solids. Consider working with on a dressform....it brings your combination into focus as a garment right away. 

Each fabric print can suggest specific images or a theme to repeat in the stenciling.

Transition Stenciling: Did you ever think of surface design as a transition tool? I do.

Stenciling has amazing potential to create or highlight the transition for one fabric to the next.

It can be used to blur a line or define an edge. Lets explore some ideas you’ll want to try.



We all have colors we’re drawn too. I recommend a color wheel to build your color mixing confidence. Start with your go-to color. Mixing Jacquard metallics and matte fabric paints can create more interest in transition stenciling. Neutrals can be added to soften for lighter pastels or darken a color. In order to dull a color, just add some of the color opposite on the color wheel: like a bit of blue in orange or red into green. It's not the same as adding black, and keeps the color vibrant.



Color blocking is often a combo of bold solids…but what if your pieced fabric design includes prints or stripes? See how fabric paints and your stencil collection can impact and build on your design. In the printed fabrics above, the Picket Fence & Bug Stencil Collection stencils were used.


This combination above of a printed linen Scandinavian design with the solid, was  transitioned by adding surface design with some favorite stencils: Garden Stencil CollectionGarden Vines, Intagliato, Big Hopper and Kenya.

Raven Stencil-



I'm inspired....maybe some sewing on the deck today!? Diane




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1 comment

Diane, I have been following you in the background for years, yearning to meet you and hope you can help me to let my color and form sensitivities out of the box in my brain. As a retired architect and interior designer of some notoriety I know how sensitive i am to color and form but have not been able to give myself permission to get out of the box. Its that old fear of failure thing. So as a widow i can now go there I want & I have a friend, Linda Shoaltes from Bend who is driving over with me to take both your April 20 & 21 classes. I’m not looking for miracles but I hope to at last give myself permission to let it out! With your patience and help See you soon, Jan Marsellos

Janice Marsellos

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