Color Blocking and Mixed-Pattern knit tees and dresses

by Christine Jonson

Color blocking can be a fun and easy way to use color and add a bit of illusion to your figure. There are endless ways to split a pattern for such effects. The on is simple and has such a great shape that color blocking is a natural with this pattern. Use a 100% stretch knit for this project. Serging makes it super easy. The Cotton/LYCRA or Rayon/LYCRA knits will be perfect.

A few of the looks you can accomplish with color blocking are:

  • Minimizing a large bust
  • Maximizing a small bust
  • Narrowing your waist
  • Lengthening or shortening your torso
  • Lengthening or shortening your arms
  • Narrowing your hips


You can use straight or angled lines or a combination.

Start by making simple sketches on paper, keeping in mind the effects you are after.



Once you have your ideas sketched make a muslin.

Cut your muslin in a solid dark fabric and lightly chalk the lines while you are wearing it. Stand back from the mirror and decide if the lines are flattering. You can brush off the chalk and try another line. Keep moving the lines until you like the look then transfer them to your pattern. The lines will give you a good idea of the proportion, but if you need to see the colors as well, pin fabric on the muslin to help you visualize.

You have to be careful that the lines you add are exactly in the right place based on your figure and the fabric that you are using. If your fabric has a lot of drape, the weight will pull the seamlines down so you need to raise them to allow for this. The slash on the A Line Dress is a good example. In slinky fabric the slash lays much lower than in cotton/LYCRA. The placement and angle of slash determines if it is flattering or not. I spent hours making samples of this dress pattern before I was happy with the slash placement. Diagonal blocking on a dress is a bit harder than on a top. The only way to get the lines in the exact right place for you is to use your eyes. Moving the line a half-inch can make all the difference. You will be amazed at how easy it is to “see” it when it is right.

Begin by tracing your tissue pattern piece on paper. If the pattern is on a fold, be sure to cut the whole pattern piece. Work with the pattern pieces right side up. Then lay your ruler on the pattern and draw your new cutting/blocking lines. Draw notches on each pattern piece and number the pieces on the right side. Keep in mind that if you flip the pieces the blocking will be opposite. Mark grain lines on all pieces. Next cut out the paper pattern pieces and add your seam allowance. Now you are ready to choose your colors. Deciding on the right color combination is important. Using the color wheel is a good place to start. The darker colors will minimize.

Here are some color blocking combination ideas:

  • Red and Pink
  • Bright Yellow and Bright Lilac
  • Red and Red Orange
  • Vivid Blue and Black
  • Medium Blue and a cool neutral
  • Aubergine and Deep Green
  • Black and Pale Yellow
  • Medium Gray and Blue Violet
  • Black and Gray
  • White and your favorite color
  • Black and your favorite color

It is not necessary to color block the back of your tee. Choose one of the front colors for the back piece. Give some thought to the sleeve color. I usually use the same for the back and the sleeves but you can be more creative! Cut out the pieces in your fabric being sure to cut on the right side with the pattern pieces up. Serge your pieces together. Try on your tee and look carefully to see that your lines and colors are flattering. Another nice detail is to make piping for between the colors.

Mixed Print and Patterns:

The key to harmonious print mixing is to find a common color. You CAN mix a print and a stripe if you find a common accent color between the two that works, and you anchor it with a solid color for both.

The Raglan Tee from Travel Trio Three is perfect for this: We have two sleeves, a front and back and a neckband.

  • Stripe sleeve with a floral print front/back and a solid banded neckline
  • Striped body with a floral sleeve and a solid banded neckline
  • Small geometric print body with a striped sleeve and solid banded neckline
  • Solid body with striped sleeve and geometric or floral print banded neckline
  • Upcycled event/concert tee body with striped sleeves and solid neckband
  • Print body with plaid sleeve and solid neckband