There are thousands of projects you can complete using Spoonflower fabric, including one you may not have seen before: using Spoonflower fabric to customize a prosthesis. Author, business owner and artist Jennifer Latham Robinson stops by the blog to share how Spoonflower’s digital print process allowed her to transform her prosthetic leg into a vibrant expression of her own creativity.

Jennifer Latham Robinson sits in on a floral chair in a living room with a guitar leaning up against the wall to her right. Her prosthesis is up on the base of a red brick fireplace and features a bright blue Medusa design with black ink details. 
Jennifer’s current prosthesis features the design Blue Medusa by heatherinbrooklyn.

Jennifer’s First Prosthetic Leg 

Jennifer: At the tender age of two, I received my first prosthetic leg. Constructed with materials that included acrylic resin, metal and rubber, it was a marvel of the late 1970s. As a child, I was convinced that my prosthetic limb was made of wood, and my family affectionately referred to it as my “wooden leg.” Nowadays, my most cherished childhood prosthetic legs can be found tucked away in my chaotic primary bedroom closet. Amongst the clutter of old winter coats, a playful rubber foot can often be seen peeking out, always bringing a smile to my face. Of all my beloved prosthetic legs, my absolute favorite is proudly displayed in my home. It’s so petite that it could easily belong to a doll. Every scratch tells a story.  

A gray-and-black illustration by Jennifer of herself smiling as a toddler as she holds up and looks at her first prosthetic leg.
An illustration by Jennifer of herself as a toddler looking at her first prosthetic leg. 

From Exoskeletal Designs to Endoskeletal Prostheses 

As I transitioned into middle school, the world of prosthetic design began to evolve. The traditional exoskeletal designs made way for modular endoskeletal prostheses. (An endoskeletal prosthetic design is a mechanical skeleton over which a cover is sometimes applied. An exoskeletal prosthetic design is like an insect: a hard outer shell with no separate internal structure.) With an appearance akin to a mechanical skeleton, it was only natural that these prostheses were covered with a soft material for enhanced realism.

I vividly recall my first opportunity to offer input in my prosthetic leg’s appearance when I was in the 8th grade. My prosthetic team crafted a foam cover that closely matched the shape of my other leg. As the prosthetist traced the outline of my body on a large sheet of paper, I eagerly waited for them to carve the foam cover to resemble my natural leg before slipping it onto the mechanical skeleton. It was a thrilling and groundbreaking experience.  

An illustration of teen Jennifer holding up a foam cover crafted by her prosthetic team. In front of her laying on the ground is a piece of paper featuring the outline of a leg.
An illustration by Jennifer about the visit with her prosthetic team where she first gave input on her prosthetic leg’s appearance.

Beginning to Customize Her Own Prosthesis  

However, my artistic spirit soon took hold, and I made the decision to transform my prosthetic leg into a vibrant expression of my creativity. By the age of 16, I decided to rip off the foam cover and expose my mechanical parts. My love for art drove me to paint intricate designs on my prosthesis, including the back portion as a fun treat for anyone walking behind me. Over the years, I’ve explored a variety of aesthetic prosthetic finishes, from hot pink foam covers to custom “tattoos” painted on synthetic skin.

Photograph of an owl Jennifer painted on the back of a mechanical prosthesis. 
Jennifer painted an owl on a synthetic skin that fits over the calf portion of an old prosthesis. It was painted with acrylics and pen.

Choosing Fabric Lamination and Finding Spoonflower

However, the most popular way to customize the appearance of a prosthesis is through a custom acrylic socket lamination. (If you’re unfamiliar with this terminology, think custom car wraps.)  The socket is the area where your residual limb fits into the prosthesis, usually made of acrylic resin material. This material can be pigmented to match any desired color and, for an extra dash of glamour, can even incorporate glitter.

To personalize my most recent prosthesis, I opted for fabric lamination to cover the acrylic socket. When selecting the perfect fabric, time is of the essence, as a prolonged search can hold up the fabrication process. Spoonflower’s Modern Jersey works particularly well for this application, as will any stretchy t-shirt type of fabric, as it stretches to fit the shape of the socket. My hunt for the ideal design and fabrication led me to Spoonflower.  

Jennifer holds up heatherinbrooklyn’s Medusa Small design printed on Modern Jersey fabric. She is looking at the fabric, which is bright blue and features a repeat drawing of Medusa with black in details.
Jennifer holds up Blue Medusa by heatherinbrooklyn printed on Modern Jersey fabric.

Finding Just the Right Spoonflower Design 

With a specific vision in mind, I scoured Spoonflower’s extensive Marketplace of designs, drawn to the mystical allure of mythology. I’ve always loved mythological imagery, obsessed in my youth by the original 1980s Clash of the Titans. I wanted something that was striking. I only later realized the irony in picking out a Medusa image. I certainly don’t want to turn anyone to stone as they admire the design. Or do I? Kidding. Though I considered creating my own design, the breathtaking offerings of other artists captivated my imagination. It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon the stunning design Blue Medusa by heatherinbrooklyn. The bold blue hue and classic Medusa image, with intertwining snakes, were an absolutely perfect fit for me.

I carefully considered the size of the image, ensuring that it would wrap around my prosthesis without distorting. (Pro tip: To get an idea of sizing, get an old t-shirt of your favorite band or sports team and wrap it around your socket. If the main part of the image/logo is too large, you can’t really see what it is.) When my single yard of Modern Jersey fabric arrived, I was thrilled beyond words. I couldn’t help but revel in my excitement as I dropped off the fabric with my prosthetic team, Alex Frost, CPO, and Jeremy Sanders, CPA, bursting with pride. “Have you ever seen anything so cool?” When I walked into the clinic to receive my finished prosthesis, the atmosphere was electric.

The prosthetic team I worked with knew that this was no ordinary prosthesis—it was going to be a work of art.

Even the office manager couldn’t contain her excitement, teasing me with the promise of something truly exceptional. And exceptional it was. Not only had they crafted a custom laminated socket from a carefully chosen fabric, but they had gone a step further and created a shell cover for the calf portion of the prosthesis. I am overjoyed, and can’t help but gaze at it every night as it stands leaning against the bedroom wall.  

Personalizing a Prosthesis is a Process as Unique as You 

Of course, the appearance of your prosthesis is a deeply personal choice. My husband and I run a small anaplastology clinic, Functional Restorations, that specializes in creating incredibly realistic silicone prostheses, complete with pores and fingerprints. I love that that option is available. Personally, I prefer to stand out. Neither preference is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. The ability to personalize our prosthetic devices allows us to fully embrace and thrive with them as a part of ourselves. 

I’ve had this prosthesis for about a year now. If I gain or lose a significant amount of weight, it will be time for a new socket. Otherwise, my prosthetic legs usually last me for years. The striking color of this Blue Medusa design won’t fade, but I have a few scratches here and there. I have to admit that I’ve already revisited Spoonflower, playfully considering which fabric I’ll use the next time around. 

An illustration of a prosthetic leg in gray and black to the left. To the right, a blue square of fabric says “Your favorite modern jersey fabric.” Underneath it is a gray ruler. Underneath that in black text it says “Not sure how much to order? Ask your prosthetist.

Jennifer’s Tips on Customizing Your Own Prosthesis 

If you’re looking to personalize a custom lamination, choosing the perfect fabric is crucial. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.  

1. Your prosthetic team might not initially offer this option. The prosthetic team that I work with regularly offers custom laminated sockets to prosthetic users. In the anaplastology practice that I co-own with my husband, our clients’ aesthetic preferences are a huge priority. Unfortunately, not all prosthetists will offer a custom laminated socket. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. Also, a custom laminated socket like the one I received shouldn’t cost you extra. 

2. Start your search early. You’ll need that fabric by your second or third appointment.  

3. Ask how much fabric you’ll need. Be sure to ask your prosthetic team how much fabric you should buy, consider ordering twice as much as necessary just to be safe. 

4. Pay attention to the size of the design. If the design is too large and it may become distorted once stretched over the prosthesis. 

If you’d like to see examples of custom laminations for prosthetic devices, check out free resources like Amplitude Magazine and the Amputee Coalition.

A close up of Jennifer’s prosthetic leg which features a bright blue Medusa design with black ink details. She is also wearing a dark green zipper boot.
A close up of Jennifer’s prosthetic leg. Featured design: Blue Medusa by heatherinbrooklyn

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use Spoonflower to customize my prosthesis? 
Yes! This tutorial shares how Jennifer Latham Robinson did just that! 
What Spoonflower fabric can I use to customize my prosthesis? 
Jennifer suggests using our Modern Jersey fabric.
Will the fabric I use to customize my prosthesis stay vibrant? 
Yes! Your prosthesis may get scratches over time, but the fabric color will stay vibrant.

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