Top Ten Tips For Colour Inspiration

Colour CollageLong term readers know that I’m not afraid to use colour in my sewing. (Too much red?!) But do you embrace colour in the same way?

If you want to be edged out of your comfort zone, do a bit of blue sky thinking. What colours inspire you, lift your mood, make you smile or leave you staring in a good way?

Here are my Top Ten Tips For Colour Inspiration!

Tatler magazine

1. Magazines. Whenever I visit the hairdresser, I grab a copy of Vogue and settle back. This is my version of a mood board. I like analysing the photography and colour palettes to see what’s likely to cascade down to the fabric stall in a few weeks’ time.

Red Letterbox

And when I step outside of the hairdressers, what colours do I see? Which ones make me smile? These colours can come from…

2. The Natural World

natural world


3. An Urban Environment

kings cross

urban environment

4. The Kitchen – though this might make you feel a bit hungry.


poached egg iii

5. Childhood. This is fun! What did you love wearing as a kid? Oh look, more red!

Karen In France

6. Pinstagram. By which, I mean social media in all its incarnations. I find this a constant source of inspiration and particularly an inspiration to buy. I LOVE how fabric suppliers can share new stock on Instagram and I don’t mind being sold to at all!

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 16.31.13

7. Sewing pattern illustrations. How many times have you found yourself copying the colour of a dress as illustrated by the pattern maker? Yup! Still, who cares? If this steers you away from the familiar and safe…

vintage day dress patterns

8. Handling Fabric. Just seeing a whole range of colours and prints on display and available to stroke, can set off lightbulbs in your head. Follow the light. Indulge that knee jerk reaction!

Amsterdam Fabric Stall

9. Other Creatives. Every time I meet up with other makers, I go home inspired – and most often by unexpected fabric choices that I would never have considered. Oh, and meeting up is totally fun!

sewing meet up 2016

meeting other makers

10. Sewalongs. Joining in with a community sewing challenge is a really excellent way of stepping outside of your comfort zone and could be your opportunity to embrace new colours. I used the Dolly Clackett Sewalong to explore the unfamiliar (to me) territory of pink…


So, that’s a real smorgasbord of colour. You may still be scratching your head and staring at your hastily gathered Jackson Pollock collection of fabric. Curating colour is the next step, and that deserves its own blog post. (One I’m not entirely sure I have the insight to write.)

In the meantime, do you have any of your own tips for colour inspiration? It’s a bright world out there. Nothing to be afraid of at all!

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26 Responses to Top Ten Tips For Colour Inspiration

  1. Cherry says:

    Ah, the natural world. I have a vivid memory years ago of standing on a Norfolk beach staring straight ahead into the horizon – the sky, the sea, the sand. Three stripes of subtle colour. My daughter unexpected said, ‘now that would make a nice jumper’!

  2. Colleen says:

    Novels often inspire mental mood boards for me, though generally at the more muted end of the palette- think Jane Eyre grey or brown for example. And paintings too where you see combinations of colour or shapes you may not have considered.

  3. dr P says:

    I love Jane eyre! And now I think of it, it’s packed with colour inspiration!
    I’d never thought of using a novel as inspiration so thanks Colleen!

  4. Linda says:

    In an art class, the professor gave us an assignment to pick three colors we didn’t like and combine them in a design that was pleasing When my color palette needs a shake-up, I find myself doing the same exercise with fabric .

  5. Lorna says:

    Thank you for a thought and idea provoking post Karen. I have been learning about the colour wheel theory in a sewing class recently so have been thinking more about colour. With the natural world being a source of inspiration I noticed how a heather in my garden is a very similar colour to a top I have just finished knitting! You have inspired me to go and take a piccie of it! 😀

  6. Jacana says:

    You look great in the pink ‘Dolly Clackett’ inspired dress I think the colour suits you. The word ‘Pink’ is a relatively modern invention; it was considered to be just a lighter shade of Red in the olden days. I think you should try it more often and just think of it as a different shade of Red. Interior design magazines can also suggest great colour combos that might not be immediately obvious.

  7. Pingback: My first knitted garment – The Rowan ‘Cookie’ cap sleeve top | All about the sew

  8. JennyS says:

    Sitting in the dentist waiting room a couple of weeks ago, staring at the large Pre Raphaelite print on the wall of a maiden lounging on a marble bench in a draped dress I thought “mmmh, I wonder where I can get some pale orange chiffon …..”. Then I looked out at the grey East Yorkshire sky and realised it just would not suit me! Inspiration from art must run in the family; my twin sister makes a trip to the Laing art gallery in Newcastle every time she’s in that area to get her fabric fix from the sumptuous embroidery and drapes in Holman Hunt’s “Isabella and the Pot of Basil”.

  9. Steph says:

    This is such an interesting post. I love and am attracted to colour, but in the real world of dressing I am more limited. First because my colouring is too muted to carry much bright colour and second because in my workplace a grey suit would be considered adventurous! To add a third, I have been influenced by my classic, Italian boyfriend. In Florence a couple of years ago I was attracted to a butter yellow dress in a store window. I went in to buy the dress but he and the store clerk pursuaded me to buy the navy blue one, stating, “That one is for tourists. Very few if any Italians would buy that one.” It’s not that I can’t wear what I want (I do) and he loves me whatever I wear, but it’s tough not to be swayed by their generally classic chic.

    Agree with another commenter that that mid-pink really suits you.

    • This really surprised me! I always look forward to Milan Fashion Week because of the bold colours and prints, I always thought of Italy as much more ‘jazzy’ than London and NY in terms of fashion, with a similar timelessness to Paris. I rarely pay much attention to my colouring and go for what makes me feel happier 🙂

      • Steph says:

        I know exactly what you mean. There is a contradiction there that I see as well. I think that many Italians are like Parisians though and go for investment dressing, which generally means more classic colour palettes. Not everyone has a large budget, particularly these days, and so choices are made carefully. Seasonal stuff and accessories can add colour. I do notice that they will wear more colour in summer. Even my boyfriend has a red polo shirt! I know Florence best though, not Milan.

        In terms of going for a colour palette that is muted…I look better when I wear more muted clouds, so that is an incentive!

    • So, in theory, I hugely admire the classic colours. Someone I’ve always loved for her style never strays beyond navy, grey, cream. But then someone else suggested that this was just a corporate uniform, and now I have a little more hesitation around fully engaging with these colours. I think they’re sensible (and stylish) to have in your wardrobe – but maybe not exclusively?

  10. Much like you, my heart yearns for pinks and oranges every time I make something (I ain’t afraid of colour) so I could surely use that natural world inspiration for some gorgeous blues and greens!

  11. Fellow colour adorer here! You drew me right in with your fabulous collage today!

    Home decor magazines always give me so much colour inspiration. For some reason, I find it much easier to visualize drapery as a dress than seeing a dress modeled in Vogue, LOL. {I can’t imagine what that says about me, hahaha}

  12. LinB says:

    My philosophy of choosing what to wear runs along the lines of “If you can’t be bright, you can at least dress brightly.” Also, if my mother says something to me like, “Oh no! I would never wear those colors together,” I immediately decide to wear those colors together. (I am 57 years old, she is 78 years old. Rebellion against one’s parental units is not something out of which one grows. At least, not yet.)

    • Oh, this make me laugh a lot! Whenever I posit a pale colour my mum always says, ‘But it will be a nightmare to launder.’ And sometimes I think, ‘I can take that. I don’t mind carefully washing something that I think is wonderful.’ I don’t think we’ll ever stop having that conversation – or at least imaginary conversation, because obviously I’d never answer back to my mum. *wavestomumincaseshesreadingthis*

  13. Dianne says:

    I love colour too and you choose some fantastic fabrics. I always find my problem is that I make something in a wild print and then think right what will I wear that with? So I have to make something to go with it. I know I should plan better but sewing is about embracing the fabrics we love so I don’t give it too much worry. Great post. xx

  14. esewing says:

    Great post – I think we all gravitate towards certain colours , your post has made me think , galleries are a great way to see colour combinations and I certainly use pinstagram for design and ideas so need to pay more attention to colours there too.

  15. Jan says:

    I love the bright colours of Indian saris. I was mesmerised by them in Indian Summers – love the block colours.

    What breed is your lovely dog?


  16. lynn says:

    I know I’m late in commenting, but you look FABULOUS in that pink dress. It’s the perfect shade for your complexion and hair. I definitely think you need to make a few more pieces in the same color!

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