9 February 2017

Five Tips for Making a Colour Blocked Dress

Five Tips for Making a Colour Blocked Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Combining different coloured fabrics – or colour blocking – is a great way of highlighting interesting style lines on a garment, such as the Zadie dress. Those panels are just screaming out for contrast colours!

Today I thought I’d share some thoughts on how to approach colour blocking a dress that you’re making – from planning, through sewing, to after care. I’d love to know your thoughts on this too!

Five Tips for Making a Colour Blocked Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Five Tips for Making a Colour Blocked Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

1) Choose complementary colours or prints

When it comes to choosing which fabrics to use, there are various approaches you could take. A classic method would be to pick two or three colours that are on opposite sides of the colour wheel. For example, magenta, bright blue and yellow would look really striking together if you're feeling brave.

Alternatively you could pick colours that are next to each other on the wheel, or two tones of the same colour – such as a light turquoise with a darker teal. This would create more subtle colour blocking that looks interesting without being too out there.

Or you could go with classic black and cream with a pop of one bright colour, such as cerise or mustard.

Consider mixing printed fabrics with solid colours too – pick one of the colours in the print to highlight in the other panels. You could even combine two prints – a striped bodice with floral sleeves could look amazing.

Five Tips for Making a Colour Blocked Dress - Tilly and the ButtonsFive Tips for Making a Colour Blocked Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

2) Plan your design in advance

Let’s face it, colour blocking has the potential to end up looking a bit weird. So before you start cutting into your fabric, it’s worth spending some time planning out your design, and trying out some alternatives you may not have originally thought of. This is the fun part when you get to play designer!

If you’re making the Zadie dress, download the free colouring sheets and print them as many times as you like so you can test out a few ideas. Colour them in with pencils, or use the shapes as templates to cut out mini versions of your dress in different fabrics. I love the designing stage!

Five Tips for Making a Colour Blocked Dress - Tilly and the Buttons
Five Tips for Making a Colour Blocked Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

3) Consider clever placement

Which colour or print should you put where? I always thought that if you put darker colours on the side panels and lighter colours in the centre, it creates the illusion of a slimmer silhouette by kinda "blacking out" the sides of your body. I still stand by this - although I've now seen some people making the Zadie dress with the lighter colours and the sides and that also looks really slimming, as the sides seem to fade into the background. So the jury's out on that one!

If you're mixing prints and solids, I would definitely put the busy print in the centre panels and solid colours (or less busy prints) on the sides, to draw the eye inwards. On the Zadie dress, try a print on the bodice and skirt, with a solid colour on the neckband, sleeves and side panels.

As for vertical placement, putting darker colours on the bottom half and lighter on top can also make your outfit look less top-heavy.

Please take everything I'm suggesting here as a rough guide rather than a prescription. Colour blocking is definitely one of those areas where any rules can be thrown out of the window in the name of creativity, so have a play around with different combinations and use your own judgement to decide which way round the place the fabrics.



4) Match your thread to each block

If you’re taking the time to plan out your design and cut two or more fabrics, you may as well take a bit of extra care to match your thread to the panels too – especially when it comes to topstitching.

For example, when you’re topstitching under the Zadie neckband, sew it in four sections so you can match the thread to the bodice and the sleeves separately. Back tack at the start and end of each section so the stitching doesn’t unravel. Beautiful!

Five Tips for Making a Colour Blocked Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

5) Hand wash your dress

If you’re colour blocking darker and lighter colours together, it’s really worth hand washing your finished dress the first few times you launder it. The last thing you want is a bright red colour running into a white panel! I know hand washing is boring, but it’ll save tears in the long run.

Five Tips for Making a Colour Blocked Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

If you’re making the Zadie dress, we’ve created cutting layouts and fabric requirements for colour blocking – download them at the bottom of this page.

I hope you have fun planning out your dress designs. I’d love to know what colours or prints you’re putting together, and other combinations that you think look nice. Do share in the comments! You can also take a picture and share with us on Instagram @TillyButtons using the hashtag #SewingZadie. Can't wait to see!

15 comments:

  1. Thank you for the great tips, and colouring sheets. I was lucky enough to get the Navy and stripes fabric pack. Looking forward to the sewalong.

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  2. I'm glad I saw this post! I didn't realize the Zadie had pockets. It looks like a much sleeker version of a dress I have been making from a pattern from an old dress. Gotta learn to sew with knit fabrics. :|

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    1. You can do it! Join in with the sew-along for lots of hand-holding!

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  3. This is a fabulous pattern and the very 90's looking color blocking is what won me over and had me purchase it right away. Any chance you might include these color blocking guides in future print outs of the pattern? Today I had the most frustrating time when I couldn't get my phone to visit your blog, but I didn't have the breakdown in the pattern. There was nothing at my LYS either printed out and handy for shoppers.

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    1. That sounds very frustrating, but great idea, thank you!

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  4. I am currently working through the red, navy and strip kit that I managed to get. Loving it. Really want to try some more colour blocking of my own afterwards. I have a load of Panne Velvet which is very stretch and I have made a lovely skirt from before. Would it work well with this pattern? My instincts say it should. It would make a really special dress I think in this fabric even if its in one shade.

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    1. Gah! That sounds beautiful - I think that would work really nicely!

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    2. I finished the kit Monday night ready for valentines day! Definitely going to try in the panne velvet. When my husband let's me near my sewing machine again. Apparently I spend to much time on it. But between sewing and washing up I prefer sewing!

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  5. This looks great! However, I would like to eliminate the pleats - any suggestions on how to do that?

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    1. I am also concerned that the pleats might make my middle look bigger than it is so was wondering about eliminating the pleats as well so any suggestions would be appreciated.

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    2. Hi Mama P. and Rainbow Bright! To remove the pleats from the waist seam you would need to cut a triangle from the 'Place on fold' line. The tip of the triangle would sit at the hem, and the base at the waist seam, the width of the base being the width of the tucks added together. It's certainly possible just requires a bit of measuring and cutting! Good luck :)

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  6. These are so helpful! I was going to just do a single fabric Zadie but now I'm inspired to maybe give the colorblocking a try.

    I have a stripey double knit fabric I love and I was thinking of running the stripes the opposite direction (vertically) for the side panels and cap sleeves but there is much less stretch that way and it's opposite the grainline. Possibly a dreadful mistake, huh? The fabric has a different design on the "back" so maybe I should just use that instead, to maintain the stretch in the proper direction for those areas.

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    1. So glad this post has inspired you! I love the idea but I think you're right - you really need the stretch in the fabric so you can move your arms, stretch it over your curves, maybe use an (on-grain!) contrast pattern :)

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    2. Yep- I've been worrying and worrying and even though there's a lot of stretch in the material for the front & back bodices and rear side panels, I'm not going to chance it. :)

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