Tag Archives: #spoonflower

Work in progress and origami design inspiration.

I talked a few posts back about goals for 2018 and one of those was to design more fabric. My goal was one new design a week and so far I am way ahead of schedule! First, I expanded my oboe fabrics line. It went from 1 print, which I originally designed in 2009 to 24 oboe and oboe-themed fabric prints available. I did six different designs in 4 different colorways. Because someone always asks the question when I use that term, a colorway means the group of colors that make up the designs. I use the same colors in all 6 fabrics so that the colorway all coordinates and you can mix and match. So my colorways are Tango (grey/red/pink/black), Duet (blue/green/purple), Salsa (orange, lime, turquoise, grey) and Blues (blue, grey, black). Those are all now printed, proofed, tweaked and available for sale in my Spoonflower shop.

And then I printed a slight variation on those same designs onto note cards so that I have sets of oboe postcards available now in my Etsy shop called Oboe d’Amore. It ends up that the repeating oboe instrument print is my favorite from the collection, although I am thinking about making a dress from the music staffs print with the wavy lines.

Then as another part of that “design more” goal, I have tackled the Spoonflower weekly design challenges. You can see my Spanish Tile, Greek art, and Kilim designs by clicking those links. Even though I loved my stegosaurus kilim design, it placed #328th, so I have a ways to go before I crack the top ten. I love the contests and I talk about them when I teach, but it isn’t something I ever made time to participate in. I am so glad I put that on my list for this year. I am really enjoying the challenge (and the deadline).

Something I have noticed about my Spoonflower Challenge entries is that I tend to design for the scale I would actually like the print to be printed at, but many contest entries seem to scale for what is going to look awesome in the fat quarter preview that is voted on, even though that would make somewhat exaggerated oversized prints on fabric. Maybe because I am such a fabric person/sewist that I am thinking always “what would this print be good for” and making my design with that scale in mind. So I am going to try a little experiment and for the next few entries, I am going to upload for the contest at a larger scale then I would normally design and then go back and revise them later to scale it down where I think the print belongs (or upload a second version).

This week the contest theme is “Origami” and I thought I would tell you a little about my design, because I love to talk about the process. You know if you have read my blog for any amount of time, that I love origami. I have used it in several exhibitions and I have several fabric designs that incorporate origami.

So for this challenge entry I thought I would start by using the butterflies that I folded for an installation this fall. They are super pretty and I had already photographed them.

But as pretty as they are, I just couldn’t make them look like a cohesive design. I layered them with black and white patterns, dots, clouds. I overlaid them with another color to tie them all together that way. I spent several hours noodling around and just felt like nothing was really working. Bleh.

So, I bagged that idea and started something else. I posted a video about how to fold these butterflies, and I thought it might be interesting to photograph each step of that process and see if I could make a fabric design from that. I wanted to simplify the patterns on the paper, which I think was one of the problems with my previous idea, so I pulled out some construction paper and a little indigo colored craft paint, a pencil eraser and a popsicle stick.

Simple, bold patterns on one side, plain color on the other.

Then I set up my mini photo box and folded and took a photo at each step.

I thought it would be fun to line them up in order of steps, so that you could follow along and see the way it transforms. (Follow Along became the title of this design.)

I felt like it needed one more thing to make it feel finished; some kind of texture in the background so it wasn’t just “things on a white piece of paper”. I love to add layers, so I drew a pattern of arrows. In origami diagrams there are often different kinds of arrows to help tell you what to do with a piece of paper. A zig-zag arrow says fold-and-unfold, a loopy arrow says flip-it-over and so on. So I drew origami-style arrows, scanned and made it into a repeating pattern for the background.

Here is the final finished design.

If you want to see all of the other origami designs (and if you’d like to vote for mine!) you can check out the Origami Challenge page. I think it is really inspiring to be able to see how hundreds of other artists choose to interpret the same themes. There is always something that makes me say “why didn’t I think of that?” and something that makes me say “I wouldn’t have made that choice.” and several new favorites. There’s a dog origami design in this batch that I particularly like.

The next challenge theme is “Significant Otters” and I can’t wait to show you that one!

Coming soon to a cabinet near you.

Tomorrow I install my art in this space. Want a sneak peek? Check out my I Spy Butterflies page where I show behind the scenes making the art and more. You can see the exhibition at the Smallest Museum in St Paul all through the month of October.

New Online classes are now LIVE!

Visit my brand new Online Classes page to learn more and sign up. Take the intro class for free and then dig in to designing all kinds of projects that don’t need a repeat. I am so excited to have these new classes to share with all of you. There are two classes that are live now and much more to come.

Try it: Spoonflower’s Fill-a-Yard tool and 8-bit Art

Spoonflower has a new Fill-A-Yard tool. It’s very simple to use.

  • Create a collection of fabrics.
  • Choose a template (this is 1 yard with 6 inch squares).
  • Click the fabric you want from the thumbnails on the right, then click the square you want to fill with the fabric design.
  • It will print as a “cheater quilt” as one piece of fabric with this design of squares filled with other designs.

As I was demonstrating this for a class a few days ago I suddenly had a brainstorm: I wondered if I could make a picture. It would have to be something ultra simple like 8-bit art (think PacMan or Space Invaders) because there aren’t very many squares to work with. So this morning, I collected a bunch of fabrics to try making a rubber ducky. Here’s my rubber ducky quilt. I think it’s pretty charming and it would make a sweet baby gift.

Want to see how it works? You can try this out with the Just Duckie collection of fabrics I put together. From that collection, just click where it says “Want to use this collection for a Fill-A-Yard project? Start Designing”.

What else can you “draw” using just 42 squares? I’d love to hear about it!

My art supports my community.

I posted this collection of photos to Instagram the other day and it got me thinking. I took the photos as I was walking over to the post office that is just down the block from my house. This is part of my regular routine: walking over to the post office to drop off an Etsy order. Unless it is -20 degrees, I usually walk over there; I don’t like to “work out”, so I make myself walk places a lot. I thought to myself (and laughed a little as I thought about it) “I bet nobody knows that every Etsy shop order they place with me is delivered part of the way on foot.”

And then the more I thought about it, the more I thought that’s part of the story I should be telling. That’s part of the cool thing about both having a small business and working with small businesses. It’s not about distribution centers and corporate culture; it’s about people with stories.

So here are some stories that you wouldn’t know about my business.

I do hand deliver every order you place with me to my neighborhood post office on foot. Sometimes I walk my dogs over too. I have known the people that work in that post office for more than 12 years. It’s a really nice group and they are super helpful whenever I have a question or a problem with shipping something.

My small business also helps support a bunch of other small businesses. There is an art form in itself to sourcing materials to make handmade items for sale. When I first started making and selling things, I used to save all of my coupons and buy everything at Joann Fabrics. But as my business grew, I started to find other sources for the things I needed a lot of. I get all of my zippers for zipper bags from a shop on Etsy called Zipit. She carries everything I could possibly need and she lives just 1 state away from me, so everything ships to me super fast. Similarly, I get purse frames from another Etsy shop, and ribbon for zipper pulls from another Etsy shop. I ordered ultra suede scraps from a shop the other day for a new project I am working on. All of the buttons for the garments for my last exhibition came from Etsy shops. That’s always the place I start when I need a new material; I love the idea that I help make those shops successful too.

I also make a lot of my items with the help of two companies: Spoonflower and Ponoko. They are bigger businesses than mine, but they are still small businesses. And they are small enough that I have a relationship with them. I know people who have worked at both places and I have visited Spoonflower many times. They own equipment that I could never have access to without them. A $100,000 fabric printer and $40,000 laser cutter are really not in my budget. Not to mention that my house is just too small to fit either machine. I have all of the technical skills to design things and I get access to this professional quality equipment. They get to handle all of the tech support and maintenance of those machines. What’s not to love about that?

The holiday show I was accepted into in November is renting space in a local artist studio building. My booth fee is helping to support that small business. I did a lecture just last night with a focus of helping other local sellers to be more successful selling on Etsy. I’ve spend the last almost 2 years partnering with theaters and museums in my community to design and make things for their gift shops. Those partnerships help support me and the organization, which is part of my community.

The more I got thinking about this, the more I realized that is a core value for my artistic practice. And I think it’s a pretty cool one. My art supports my community. And that’s a story I need to tell more about.

Fabric Design for Back to School: Pop Art Shoe Bag Tutorial

When you live in Minnesota, “Back-to-School Season” is quickly followed by “Snowboots Season”. When I asked my sister what she thought would be a great back-to-school project to share with the Spoonflower Back to School Blog Hop, she described a “stuff sack” type bag to put the kids’ shoes in their backpacks when they have to wear their snowboots to school. Something to keep the papers from getting dirty and books from getting crumpled by dirty sneakers. With each kid needing regular shoes, gym shoes and snowboots, there are a lot of shoes getting hauled back and forth on the bus every day.

Creating the fabric design.

Color & scan.

My niece and nephew are 7 & almost 9 years old and I thought the bags would be the most fun (and more likely to get used) if I could get the kids to help me with the fabric design. What better for a shoe bag than a fabric print with shoes?

So I drew a coloring book page with a canvas sneaker. I drew it in fine tip sharpie, scanned it and emailed it to my sister. She printed copies and let the kids color the shoes any way they liked. They chose colored pencils for these, but this would also work with markers, crayons, or watercolor.

Download: If you want to make your own shoe print, you can download my shoe coloring book page here. It is yours to use any way you like.

I love to add texture and dimension to my designs so when I got the colored shoes back from the kids, I used a 1/8 in paper punch to punch holes at the eyelets and I made shoelaces from colored yarn. I threaded it through like lacing the shoe and tied a bow. Then I scanned the completed shoes.

Make the background transparent.

I opened each shoe in Photoshop so that I could cut out the shoe and make the background transparent. I used the Magic Wand tool to select the white background and then unlocked the layer so that I could delete that white edge and leave just the shoe.

  1. Choose the magic wand tool.
  2. Click the white area in the background of the shoe.
  3. Unlock the layer.
  4. Hit the delete key.
  5. The background should now be transparent (checkerboard).
  6. If your first click didn’t remove all of the white background, continue to select and delete the parts you don’t need.
  7. Here is a tutorial on how to adjust settings on the magic wand tool to fine tune and select more/less area.
  8. Save each shoe as a .psd file. (That’s a Photoshop file.)

Create the background canvas.

I wanted to do a repeating Warhol-inspired pop art design with the shoes by putting them each on a brightly colored background rectangle, so I set up a new canvas in Photoshop for the background. I created a new file that was 7.5 x 9 inches at 150 dpi. That’s the size I decided to make the repeat for my design.

I filled this canvas with 6 rectangles, each 2.5 x 4.5 inches. I drew these using the Rectangle Tool (yellow circle below) and filled them with a random color. Hint: If you click once with the tool inside your canvas, it will bring up a dialog box and you can type in the exact size of the rectangle you would like. Just repeat that to make all six rectangles. Here’s a little more about how to use the Rectangle Tool. Use the Move Tool to move the rectangles into place and be sure that you have selected the layer that you want to move. (Each rectangle will be on its own layer.)


I am going to match the colors to the shoes a little later, so the colors don’t matter at this step, just pick ones with a lot of contrast.

Add the shoes to the design.

Next, I placed the shoes into the design, using File -> Place Embedded and chose the edited version with the transparent background. I resized each one as I brought it in so that each shoe would fit in a rectangle. I adjusted the height to make each one 4 inches tall and made sure to click the chain icon (to the left of the yellow circle) to make sure it was scaled proportionally and not “squished”. If you want to adjust them after you have placed them, be sure that you have the right layer selected. Each rectangle and each shoe will be on a different layer at this point.

Match the background colors to the shoes.

Finally, to recolor the rectangles and match them to the colors in the shoes, I used the paint bucket/eyedropper tool in combination. The annoying part of this step will be keeping track of which layer you are on, so I recommend going to Layer -> Merge Visible and making your design all one layer for this step.

I then switched to the Paintbucket Tool and hovered over a color in a shoe. When I hold down the option key with Paintbucket selected, my Paintbucket will transform to an eyedropper. I clicked with the eyedropper to choose a color from a shoe and then released the option key. Now the cursor switches back to paint bucket and I can click inside a rectangle to fill with that color. Continue to select (hold option – click) a color and paint (release option – click) until you have colors that you like.

My finished repeat is below.

Save it and order a yard.

Now save this design as a .jpg and upload it to Spoonflower. I liked mine arranged as a half-drop repeat. You can get two bags out of one yard of fabric. I chose Basic Cotton Ultra for this project because I wanted the bags to be sturdy but not too bulky since they are designed to go inside another bag.

If you aren’t feeling like you want to design your own fabric or you don’t have kids around to do some coloring with you, I also curated a collection of great shoe fabrics by other Spoonflower designers. You can shop that Shoe collection here.

This is a great place to tell you that Spoonflower is giving you, my readers, a 10% discount! Use coupon code Rahn10 when you place your order. It’s valid until September 30, 2017 for orders of fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap and can not be applied with any other promotional offers.

Sewing the bag

Materials you need to make the bag.

  • 1/2 yard of shoe fabric. Basic Cotton Ultra is a great choice.
  • 1/2 yard of lining fabric.  I chose a lightweight cotton/poly broadcloth in bright green.
  • a 22 x 2 inch scrap of very lightweight fabric for the drawstring casing. I used a scrap from the selvedge of a piece of Spoonflower’s poly crepe de chine. Nylon or poly lining fabric is also a great choice. You want something that will allow the drawstring to bunch up and close the bag.
  • 1 yard of 1/4 inch paracord
  • A cord lock toggle. I got mine from this shop at Etsy.

Cut out rectangles.

You need three rectangles to make each bag.

  • 23 inches x 14 inches of your shoe fabric.
  • 23 inches x 14 inches of your lining fabric.
  • 21 inches x 2 inches of a very lightweight fabric for the drawstring casing.

Hem and fold the casing.

Start with the small rectangle of fabric for the drawstring casing. Make a narrow 1/4 hem at each short edge. Then fold the strip in half, matching the long edges and press.

Stitch the casing (top) edge.

Lay the shoe fabric right side up on your table. Place the casing in the center of the long edge of the rectangle, matching the raw edges. Place the lining fabric right side down, matching the long edge. Pin through all the layers and then stitch the long edge using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Turn the layers right side out and press so that the casing is free at the top and the shoe and lining fabrics are pressed down wrong sides together.

Stitch the side seam.

Unfold and open out your bag and refold it in half matching lining to lining and shoe fabric to shoe fabric. We are going to sew the outer and lining side seam all at once, making a tube. Match the long edges, pin and stitch with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Press the seam open.

Mark the center, stitch the bottom.

Turn the tube so that the casing is at the top, the shoe fabric is to the inside and lining is outside. It will be like a doubled over tube, open at the top and bottom.

We need to mark the side of the bag for the next step. Fold the tube in half along the stitching line at the side seam and lay it flat on a table. Then mark the opposite folded edge with a pin, about 3 inches from the bottom corner. You will use this pin to help make a corner gusset in the next step.

Stitch the bottom edge of the bag through all the layers, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. You can serge or zig zag over this raw edge to keep it from fraying.

Open out the corners.

Starting with the side with the stitched seam, open out the corner of the bag and match the side seam (black arrow) to the bottom seam (white arrow). Stack them one on top of the other and fold it flat, creating a point right at the corner. Pin it to keep the seams from shifting.

Mark the gusset.

Measure 2.75 inches from the tip of the triangle and use a ruler to draw a light pencil line. Your line should be 5 inches from folded edge to folded edge. Stitch across the corner through all layers, following this line.

Repeat for the other corner.

Since you don’t have a side seam on the opposite side, use the pin you placed to match the side to the bottom seam. Mark and stitch the same way. This will form square corners on the bottom of the bag. You can trim away the excess at the corners if you want to remove some bulk, but I like to just fold it towards the bottom and use is as an extra layer of reinforcement.

Turn it right side out & add the drawstring.

Turn the bag right side out. Cut a piece of paracord that is 36″ long. You can get one of my laser cut needles to thread the cord through the casing or use a large safety pin or elastic threader.

Slide the cord lock over the ends of the cord and then tie the cord ends together in a knot. Melt the ends of the cord so it doesn’t fray. (Please be careful! It gets hot and you should work in a ventilated area.)

If you want to follow along with the other blog hop posts in this series: Wednesday, August 2 – Robin Szypulski | Kritter Stitches – Bookbag on SF blog • Amy Watkins | Cozy Reverie – First / Last day of school photo pennants  • Kimberly Coffin | Sweet Red Poppy – 1st day of school outfit • Abby Glassenberg | While She Naps – Plushie key chain • Heidi Kenney | My Paper Crane – snack bags • Erin Williams | Printable Crush – book covers

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