Jamie Lau’s Dress Project: Color Palette and Textile Design Inspiration

SEP 16, 2013 updated May 28, 2021

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! 


A peek into the colorful universe where I create, plus one of my favorite dress designs, the Yabane Gathered-Waist Dress. Photo: Liz Clayman

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.

The Kyoto Garden Dress for Fall 2013 was inspired by walks in the bamboo groves and gardens from a recent trip to Japan. Photo Credit: Liz Clayman

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.

Sunny Disposition Sheath Dress in a textured Japanese fabric with a geometric rose motif. Photo Credit: Sarah Deragon

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. 

Hamburg skyline at sunset, taken during a trip to Germany in the summer of 2010. Photo Credit: Jamie Lau

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.

Striped Linen Sunset Dress with a coral, blue, black, and white gradient effect. Photo Credit: Jamie Lau


View from above at Jōjakkō-ji of the painterly landscape that surrounds the Arashiyama and Sagano area of Kyoto, spring of 2013. Photo Credit: Jamie Lau

A stroll through Regent’s Park in London, flora in the summer of 2010. Photo Credit: Jamie Lau

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!).

Photo: Kim Hayes

The inspiration for our wedding colors came from my idea to have an ombré red velvet and white cake design, reminiscent of paint chips. 

Photo: Kim Hayes

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. 

The color palette I created for my handmade wedding is still one of my favorites. Photo: Jamie Lau
A blue-green color palette I’m exploring for an upcoming textile design. Photo: Jamie Lau

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.

Photo: Liz Clayman

 I am constantly adding items to the inspiration board that sits above my drafting table. 

Photo: Liz Clayman

I love collecting vintage buttons and fabric swatches as both a source of inspiration and design reference.

Inside my colorful design studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Photo: Liz Clayman

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.

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  • Laurel Hilts

    I’ve been doodling each day and have been working on turning my pictures in to fabric designs. I look forward to any tips I can get. I live in a beautiful coastal community in Alaska and am inspired every day by what I see, smell, hear!

  • I get a lot of my design ideas from nature. We live right near a few nice trails. It’s so ridiculous, but when I run, I pick up things—leaves with great color, little twigs whose shape I liked—-By the end of my 4 mile runs, I am often running with a handful of random things I’ve picked up. I probably look a little strange, but it works for me! ha.

  • great read and very informative
    love your design studio in Brooklyn
    the cake looks very appetizing
    looking forward to your next project with the green pallete