How to Create Fabric From Your Knitted or Crocheted Items

JAN 5, 2016

When the world of sewing and yarn-crafts combine, the intersection can be a truly beautiful thing! Today's tutorial comes from Julia, blogger at All Sparkled Up and frequenter of Spoonflower's Pins & Needles monthly community craft night. Julia is stopping by the blog today to share how she used her scanner and Adobe Photoshop to turn crocheted granny squares into unique custom fabric and gift wrap! 

*This tutorial can be simplified for your own comfort level, but is written for a Photoshop Skill Level of Medium to Advanced.

Julia: Imagine how fun it would be to see your knitted project turned into wallpaper, crocheted granny squares transformed into gift wrap, or flowing yards of vintage crocheted flowers! Inspired by the afghan I helped my mom make in the 70’s, I turned a pile of mini-crocheted Granny Squares into fabric and gift wrap using Spoonflower and it was so fun to make and use! I’m honored to share this tutorial with you.

Fabric from your knitted or crocheted items is so fun for tote bags, pillows or upholstery. It prints beautifully on all types of fabric but I especially like using Eco canvas for tote bags and Minky for scarves and stuffed animals. Isn’t this huggable minky dog cute? He’s made of Granny Square fabric and scraps cut from an old black sweater. You can make your own granny square fabric by following this tutorial!

The original crocheted squares took a long time to make, over three months, and used 15 different colors of yarn in every 2-color combination. I made over 200 squares but only used about 75 to make the fabric. The original squares were about 1 3/4” inches, not including the black border.

And this is the final digital file I uploaded to Spoonflower after editing it in Photoshop. You can use any knit or crochet motif, but for this tutorial I will show you how to create a new fabric design from crocheted items.

How to Design your own Granny Square Fabric

Make your knit or crochet motifs, such as granny squares, flowers or rounds. I used 14 colors plus black but you can make them all the same color and photograph them on a contrasting background if you want. In fact, you can crochet just one granny square and then repeat it to make fabric. That would be the simplest design of all.

After you make your squares, crochet a border around the item using the same color as the background color of your finished fabric. By crocheting a border, it will be easier to blend your crocheted item with the background in Photoshop and it also helps your motif stay in shape.

Photograph or Scan your crocheted items.

Photograph your items against a solid background, or scan them by placing directly on your scanner bed, which provides a white background and consistent lighting (this is key!). Don’t close the lid of the scanner; that might crush the fibers too much and will be noticeable in the finished scan.  Lay a piece of white foam core board or card stock on top of the items on the scanner bed. That will hold them in place but keep them from being crushed and create a good background for editing later.

Saving your Files

Make sure you keep copies of your each stage of your work. That way, you can go back and start over to make a different design using the same photos or scans. Remember to save each file as you go!

I name files sequentially by number. The original will be named GrannySquare. The very first import to Photoshop is GrannySquare 1. The next file with edits would be GrannySquare2. The next edited file will be GrannySquare3 etc. If I want to change colors, it’s easy to pull up GrannySquare2 and work from there, naming that new file GrannySquare2-1, etc.

Open your scan or photo in photoshop. Save the file as GrannySquare1.

For the sake of clarity, I’m going to work with just one photo for this tutorial. Here is the unedited photo I will work with to create Granny Square Fabric Two for my Spoonflower shop.

Make a Test Repeat

Once you have a photo or scan, first create a test repeat before you go any further. By making a test repeat, you can see if your design looks just as you want it to once repeated, and you can make basic changes before you get into too much editing.

Open GrannySquare1 in Photoshop. It will open up as a “Background” image in the layers panel.

Make a copy of this Background layer by right-clicking Background on the layers panel and select Layer > Duplicate Layer and then OK.

On this new Background copy, Click Select All to select the image and then click Edit Copy to copy the image.

Click Select Deselect.  

Make sure “Snap” is on by clicking View Snap. Then click Snap to All. This will allow your image to be automatically lined up when you paste it repeatedly on the larger canvas in the next step.

Make a larger document in which to test your repeat by clicking Image Canvas Size. In the pop-up panel, change “Inches” to “Percent” and change the size to 300 percent for both width and height.

Click View Fit on Screen to view the new larger canvas you just made.

Now that your image has already been copied, all you have to do is paste more copies on the new larger canvas.

Click Edit Paste to paste a new image on a new layer. It will appear directly above the previous layer. From the Toolbox on the left, choose the move tool.

Click over your design and drag the new Layer 1 image to the upper left corner.

It will “snap” into place when aligned correctly.

Click Edit Paste and repeat the process of moving the new image to another empty spot on the canvas. Ok, now you can get excited! It’s always such a thrill to test a design in repeat; I never know what it’s going to look like and I’m always surprised and delighted!

Continue pasting and moving images until your new canvas is filled.

Save your file as GrannySquare1RepeatTest.jpg. This will be your first repeat test.

Isn’t your design beautiful? After enjoying the test print, I usually leave the file on my screen for a while and leave the room for a break. Then when I come back to it and see it from across the room, I may see ways to make it better. Or it might be perfect as is! Tip: It’s always helpful to take a break from design work so you can look at it with new eyes and a fresh perspective. Sometimes even a couple minutes is enough. Don’t worry if the alignment isn’t perfect. You’re just checking to see if the overall color and arrangement of granny squares works well.

Here is what my first test looks like. I’m really liking it!

Ok, now that I’ve decided that I like the color arrangement, the order of shapes and the spacing, I’ll work on the background and other editing.

Close your test repeat, saving it under another file name if you want.

Make a new background layer

Open GrannySquare1 again and it should be your original file. Save it as GrannySquare2.

For the fabric design, I want a black background. We’ll do that in several steps.

Make a copy of the Background layer by right clicking on Background and selecting Duplicate Layer and then OK.

Make a blank layer by clicking on the Create a New Layer icon (the icon to the left of the trash can on the layers panel).

Drag the new blank layer down between the Background and Background Copy layer. Click on the new Layer 1 to make sure it is the active layer.

Fill Layer 1  with your background color of choice  (I chose black) by choosing the paint bucket tool. Then move the paint bucket anywhere over your canvas and click.

The new empty layer will fill with the color you picked but you won’t see it because it is behind the “Background copy” layer. I chose black and you can see Layer 1 is now filled with black when you look at the layers panel.

We will be erasing white areas of our photo in order to see the black layer underneath.

Erase the background

Choose the Eraser tool. Set the size to about 13 if your file is small, or larger if your file is big,  and Opacity to 100%.

Make sure the Background Copy layer is active by clicking on it in the layers panel. Then zoom in on your design and erase white areas to expose the black layer underneath.

This is the most tedious part of the the process. But I actually find it enjoyable seeing the  design transformed with the new, emerging background.

You could also use the paint brush to paint black instead of erasing. But I prefer using the eraser tool. Your file will be more versatile to try other backgrounds if the white background is removed leaving just the motifs.

Part of the beauty of yarn crafts is in the depth of shadows. When erasing the background around motifs, don’t erase any of the background from within motifs. If you do, the yarn won’t look as 3-dimensional and your design will look flat.

Once all the background between motifs has been removed, save the file.

Save the file again as GrannySquare3.

Here I have turned off the black Layer 1 and Background by clicking the eye next to the layers in the layer panel. Erasing around the motifs now is finished. There is still white inside the motifs but the white around all the motifs has been completely removed, leaving the motifs floating on a transparent background.

Fig 14

If I click the black Layer 1 on again, the black background is visible again.

At this point, all I have to do if flatten the image and save it as a jpg for uploading to Spoonflower. But I think there’s a little more to do to make it better.

Final Editing – straighten the crooked places

Fig 15

First select the motif you want to change by using the magnetic lasso tool.                              

Choose Edit>Transform>Warp.

  granny square fabric editing in Photoshop


A grid will appear around your motif. Drag corners or parts of the grid out to stretch your motif as desired.

Click the Commit Transform check mark when you’re finished transforming the motif.

granny square fabric editing in Photoshop

Click Select>Deselect to end the selection.

Continue the same process to stretch or transform other parts of the design if you want.

Fig 20

The transformed and straightened piece, ready for the next step.

Click Save.

Save file again as GrannySquare4.

I noticed on the first test pattern that there was a noticeable border around the outside edge of the design. I want my motifs to be a little closer together so I’m going to crop this file just a bit around the edge. First I’ll flatten the image by clicking Layer>Flatten then save it as a jpg.

There will now be only one layer, a locked Background layer.

Duplicate the background layer by right clicking on it and picking Duplicate Layer and then OK.

Fig 23

Now the Background copy can be cropped.

Click on the Rectangular Marquee tool from the tool bar.

Fig 24

Starting at the upper left corner, drag a rectangle to highlight the area you want to keep. I’m going to crop off just a little bit, mostly at the top of the design.  

granny square fabric editing in Photoshop
While the area is still selected, click Image>Crop and the design will be cropped.

granny square fabric editing in Photoshop

Again, click Layer Flatten Image to flatten the design.

Click Select Deselect.

Save the file.

Now the design is finished. But before I upload it to Spoonflower, I want to do a last test repeat.

Save the file as GrannySquare repeat test 2.

Following the same steps as the first time, make another test repeat file.

Here is my new test repeat file. It’s just what I wanted!

granny square fabric editing in Photoshop

I don’t need this file since it was just a test but might save it anyway as a reference.

One last time, click Layer>Flatten Image to flatten the design.

granny square design ready to upload

The file is now ready to upload to Spoonflower!

Granny Square Dog Plushie

 Please share using hashtag #spoonflower if you make fabric from your own knitting or crochet designs. I would love to see what you make!


Julia MonroeJulia Monroe lives in North Carolina and works as a freelance designer and photographer. She has worked professionally in many creative ventures, from cake decorating and calligraphy to freelance writing and photography, but is most passionate about fabric design.


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