What do you look for in a background fabric?
Firstly, the fabric itself should be a good quality firmly woven fabric. I prefer cotton way above anything else, but the quality is more important than the make-up of the fibre. I prefer hand work, but use the same fabric for machine applique as I would hand applique ….. I make quilts to be used, which means I want the fabric to feel good regardless of how I put it together.
Printed or plain? Printed pretty much every time! Plain is too flat and boring! The only other choice for me is hand dyed.
I have chosen fabrics for the applique design first ….. now I have to find a background which will show off the design. Sometimes I work the other way around, but the dominant colours in most designs are in the applique, and the background is just that …. a background. The right background will be almost un-noticed in the overall design, something to hold the elements of the design together …. and show them off!
Different backgrounds will fit different situations, and I know there are lots of different background fabrics which will work behind the rocking horse and his rider. Here are some of the things to take into consideration when selecting background fabric for a project.
The most important thing to consider is the contrast between the background and the applique shapes. If there is little or no contrast the applique design will disappear into the background. So light is an obvious choice, but often too light washes out the colour in the design.
Dark backgrounds can be overpowering, but they often make the design pop out. So, not too light, or maybe dark.
I mentioned that I pretty much always use a print.
Tone on tone prints are good. These are fabrics with little contrast between the background colour and a slightly darker or lighter small, repetitive design. From a distance these read as a plain, but are not nearly so flat looking. Could be difficult in this case because I have used similar prints in the design itself.
Small prints with a little more contrast sometimes work well, but these sometimes have a very definite and distracting repeat. They can also have too many shapes which detract from the applique shapes, and too much contrast.
Avoid multi colour prints. About the only time they could be effective is if the applique is a single solid colour silhouette.
Checks and plaids are usually too busy, but will give a country or naïve feel to the project, in which case look for a light or dark contrast.
Strong lines can be distracting regardless of which way they are running – vertical , horizontal or diagonally. They could very occasionally be effective if you use them to create a background design.
Here is the rocking horse placed on a wide variety of backgrounds. Which ones work for you, or which ones would you choose of you could change the applique fabrics? Which ones don’t you like?
(I had to change the fabric for the horse for the last one …. the fabric I used for the horse all the way through the background changes is very much the type of fabric I like for background.)
Which background fabric would you use for this block?
The applique would probably need some adjustment for just about all of them …. the light to dark range of the fabrics makes it difficult to find just the right background.
I have selected some possibilities ……..
I would be happy to use these, though with maybe a few fabrics switched in the applique, or some hand embroidered or drawn details to create shadow and highlights to the horse and mane.
The large red tartan was a surprise, and I would consider it the best and most colourful for a child.
However, here is the one I like most. But this would be for me!
Mmmm! I think I would modify the design so the rocking horse isn’t floating in mid-air!
Here ends the lesson for today!
Time for you to do some homework …. looking for perfect background fabrics.
The only test will be if your applique designs are enhanced, or hidden, by the background fabric you have chosen