Take a break from your busy Monday routine to take a peek at 10 bright designs sure to add a little cheer and merriment to the start of your week!
Triangles Big New Colors designed by Bethan Janine
Take a break from your busy Monday routine to take a peek at 10 bright designs sure to add a little cheer and merriment to the start of your week!
Triangles Big New Colors designed by Bethan Janine
In honor of Black History Month here in the US, we've rounded up some of our favorite African-inspired textile designs created by the Spoonflower community. Enjoy this visual feast of pattern and color designed by artists all over the world, and see even more African-inspired fabrics in the Spoonflower marketplace!
One of our favorite things about the Spoonflower Marketplace is the variety of incredibly cool fabric you can find. Here's a selection of designs that celebrate the best meal of the day–breakfast!
I think these designs would make a fun collection of scrumptious napkins. What would you make out of your favorite food fabric?
Photographs can bring a meaningful touch to any DIY project, and PicMonkey is a free and easy way to prepare a photo for print. Check out this step by step tutorial for taking a photo and turning it into fabric to stitch up a pillow, tea towel, or your favorite sewing project!
Remember these amazing map throw pillows from Emma Jeffery's how-to? She created these gorgeous and personal cushions with Google satellite view images of the countryside near her home in England, and shared how to design your own one-of-a-kind treasure.
This January she's created a new map cushion tutorial, using the Google map view instead. In this how-to Emma created for the Fiskars blog, she teaches you how to prepare and upload your file to print at Spoonflower, and even how to sew up a neatly finished cushion with piping and an invisible zipper!
Use either of Emma's great step by step tutorials to create a pillow that celebrates your hometown, a great trip, or for a unique gift for a friend!
Homemaker magazine's Christmas issue includes a 2014 calendar featuring Spoonflower designers and their perfect-for-every-season fabric patterns! This UK-based magazine is full of creative ideas for beautiful living spaces, and you can dowload free templates for some of the festive projects featured in Issue 12, like the lovely papercut card on the cover. Congratulations to these fantastic designers selected by Homemaker magazine!
Spoonflower designers are on point with Pantone's 2014 Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid. We're lost in these orchid-influenced fabrics, wallpapers, and wrapping papers. Purple, traditionally the color of royalty, derives its name from the Greek πορφύρα (porphura), the name for Tyrian Purple, a dye made from the mucus of the spiny dye-murex snail! 2013's Emerald served as a symbol of growth, renewal and prosperity, and Pantone describes their purple pick for 2014 as “an enchanting harmony of fushia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health."
Visit our Radiant Orchid Pinterest board for more inspiration, prints & patterns in this fresh hue that are sure to bring you a color-filled new year.
In today's tutorial guest blogger Emma Jeffery of Hello Beautiful shares a sentimental gift idea just in time for the holiday season.
What do you give that favorite teacher, dedicated youth leader, fun soccer coach or loved band leader this Christmas? Why, a personalized, heartfelt tea towel, made with love and group collaboration, of course!
This month designer, sewing instructor, and fashion writer Jamie Lau visits the blog to share her journey start to finish from creating her own textile design to sewing up one of her beautiful dresses. In this series, she'll share fabric design ideas and garment sewing techniques that will inspire you to start stitching up your own handmade wardrobe!
Texture, color, and prints are all things I look for when sourcing fabric for my line of dresses. Ever since I started designing and sewing five years ago (and back then it was primarily reversible tote bags), I was always drawn to Japanese textiles-- both modern and traditional. This fall, I’m excited to delve into designing my own prints-- something I’ve been dreaming up for the collection for quite a while.
Fabric is usually the starting point for me when working on a new dress design, with much of my inspiration coming from Japanese aesthetics. I love mixing basic silhouettes with pops of color, or pairing unexpected prints together.
When looking for textile design inspiration, I immediately turned to my camera to begin the creative process and looked at the images I’ve amassed in the past few years. In my early 20s, I dabbled in photography and worked in a darkroom for a year in college, so in my approach to textile design I naturally tend to think in images and compositions.
I love to document everyday things that catch my eye, including pretty color combinations, textures, and everything from worn interiors with imperfections to nature and minimalist ceramics. A theme I’ve primarily been interested in in the past few years is natural, textured gradients found in nature, and colors and tones that shade into one another for an ombré effect.
I loved going to the paint store as a child because it meant that I could collect paint chips while my parents shopped. I still collect them to this day for color palette ideas, including for my ombré and cherry blossom-inspired handmade wedding last summer (this was truly the ultimate art project!).
The inspiration for our wedding colors came from my idea to have an ombré red velvet and white cake design, reminiscent of paint chips.
Naturally, our wedding invites would have to follow suit. I collaborated with a graphic designer friend to create a modern wedding invite and chose a color palette to create my own paint chip.
As a fashion designer and creative person, I love being surrounded by a colorful work environment in my design studio. Above my drafting table, I have a cork board filled with fashion muses (Françoise Hardy is my all-time favorite), a mix of postcards from around the world, fabric swatches, and vintage buttons. I also love creating mood and beauty boards which are extremely helpful for art direction when I’m producing photo shoots. In addition to sketching with my favorite Copic Markers and chalk-pastel coloring pencils, I also compile themed inspiration books filled with swatches and photos (I love Williams Eggleston’s work) - an extension of the mood board in my studio.
I am constantly adding items to the inspiration board that sits above my drafting table.
I love collecting vintage buttons and fabric swatches as both a source of inspiration and design reference.
I look forward to sharing my adventures in textile design with readers on the Spoonflower blog next week as I design and print my own original fabric for the first time. In my third and fourth posts, I’ll be sharing sewing techniques in a tutorial on how to sew a basic shift dress using my newly printed fabric, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear where other Spoonflower members find their textile design inspirations. Please comment below to share!
About Our Guest Author
Jamie Lau is a designer, sewing instructor, and fashion writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She received a sewing machine for her twenty-fifth birthday and hasn’t put it down since. For her line Jamie Lau Designs, Jamie transforms simple silhouettes into fashion-forward frocks sewn from Japanese prints, luxurious brocades, ikats, and her soon-to-be own original textile designs. In addition to doing custom work (including bridal), she teaches sewing, draping, and patternmaking courses at Textile Arts Center and across the country. Follow her blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages for the latest updates and inspirations.
This month on the blog we've been sharing back to school DIYs for a creative start to the new school year. Emma Jeffery, author of Hello Beautiful blog, visits to share a design tutorial for cushion covers featuring your favorite book titles, perfect for your study nook!
Since it’s back to school season, I started thinking about a design that might appeal to teachers and children alike. I came up with the idea to create a book spine image (made to look like books on a shelf) with the authors being the names of children in the class and the titles saying something about the child, their interests, personalities or hobbies. I wanted to make it fun and quirky since I imagine this design being used on cushions in a reading corner of a classroom. I think kids would get a huge kick out of seeing their name on a book cover (even just an illustration of one) and I hope it might inspire a lifelong love for books and reading.
I have been desperately wanting to improve my design skills so that I can make the most of the array of options and possibilities Spoonflower has to offer, but until now I’ve been hesitant at trying my hand at using professional design software. For this project however, I had a clear idea of how I wanted my design to look, and I figured that with its straight lines and simple graphics, it might just be the project that introduces me to the world of Adobe Illustrator.
I downloaded the trial version of Illustrator, available here. The following tutorial is an absolute beginner’s guide to some of the most basic tools of the software, written by an absolute beginner (me). But hey, if I can do it, you can too!
Mariah from Everything Golden visits to share a simple vintage army messenger bag update using a mix of custom and vintage fabric scraps. Get the how to and head back to school with a creative book bag to haul your gear!
Hi there, it’s Mariah from Everything Golden. In the spirit of heading back to school, I thought I’d spruce up a vintage army messenger bag with some custom Spoonflower fabric. I designed the orange fabric and used a piece of vintage scrap fabric for the flap. You can purchase the orange design here, or design your own custom print!
What you’ll need:
1. Any bag you’d like to update
2. Fabric, 2 square pieces and 2 triangle pieces
3. Snap or regular button
4. Needle and thread
I wanted my pocket to fit my phone so I measured the fabric to ensure it would fit, leaving at least 1” seam allowance on all sides.
Place the two square pieces together, both right sides facing up. Separately fold the two top edges down using an iron and sew a seam on the edge that faces up. Then fold the remaining three sides under, and iron. Then place the triangle pieces together, right sides facing each other, and sew all sides leaving about 2” open so you can turn it right side out.
Place your square piece and your triangular flap together and pin to your bag. Sew the edge of the top back square piece with the triangle flap tucked under and sew the rest of the sides.
With a needle and thread hand sew your snaps and voila, you're done!
Mariah is a creative wanderer in design, photography, and style A nature lover to the core she grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, spent some time in Colorado and is now happy at home in Bozeman, Montana, wher her laser physicist husband and a smarty pants border collie named Indie. Her biggest source of inspriation is found in the solace of the mountains.
This week we continue Market Yourself March, our series of posts on getting the word out about your creative enterprise with tips and practical project ideas from creative business folk.
As a quilter, I find that a quilt isn’t truly finished until the label is added. Not only is it a great way to remember when and where you were when you made a quilt (especially when you move as much as I have the past few years!), it can act as a calling card for your blog or business.
When you sell or donate your quilts, your label is a great way for you to brand your work in a polished way, as well as help people find and connect with you online and off. Below is a tutorial for a simple quilt label using a logo and text. While the directions are specific to Photoshop CS5.1 on a Mac, they can easily be adapted to other Photoshop versions, on either Macs or PCs.
To start, open Photoshop and click on File >> New. Enter a file name and dimensions for your label. My preferred size for quilt labels is 4 inches wide by 3 inches tall, but feel free to do whatever size works best for you and your projects. Enter 150 pixels/inch for your resolution and click OK.
The Spoonflower help desk gets frequent emails from folks who want to try their hand at creating seamlessly repeating designs without spending a small fortune on Photoshop or Illustrator right off the bat. Fortunately, there are ways of getting around that $600-$700 price tag! Today Sally Harmon, aka Boris Thumbkin, offers a tutorial on how to use Picmonkey to create a seamlessly repeating design below. Read on for the details, and never be afraid of seamless repeats again!
Years ago,whenever I was on the phone or watching TV, I would doodle with a fine-line Sharpie in an 18" x 24" sketchbook.
These were drawn without plan or preliminary sketch so while there are parts that don't work for me, there are sections that I think could serve well as fabric. The challenge will be to transform these busy line drawings into satisfactory repeating designs.
Step 1: Because these 18 X 24-inch doodles are way too big for my scanner, I photograph them to turn them into digital files. Then I do as much editing of the photos as possible in iPhoto (the basic photo management program that ships with Macs). I crop, straighten, de-saturate, and increase the exposure and definition.
Then I upload this image file to Spoonflower.
Step 2: After uploading, I try out the mirror repeat option on Spoonflower because it's the easiest way to make a design repeat seamlessly. Mirror repeat reflects an image along both the x- and y-axes and for certain small sections of my drawings, I like the way mirror repeat looks.
But for many sections it's not the best solution. Part of the appeal of these drawings is their interocking density which is lost here.
I also don't like the reversed text.
I will need the basic, half-brick, or half-drop option. However, because my drawings go all the way to the edge of the paper, there will be discontinuities where the design sides come together.
Luckily, there's a way to create a seamless basic repeat using PicMonkey's "DIY Sticker" feature. It's a bit fiddly and involves a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing, but it works!
Step 3: First, I'll need to create my stickers in Picmonkey. I'll be making two kinds of overlays--"bridging motifs" and "precise quadrants." Let's talk about bridging motifs first. Bridging motifs are small elements within my design that may prove useful to bridge gaps between design edges. In this example below, I'm going to select a flower as a bridging motif.
I go to "Edit with PicMonkey" and I crop around a flower I want to use.
Now let's talk about "precise quadrants." To demonstrate these, I've put colored dots on each quadrant of the design below. I start like this:
I take the full design from Spoonflower to PicMonkey. I go to "Basic Edits," then "Resize" until the numbers in each box are even. Then I jot down these dimensions and save the image to Spoonflower. This particular image measures 3648 x 2736 pixels.
I then return to PicMonkey--yes,again!--and I crop the red quadrant. Sometimes I find I need to check the "Scale Photo" box to get the numbers precise. My cropped height is exactly half of my original image's height; my cropped width is exactly half of my original image's width. In this case, that's 1824 x 1368 pixels.
I repeat these steps with the remaining three quadrants. On my desktop I now have all four quadrants (red, yellow, blue, and green) plus the bridging motif (a flower).
Step 4: To lay it all out, I return to Spoonflower. I click on "Custom fabric" from the "Create" tab. Under "Other Design Options" I click "Fat Quarter." [Please note that you must be logged in to Spoonflower to see the "other design options" feature.]
I go to "Overlays," then "Make Your Own."
In this way I've brought the image motifs from the outside edges to the inside edges, essentially turning the image inside-out.
I do not completely fill the blank fat quarter. I keep the quadrants congruent and leave a narrow white cross between them (like the mullion and transverse elements of a window).
Here, before my final crop, I've used a light pink geometric rectangular sticker stretched between the edges to check my precision:
Oops! The red arrows show where I'm ever so slightly off. I adjust the red quadrant so that the tops of the indicated circle will line up better.
When I'm satisfied, I merge all the elements.
Step 5: Now I want to bridge the gap created by the blank cross. There are several ways I can do this.
I can draw lines (using "draw") between different elements:
I can also erase elements that don't want to connect (again using "Draw"):
Another option is to add geometric stickers:
Or I can use my own "bridging motif" stickers:
When I'm done bridging those blank cross areas, I save my design to Spoonflower.
Step 6: I check my image in different views to be sure that it repeats seamlessly. If I want to add some color, I run my design through the Spoonflower color changer. Then I return the design to PicMonkey for any final editing.
Prior to proofing, I like to try reducing the size of my image by increasing its DPI sufficiently so that I can check the repeat in the Spoonflower preview window.
What I'm doing here is very similar to the offset filter plug-in available on Photoshop and elsewhere. Dr. Andy Mathis explains how to create a seamless repeat in Photoshop using the offset filter on YouTube.
My technique is also very similar to the technique Julia Rothman explains in a Design*Sponge tutorial on how to create a seamless repeat the old-fashioned way, using paper, scissors, and tape.
Lest you feel intimdated by all the steps I've outlined above, please note that only rarely is it neccessary to go through the whole process above.
If my image "falls off the edge" in only a few places and if these are straight lines, I can simply match the lines up using geometric stickers.
Sometimes I just need a little more space to "tie up loose ends." In this case, I just turn my whole image into a sticker, float it on a fat quarter, merge, and draw in anything missing.
Sometimes I can suggest continuity by simply matching color from edge to edge.
Sometimes only one axis is problematic. If that's the case, I work with halves rather than quadrants.
Certain motifs--like stairs, ladders, roofs, stems, and signs--are particularly helpful when connecting edges.
Now for some extra-credit questions!
What if I wanted my design to be in half-drop or half-brick repeat?
What if my axes were off-center (i.e. my quadrants were not congruent)?
What if my axes were angled? Or curved?
What if I were to use mirror-image along one axis and basic, half-drop, or half-brick along the other?
What if i laid one kind of repeat over another?
Most of us study repeats only as a means to an end. However, if you're interested in learning more about the mathematics involved you might want to check out the seventeen wallpaper groups and orbifold notation or a great book called Symmetry, Shape, and Space: an Introduction to Mathermatics Through Geometry, particularly chapter 5.
Hope you all found this a useful technique for designing seamless repeats!
This week, Spoonflower designer and paper collage artist, Sally Harmon (aka, Boris_Thumbkin), shares a tutorial on how to create a collection of fabric designs out of a single large paper collage. We're in awe of Sally's low-tech, approachable design technique which uses only scissors, paper, a camera, and the editing tools available right here on the Spoonflower site. Read on for the full tutorial below!
The process I show here is just one of many ways that you can create a whole collection of fabric designs from a cut paper collage. It's a method that works for me because it's low-tech, low overhead, low pressure, and no-stick since there's no glue involved. WIth a little luck, you can create an entire collection of fabric designs sharing colors, shapes, and motifs!
1. Collect Paper. For all but the largest and most intricate shapes I like to use paint chips from a hardware or home improvement store. They're free, they're colorful, and they lay relatively flat.
2. Cut the Paper Into Shapes. First, trim any writing off the paint chips. Then just start cutting out shapes! I try to do a mix of shapes: geometric and organic, large and small, vertically- and horizontally-oriented, etc. Simple shapes can be cut freehand or, if you want some fancier shapes, try drawing them on the back of the paint chips first and then cutting them out.
Shapes with parts inaccessible to scissors can be cut out using an X-Acto knife fitted with a #15 blade and a cutting mat or board. Change the blade frequently and don't rush or worry too much. Most mistakes can be repaired later and some turn out not to have been mistakes after all!
3. Lay Out The Cut Shapes to Create a Collage. I lay my shapes out onto sheets of 20"x30" foamcore. These are good because they're stiff enough to carry around in case I need to move my collage while working on it. Some of the black ones reverse to white so you get two background colors in one piece. And, if I lay out a composition that I end up really liking, I can rubber-cement the pieces down. The 20 x 30 inch size is easily photographed and if I do decide to keep it permanently, it's also easily framed.
Here's my first pass. Although I'm underwhelmed by the composition as a whole, I think parts of it will probably work well as fabric designs.
CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA: I first met Sally Harmon back in the mid 1990's when we both worked in the kitchen of a great local restaurant called Crook's Corner. Sally worked in the salads and cold appetizer station and I did some baking and occasional cooking on the line. Sally didn't gossip and chat nearly as much as the rest of us so it seemed to me to come out of nowhere when I saw a show of her large-scale cut paper collages go up on the walls of the restaurant one week. Sally's pieces were gorgeous, complicated, Dr. Seussian collages depicting what looked like fantastical machines and structures. I loved every single one of her pieces and so, it seemed, did everyone else who saw them. They were snapped up in a hurry, little round sticky dots indicating their sold status showing up under each frame within a week or two.
Fast forward about 15 years. Spoonflower had been launched two years previously and I was browsing around on the site one day, checking out all the new designs that had been recently uploaded. Several designs by someone styling themselves Boris Thumbkin caught my eye. "These look like cut up paper," I thought. "Cool!" Poking around a bit more I realized I knew this designer--it was Sally Harmon!
Fast forward a bit more and Sally and I have seen each other at a couple parties given by a mutual friend, our little girls have enjoyed playing together, and I've realized just how much Sally is doing on Spoonflower now. (A lot!) She talked with me over lunch recently about how she turns her physical paper collages into fabric designs, useful insight during a week when the fabric-of-the-week contest theme is "Paper Collage Cakes." Sally's approach is surprisingly low-tech and beginner friendly, and I hope you enjoy hearing about her technique as much as I did!
I remember the first time I saw a show of your cut paper pieces at Crook's Corner in 1996 or so, and then I was so pleased to see your designs on Spoonflower a couple of years ago. What have you been doing in the interim in terms of your creative endeavors?
I like cutting paper and I’ve just done a lot of different paper cutting projects. I try to be kind of low overhead about it and not invest lots of money in fancy paper. I get a bunch of paper samples from graphic designer friends I know, and I also use manufacturer’s paint chips that I get from hardware stores. Plus I just use black cardstock for doing traditional silhouettes.
You do silhouettes?
I've tried but those sorts of things end up being spooky when I do them. People end up looking like monsters!
Did you study art or design at all? Did you go to UNC?
I did go to UNC but I actually majored in French. I took a couple of art classes.
I guess your dad [professor and poet, William Harmon] was probably teaching when you were in school there, huh?
Yeah, I stayed away from the English department. I got my literature requirements done and that was it.
Do you currently do new paper cutting all the time?
I have a bunch of things I've done in the past and photographed and gradually I’m kind of plowing through all those and finding out what can be turned into fabric designs. Unfortunately, many of them were taken with like a 1-megapixel camera and they’re teeny tiny little images. I also photograph more recent projects as I go.
How do you design your collages to be turned into fabric designs?
When I'm working on new designs, usually I’ll just lay shapes out the way I think they’re going to work well, take pictures, and then take some close up pictures just in case. And then if I can’t make it work as a whole, I’ll take individual components and rearrange them. But then the other thing I like doing is just throwing things all down on one piece of paper and photographing that jumble. I might move things around a tiny bit after that but not much. Like in the recipe contest awhile back, my actual submission wasn’t very good. It had individual squares of different ingredients but at the end, I sort of threw them all down and photographed that, and those designs actually ended up being stronger than my contest submission.
So how do you decide what collage photos can be used as fabric designs? Do you just upload them and see if they repeat nicely?
To a certain extent, now I can look at something and tell, “That’s going to look stupid.” But at first it was just throwing things up there. I’ve deleted a lot! [Laughing.] I’ve deleted a lot of stuff that was never made public on Spoonflower.
You prefer to photograph your collages rather than scanning them?
I don’t like to use the scanner although I’ve tried. That's partly because our scanner is just a really old scanner that tends to fuzz out on the corners, which means that I end up cropping half of the image and messing up whatever repeat I had planned out. And also, I like a lot of times to either not glue the paper down or only glue it down lightly so that it casts a little bit of a shadow. If you smush it into a scanner, you lose that.
So you don't want your designs to look too flat? That’s interesting.
Yes, and I sometimes even light from one angle to cast shadows (with mixed effect).
Then do you clean up the photos at all?
Oh yeah! Usually, because I don’t have a perfect lighting setup, I run things through the Spoonflower color changer. I try to only go through once on that because it degrades things a little. I usually just do that to make the background all one color. I don’t want to lose the shadows and I want, say, all my oranges to stay orange, but I’ll just try to flatten out the background. Then I’ll take it through Picmonkey and if anything looks terrible, I’ll just put a rectangular sticker over it and move on. [Laughs.] I don’t do a lot of editing. I try to do as much editing on the paper before photographing and as little as I can after uploading.
There are things that Picnik did that Picmonkey does not do [on the Spoonflower site]. Picnik had what they called a doodle feature which wasn’t very good for drawing for me but which was good for cleaning things up. If I put a rectangular sticker over something, I could doodle along the edge to clean it up and then remove the rectangular sticker and get rid of all the smidge. But Picmonkey does have a few features that Picnik didn't have. Namely, you can make your own stickers. It’s kind of their version of the collage, or what Picnik called collage anyway. You can take whatever images you have hanging out on your desktop and stick them onto whatever else you’ve got.
So what made you make the leap to putting designs on fabric versus just keeping them on paper?
Well, I went to Joann's a few times to get fabrics for curtains, and I ended up getting some really nice, cheap fabric with pine cones on it. It took a lot of looking to find even that and I kind of thought it would be nice to find something, I don’t know, wackier and more different. It’s hard to beat the price of Joann’s but how many calico flower prints do you need? And I do make an effort myself to try to design things that aren’t super available. [Here are some of Sally's collections of designs for her living room, bedroom, and her little girls' room. Not a pine cone in sight!]
What happens to your physical collages once you’ve turned them into scanned designs?
Different things. If I really like it and I think it has a chance I’ll glue it down and save it. I’d say that only happens 10% of the time. Most of the time, once a collage is photographed it’s done.
What do you do with them all?
Give ‘em to the kids! Then they glue them down and you know, draw on them.
Do you and your kids do creative things together?
My daughter Carmen likes to go to the hardware store to get paint chips and then cut them and glue them down.
Awww, does she?
Does she have colors she really likes yet?
She used to like pink but now pink is so last year.
I wouldn’t mind if my girls got sick of pink.
Well, she tells me this after we’d painted her room pink.
Oh, that's a drag. What did you do when you were a kid? Did you grow up in a creative household where people were doing craft projects all the time?
Well, I took a lot of music classes when I was a kid. And I drew and stuff like that.
When did you start doing paper-cutting then? I mean, I didn’t know you very well back then but when I saw your first show it seemed like it came out of nowhere and I was like, “Wow, I had no idea Sally was so talented!”
I'd actually gone to hardware stores a lot and looked at all the colors and thought, “I want to do something with those!” Then one day I started collecting them and after I had folders and folders of them I thought, “Ok, now I’m going to actually need to do something with those!”
That’s funny. I've that reaction to the walls of colors but never actually did anything with them like you have. So you cut all your shapes out of paint chips?
For the most part.
How long do the collages last if you keep them?
Well, that’s the funny thing. For a long time, I assumed that the paint chips were going to be the first thing to go, to perish. And so I would get acid-free glue and acid-free board and put all those cut paint chip shapes down and glue them and now...I don’t know, 15 years later, the paint chips seem to be holding up fine. It’s the glue and the board that are not doing so well sometimes. The glue is actually what goes first. The paint chips, I mean, they're lithography ink printed on card stock.
Do you get samples of your designs printed and then do your kids like them?
Well, Carmen has done a few designs herself but she's more process oriented at her age than results oriented. But I did let her enter one of the contests once and she was really into that. She wanted to check on her contest entry all the time. She’s competitive. She got more votes than me for that particular contest and hasn’t let me forget it!
Funny. So one more thing. Where did the name "Boris Thumbkin" come from?
Well, my name, Sally Harmon, is taken. (She's a new-age pianist.) Same with my married name, Sally Palao. (She's my stepmother-in-law, the business manager of a New York theater.) So I needed to come up with something completely different. I took Russian in college and do some Russian-influenced work (like Yellow Samovars and Samovars on Black). Thus,"Boris." I also have half-realized plans to do a "Porridge Cupboard" of nursery rhyme images, ergo "Thumbkin."
With voting for the eight collections in the final round of the Fabric8 contest starting this Thursday, we decided to check in with one of the movers & shakers in the fabric industry: a woman who selects professional fabric collections for a living.
Evie Ashworth is Design Director for the Retail Division at Robert Kaufman Fabrics. An established member of the textile industry for over 40 years, Evie has traveled the world to production points from Europe to Asia and in between. She brought her expertise to Robert Kaufman in 2000 to establish within the company a whole category of product specifically for quilt fabric retailers. She merchandised the line, introducing the concept of coordinated samples and print basics, including the trademark Fusions(TM) brand, and she continues to ensure Robert Kaufman brand’s association with the highest quality standards. Evie currently directs a large internal design team as well as several art studios abroad, to produce Robert Kaufman’s signature in-house Luxe and Gallery looks as well as a broad range with external licensed artists and brands.
About Robert Kaufman Fabrics: Designer fabrics for the creative sewist. Founded in 1942, this Los Angeles-based fabric manufacturer wholesales to the home sewing retail and manufacturing markets, with customers including manufacturers of finished goods, such as apparel, bedding and accessories, and retail customers whose end-users comprise home apparel and craft sewers. For more information, please visit: www.robertkaufman.com
What was your background when you came to work at RKF? Where did you grow up?
After 14 years working for a company that manufactured sportswear, swimwear and finally as their fabric buyer and manager of 3 fabric stores, I was recruited by Hoffman California Fabrics for the new position of Design Director for their retail division in 1984. I remained with them until 1999 before joining Robert Kaufman as Design Director for the Retail Division. I grew up outside of Portland, Oregon and San Clemente, California.
How does RKF usually scout for new design talent?
We look for designers through art, licensing and trade shows domestically and internationally, but we also accept individual submissions thru the process outlined in the Artwork Submission Guidelines on our site. We also have referrals thru many different channels of our business. We shop other markets -- such as home, stationery and apparel -- for new designers as well.
Tell us a little about your selection process.
There are many facets to our process for selecting designs, including timing, the end customer, uniqueness, how well we believe it will sell based on past experience, and whether or not marketing support is available. We always ask if the work is different enough from our current designers. One of our criteria is always to look for an artist who is flexible and quick to respond. These aspects are all considered after the work has been selected for a final review.
There were hundreds of hopeful designers who didn’t make it to the final round of Fabric8. Can you offer any advice to amateurs hoping to break into the industry?
It isn’t easy and there is a lot of competition. I always tell designers to do the homework: scour the larger web sites, blogs and quilt shops to see what themes, colors, scale and designers are strong. Come up with your own individual look that sets you apart from what is already available. Ultimately the designs must be something that will sell successfully for Robert Kaufman and, most importantly, for our customers who are independent fabric retailers. Ask the question of yourself: will several hundred stores purchase my work?
What makes a great fabric collection? Is there a formula for what kinds of designs to include?
A beautiful focal or feature design is usually needed to drive the group of designs in a collection. We look for good support designs that complement the feature design by adding interesting scale, color, texture, accent or calmness. Together the designs in the collection must make a stunning quilt. There is somewhat of a formula, but we also like to be flexible to keep the collections exciting.
What is the typical production timeline for a collection from the design stage to fabric arrival in stores? What are the various stages of the process?
It takes approximately 7 months to work through the whole process from beginning to end. The stages include:
What are some of your favorite fabric design trends right now?
I’m particularly drawn to exotic countries that provide trend and inspiration, such as India. Scandinavia continues to be a strong influence in the fabric world as well.
Robert Kaufman sells apparel, home decor and quilting fabrics. Does creating fabric designs for these applications require differently scaled designs? Which of these is your largest market?
Quilting is currently our largest single market, however we hope that designs for quilting cross over into other markets. Our manufacturing customers for home and apparel are usually more open to larger scale designs than quilting, and those collections are developed by another design director.
Mixing and matching patterns and colors for creating and decorating seems more liberal now, does the definition of a coordinate mean something different than it once did?
Yes. Our customers have developed a more sophisticated vision for their projects, whether is it modern, retro, traditional or vintage. For instance, something as simple as a polka dot could now be a multicolor 2-inch diameter dot instead of a single color pin dot. What used to be a coordinate could now be used to make a bold statement for a border of a quilt.
Talk a little bit about licensing. Do designers typically sign contracts with only one fabric house?
Yes, but some work with more than one if they have a large portfolio and they are not so interested in branding their name. We prefer to have a license for fabric and fabric-related products so when we license a design we do not restrict the use of that design for any other type of fabric-related product.
What’s on the horizon at Robert Kaufman Fabrics?
We’re very excited about the upcoming Dr. Seuss collections based on the books Oh the Places You’ll Go and Green Eggs and Ham.
Anyone started working on your Valentine's Day sewing projects yet? Fabric inspiration abounds on Spoonflower! There are a whole lot of designs on offer for the younger Valentines in your life.
From top left corner: Train and Love Whales by Boris Thumbkin, Oh Mon Couer Blanc by Nadja Petramand, Saint Valentine's Day by Heidi Kenney, Line Art Hearts by Oksancia, Cocoa Love by Feathered Nest Studio, Alligator Love by Andibird, Puppy Love by Heather Dutton, and Woo Woo Woofers by Scrummy.
Plenty of fabrics for the more grown-up Valentine, too.
From top left corner, Love and Paper Airplanes (pale blue) by TheBLine_I_ABP, Red Birds (with little hearts) by Verycherry, Snap by BrightonBelle, Rabbit and Heart Linen by Holli Zollinger, Rococo Love (pink) by HappySewLucky, Diamonds and Hearts Red by Zesti, Sweethearts and Blackhearts by Asset68, Be My Valentine by Valentina Ramos, and Very Valentine Envelope Toss by RyanWalsh3457
And don't forget fabrics for your favorite freaky or geeky Valentine!
From top left corner, Skull Candy Box Pink by Ophelia, I Love Zombies by MotleyCruiser, Alas, Poor Yoric by Nalo Hopkinson, Skull Heart 02 by Bleach, I Love You Anatomically by Odkins, 8-Bit Love (Rotate) by LeighR, Cthulhu in Love (pink) by Jenithea, Robot Love II by PoetryQN, and Heart Flourish by MeaganAndSegal.
Happy sewing for your loved ones, everyone--mwah!
At Spoonflower, we have the fabric equivalent of all the gardening catalogs I've been receiving in the mail lately.
Roses. From top left corner, Retro Roses by Cynthia Frenette, Roses Beige Background by Art Is Us, BlackFlowersPanel by Danielle Hanson, Joan's Dusty Roses and Snow Roses by TwoBloom, English Roses Pink by Julia Monroe, In Like the Rose by LeighR, Coming Up Roses-Leafy by Tammikins, Roses Schmoses by Sarah Walden (Peacoquette Designs).
Daffodils. From top left corner: Jonquilles by The Lazy Giraffe, Daffodils in Yellow by April Marie Mai, My Three Daffodils by KDL, Running Daffodils by Cestlaviv, Polka Daffodils by Nonnie, Butterflies and Flowers by BeeBumble, Daffydowndilly by Wiccked, Blue Daffodil by Slkanitz, and Daffodillies by Anahata.
And berries. From top left corner: Summer Fruit by Patty Sloniger, Strawberries by Anda, Strawberries by Oksancia, Strawberry Sundae by Woodle Doo, Country Gathering Strawberries by ChristieM, Blueberry Sprig by Cindy Lindgren, PointallismTwig1 by HeatherRothStyle, StrawberryField1 by Tamptation, and Pears Strawberries Lemons and Limes by Gomakeme.
It's definitely still winter here in NC, but I can't stop thinking about sewing pretty dresses for warmer weather. Must be all those gardening catalogs!
As you've no doubt noticed, the site is looking mighty spiffy now but the changes haven't just been cosmetic. The engineering crew has also been making a fair number of tweaks to how you can search for fabrics lately, too. One of my favorite of these recent changes is the ability to filter fabric searches by location. Want to find other designers who are active on Spoonflower and living in your hometown? Now you can! Currently, you can only access this filter by first clicking on the shop tab, then clicking on a design category or a tag search, and then scrolling down a bit to find the "local" search below the colors in the left sidebar. If you want to see everything that designers in a particular area are doing, just unclick the category or tag filter at the top of the page, and the "for sale" filter that is automatically applied, too.
Just for fun, I checked out Stephen's hometown of Atlanta, GA and as it turns out, a couple of my favorite Spoonflower designers are based there. ThirdHalfStudios, a prolific deisgn duo, is my favorite source for meat-y, skull-y, and generally darkly funny fabrics. And how did I not know that the author of one of my favorite craft books, I Love Patchwork, is there, too? Rashida Coleman-Hale, aka Iheartlinen on Spoonflower and with a lovely blog of that name, lives and works in my dear spouse's hometown. I love every single one of the designs Rashida has up in her Spoonflower shop. That's her sweet "Notes" design linked above.
I'm kind of curious as to whether designers in the same city might share any design sensibilities (though they probably don't if the difference between the two designers above is any indication). Still, maybe a regular series focusing on designers in specific areas of the globe is in order? Where are you all from?
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