One of the things that distinguishes home decorating fabric from quilt weight or dress weight fabric is the scale of the designs. While some of the fabrics might have a small tight design, home decorating fabric is often of larger scale.
Patterns are developed with the idea of how it will be used. In a small area, or on a small chair, one might want a small scale pattern. A small scale pattern, even if bright, can add a cozy feel to a room. On the other hand, perhaps you want to make a statement and want a large pattern.. the choices are endless!
About 15 years ago furniture began to get larger in size. It was the time when people were trying to outdo each other in size of houses, lavish parties, etc. Size was equated with wealth and power. The fabric industry rose to this challenge by making fabrics with huge scale patterns, many with very large repeats.
But fabrics with a large scale and long repeats mean, if you wanted your sofa cushions or chair cushions to be uniform, you have to buy a lot of fabric to get the same motif to match across the sofa front and back. It means there will be a lot of waste. A large scale pattern, with a short repeat is much more cost effective for a person.
One of the things we do is look at the fabric when it comes in. How is the pattern laid out? How should it be cut so that people get the full repeat? We try to make certain a cut has all design elements, and are placed so the sewer can use them all. Some of the fabrics we have have repeats of 80″.
Some of the fabrics can have a repeat of nearly 80″. That means to get the repeat centered, without waste, it has to be cut in four yard increments, so that the next cut is the same.
The ikat below has a large scale, but a short repeat of 30″, making it easy for the decorator to get a uniform look, with little waste.
Having the right scale for the use of the fabric is important. I recently saw the Schumacher Ming Dragon fabric used on a wing chair. It looked horrible. Here was this fabulous print, with the dragon, which takes up over half of the width of the fabric, squished onto the back and sides of a chair. It just was the wrong way to use the fabric! A much better use would have been curtains, to show the flow of the fabric, or large cushions for a couch!
A normal dining room chair without arms is about 17″ deep, and about 20″ at the widest part. I loosely wrapped two different fabrics over a chair cushion. They have similar designs, but the scale is very different.
The aqua ocean fabric has a central medalion that is about 12″ by 8 1/2″, measuring across the white part of the medalion. It fits well on the cushion, and other parts of the pattern are visible.
A new pattern came in, and is very close in feel to the old seashell medalion. But the scale is very different. And for many applications, 15 1/4″ across by 14 1/2″ down, might be just too large.
Even if the larger design works well, think about the feel of the patterns. Though the older aqua pattern is a lot busier, on a chair the feel is lighter. The new pattern, though simpler and cleaner, on a chair is heavier, with the large heavy shells, the chunky coral, and heavy outlining of the coral with the darkest color tone.
On the other hand the new shell might be fabulous as curtains, with a clean look that carries well across a room, versus the more busy pattern of the older shell.
These are things one needs to think about when looking at different designs. Scale, how busy the pattern, how heavy the lines of the design, all contribute to the look and feel of a pattern, which then translates into the look and feel of the room in which they are used.