A Prints Primer: Learn the Lingo of Quilting Fabric

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When it comes to quilting, prints are prints, right? Yes and no. You certainly don't need any fancy knowledge to know what strikes your fancy — and that's a great way to choose fabric. But it can be helpful (especially for quilting newbies) to know a little about the different types of prints out there, what they're called, and the best ways to put them to work in your designs.

Blenders

If you don't already know the term blenders, learn it quick, 'cause these prints are going to be your best friend. Think of them as solid fabric's cool cousin. In more technical terms, blenders are monochromatic prints, aka designs made with just one color.

Blenders can stand in for solids as backgrounds, but because they're subtly decorated, they add a little more texture and "oomph." (Who doesn't want some of that?!) Like the name says, these blend really nicely with other prints, so go ahead and grab 'em with confidence as you build your stash.

Florals

Yes, florals have designs shaped like flowers. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, here's the more interesting part: floral fabric is NOT always soft, romantic and "pretty." In fact, florals really run the spectrum. A floral print could have two colors or twelve! It could be graphic and bold, or intricate and detailed.

So in other words, rather than think of florals as a single type of fabric, it's better to appreciate each on as its own special... flower. And definitely DO mix them up! If that sounds scary, try a design with two contrasting florals and a couple friendly coordinating blenders.

Traditionals

"Traditional" basically means any fabric modeled on the classic, old-fashioned prints that are such a big part of the history of quilting. If you're set on creating heirloom, vintage-style pieces, these will be your go-to for sure. Traditional fabrics often come in muted tones, with small-scale designs.

You can even shop these by historical period; Civil War-era reproductions and 1900s fabrics are just a couple of popular categories. Since they're more subtle, traditionals can often act like blenders in your quilt designs.

Batiks

Oh, how we love batiks! A special wax-resist dyeing technique gives these fabrics an organic, almost tie-dye or watercolor-like look. Because of how they're made, no two batik prints are the same — and the fabrics are reversible!

You'll find batiks in every color of the rainbow and lots of different prints, yet they're all recognizable by that gorgeous, arty watercolor effect. Batiks play well together, but they're also a great element to throw into an eclectic mix.

Geometrics

Dots and spots, stripes, chevrons and checks all fall in to this bucket. Like florals, geometrics are an almost infinitely diverse bunch, though many tend to share a fresh, modern feeling. Depending on the scale and color of the print, geometrics can sometimes step in quite nicely for blenders, too.

Novelty fabrics

This one's a bit of a catch-all for all the other fabrics that don't fit anywhere else. Think: fabrics with characters or playful themes, and seasonal prints like snowflakes or bells. You'll reach for these first when it's time to make patriotic quilts, kids' gifts or holiday projects.

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A Prints Primer: Learn the Lingo of Quilting Fabric