A Year in Review: My 2018 Design Challenge Entries

I’ve never really participated in posting “something-a-day” challenges. The commitment of having to do something every single day just isn’t appealing to me I have discovered, especially when it comes to something creative. There’s not enough time to think about it and let it percolate, and it ends up just being a “do something quick so I can have it done”. So when I decided that I would participate in the weekly Spoonflower design challenge, I wasn’t sure I would stick with it. So I didn’t set a goal or make an announcement that I was going to participate. But I did. Every single week.

Wow. That’s a cool thing to have accomplished this year.

I mocked up a swatch of each design and made this slide show. (Note: If you are on the home page, you have to click the “read more” button on the this post for it to show you the video.) In parentheses you can see the design challenge theme for the week and at the very end, I made a collage of the top ten by number of “favorites” and my personal top 10 rankings in the overall pool of entries.

My highest finish was “Brine and Barnacles” at number 22 of 576 entries. (That’s the humpback whales design you see up above in the header to this post.) I didn’t manage to crack the top 10, but I would like to! The design challenge that week was a limited color palette, which I really didn’t like: Navy, orchid pink, maroon and white and/or black. I love navy, but the other two colors were not in my personal favorite palette. So I was feeling unsure about this design (because it […]

Designing inspired by snark: The steampunk squid damask

This design always makes me shake my head. It continues to be the most popular design in my Spoonflower shop and it was entirely inspired by snark.

I created it when I was working on the Spoonflower Handbook. One of the projects we wanted to do was a shower curtain and my co-authors and I had managed to convince our editors that the print should be something a little off the wall. We wanted something that wasn’t just Pinterest-worthy, but had a little of the amazing weirdness that can be found among Spoonflower designs. So we settled on octopi, which were a big trend at that time. (They are still pretty popular.)

But we couldn’t find a design that we all agreed on that would fit in to the curriculum in the book. We had a plan for the projects in the book to help you build different skills and teach techniques as you progressed through the book. We needed this design to help teach a particular skill. The trick was to find something that both taught what we needed it to teach and passed the thumbs up of the people in charge of the “look” of the book. (That wasn’t me.)

We tried something made with clip art, but that didn’t fit the design lesson (and licensing was tricky). We tried hand-drawing something inspired by that.

We tried using a vintage illustration from a 1918 encyclopedia.

I cut it out and repeated it, I made many different colorways, we scaled it to different sizes. I made and printed 27 versions of the “octopus design” and nothing could get the thumbs up from everyone who […]

2018-12-04T14:01:44-05:00Everything Else, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|Comments Off on Designing inspired by snark: The steampunk squid damask

Save This Layout and Selling your Spoonflower designs. (I learned something new.)

I’ve been designing a bunch of tea towels for my Spoonflower shop lately. The September design challenges were all about tea towels and I did a couple of tea towel calendars too. Those kinds of designs aren’t really made to repeat. Instead you are designing a panel that is set up to be exactly the size of a fat quarter of fabric. For linen-cotton canvas, which is my preferred fabric for those, that means I am designing a rectangle that is 27×18 inches.

I had sold several of the designs to people shopping on Spoonflower, but a couple of those shoppers chose a different fabric than the linen-cotton canvas, which might not seem like a problem, except that different fabrics have different widths and so the size of the fat quarter is different. If you choose basic cotton for example, a fat quarter is only 21 x 18 inches. Which means that you are going to lose 6 inches of my design. The top photo here is showing you what a fat quarter of basic cotton looks like; the bottom shows linen-cotton canvas. If you order this design in basic cotton, a third of the calendar will be missing.

If you haven’t used Spoonflower a lot, you might not realize that what you see is exactly what you get – if that design is cut off in the preview, then that’s what your fabric is going to look like. It’s an easy mistake to make. I caught it when I saw these orders come through and contacted Spoonflower to get in touch with those customers, since I was pretty sure they didn’t actually want to have only 2/3 of […]

Designing stuffed toys with muslin mockups

The Spoonflower design challenge this week was a cut-and-sew project that fit on a fat quarter. I love designing these kind of things. Some of my very first Spoonflower designs were sets of stuffed toys (Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, Red Riding Hood) where you could make all of the little characters as dolls or finger puppets and then they had their house which was a bag to store them all in. All of the pieces fit on a fat quarter and you just cut them out and sewed them together. The way this design challenge was set up you could make a cut-and-sew anything. Many people made stuffed animal toys, but you could do things bags, headbands or bibs as long as they fit on that 21×18 inch rectangle.

I struggled with this one a little bit. I was going to re-do a sheep stuffed toy pattern that I had in my Etsy shop years and years ago. I thought it would be easy to convert since I had already pattern tested it. But I just wasn’t excited about it and it’s a little fiddly to sew together.

Then I thought about a conversation I had with my friend Megan, who owns a local yarn and fabric store called Knit & Bolt. For a class I was teaching, I interviewed Megan about trends she saw in fabrics – what sells, what doesn’t sell, what do people come in looking for. One of the things that came up was cut-and-sew panels like these. They are popular at her shop, but one of the things she noticed about them is that although they seem like a really great beginner […]

Book Review: The NEW Spoonflower Quick Sew Project Book

Just last week, Spoonflower released their second book, The Spoonflower Quick Sew Project Book. You might know that I worked on the first book, The Spoonflower Handbook and we get a little shout out in the intro for this new book.

The author for the Quick Sew book is my friend Anda Corrie. I have known Anda for a long time, although we only met in person in 2016. Anda worked at Etsy for many years and I asked her to be a juror for a grant program that I administrated when I still worked in the arts admin world. She also was a contributor to the first Spoonflower book. She has a project (pg 85) and she did the illustrations for the book. I love the aesthetic of her fabric designs: colorful, whimsical, and simple, but in a way that has so much character.

I wanted to tell you about this new book and a little about what I think is great about it. (This isn’t a sponsored post or anything like that. Everything I say here is my own thoughts and impressions.)

The book in a nutshell

It’s a sewing book. Where the Spoonflower Handbook focused on teaching you ways to create your own design, the main focus of this book is sewing. It has a great variety of projects that use different amounts of fabric from swatch to several yards. Although there are several projects that show you how to design something that is personalized, that isn’t the main goal. In some ways, I feel like this one is the prequel to the other. The Quick Sew book teaches you […]

2018-10-16T13:40:56-05:00Book Reports, Sewing & Design, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|Comments Off on Book Review: The NEW Spoonflower Quick Sew Project Book

Faking It.

I was invited to show three pieces in an exhibition called Fiber Art in the Digital Age at the WI Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts. The theme of the show is fiber art that incorporates innovations of the “digital age”. I created three pieces that include digitally printed fabrics and laser cut wood and acrylic. This is the first in a series of posts talking about those pieces.

Faking It
Sometimes a comment about your work sticks with you for years. One of the first digitally printed fabric garments I made was a dress that I wore to an art gallery opening. Two visitors came up to me and struck up a conversation about the dress, asking if the fabric was made using batik. When I explained with excitement that it was actually digitally printed photographs of ice, they looked at me and said “Digitally printed? That’s cheating!”

I have discovered that the relationship between fiber art and computers is often misunderstood. There is an assumption that if you use a computer, that it does all of the work; you just press a key and Photoshop magically creates art. Because I used a computer to create part of my piece these commenters, and several others throughout the years, decided that it wasn’t real art.

So, I decided to make Faking It a celebration of “fake” art made by computers. I started by creating imitation mosaics from recycled magazine paper with images of computers and technology: an iPhone, charging cables and even a vintage floppy disk signed with my initials. I surrounded the mosaic tiles with a border of ransom note style words that all are synonyms for fake: false, swindle, hoax, hokum, spoof, flim flam, bogus and […]

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