In case you missed the happy news, Free Spirit Fabrics, the maker of my fabric line, was bought out by Jaftex and saved! That means Bunnies, Birds & Blooms will be available for sale and I’m finishing up my second collection!
Since I’m in the throes of color ways, I thought it would be a good time to share my design process and how much it’s grown from where I started.
When I was first approached to design a fabric line, I was thrilled about even the thought of it. I’ve loved textiles for a long time and this was a dream come true. When I actually sat down to put design ideas on paper, I realized I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. No clue. The designs were there. They were in my brain. How do I put them in a format that can be shared with others and then actually made into a real bolt of fabric.
Believe it or not, Googling “how to design fabric” and “how to put a design into a repeat” didn’t yield any quick and easy answers. Yes, my fabric design journey started with a Google search.
Since that didn’t get me very far, I started with what I did know how to do. I literally started with a felt-tipped pen and a piece of paper. I drew. I drew on homemade graph paper and card stock. I eventually broke out the brushes and paint and started painting on poster and mat board.
(Above is a side-by-side of one of my early hand-drawn design and how it converted to a somewhat unrefined colored fabric design.)
My designs were all over the place, but I figured I would take the buckshot approach. I would create and create and create and see if I landed on anything good.
I finally landed on something I was really excited about – a watercolor hare and a variety of hand painted folk art flowers.
Now, I had to figure out how to put them in a repeat. I did the only thing I technically knew how to do.
I made photocopies, cut out the shapes, and laid them all over the studio floor, arranging them in a pattern. It’s okay if that visual makes you laugh. It makes me laugh just thinking about it!
I would snap a picture of the design and then send it along to Heidi, my assistant, who would take the original scanned design and put it in a digital pattern.
It was ridiculous and comical and tedious and embarrassing. If the people at Free Spirit knew this is the level of designer skill they hired, that might’ve been the end of my textile design career.
I knew I had to find a better, more professional way. The designs I was creating weren’t bad, but they were in the wrong format, I was limited by my tools, and it made the end design look unpolished.
After some research, I ended up purchasing an iPad Pro (affiliate link) and an Apple Pencil, so I could draw my designs digitally. This was the solution I needed. I could still draw everything, but it would be in a format that could be manipulated and repeated. Without a copy machine. Welcome to the 2000-teens. It meant I had to redraw all of my designs in a digital format, but it was worth taking the time to do that. They looked much more professional.
I now create all of my designs in a drawing app called ProCreate. There are some limitations, but I am able to build designs in layers, create repeats, and easily change the colors of design elements and the background.
Best yet, I can save the designs in a layered file, so I can send them along to Heidi and my design team at Free Spirit for them to put it in a larger repeat, play with alternative designs, etc.
Once the designs are nailed down, I start working on the color ways. This might be the hardest part for me, because I tend to like fabrics in two colors. Blue & white! But, this is fabric for quilting and clothing and crafting and there needs to be more color and more options! I have been much more playful with the colors in this second collection and I’m enjoying it. I am going to have a blue & white color way, though!
To see how all of the fabric colors and designs work together, I put them in a PicMonkey collage. It’s a quick and easy way for me to get a visual to see how everything is working together.
All of the colors tie into my Milk Paint line. Can you see the colors? French Enamel, Flow Blue, Mustard Seed Yellow, Lucketts and Boxwood? I even use Apron Strings quite a bit in my second collection, even though the color is retired.
And, I’m happy to say that I was able to rework one of my very first hand drawn designs and it’s made it into the second collection. Just because something isn’t good enough to use right off the bat, doesn’t mean it can’t become great down the road. (And it is one of my favorites, because it reminds me of a pattern that was on the sofa in my German dollhouse I played with as a girl.)
I still have a lot to learn when it comes to textile design. I still tend to make patterns that are too linear and not random enough, but I have an amazing team at Free Spirit Fabrics who have been patient and supportive. Heidi has been a tremendous help as well. She takes my imperfect repeats and puts them in a pattern that will actually line up and repeat on an infinite bolt of fabric.
Bunnies Birds & Blooms will be available soon at quilting shops. If you want to get your hands on it, just request that your local quilting shop order it. I’ll give more details on where to buy it when I have that information in hand.
Until then, we’re busily finishing up my second collection!