Challenge #13: Colors in your textile creations

The original French article was a guest post on Barbara’s blog already presented in the article devoted to creativity.

Bring color to your textile creations!

First by choosing the fabric. There is not only the choice between plain and patterned, large or small. Texture, transparency, shine and weave are also properties to be exploited in the desired color effect. Then there is the way in which the different parts of the work are arranged. And finally, the accessories.

Ideally, the aim is to create harmony: a clever mix of similar and different elements. Too different, chaos is produced; too similar, boredom. The limit between the two is a matter of personal taste.

For your textile creations I also recommend the GORC method: Get inspired, Observe, Copy, Create. But before you start, take some time to think about your new creation.

The destination of your work

Focus on the destination of your creation. Is it a dress, a top, a skirt, a costume for a play or for a special evening? Is it curtains for your living room or a bag to take everywhere?

Answering these questions will guide your choice. Think about the context in which your achievement will be seen.

For example, in the shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert” in Brussels, the textile creations harmonize with the decor. Notice how the tones of the curtain in front of the stairs match those of the car in the foreground.

The shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”: the curtain takes up the tones of the car in the foreground (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

If you create theater costumes, think about harmonizing them with the set from the design stage.

If it is a dress for a party, perhaps you would like to highlight a piece of jewellery. Are you going to be the star or do you want to be “classy” but still be discreet?

Is this a summer outfit? To enjoy it on long, cooler evenings, you’ll probably wear it with a shawl, scarf or small jacket.

Is the idea to complete your wardrobe for new associations? Take out the pieces you want to match, take note of their colors, textures and materials.

When you have all the elements to consider, you will be ready to choose the fabrics for your new creation.

The choice of the fabric

What type of fabric should I choose? Plain? Colored or neutral? Or with patterns? Large or small patterns? Your personal taste and the elements of the context will be decisive in this first choice.

Although not the subject of this article, the fabric material is essential too. Think of practical aspects: cleaning issues, cost, ecology. Consider also how you wish the fabric to fall as this property depends on the material.

The shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”; on the left: plain fabrics; in the middle: all the whites; on the right: motifs in different sizes (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

Plain Fabrics

This choice is necessary when the elements to be matched form a relatively disparate set of colors or with intrusive patterns. In the first case, a relatively neutral tone will make the link between the colors. In the second case, a color in the pattern or in a close hue will be most effective.

If the range of colors is already coherent, the ideal is to stay there. The introduction of a new color that is either more intense (for a small piece) or even complementary can however bring life to the whole.

In all cases, take into account the color of your skin, especially if the garment will be worn close to the face.

For example, a plain fabric will highlight the scarves below. The scarf on the left has a white background with purple and pink fishes surrounded by black; the fins are sienna. A plain fabric in one of these shades will do the job. It is not necessary to have the exact same color. Here, a lighter purple has been used, the same hue as some fish.

For the other on the right, a plain pink fabric, color of the scarf background, is a perfect match. This fabric could also have been used for the other scarf as its hue is similar to the one some fishes. The purple fabric, on the other hand, does not match so well the second scarf as it is a little more distant from the existing tones.

Harmony with a scarf. On the left a plain purple linen fabric; on the right a mix of ramie and pink cotton (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

Patterned Fabrics

Several years ago we would never have imagined associating fabrics with different patterns. Maybe lines with other lines would have been tolerated. And yet, if the range fits, it doesn’t matter how many different patterns there are.

Every season textile designers create collections based on a limited number of tones that harmonize beautifully, even fabrics with multicolored patterns.

Below the decorators of the shop “Les tissus du Chien Vert” have matched a patterned fabric with a plain fabric in one of the pattern colors. They have also combined two fabrics with very different patterns but sharing three colors: the white background is identical, and pink and yellow are present in both; a fringe of mini pink pompoms provides the transition.

The shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”; on the left, matching a plain with a patterned fabric based on red. In the middle, a coordinated collection by Delphine Harlequin. On the right, fabrics with very different patterns sharing three colors (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).
The shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”; on the left, a coordinated collection. On the right, a fabric with a geometric pattern sharing its two colors with another with a figurative trend (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

If the colors are different, the nature of the pattern can be a link: on the left above the fabrics are quite economical in color but all the patterns are stylized leaves. Always remember the subtle balance between difference and similarity.

The shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”;Look at the fabric from near and far (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

In this type of fabric, the size of the pattern is an essential element. To make up your mind, look at the fabric from near and far. A very small pattern will be indistinguishable from a certain distance; it will blend into the background color, creating an optical mix of colors. Exploit this magic. If you want the patterns to remain visible, make them large enough. But always consider the size of the piece you’re making.

The shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”; on the left, a lined jersey and two mottled jerseys; On the right, a belt in mottled jersey on a patterned skirt. At a certain distance, the lines merge, the mottled jerseys become united, only the motifs of the skirt are distinguishable (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

The mottled fabrics are neither plain nor patterned: from a distance you think they are plain, but from close up you realize all their nuances.

Textured Fabrics

The texture will also give variety to your textile creations. If for one reason or another you don’t have much choice for the color, compensate with texture. It captures light and offers different shades depending on the viewpoint, the shape of the fabric, its direction in relation to the light. Velvet is a good example of this.

Texture, a property to be exploited; the example of velvet (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).
Texture. On the left, very light and in tone-on-tone colors, it gives warmth to the fabric. The turquoise velvet in the background is also finely textured. On the right, the texture consists of a wool yarn in relief (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

Even a light texture brings warmth to the whole. Judge for yourself on the turquoise velvet and scarf above.

Transparent Fabrics

A transparent fabric is like a glaze on a painting. When superimposed, it allows to unify very different tones. Its effect will be different depending on the number of layers. As soon as the garment presents a fold, the transparency effect will be added, creating colors that will change with the movement of the fold.

A transparent colored accessory can create a range of tones depending on the color of the garment underneath. A ray of sunshine and it is transformed. And if worn next to the skin, its transparency becomes erotic.

The shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”; transparent fabrics (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).
The shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”; transparent fabrics (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).
The shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”; transparency on plain fabrics (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

Lace and Openwork Fabrics

Lace is also a transparent fabric…but not everywhere. It is more elaborate and refined than simply openwork fabrics. The effect will be quite similar to that of a transparent fabric. The geometry of the open parts will influence the perception of volume, as with a regular pattern. These fabrics are intriguing and make you want to see what’s underneath.

The shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”; lace (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).
The shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”; openwork fabrics superimposed on plain (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

Shiny Fabrics

A shiny fabric is more likely to be worn on a festive day, but there’s no reason why you can’t celebrate every day!
It will reflect a light tinted by its color on everything around it. See in the photo on the right below how the golden fabric reflects orange on its neighbor. Beware of cold colors, they can make you look bad. Choose bronzes or golds that are more flattering.

The shop “Les tissus du Chien Vert”: shiny fabrics (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

Transparency and shine can be combined. Observe how the fabric below transforms with more or less present turquoise and purplish pink reflections. Interesting for home decoration, especially if the light varies during the day. As a scarf, worn in the evening, its effect is magical.

Transparency and shine. The fabric is chameleon (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

The Weft of the Fabrics

When the fabric has a different weft yarn from the warp yarn, its color, resulting from the mixing of the two, seems richer.

Silk has a natural shine and produces moire effects with this process. In addition, with a black weft thread, the dark colors of the warp thread will gain depth; used for a dress, the silhouette will be slimmed down. Ideal for a chic evening out. On the contrary, with a light-colored warp thread and a white weft thread, silk will give an impression of volume and the whole ensemble will appear frosted or pearly. For a wedding dress?

Wild silk: with weft and warp threads of different colors the reflections become magical (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix)

Assembling pieces of cloth

The colorful impact of your work will not only result from the color scheme of the different pieces but also from all the details of the finish: lining, seams, buttons and buttonholes, belt, etc.

The lining

The choice of the lining is more accessory than the material, which is usually light and smooth for easy donning. Satin is recommended for this purpose. Nevertheless, matching it with the colors of the garment gives it class right away.

Les Tissus du Chien Vert: a choice of plain linings (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

The designers of the Felicy brand have chosen for the lining of this sleeveless dress below a very discreet fabric with small dots. This cotton is also present on the collar and on a band under the chest. The bottom of the lining and the small stitches are respectively in the same pink and yellow of the dress fabric.

The Hippocampe brand, for its part, used a tone close to the heart of the daisy for the lining of the dress. With a very fluid fabric, it is only noticeable in the movement,… or in case of wind, would it be natural or produced by underground trains! And in the wardrobe, it does not go unnoticed.

On the left: the lining and the band under the bust are made of the same fabric with small dots, both colors of which can be found in the fabric of the dress. On the right: the lining of the dress is reminiscent of the heart of stylised daisies (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).
Lined of a Désigual coat. On the right, the original. On the left, the repaired version: the satins are in the colors of the embroidery (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

Satin is fragile. The lining is therefore the most vulnerable part of the garment and may need to be changed or repaired. For the Desigual coat above, the lining has torn in several places. Since the garment is a patchwork, repairing the lining in the same spirit by simply redoing a sleeve and a few sections is perfectly fine. Here I took some satin scraps in the colors of the embroidery. Who could say that the lining is not original?

Embroidery

Embroidery, whether through colored threads, beads or sequins, is also a way of inviting color into your textile creations. The Desigual brand (see the embroideries on the lining above) has made it very popular. With the progress of sewing machines and their computerization, its cost has been greatly reduced. However, manual embroidery still retains all its charm.

Sewing

When assembling the different parts of a garment, a cushion or a tapestry, the choice of visible or invisible stitching, or even piping, arises. And if it is visible, in what style to make it?

In the tapestries below, different choices have been made.

To render the windows in the central building, I applied a light blue satin to the back of the ecru fabric, which covers the entire glass surface. I made “invisible” white seams to hold the fabric in place. I then sewed a very dense zigzag yellow thread around the main windows. For four windows in the shade I opted for black thread. The windows were then hollowed out with sharp scissors, flush with the seam, as you can see in the detail below.

Vinciane Lacroix, “Old England” tapestry (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix)
Vinciane Lacroix, tapestries, details. On the left, “Inspiration Hockney”. On the right, “Old England” (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).
Vinciane Lacroix, “Interior” tapestry details (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

In the tapestry inspired by David Hockney’s swimming pools, the seams are in the same hue as the matching fabrics. Finally, in the lower tapestry, the two types of seams are used together, sometimes in the same hue and sometimes in a different one.

Accessories

Here’s another way to brighten up your clothes, accessories. The haberdashery department is an Ali Baba’s cave full of treasures for a creative spirit.

Lost a button? Take the opportunity to change them all. Look for some that will give a new look to the garment, always respecting consistency, even in the variety.

For the little jacket below, stylist Anne Elisabeth has chosen flower-shaped buttons. The petals are transparent, the heart is silvery.

Also play with the materials, the shine, the transparency, as you did in the choice of fabric. The light passes through the transparent buttons and casts a shadow, colored or not. Make the most of it.

On the left, a choice of pink buttons from the shop “Les Tissus du Chien Vert”. On the right, transparent buttons on a jacket by Anne Elisabeth (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).


Braids, festoons, fringes, ribbons and all the trimmings can give your work the colorful touch that will give it character. Use tiebacks, fringe tassels, zips and buttons for decorative purposes. Pénélope Garnier makes pretty wallets where buttons become eyes and the zip becomes a mouth.

Les Tissus du Chien Vert, on the left, choice of trimmings; on the right kisses on colored fabric (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).
On the left and on the right, Pénélope Garnier’s work. In the middle, buttons “Les Tissus du Chien Vert” (cc-by-sa V. Lacroix).

Technology

Keep an eye on technology. New inventions increase the possibilities of introducing color into textiles.

Thermochromic inks change color with temperature. You can imagine patterns that appear or disappear depending on the temperature. There are also fibers whose temperature can be modified in order to change the color.

Pearlescent pigments are also introduced into fibers. Soon perhaps some iridescent fabrics such as soap bubbles will be available.

Let’s dream and imagine clothes for which we would design luminous patterns for an evening. Woven and knitted optical fibers, why not? With the development of LEDs, OLEDs and light technology, all this is for tomorrow and awaits your imaginative mind for daring applications.

Go ahead

Now it’s up to you, use these ideas for your personal creations. Take a look at fashion magazines and recognize the tricks you’ve learned here. Get inspired, explore all these possibilities, and above all, have fun.

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