When it comes to matching fabric to patterns the only expert is you.
Whether you start with the pattern first and look for fabric to match, or you begin with that perfect length of cloth and you're searching for the perfect pattern, you have to work out what YOU like, the characteristics of your cloth and then try to find that match made in heaven.
If you buy your cloth first think about these points;
Is Your Cloth Patterned or Plain?
If it's patterned, is the design printed or woven? Is it a painterly floral, a ditsy print, a novelty print, a check or a geometric design? Is it contemporary or vintage in feel? Does it have many colours or just two or three? Is the pattern large scale or small?
Go take a look on Pinterest or Instagram for some patterned fabrics similar to yours and see what people have made. Or look to your favourite designer for inspiration. What do their fabrics have in common? There is a whole world of difference between the sweet, vintage vibe of Cath Kidston and the sleek contemporary vibe of Max Mara. Or between the cute dresses of pattern-maker Christine Haynes and the cool silhouette of Emily from In The Folds. Where do you fit? Does your fabric and your style sit more happily in either camp.
Do you like to wear an all-over print or do you like to keep your print as an accent? Would you go print and colour crazy like the wonderful Katie Kortman or would you prefer to restrict your print to a top or a bottom and keep the other part plain? Or go monochrome and keep it tonal? Have a look at the fabulous hashtag #dresslikeacrayon.
Once you've had a good look and a think and figured out what type of garment you think you want to make, think about the characteristics of your cloth.
How Does Your Cloth Behave?
Does it have weight? Structure? A dense weave? An open weave? How does it drape? Does it gather well? How do those gathers behave? Is it fluid and floaty when you waft it or does it stay where it is. Does it react to a breeze? Is it transparent or opaque?
Once you've figured this out, go to Pinterest or Instagram again and see what others have made in the type of fabric you have. If you have a lightweight linen, you'll see a lot of floaty, summer inspired garments, some with gathers but some garments with structure too. If you have a ditsy printed rayon, you'll also see floaty garments with gathers, but the overall style of the garments will likely be very different. If you have a heavier weight denim, the likelihood is that the garments you see will be more structured: 'A' line dresses, pinafores, jeans, chore jackets, dungarees.
Is your sewing skill-set beginner, intermediate or advanced? Do you want a formal garment with welt pockets and bound buttonholes or do you want something simpler like a throw-on kaftan with no fastenings?
Once you've narrowed it down to some options and you have a pattern in mind, have a look at the pattern hashtag and see what fabric other sewists have used to make the pattern. A Wilder Gown from Friday Pattern Company looks very different in a rayon print and a plain linen but both are equally beautiful. A Merchant & Mills pinafore would look and behave very differently in a rayon print and a Japanese denim.
Think also about what goes underneath. Will your underwear show through your chosen fabric? Is Your pattern fitted or loose? Will you be able to layer it? Does it work across seasons or is it for holiday? Special occasion or gym? And most importantly, does the pattern come in your size?
If you have your pattern first...
Go through the same process. Look at the pattern hashtag, think about colour and print. How is this pattern going to work with your style, your personality and your preferences. You may not like to wear wool. You may never have tried to sew with rayon or linen. Is it for work, leisure or an event. Take a look at the fabric recommendations on the pattern information and look at the pattern envelope to see what the designer has used. If the pattern designer says the garment needs a structured fabric, they usually mean that it wouldn't look its best in, say a floaty silk crepe.
All these are just options to consider.
Keep a Pinterest board of your inspiration, save Instagram posts into different folders for reference and if you're into Trello, make a board there too. Put all the likely contenders up so you can refer to them while making up your mind.
And remember. It's just fabric. What's the worst that can happen?