Fabric scale refers to the size of the design on the fabric. Solid colored fabric has no scale because there is no design on it. Calico fabric usually has a small scale pattern. Most decorator prints are larger in scale.
Quilters usually consider the scale of the fabric pattern when choosing material for a quilt. Small fabric scale prints work best in small pieces. Larger pieces will show off your large scale prints.
Learn how to determine the scale of the fabric’s pattern. Quilters must think about the fabric’s scale when choosing material for quilt projects.
NOTE: to enlarge the video, click the PLAY button, then click the full-screen icon at the bottom right of the video.
TRANSCRIPT: Fabric Scale
Scale refers to the size of the print on the fabric. I have three examples here. This is a small scale, medium scale, and a large scale. Of course, the scale is all relative to what fabric patterns you have in your quilt. So you might have this medium scale print in your quilt with a number of these small scale prints. Well, in that quilt then this one would be the large scale print.
A good way to help you sort this all out is to measure the pattern repeat. So if I look in this first fabric, I see that the pattern repeats about every ½ (half) inch. So I’m going to put this here to remind me that this is a ½ (half) inch repeat. If I look in this second fabric, I see that the pattern repeats, I’m going to use this as an example, I’m going to measure from one of those vines to the other one; it’s about four inches. So this repeat is about four inches. And this last fabric it repeats ten inches; I didn’t cut quite a big enough piece for that. But this flower here, I can find it in the fabric, and ten inches over I can find another one just like it.
So if I’m cutting out pieces and I’ve got pieces in my quilt that are two inch squares then this pattern that repeats every ½ (half) inch, I’m going to see that pattern throughout my little square. On this repeat, it’s every four inches, so a two inch square I’m just going to pick up part of that pattern. And in this one, also, I’m only going to pick up part of the pattern. These squares are five inches so in this pattern, it repeats every four inches, I’m going to get the whole pattern, I’m going to get the whole pattern here, but I’m still only going to pick up part of the pattern. And then in the final squares here, these squares are about eight inches big and I’m going to not pick up the whole pattern here but I’m going to have a pretty good idea of what that looks like.
There are no rules that say you can’t cut up a large scale print into a small piece, it’s just going to give you a different look when you cut those pieces up. For example, in this piece you don’t see very much of this burgundy, so you would have to maybe fussy cut to get that color into your quilt.
It’s also okay to use small scale prints in these larger spaces, it’ll give texture to a block this size.