22 May, 2020

Friday Fabric Review: Spoonflower Organic Cotton Sateen and Cotton Poplin

2020-05-22T12:54:59-05:00Fabric Reviews, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|Comments Off on Friday Fabric Review: Spoonflower Organic Cotton Sateen and Cotton Poplin

I’m starting a new series talking about the different kinds of fabric bases you can print on at Spoonflower. I get an email from someone on a pretty regular basis asking for advice about different kinds of fabric and trying to decide what will work best for a project. I have worked with nearly every fabric base at Spoonflower for some project or another. I’ve printed my designs, sewed with them, washed them, and worn them. I wrote up a post about the Petal Signature Cotton and comparing it to the other cotton bases a while back. Starting with this post, on Fridays I am going to pick another fabric or two and tell you everything I know about them and tell you about what I like and don’t like about each one. I will also use Petal Cotton as a comparison for all of these since this is the lowest cost option and might be the one that more people have ordered a sample of.

I’m going to start today talking about Organic Cotton Sateen and Cotton Poplin.

About Sateen

I have definitely used the sateen for more projects than poplin and it is one of my favorite fabrics. This dress and coat (made for an exhibition in 2015) is made all with Sateen and the coat is lined with Satin. This is not a “coat weight” fabric by any means; I interlined this with a cotton twill to give it the body and weight for a coat. It is 3.8 oz per yard, which makes it slightly lighter weight than the Petal Cotton and it feels slightly thinner in your hand.

The Sateen has a very silky, smooth feel. It is a matte finish and is not shiny but it does have a little sheen. Instead of an “over-under-over-under” pattern that you think of when you think of a woven fabric, the way a sateen weave is made, it has very fine threads that “float” over several threads which gives it that smoothness.

The Sateen is a nice bright white, similar to the Petal Cotton. One of the parts I like best about it is that it has a 56″ printable width, which is much wider than your typical quilting cotton. That’s almost 30% more fabric in a yard than Petal Cotton, which has 42″ printable width. Spoonflower says that the shrinkage rate for Sateen is 3-4%. I did a test of some scraps and swatches a while back, where I measured before and after washing and I found the Spoonflower estimates to be really accurate. What does 3% shrinkage mean? That’s about 2 inches both directions on a yard of fabric. So that is definitely something to be aware of and a reason to always wash your fabric before you make something with it. (Moda Fabrics states that their fabrics are expected to shrink 3-5% when washed, so this is not just a Spoonflower thing.) The Sateen is also an organic cotton option.

Sateen frays somewhat easily and so I always serge or finish the edges when I am working on projects using it. It’s really easy to sew and I think it takes pressed creases and lines easily. I have made lots of dresses out of it and although they come out of the washer and dryer with a few wrinkles, they are easy to press or steam out. One time (and really only once) I had a little trouble with some color transfer of the pigment from sateen coming off onto my iron, so I am careful not to turn the heat up excessively high and it hasn’t been a problem. (This probably has nothing to do with it being the sateen, it’s just the fabric I have used the most.) A question that someone asked was “how does it tear vs cutting?” It tears somewhat easily, but it does distort the edge (because of the way the weave is constructed) so I would recommend cutting vs tearing.

About Poplin

Poplin is the lightest of the Spoonflower cotton fabrics. It’s marked as 3.3 oz per yard and it’s 42″ printable width. It feels much lighter or thinner in your hand than Petal Cotton. It is also very smooth because it is woven with fine threads. Here you can see it compared to Petal Cotton and it is easy to see the difference in the fineness of the weave. It’s not as fine as a lawn, but it is the closest you will find in the Spoonflower line-up.

Poplin has a slight creaminess to the color, it isn’t quite as bright a white as the Sateen or Petal cotton. It is slightly translucent, shown above with some Xs marked in sharpie on a card underneath. Because it is so finely woven it doesn’t fray as easily as Petal or Sateen and it tears very easily with the grain and does not distort. Shrinkage is marked as 5-6% in length and 3-4% in width. I haven’t made nearly as many projects with poplin as I have with many other fabrics. There’s no real reason for that other than it just hasn’t been the right fabric for the project I was doing. I did make several ties and bow ties with it and I did find it wrinkles fairly easily and can be difficult to get a really smooth pressed look. Lots of steam seemed to help. Also, because it is so tightly woven, I did want a smaller sewing machine needle than I typically use in my machine. I tend to sew a lot heavier weight fabrics and the larger needle used for that left a more obvious stitching line (bigger holes) and it just looked nicer with a finer needle.

Print Quality and Appearance on Sateen and Poplin

Of all of the cotton fabric options, Sateen and Poplin are probably going to be the best options for designs with really fine details. The fineness of the threads in both fabrics just makes the printing look a little crisper and sharper. This is probably the most noticeable in this example in places like the text. In the close up example below, you can see the same thing printed on Petal, Sateen and Poplin and there is some difference in the fuzziness or softness of the edges of the letters. It’s also really hard to capture in a photo, but when I look carefully in the areas of this sample that are photos (sunflower, beads) you can see a difference in the sharpness especially at the edges and shadows. If I were to pick a winner for the crispness and detail when printing a photo, I would go with the Poplin.

In this example of four colorways of the same design, you can see some of the crispness of the Sateen and Poplin compared to the Petal, but I can also see that the Sateen (far right) has a little contrast boost. I notice it most in the red/pink version where the lighter pink seems just a little brighter compared to the background. It’s subtle, but something I noticed.

What are these fabrics good for? That is a hard one to answer. Like I talked about with the coat I showed up above, I tend to figure out how to make a fabric work for me instead of worrying about what it is “supposed” to be good for. I think if I were making clothing, I would pick the Sateen over Poplin (or Petal) because I really like the feel of it. For wearables, the tendency to wrinkles would make me nuts with using Poplin because I don’t like to iron. (I don’t ever buy linen clothing; I just can’t stand how it always looks rumply.) If I were picking a fabric for something like an art quilt, especially one with photographic or really textured designs, I might pick Poplin just because of the detail in the print quality.

6 May, 2020

Brains… (no, zombies have not invaded my blog)

2020-05-06T11:27:54-05:00An Artist's Life, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|Comments Off on Brains… (no, zombies have not invaded my blog)

The Spoonflower design challenge theme for this week was “Designs for Good”. From the design spec, that is defined as “challenging you to create a repeating design inspired by a cause that is close to your heart. From raising autism awareness to creating food security in your local community, we want to know what inspires you every day.”

I decided to make my design about brains and if you follow any of my social media channels, you saw a little sneak peek of this design in a video I made for #GiveAtHomeMN to highlight some organizations that are trying really hard to figure out ways to help artists in this new world we are living in. In fact, I made the paper collage pieces for this design while I was listening and participating in an “Artists Town Hall” Zoom meeting.

I call this design “Your Brain’s Not Broken”. It is made from recycled magazine pictures and I really looked for things that were bright colors and interesting textures. I grouped them generally by color to make rough rectangles and then cut each one into the shape of a brain.

For the background of the design, I cut stripes of black and white patterns: the text from magazine pages and safety paper envelopes. I scanned each of these components and assembled the design in two layers, creating a seamless repeating pattern of the black and white bars and then putting the bright colored brains over top.

Why brains? I wanted a way to represent mental health, and although that might seem like a pretty obvious choice, I liked that it was easy to understand. I like that it’s a little science-y. And it feels busy and vibrant. This design is about brains and about how brains are made up of different colors, textures, and patterns and no two are alike. We all have something beautiful and something wacky and something that frustrates. These are brains that are doing their thing in the best way they know how.

I don’t know about all of you, but I am pretty aware of my brain these days. We are all learning so many new things right now about how to do our jobs and our lives in different ways than we are used to. I never knew how exhausting video meetings were. I didn’t know how different it was to teach to a laptop screen instead of a group of students. I’m too tired to be creative some days. There’s so much information to wrap your head around about how to be safe and well and responsible to others. Some days are easier and some are really hard.

The funny thing about this design is that it really felt like *me*, more than many other things I’ve worked on the past few months. I love participating in the weekly design challenges from Spoonflower because as an artist it’s great to be pushed out of my comfort zone and challenged to go a different direction than I would choose, but I have struggled with the design challenges this spring. The themes and the colors felt more like a drag than a challenge for some reason. With one exception (my roller skating labrador for the roller rink nostalgia challenge), nothing has made it to the top 100 in the weekly contest voting and mostly I’ve finished somewhere around 50%. I don’t get too caught up in the voting part of the design challenges, but it is an interesting source of feedback to see how people are responding to what I am putting out there. And to go back to that theme of brains, it feels great to see a design do well and pretty discouraging to finish somewhere solidly in “meh, whatever” territory. And have your treacherous brain-voice tell you that you are kidding yourself and you should just quit and everyone is better than you are. It’s a lie, but we all hear it sometimes, right? So maybe this week’s design is a little about that too. I don’t think this one is going to be a top 10 design; I just don’t make things that follow that “look” that the top 10 usually have. But I think this one is going to resonate with some of you. At least I hope so.

19 February, 2020

Did you know? A Spoonflower tip about proofing different scales.

2020-04-01T07:38:07-05:00Spoonflower & Fabric Design, Tutorials|2 Comments

I recently uploaded some new colorways of this “Steampunk Squid Damask” design to my Spoonflower shop. It’s one I designed for The Spoonflower Handbook and the original is a pale blue and white. After I had all of the new colors proofed by ordering samples, I had a request from a customer that she was super excited about new colors, but she wanted a smaller scale of the design. In the original the squids are about 8 inches tall, but I have a few of the colors available with a squid 4 inches tall. I certainly didn’t want to have to order another set of proofs just to change the size of the squids.

Did you know that if you are uploading a new version of a design and ONLY changing the scale or the rotation of the design (no color changes or changes to the repeat) that Spoonflower will help you do that without requiring a proof? I hadn’t had a reason to rescale like this before, but I knew it was just a matter of sending an email. I uploaded all of the smaller scale versions of the same designs. Then, all I had to do was email the help team with the URL of the original (already proofed) design and the URL of the revised design at a new scale and they were able to manually set them to “proofed” for me. Once they were set to proofed, I could put them up for sale for my customer.

It’s always a good idea to order a proof of any design, but in this case, I know already that these look great at the smaller scale so there really wasn’t anything I needed to proof. So now there are 8 new colorways available in two different sizes. That’s a lot of squid!

18 February, 2020

Learning things takes time.

2020-02-18T14:19:31-06:00An Artist's Life, Spoonflower & Fabric Design, UpcomingClasses|Comments Off on Learning things takes time.

Tutorials that say that a project is “quick and easy” are kind of a pet peeve of mine. You see entire pages of results on Pinterest: quick, easy, no-sew, only 2 steps, 5 minutes to make, 30 second hacks. It’s not that I don’t think there’s a place and a need for quick and easy projects, but I think that’s often all you can find: the quick and easy solution to a problem that might not be so quick and easy.

I’ve spent the last week or so putting together some new classes. I know how to do that planning part, but I needed to set up a new way to take registration payments and to link them together with the event and to post them as a draft event on Facebook. None of those are “hard” things to do, but they were all things that I needed to learn something about. Square recently updated the way they do their web shop. So I needed to learn the new system. It was super confusing, but I finally have the basics figured out. My event calendar needed an update and I spent a few minutes figuring out how to add a link for the class cancellation policy to every page so I didn’t have to copy and paste it in every time. I got the events posted and then spent many minutes tapping around on my phone trying to figure out how to accept the invitation to co-host the event with my FB page, because although I found the “accept” button in the browser version on my laptop, the button didn’t work. But I digress…

The thing is, it feels good to learn something like this. It’s a sense of accomplishing something. I spent the time and I figured it out. I grumbled, I muttered some words under my breath, I was frustrated a little, but I got there. And now I know. And I can do it again.

This is the problem with the “quick and easy” solutions. There really isn’t a sense of accomplishment. You are done before you ever had to dig in and mutter curse words and figure out the solution. When I was thinking about writing and designing these new classes I am teaching, this was something I kept thinking about.

Often, I am invited to do the lecture or the intro class for a group or organization but I almost never get to teach the thing that digs deeper. I love teaching those, don’t get me wrong; but I am always asked to do the “quick and easy version”, which has a low cost and a low time commitment, but can accommodate the most students. I haven’t been teaching much lately because the only opportunities I had were teaching these same “quick and easy” classes over and over. Which is great, but I felt like I was starting to sound like a broken record. At least in my head. I know that I was only getting people to a tiny taste and not actually getting them to the feeling of having learned something.

However, sometimes cool things just fall in to place and I got an opportunity to try something a little different. A dear friend of mine wanted to try opening up her new studio to guest instructors and basically said “tell me what you want to do.”

Taking a class is a leap of faith. You go in with an expectation and anticipation, and you trust that you will get that thing or idea or concept to take away at the end. Teaching is also a leap of faith; trusting the students to come along with you for the ride. And for these classes that I just wrote and redesigned, I am taking a leap of faith with my students too. I tried to think outside of the box on these a little bit and think more about what would make them great classes and less about what would make them “quick and easy”.

So I upped the expectations on a few of them. I’m requiring students to do a little work ahead of time like uploading a file to me, so we can have a cooler experience during class working with actual printed fabric. I created two hybrid classes that have both an in-person and an online component. One session focuses on the hands-on “technology” parts that students want help with and the second online session they can do on their own time in their own sewing space to finish the project. I realized that a majority of the students who take classes from me come to class with a beginner skill level when it comes to digital design, but they are not beginners when it comes to sewing. So I made classes that matched that. Hands-on in-person work with the digital/technology stuff paired with independent lessons in the stuff you don’t need the detailed help with. This hybrid format also makes it easy to commit, I hope. You only have to fit one class session into your busy schedule, but you get a whole other half of the class to do on your own. It’s kind of like a two-for-one deal.

Will these work? I don’t know yet. I hope so. I talked to a bunch of other friends of mine who are teachers and they had varying degrees of optimistic skepticism. But just like any new product or idea, you have to prototype. You have to try it and see what happens.

Check out the new classes here

21 January, 2020

The Return of the Spoonflower Masterclass (kind of)

2020-01-21T14:50:27-06:00Spoonflower & Fabric Design, UpcomingClasses|Comments Off on The Return of the Spoonflower Masterclass (kind of)

In July 2020, I am teaching a 5-day class at the Touchstone Center for Craft in Farmington, PA. It is a masterclass in designing your own digitally printed fabrics with Spoonflower, with a focus on using Photoshop as your main digital design tool. I haven’t taught a class like this in more than a year, but not for lack of interest, just for lack of opportunity. It’s hard to put together a class like this without somewhere like Touchstone to help coordinate it.

You may have found my blog because of the Masterclasses that I used to teach at Spoonflower in Durham. We had to put those on hiatus, unfortunately, because the space we were using to teach in was needed for other things and we couldn’t make the budget stretch enough to be able to rent classroom space. (Space is always the biggest challenge I have in getting a class like this put together.) So I am really excited that Touchstone invited me to be there! I call it a masterclass because of the amount and depth of material we get to cover in class, but you can take the class even if you have never designed anything before. You don’t need to have any special skills and you don’t need to have ever used Photoshop.

This is a description of the class:

Learn to design your own fabrics with Spoonflower, working with Adobe Photoshop as a fabric design tool. Using photographs, paintings, drawings and cut paper textures as starting points for your designs, class time will be focused on practice with digital tools and techniques for creating seamless textures, learning how to work with layers, and understanding the techniques to accomplish specific effects. You will see hands-on samples of all of the Spoonflower fabrics and talk about optimizing your design for printing on different surfaces, troubleshooting color and scale, and choosing the right fabric for your project. You do not need drawing or painting skills; no experience with Photoshop or fabric design is necessary, although you should be comfortable with basic computer functions (copy/paste, saving and uploading files, working with a thumbdrive). You will leave class with several print-ready design files and will receive printed swatches of your designs mailed to you after class. Visit spoonflower.com to learn more about this platform.

And you can read about the technology requirements and some FAQs here.

If you are interested in taking the class, Touchstone has given me a couple of discount codes for half-price scholarships that I can give away to two students. Which is AWESOME. Send me an email if you are serious about the class and want to talk more about the scholarship details. I want to help you get there!

4 October, 2019

Designing Fabric Workshop with the Museum of Russian Art

2019-12-18T11:40:02-06:00Gallery Exhibitions, Spoonflower & Fabric Design, Videos|Comments Off on Designing Fabric Workshop with the Museum of Russian Art

These are fabrics designed by students in my workshops at the Museum of Russian Art this week. I added a few detail photos from the work in the exhibition so you can see some of the shapes and colors that were our inspiration. I’ll be making an installation of origami dresses from these designs to display at TMORA along with with the exhibition so that people can see modern fabric interpretations of traditional designs. The students in my classes at TMORA were so much fun and I can’t wait to see all of these fabrics in person.

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