I’ve been dreading this blog post because it means we’ve come to the end of my Principles of Fabric Selection series. But I know many of you have been waiting to hear what I have to say on this topic, so here we go.
Juvenile prints are a subset of the larger print category known as conversational prints, or prints with pictures in them. They are intended to appeal to a young person and often feature animals or toys. Juvenile prints are cute and appealing and seem to be frequently used by home seamstresses, maybe because they are so different from prints typically found in ready-made clothing.
I like juvenile prints. I just don’t like them to be very juvenile. I like little robots and flowers and animals and things as long as there’s some degree of sophistication to them. (There’s that word–sophisticated–again.)
The Japanese fabric companies seem to handle this well. They print on unbleached linen or on a solid background. The prints are small and spare with lots of empty space around the images. And in general the prints aren’t powder pink, baby blue, or filled with loads of vibrant primary colors that compete with each other for your attention.
I also like Heather Ross’s designs (disclosure: Heather is a friend in addition to being a talented illustrator and designer) because although they’re filled with brilliant colors, the palettes are sophisticated (i.e., not just primary colors) and the images are a little quirky rather than being saccharine sweet. Just like Heather. (Just kidding, Heather. Or maybe you would take that as a compliment….)
So let’s say you fall in love with a particular juvenile print and really want to use it. What’s the best way to sew clothing that doesn’t overpower the child or overwhelm the viewer? Well, all those other principles of fabric selection we’ve already discussed can help. You might pick a solid or neutral color to pair with the print to help tone it down a bit, or find a small supporting print from another fabric collection that enhances it. Here are a few examples from the Oliver + S Flickr group that I thought handled juvenile prints especially well.
This owl print is used in just a small quantity and, paired with the gray solid, provides a nice touch of whimsy that doesn’t overpower.
Heather’s matryoshka dolls are cute on a brown ground, and I love the black and white gingham ribbon at the hem of this Lazy Days skirt. Very sophisticated.
While this Japanese print might otherwise overwhelm, I think this dress is successful because there is plenty of white space around around the characters, and the white bib with elegant brown buttons helps to frame her darling little face. (Note that this print definitely works best on younger children like this little sweetie!)
Here is another Japanese print that’s been paired with a red and white gingham for great effect. Cute, right?
This is a subtle juvenile print on an unbleached linen/cotton ground. (Oh, those fabulous Japanese fabric companies!) I love how this one is paired with a subtle neutral-patterned print on top, and the red piping and buttons give this Tea Party Playsuit its pop of color while tying the prints together. It’s very successful.
Using this Heather Ross print for the entire dress would not have occurred to me, and I think it’s especially successful because of the solid piping. I really love this one.
This preppy whale print verges on overwhelming, but the small size of the skirt combined with the ric-rac trimmed gingham pockets somehow rescues it, and I love it for that. This is such a fun summer skirt that could be worn with a simple white top and red sandals.
I really like how the dark red yoke of this Tea Party Sundress picks up the tiny bits of red in the print.
The playful elephant print looks great because it’s limited to two colors. I like the combination of a fun print with the more grown-up Sunday Brunch jacket.
And by the way, this principle does not apply to PJs. When it comes to sleepwear, anything goes!