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Mix global fabrics for hard-to-resist looks

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Cindy Cragg, Powell Slaughter -- Casual Living, January 1, 2009

It's been said that, throughout history, textiles have mimicked the day's social and economic climate. With tight times, many are turning their attention closer to home to enjoy all their living spaces — indoors and out. A trend that started several years ago is now truly a phenomenon with comfortable and stylish outdoor living spaces all the rage.

As savvy consumers bring their own personal touch to their outdoor spaces, we've seen a complete transformation of outdoor fabrics, also known as performance fabrics, into "super" fabrics that offer great style and design. Gone are the thick, bulky outdoor fabrics only "fashionable" as a tent for your son's Boy Scout troop. Today, the many uses of these soft, almost luxurious, and vibrant textiles are being shouted from the virtual rooftops of designer blogs from coast to coast. So, I say let's take it one step further. This spring combine not one, but two of the hottest trends — ikat and resist-dye prints and performance fabrics.

A great marriage of color and texture, ikat fabrics have made a big resurgence in popular fashion. From runway dresses to purses to serveware, I love the hot new ways this eclectic print is being used. A truly global fabric, ikats are created by dyeing tightly bound string bundles before the threads are woven to create a pattern or design. Isn't it amazing that a process considered to be the first type of textile printing, dating back to 5th century B.C., can still be so vogue? During the 18th century's Age of Exploration, stylish colonists coveted these unique fabrics. Perhaps we still love these prints today because of the way they evoke the feeling of far-away places. With ikat there is an exotic quality that is still decidedly organic, adding texture to a more traditional environment or a soft earthy touch to a modern one.

Another great option, printed fabrics inspired by resist-dye methods are back in style and offer yet another great fabric choice. A casual look that incorporates a mixture of subtle texture makes the resist-printed fabric right at home in an outdoor living area.

Resist is a general term that refers to printing using a dye-resistant substance, usually a wax or paste, to create a design. After dying the cloth, the white areas that are left when the wax or paste is removed creates the pattern. In the 18th century, this method was commonly used with indigo, the most readily available dye of the era. Botanical resist fabrics mix and match quite nicely with solids and stripes, providing a look that perfectly rounds out the heavier, more masculine edges of many outdoor furniture pieces.

What not try these prints for an eye-catching accent piece? As trends lean toward making small changes that have big results without a big price tag, ottomans are getting a lot of attention in the decorating world. The spectrum of colors often characteristic of ikat and resist prints lends itself nicely to a room that already has an established color scheme but needs a little spice. Or, for those "colorphobes" out there, throw pillows are the safest way to infuse a bit of something new without making the full commitment. Warning: You're going to like it and want more, but start with baby steps if you must.

Printed fabrics tell a story about one's personal style. Whether it's an indoor or outdoor space you're planning, these prints can add an exotic quality that reflects a feeling of aesthetic adventure. Thanks to the latest fabric technology, these great fabrics can be multitasked for any room of the house and, in most cases, can withstand the rigors of kids and pets like a champion. For this upcoming season, incorporate the best of fashion and function when thinking about your outdoor living space. Go ahead, just try to resist.

As home stylist for Williamsburg, the lifestyle brand of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Cindy Cragg shares her background in visual merchandising and design through national TV appearances, two DVDs, numerous magazine and newspaper articles. For more,

Williamsburg Everard Damask Collection from Waverly

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