Design your colours

Colours can build narratives, they do modernise shapes and materials, and can convey value messages too.

Colours in a dress always represent a core element: from a fashion designer point of view they can be inspirational or, on the contrary, may result distracting.

Fabric design: how to match colours armonically

We all have some favourite colours, but what if we have to match three or more? Fabric designers have two possible solutions to this dilemma:

  • creating a palette starting by choosing a material source
  • using Color Theory principles

Source materials

The easiest thing to do is to “scan” source materials to find the best colours for our project.

Source material can be anything:

  • natural sources (a flower or a landscape, for example)
  • whatever (photographs, artworks, products packaging, fabric or paint samples, etc..)

You can keep a colour journal where to gather and store clippings of colour and colour combinations.

Often, colours borrowed from nature are insufficient, so a basic understanding of Colour Theory can help expanding and (or) adjusting the original palette.

Colours Theory

The Colour Wheel features twelve colours.

Basic Colour-Wheel

The primary colours (red, blue, yellow) are arranged equidistant from one another.

The spaces between them are filled with secondary colours (green, orange, violet) which are resulting from mixing equal proportions of two primary colours.

Six tertiary colours result from mixing equal proportions of a primary colour and a secondary colour (yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, yellow-green).

In order to build the first colour schemes, ideal would be to use real paint: watercolors, acrylics or gouache (an opaque watercolor).

The twelve basic colours shown in the Colour Wheel are referred as hues.

We can easily alter these hues by adding white, black or gray producing tints, shades, and tones, respectively.

Tints are commonly referred to as pastels.

Colour Wheel definitions

Value refers to the darkness or lightness of a hue. Adding white or black gives a hue a lighter or darker value, respectively.

Saturation refers to the intensity of a hue. Adding white, black, or gray decreases the saturation.

Temperature refers to warm and cool colours. Reds, oranges, and yellows are considered the warm side; greens, blues, and violets are the cool side.

Color Wheel showing tints, hues, tones, and shades

In truth you may encounter different types of colour wheels based on different primary colours (for example: cyan, magenta, yellow), or on fewer or more colours, but similar principles underlie them all.

Basic Colour Schemes

Combining hues that lie in a logical relationship to one another on the Colour Wheel it is possibile to obtain harmonious colour schemes.

  • Monochromatic: tints, shadows, and tones of a single hue.
  • Complement: two hues that lie across from each other on the Colour Wheel.
  • Near complement: one hue in combination with the neighbor of its complement.
  • Split complement: one hue in combination with the hues on either side of its complement.
  • Triad: a combination of three hues spaced evenly on the Colour Wheel.
  • Tetrad: a combination of four hues spaced evenly on the Colour Wheel.
  • Rectangular tetrad: a pair of complements together with the hues two spots over.
  • Analogous: three or more hues that are adjacent on the Colour Wheel.
  • Analogous complement: three analogous hues together with the complement of the center hue.

These schemes should be used as foundations, the point is how proportions are used in order to mix scheme colours.

You can try choosing one color from the basic scheme as main colour, and add just a tiny speck to each of the other colours in the scheme.

You can further extend the scheme by adding tints, shades, and tones of the basic hues and the mixtures thereof.


Zero waste, step by step

Zero waste fashion refers to sustainable items of clothing that generate little or no textile waste in their production.

Garments we usually wear are cut in a way that it may result in very specific pattern shapes. These pattern shapes restrict their reuse unless they are quite large or are remade from components of other garments.

“Zero waste” is therefore a sustainable approach to pattern cutting, that is to say, creating patterns that use all the available cloth when cutting a garment.

A distinguished model

Madame Vionnet (1876-1975) cut her garments using simple geometric shapes – mainly squares and rectangles – for the benefit of drape.

Nowadays this could be considered a sustainable practice as the fabric shapes could be reused for other garments.

Geometry in pattern cutting: a Seamly2d tutorial

Seamly2D is a free and opensource patternmaking program for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It allows independent patternmakers and designers to profitably scale their small batch clothing production.

In this video, my Creative Assistant shows how to obtain a zero waste pattern starting from drawing a simple square.


Seamly2D, user manual

(Hightlight image by zolilukacs01 from Pixabay)

(Big Bag!) Design: history, materials, models

Big Bag! Design (un universo in espansione)

What was the first model of bag in history?

Probably similar to a leather saddlebag, for centuries it substantially did not change in shape and was carried hanging on belt or neck by means of ribbons.

In the Middle Ages, the power of châtelaine was symbolized by the keys hanging on her belt. From this use was derived a particular form of bag, called châtelaine, which remained in use for several centuries.

From small bags (Italian scarsella, in French aumônière, was used by pilgrims) will then derive all evening handbags. Particularly at the beginning of the 20th Century, with the return of adherent clothes and the abolition of pockets, was born handbags fashion: these bags were in leather or wire mesh, with metal clasps and short handles or chains.

Sometimes handbags reached such a small size to be translated into “finger handbags”, made of silver mesh.

Larger bags have always adapted to day fashion, specializing their function with changing costumes.

In particular, in the 19th Century, with the spread of travels, was born the need for a robust leather briefcase, with handles, locks and compartments for papers and tickets.


Bags of the past were mostly in leather, but sometimes also in materials such as embroidered velvet, or embroidered silk with beads.

Among modern materials we find synthetic leather and suede, produced in different finishes, weights and colours. Synthetic skins have the advantage, besides being animal-friendly, not to present the typical imperfections of natural ones.

Other possibilities are offered by the most varied materials, which we find on many garments and jackets, or for furnishing: velvet, upholstery fabrics, canvas, jute, satin, silk, wool, rope, straw (natural or synthetic), etc.

Bag Design Notes

What are the silhouettes of the most popular and used models today?

Bucket bag

It is a type of shoulder bag in the shape of a bucket, with a wide opening at the top and an oval or rounded bottom, and a handle or shoulder strap.

An example of a bucket bag

Frame bag

A bag with a metallic insert for snap, knob or button closure. Very used for evening handbags.

An example of a model frame bag

Tote (shopper) bag

The carrying bag by definition, with medium-large dimensions, a wide opening at the top and two handles.

An example of a tote bag

Hobo bag

A shoulder bag in the shape of halfmoon. It usually has a top zip closure and a shoulder strap.

An example of a hobo model bag

Barrel bag

Cylindrical bag with zipper and one handle or two short handles.

An example of barrel model bag

Messenger bag

Originally designed for bike carriers (as a backpack alternative), it is a spacious, rectangular-shaped bag with a long adjustable shoulder strap to wear around the body. It can have both horizontal and vertical orientation.

An example of a messenger bag model

Clutch (pouchette / pochette) + Envelope (pouch)

This bag with small dimensions, sported between the hands (or between the arm and the body) of the wearer, does not possess any type of shoulder strap.

An example of bag model pouch

The bag (pictured) is a variant: the closure assumes exactly the shape of an envelope.

Wristlet (wrist bag)

A small handbag with a wrist handle. Similar to clutches in shape but not for size, it can also have a metallic closure.

A sample handbag model Wristlet

Shoulder bag + Crossbody

Shoulder bag was conceived in the early ’30s to allow women to have their hands free. It was a small to medium size bag. Today it can also be large and have shoulder handles (or a chain) too.

Crossbody bag is a variant of shoulder bags and has a long, often adjustable shoulder strap.

Historically crossbody bags were born as suitable bags for travellers and people who did a tiring job, like peasants.

When bags become a feminine accessory, women will prefer crossbody bags at any time they have wanted to emphasize the role of equality in society, as during suffragettes movement at the beginning of the 20th Century, or the feminist movement in the 60’s.

Drawstring bag

A bag with eyelets and cord closure at the top. This kind of bag can form a shoulder strap or provide for a separate one.

An example of a drawstring bag model


A bag with a double shoulder strap to wear on shoulders.

A prototype backpack bag

Satchel bag

Square or cupolform bag, with a wide and flat bottom, and two short handles. The bottom usually rests on metallic or plastic feets. It can have different sizes. It is one of the most current and revisited bag forms.

The typical form of a "bolide" bag

A curiosity: “Bolide” bag by Hermès, presented in 1923, will be the first zip-closure bag in history. The idea was born in 1916, when during a visit in the United States, he had observed the closure system of Cadillac convertibles.

Luggage Handle bag

An example of a bag model luggage bag

A bag with a stiff handle.