Choosing African prints for quilting might be a little daunting because the patterns are bold and the colours plenty! If you are a beginner and feeling a unsure, my advise is to approach it the way you would choose the fabrics for any other quilt you are making.
Let the idea of the quilt you want to make and your innate creativity guide your choices and you won’t go wrong, here are a few tips to consider before picking your African prints:
1. Fabric Content: African Prints usually come in 100% cotton but there are a few brands that are a mix of cotton and polyester. Stick to either 100% cotton or blends per project, because they have different wash requirements and they also wear differently. Go for good quality brands of African print fabrics whose colours will not run or fade.
2. Colour: Don’t be intimidated by the bright and splashy colours of African prints, choose a variety of fabrics whose colours balance each other out. Go for contrasts, choose light and dark colours, if the fabric colours are too matchy, you won’t achieve the striking impact African prints are known for.
TIP: Use the fabric that catches your eye the most and make it your primary fabric. Build other complementing fabrics around it, if you choose to go for fabrics with similar colours, pick at least one African print in monochromatic contrasting colour to break up the monotony.
3. Fabric Patterns: The patterns on African fabric can be very bold, don’t let that scare you, make it work for you to create a truly unique quilt.
A good tip is to mix it up. For every bold pattern you choose, choose an African print with smaller patterns, a simple geometric pattern or even a solid colour fabric to step down the overall scale of the patterns and create a good balance. Try to achieve a good contrast with the scale of the patterns the same way you will with the colours.
When you have made your fabrics choice and are satisfied with the balance of colour and scale of the patterns, lay them out next to each other in good light and allow the designer in you make a visual assessment. Do the fabrics look good together? Is anything off? Is the colour mix lopsided? Is any thing too dominant or not enough? Make changes as you please until you are satisfied.
4. Quilt Pattern: Sometimes I choose the pattern and sometimes the fabric decides the pattern. There are no boundaries to the quilt patterns to use for your African prints. It depends on what catches your fancy at the moment.
Disappearing 9 Patch: In hindsight, I wished I had cut the black fabric rather than the orange, blue, red and orange circles into rectangles to frame the squares, it would have made the other colours stand out more, but still I’m very satisfied with how they’ve turned out.
Trip Around the World: I love how the aqua turqoise squares lift the darker coloured squares.
In the pictures above, I cut 2 different sizes of the African print squares. Played around with various patterns and finally settled on the Disappearing 9 Patch and Trip Around the World.
To get going, simply visualize the fabrics in the quilt pattern you are contemplating and if you want, you can create two or three blocks of the quilt pattern, with different fabric placements to help you decide. Also play around with the block placements in the quilt and choose the one that you love the best.
FINAL TIP: I find for me, choosing the African print fabrics to you is as emotional/evocative as is logical/rational. I have chosen fabrics that my logical mind was certain wouldn’t work that I ended up loving. So unless you are working to a specific brief, you might consider allowing the fabrics speak to you and just going with the flow and doing what seems right.