Tutorial: Seamless Arrows Print – Part One

It’s a busy week for me with The Spoonflower Handbook coming out on Tuesday and the opening reception for my grant project on Thursday, so I thought I would combine the two and give you something fun:  a fabric design tutorial based on one of the prints from my grant project.

The third project for my grant was a dress also created in duet with another artist.  For that design, she created a layered photo image and sent it to me.  I created a coordinating print and the two were combined in the final piece.  The photo she created had lots of organic shapes, transparent layers and abstract imagery, so I decided to create some contrast by making a print that was the opposite of that: geometric & somewhat representational.

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The inspiration for this design is actually a software engineering tool that helps designers collaborate by tracking the different versions of the code and where things merge and branch off.  I saw this graphic representation of that over my husband’s shoulder while he was working and I loved both the look and the metaphor.

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I decided to make arrowheads instead of dots and to use a layer from the photo to choose the colors in my design (which I will show you more about later.)

Creating the Arrowhead Design

Open a new file in Adobe Illustrator.

For this tutorial I did just a small repeat so it was easy for you to follow along.  (My finished design was about 18 inches square.)

I turned on two options in Illustrator that really make this design easy to do: Show Grid and Snap to Grid.  You can find both of those in the View menu.  You can adjust the spacing of your grid lines under Illustrator -> Preferences -> Guides & Grid.

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Draw with the Pen Tool & adjust lines.

I drew all of the lines in the design using the Pen Tool.  (If you need help, there’s a great tutorial here for drawing straight lines with the Pen Tool.)  The grid will help you see where to place lines and the Snap to Grid option will make them stick to the intersections of the grid – making it really easy to make straight lines that are very precisely spaced based on your grid spacing.

Once I had a line in place, I selected it and went to the Stroke Palette to adjust the look of the line.  I made the line weight heavier at 6 pt and added an arrowhead at the end by choosing one from the dropdown.

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Add extra arrowheads with the Polygon Tool.

I did all of my drawing in black and white because I am going to add the color in a later step. Once I had all of the lines in place, I wanted to add some extra arrowheads, not just at the end of the lines.  To do that, I used the Polygon Tool (which is one of the options under the Rectangle Tool).  I chose a 3 sided shape with a .5 inch radius, which matched the arrowheads pretty perfectly.  I adjusted the fill to be black and the outline transparent.


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Adjust the fill and outline in the bottom of the tools palette. It’s the two overlapping squares.

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In part two of this tutorial, I will talk about how to make sure that this design is seamless and check for a balanced repeat.


Jerome Grant Projects: Duet #2

My second project for my Jerome Grant is all about the story.  My partner Dawn and I have been friends since the 7th grade.  Dawn is now a professor, teaching art at a community college.  She isn’t a digital or fabric person at all; she gravitates towards printmaking and book arts.  I thought it would be fun to go “offline” with Dawn and write a series of postcards to one another.  I bought several packages of blank cards and a bunch of stamps and we mailed our conversation back and forth with one side of the card for words and one side for a sketch of something. She block printed, I water colored with tea and we talked about art.  Why do I hate working with the color red?  Do you have a “go to” doodle that you always draw when you don’t know what to draw?

Dawn really inspired me to do something hands on and get away from the computer a little bit.  So I started a series of designs based on cut paper collages made from found paper and junk mail.  I now have about 6 designs based on that idea and I am really loving that whole set of work.  We talked a little at the beginning of the project about making a garment that told a story. Could a dress be a book?

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This design is the base I started from.  Two sizes of circle punches and a stack of catalogs and envelopes.  I made 4 like this that became the final fabric design.  They alternate between bright colors with no text and grey/black/white with text on them.  I wanted to incorporate text into the design to refer to that book idea, but I didn’t want it to be a literal story that you would read.  So I used text as a design element throughout.

What kind of a story would a dress tell you?  It would have to be a “choose your own adventure”, where something you would do would be like turning the pages of the story.  So I created a text design from a torn up choose your own adventure book from the thrift store.  More text, but used in a textural way.  That is what makes the texture on the hem of the dress, which is shown here.  This is a screenshot of the actual dress panels as I was working on them.

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The origami butterflies came next.  I had made some fabric butterflies as a way of using up some pretty scraps for a show early in the spring.  And I loved that this design was evolving entirely from paper, so I made two kinds of butterflies.  These above were folded from origami paper and photographed to be layered into the design. And then I made 3-D fabric origami butterflies that embellish the dress.  (I have an affinity for origami butterflies.  My engagement ring was an origami butterfly folded from shiny silver paper.)

Finally I wanted to get our postcards incorporated into the design, so I scanned the text from several and created a final text design that is our handwriting with a color gradient over top.

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This design was printed on 2 yards of silk crepe to make a “scarf”.

Where does the “choose your own adventure” come in?  The dress is designed to be rearranged by the wearer.  Like a magnetic nametag, the fabric butterflies have neodymium magnets stitched to the back and another stitched to a felt backing.  The magnets let you put butterflies anywhere you like.  Up over the shoulder, all along the hem.  They also hold the scarf piece in place, so you can add a cowl back or an extra strap or a hood or a piece draped grecian style.

This one is called “Choose Your Own Adventure”.  (And I will post finished photos also after the show has opened.)

Jerome Grant: Duets Part One

The three projects for my Jerome Grant exhibition are all duets with other artists.  I chose three people as partners who I thought had something to teach me about art and design.  The original idea was to work on things digitally and have the focus be about the ways we all use digital design tools, but as we started to talk, each duet turned into something a little different.  The first partner I worked with was my dear friend Donna Kallner.  Donna is the fiber artist of the three and although her particular passions are ancient art forms, she is one of the most self-taught “techhie” artists I know.

Donna was featured in the Spring 2015 of the publication from the National Basketry Organization.

Donna was featured in the Spring 2015 of the publication from the National Basketry Organization.

Donna and I decided to play a game called “Photoshop Tennis”.  The idea is that you pass a digital image back and forth and each make an edit.  I do something and lob it back to her and vice versa.  We gave ourselves a pool of images to work from with a shared DropBox folder.  We set down some ground rules (choose at least 2 photos to combine) and a general aesthetic (organic, earth tones.)  We had wet dogs, fungus, brick, bittersweet, weathered tables and agates among the images in that folder.



We had several versions of designs going, but this set of photos ended up being the final fabrics.  A brick wall, a snowy cornfield, frost on a window and a line drawing that I scanned.  These were layered with different opacity, repeated, mirrored, inverted.  We did a lot to them, but I think they still read in the final fabrics amazingly well.


I love that we created a geometric print from an organic shape.  That is one of my favorite parts of this design. I can’t tell you who did what because it evolved very organically. I was completely skeptical at first because I had never created a design from a large landscape image.  My photo choices tend towards close up macro shots, at the other end of the spectrum.  One of the “new” ideas I think I learned was the use of repeating layers.  The brick pattern was layered several times by itself and rotated – transforming the brick into a more irregular cross-hatch pattern, which is a fantastic texture. We left our files “in progress” when we passed them back and forth, so I could dig right into the layers and see how everything fit together. I think we get into habits as designers of going to your “go to” tools and this was a really interesting exploration for me to dig into Donna’s work and say “what did she do there”.  It was a way for me to watch her work and see a new process.

The ensemble that these fabrics go in to is two major pieces: a sheath dress made from the blue brick print and a coat made from the geometrics.  Both pieces have the frost image layered on top in very specific places.  It makes a “collar” on the dress and is layered at the hem and cuffs of the coat at very large scale.  The hand-drawn print is the coat lining.  The dress and coat are made from cotton sateen, the coat lining is satin.  (The coat is interlined with a heavy cotton twill to give it some weight and structure.)  Both pieces are based on 1950’s vintage patterns.

I have titled it “You Can Take the Girl Out of the Country”.  I do know that I am taunting you, but I won’t show the finished pieces until after the show has opened.  Hopefully you can use your imagination a little bit until then.

Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grants: You are invited!

On Thursday September 3 from 6-8 pm is the opening reception for “You Know Who You Are”, the final exhibition for the 2014/15 recipients of the Jerome Foundation Fiber Artist Project Grants.

I was one of this year’s grantees and I have been working on my project since January.  The program is designed so that you apply with a project plan.  Your project should be something that will help you take the next step in your artistic career, and you get to determine what that is.  I decided that my major goal was to have an exhibition of a small collection of my work. (That is a standard part of the program.)

The way I would create the new work would be through a series of conversations with three other artists.  In each conversation, my goal was to learn a new way of thinking about something, especially new ways of designing digitally. There are very few resources to learn digital design skills, especially if you are beyond the beginner “Photoshop 101” stage, so I chose a model of learning from my peers about the way they approach design.  I will post more about these conversations and the pieces that I created as “duets” with my partners in these next days leading up to the exhibition opening.

I would love to see you at the exhibition if you are in the area.

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Upcoming Classes: Repeats

Just a quick note about a class coming up on Monday August 17 (that’s just 1 week!).  I have had a lot of requests for exactly this topic, so this class is really designed by you: creating seamless repeats from your artwork.  The idea is that we will take your art, whether it is a texture or a drawing or a painting and we will learn 4 or 5 different techniques for making it be able to tile seamlessly.  What does that mean?

Here is a pattern that is not seamless.  You can easily see the edges of each repeat tile.  It looks like a set of playing cards set side by side.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 9.46.59 PMThis is the seamless version of that tile.  I copied and flipped the peacock and added in extra feathers so it disguises the edges of the tile.  You can’t see the edges of the rectangle, but it is still just one rectangle repeating over and over.

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This is a complex version.  We will try different techniques in class from really simple (mirrored repeats) to learning a tiny bit about the healing brush and clone in Photoshop.  You can register for class at Textile Center’s website.  Hope to see you there.


An artist wears many hats. (Send more tea.)

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I thought it was time for a little staff meeting here at Becka’s to give you a status on some of the projects we have been working on.

The Art Department has been working on a new design idea which is a combination of geometric with organic overlays.  Looking for prints that might be good for making simple t-shirt dresses.  The one above is called “Editorial Buzz” because it features a geometric print made from a photo of pencil erasers, newsprint and bees.  We think this one is a winner.  The Social Media team will write an article about it next week.  The Art Department has also been busy working on engineered prints for Exhibition Project #3 which is due at the end of the month.  Contributors have submitted their components and it is just a matter of completing design work in the next 2 business days.

The Photography Department just finished a photoshoot of 6 new pieces to go with a grant submission.  The photo styling team was very efficient.  These have been formatted for the grant requirements and also for updates to the artist’s website.

The Marketing Team reports that new business cards have finally been ordered, the artist having realized that she was out of them at an inopportune moment.  They have been shipped.

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The IT Department ran updates to the artist’s website due to a WordPress software update.  The photos from the Photography Department were uploaded and the gallery re-styled due to the artists frustration with the previous template.  Tech Support I (aka Google) was queried for instructions on adding additional sidebars and full width templates.  A request has been placed with Tech Support Supervisor (aka husband) in regards to a .css conflict which is causing something to be green that shouldn’t be.  IT will report back.

The Development Department reports successful completion of Arts Board Grant submission.  Approximately 16 hours of prep was required for this project, which results in some overtime for this Department.  Final count was 7500 characters exactly.  Grant funding will be used for new exhibition of work and purchase of mobile computer lab, pending approval of funding.

Outreach and Community Engagement Department attended a gathering of non-profits to interview and recruit potential board candidates. They report many renewed acquaintances and possible partnership opportunites as a result.  Note to Marketing Department: order more business cards.  The department also reports two new design project queries, but these have been postponed until after personnel have been freed up by Development.

Product Development received a shipment of experimental purse frames.  They also placed a manufacturing order of laser cut components to arrive in a few days.

The Customer Service Team responded to an email request for more product and performed maintenance in the online shop.  Orders are to be shipping tomorrow when it is not raining.

Canine Interns report rain in the backyard.  They are very concerned about monitoring the squirrels, so they are currently napping in the dry spot under the tree and have declined requests to come in the house.


Sleepy canine interns.

Building Maintenance reports that there are unusual levels of mud in the kitchen.  Suggested follow-up with Canine Interns.

The Artist reports a need for a nap.  Or maybe more caffeine.  We are out of Breakfast Assam.