How to colorblock any pattern!

Did you know it’s actually super easy to create all those cool color block effects you see on Pinterest and with high end tops? Color blocking is when two or more complementary or contrasting pieces of fabric are used to create a finished garment. This could simply be that the sleeves of your top are a different color than your bodice. Or it could be that the front of your top is comprised of two or three different types of fabric sewn together to create the front of the top. I have a few sewing patterns in my collection that come with color block options, so the pieces are already separate for you and ready to be sewn together. And those are great, I use them all the time. But I also have a few great fitting patterns where I’d like to create my own options to mix things up a little bit. Today I will share my process with you, and give you a few important tips to ensure you have a good outcome. 🙂

Here is my newest color blocked top, the Hannah pattern from Sonia Estep designs. I used pieces of sweater knit scraps from my scrap pile – by the way, color blocking is a fantastic way to use up scraps! Once you learn how simple color blocking is to achieve in a garment, you have endless options in one pattern. So let me take you through the simple process of altering a pattern piece for color blocking.

The first step is to retrace the pattern piece you are going to alter onto a separate piece of paper. This is really important because you’re going to cut up the pattern piece and I’m assuming you don’t want to cut up your original. For the purposes of this tutorial, I created a small faux bodice front so what you are looking at is not any particular pattern. By the way, since most front bodice pieces are meant to be cut on the fold, you will need to mirror your bodice piece so that you have a full front, not a half front.

Next, using a dark marker, draw the lines where you intend to break up the pattern into different colors. I suggest using a pencil to do this first to make sure you are happy with the design.

This next step is probably the most important step to ensure a good outcome. It is critically important that you follow the grain line or direction of stretch when you position your new pattern pieces on the fabric. Typically the direction of stretch is opposite to the grain line. Since I’m making a knit top, I actually noted the direction of stretch to best help me position my pattern pieces on the fabric. The key point is you don’t want to position them in random order on the fabric. If you do, your top is going to be all wonky and hang funny.

This next step is optional, but I find it really helpful when trying to put all the puzzle pieces back together when I assemble the pattern. Adjacent to the lines where you will be cutting up the pattern, add matching letters or symbols to the pieces.

Now you are ready to deconstruct your piece. Using a scissor or rotary cutter, cut apart the pattern piece on your lines.

This next step is also optional, but if you skip it, it’s important to remember that when you cut out your new pieces, you have to add seam allowance where you will be re-assembling the pattern. I’m lazy and I don’t do this. I just sort of eyeball it when I’m cutting the fabric and add an extra quarter inch to the sides where I will be reconstructing the pattern.

Here is another trick that will help you put the pieces back together quickly. My color blocking has three pieces coming together, so I selected sets of three different colored clips.

Now you’re ready to cut out your fabric! Remember to use those arrows and keep those pieces all going in the same direction. If you drew arrows for the grain line, they should line up to the grain line. If you use direction of stretch, they should align to the greatest direction of stretch.

To make things easier for myself, as I am cutting out the fabric, I attach matching colored clips to the parts on the fabric that correspond to where I labeled the letters on the pattern pieces. This allows me to very quickly match up the pattern pieces when I’m ready to sew them together. I just aligned the colored clips together and re-clip the fabric.

The hardest part is done! Matching up your fabric edges and clips if you use them, so together all of your fabric pieces to create your larger finished fabric piece, in my case the front bodice. Be sure to press all your seams, and I also find it really helpful to improve the finished product if I topstitch down all those seams.

And that’s it! In this example, I color blocked the front bodice. I decided to leave the back bodice plain and I didn’t do anything special to the sleeves. I did cut out my back bodice using another sweater knit scrap so it’s a different but complementary color to the front. I find a little color blocking goes a long way, so maybe start small and see how you like it. Here are a few more pictures of my finished product:

You can get the Hannah pattern here:

I hope you found this tutorial helpful. Happy color blocking!! And thanks for stopping by!

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