Fragile, Breakable Items Inside

Happy New Year!  It’s resolution time and I’m ready to share mine. Resolution #1 – keep my blog up to date.   I have not posted in 2013 but have actually been very busy.  My main focus has been on improving my pattern drafting and draping skills so that I can get a start on a line of patterns to compliment my fabric.  That’s Resolution #2Design patterns

Swirl Twirl Dress
Swirl Twirl Dress

 

Puffball blouse

Puffball Blouse

Zigzag dress

Zigzag Dress

Here are three designs that I created in 2013. I finally purchased a pattern drafting program and I working through all the nuances of pattern drafting, pattern conversion and creating a final product.  I’m currently working on digitizing these patterns so that I can grade them and then create both PDF and printed patterns – more to come as I continue to work on this.

I have also been experimenting with a number of different companies to print my fabric designs.  I’m hoping to create a new collection every other month.  Resolution #3Design fabric

 Grey-HCC-1-SampleGold-HCC-3-SampleGrey-HCC-4-Sample

I recently created a line of designs for the Haute Couture Club of Chicago to celebrate their 50th anniversary. I used both Spoonflower and Advanced Digital Textiles to print the fabric.  I think that Advanced Digital has a better quality of fabric but they do not have a lot of garment weight options.  Their fabric is also much more colorfast than Spoonflower’s.  However, it is also more expensive.  I was happy with the fabric I received and will continue to do more testing with it.

I also tried out DPI.  They have a great option where you can provide your own fabric and it is cheaper to print.  You can ship bolt fabric from Dharma Trading or Exotic Silks directly to them to use for your prints.  I have been working on a line of photographic morphs

Austrian Moon

Austrian Moon

Misty Ferris Wheela

Misty Ferris Wheel

Moonlit Traffic

Moonlit Traffic

and used them to print a sample.  I selected their silk twill.  Unfortunately, their equipment broke down right after I placed the order so I received it about a month late.  The fabric I received was quite stiff as if the dye thickener had not been removed.  When I washed the fabric, there was a definite fading.  I’m not sure if this was because of the rush job or not. I plan to try again and provide my own fabric.

And my final resolution is to have FUN doing this!  I want to let myself be inspired by as many things as possible and have a sense of excitement about making my inspirations a reality.  This is always easy at the beginning but sometimes hard to keep the momentum going.

Where do I go from here?

I’m preparing for another Spoonflower fabric design contest.  This one is based on the new pattern generator feature in Adobe Illustrator.  I’ve been experimenting with using the pattern generator and really like how quickly I can create a  repeat pattern.  The theme of the contest is arrows.  I created a few quick drawings of arrows and then manipulated them using the program.  I started by just creating a simple design with some arrows.

I then used the pattern generator to create some repeat patterns from the design.  For the first pattern I used a simple mirror and glide repeat.  I made the background a little darker for this one.  For my second attempt with this design I added a couple of circles to the original design and used a kaleidoscope effect.  I think it’s really fun.

 

 

Next, I decided to see what happened when I used a more complex pattern.  I created a design with multiple arrows and then applied a pin-wheel repeat effect.  For the second pattern, I don’t actually remember how it happened – I just kept applying effects until I got something I really liked.  This is my favorite design and I’m leaning towards entering it in the contest.  Note to self – next time write down the techniques so that you can recreate the pattern!

 

For my final attempt I created an initial design that incorporated a lot more line and fill techniques.  This makes the pattern take a lot longer to render and if you use too many, your computer may not be able to display the final rendering.  For the first pattern I used a graduated repeat and a simple vertical brick repeat for the second one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These contests really inspire me to experiment with new techniques and start designing patterns.  The pattern generator is a really fun and quick way to create a repeat pattern from a seed image.  I created all of these designs in one day.  It would also be a good way to create a cohesive collection from a couple of basic images. – That’s my next project.  I just need to come us with an idea for a theme!

Get me a drink!

The Huffington Post had an article on Michael Davidson who has taken a number of photos of various beverages under a high-powered microscope.  The result is gorgeous!  I have started creating some fabric designs based on these images.

My first attempt is to create a large-scale border print based on an image of vodka.  I can really see this on a wrap dress.  I pretty much used the background image, with an overlay of the dots.  I had to do a lot of preliminary work in Photoshop on the background image in order to create the repeat.  I discovered the stamp tool!  I created the dots in Illustrator using different line types and gradient fills. This was a new technique for me but I like the result.

The actual image

My fabric design

I then worked on a design based on Iced Tea.  This was not as literal a translation.  I decided to create a stripe using the color scheme and basic shapes.  To do so I first separated out an area for each major color using Photoshop and then imported them into Illustrator.  I had to clean up the images a bit but then it was just a matter of duplicating the image to create the stripes.  I’m pretty happy with the end result.

Photo of Iced Tea

I think I’ll try an interpretation of Tequila next.  I think that the angular shape will make a fun design.  Now I need to find a source to print knit fabrics.  I would like to medium weight slinky jersey with a good drape as that’s how I envision these fabrics being used.

Photo of Tequila

Dazzled by the microscope

I’ve discovered a site (tumbler.com) that hosts a number of wonderful photos of microscopic images.  They are gorgeous.  I’ve been trying to recreate some of them as repeating patterns and translate to fabric.  Here’s what I’ve got so far.  I’ve used a number of different techniques to create the images.  Some I just used portions of the original image and some of them I recreated while trying to keep the spirit of the original.

To create the bamboo design I created a fill pattern from the background of the original photograph (converted to a high fidelity photo) and used it for the background.  I then drew the quatrefoil image on top and arranged them in a drop repeat pattern

Close up of bamboo

For the diatoms, I selected individual items from the original image added an outline to each image and arranged them in a pattern over a black background.

Diatoms

The super-saturated solution was the easiest, it was so beautiful that I just selected one of the sections, trued it up a bit and used it to generate the pattern.

I traced over sections of the image of a moth wing to create this design,  I added a number of layers of color and made the major sections transparent to create depth.  I really like how this one turned out.

Section of a moth’s wing

When I saw this image of kelp, I immediately envisioned a fabric using that pattern.  This was the most time consuming of the fabrics.  I convereted the image to a six color drawing and then needed to adjust all edges in order to create a seamless repeat.  Very time consuming but worth the effort.

Kelp

I think any of these would be beautiful in a silk charmeuse so I designed a blouse that would work with them.  I am currently sourcing new avenues to print fabric and think I have discovered one that has a good selection of charmeuse.

Here’s a look at the design for the blouse.  The sleeve is rather amorphous, as I couldn’t figure out how to drape a sleeve.  I think I’ll be better off just drafting it once I have the body pattern drawn.  I’m not sure which fabric to use but I’m leaning towards either the moth wing or seaweed design.

Dandelions in the wind

I have created a new design based on dandelions.  I used a number of images of dandelions that I then manipulated using Adobe Illustrator. I started with photographs, traced them, picked out the parts of the images I really liked and then applied some effects to the drawings.  After getting my flowers done, I drew out some dandelion leaves and created a background using my Symmetry Works plug-in.  Here’s the best part – after almost a year of struggling to make repeatable patterns, I found this video on You Tube that walks you through the process.  It’s extremely simple and I can’t believe how much I’ve been struggling with this.  I’m really happy with the design.

I ordered a sample of the design from Spoonflower and decided that the print was a little too big and that the green of the leaves needed to be brighter.  It’s really cheap to order swatches from Spoonflower and I recommend it.  I usually wait until I have 5-10 designs and them order a group.  After making these changes to my original design, I ordered the print from Spoonflower on their cotton-silk blend.  It’s really beautiful!  The fabric has a great hand and body.

I decided to design a dress to showcase the fabric.  Yes, I mean design – as in skteching, draping, drafting, and sewing up a design from scratch. It’s time to move away from using commercial patterns and start making my own designs.  The print has a vintage feel so I decided on a 50’s inspired sun dress.  This shape always fits me well.  I haven’t draped a garment in over 20 years so I’m really rusty.  Here’s the design I came up with.

It has taken me quite some time to figure out how to put this together.  I now have to take the pieces apart, clean them up and convert this to a paper pattern.  Everything is ready to go.  I found a white cotton-silk blend to use as a bodice lining and some wonderful vintage buttons at Soutache for the belt.  Unfortunately I have a number of projects to complete so it may take a while…stay tuned.

Pomegranate frenzy

I’m back after a hiatus from sewing and screen-printing.  I’ve been challenging myself to take the time to create more digital patterns.  I started by entering a contest on Spoonflower.  The goal of the contest was to create a fabric featuring pomegranates.  Amazingly enough I had so many ideas that I decided to create a collection of fabrics.  I started by collecting a variety of pictures of pomegranates.  Not sure of the best way to proceed, I created some sketches based on the photos and scanned them back in to the computer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really liked the way my line drawings of the flowers looked.  I  just got a new Symmentry Works plug-in for Illustrator and am dying to try it out.  It allows you to automatically create a pattern from a seed design by just selecting a layout.  After a bit of experimenting I created this yellow and white print.  The plug-in is a little tricky to use so I’ll need to read the manual (Ugh!)

I’m also fascinated by the way the fruit develops.  They look like funky pods as the fruit gets bigger and rounder.  I like the idea of incorporating a take on the pods into a plaid.  I played around with elongating the developing pods until I got a linear design.  I then scanned the image into my computer and created a simple plaid.  I ran with the plaid theme a created a couple more using the actual pomegranate fruit (this was the challenge after all).  I really like the pod design.

I also did a design using just pomegranate seeds.  I’m going to use this fabric in a jacket later this year.  We’ll see how it turns out.

I liked the challenge of creating a cohesive collection of fabric.  I’m trying to think of how to use many of these fabrics in garments.  These are definitely summer fabrics and I don’t usually start major sewing until fall.  Still, there’s no reason I can’t start sewing something for next year.  I’m rather happy with how they came out.  Next challenge – create a summer collection showcasing these fabrics. See the full collection here.

More knits

I like the idea of layering different types of surface treatments to create an original look.  For this t-shirt I first designed a Ganesha print using Illustrator.  I created the background stripes by taking a number of photos of carved temple walls, windows, and columns and converting them to one color images.  I arranged them in stripes and adjusted the color.  The central image was created from a picture of a painted statue.  I broke the image into eight colors and used six to create the printed image.  I then sent the image off to Karma Kraft to have it printed up on cotton jersey.  My original design panels were about 18″ x 36″ so I was able to print 4 panels on 2 yards.  Since the company charges by the square yard this was a pretty expensive t-shirt.  At least I have enough panels for two shirts.

Unfortunately, it looks like the company is now out of business – that’s really unfortunate as they were one of the few do-it-yourself companies to offer printing with acid dyes. They send the image to China to be printed so there was about a month turnaround.  However, the end result was fabulous!  When I received the panels back, I used the remaining color separations from the original image to burn screens and then over-printed the images with metallic inks for a funkier look.  The image was not quite the same size and shape so I had to experiment with printing in sections in order to get the look I wanted.  I also added some red and green glitter fabric paints in a couple of areas to highlight the design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used two panels to create a t-shirt.  Since I had a limited amount of fabric, I used a simple t-shirt pattern (Vogue 8536) but added yokes and side panels. I was able to find some purple cotton knit that matched perfectly to use for the yokes and sleeves.  I really like the way the t-shirt came out.  I also really like having an original print professionally printed for me and then adding a personal touch.  I’ll try it again with my next batch of designs.

Back on track

It’s been quite a while since I posted.  I’ve been spending my time improving my skills, learning new things and sewing like a fiend.  One of the new techniques I discovered is block printing.  I recently learned how to carve a linoleum block.  I used what I thought was a simple clipart design.  I enlarged and printed the design on paper and transfered it to the surface of the block using graphite.  As I began carving out the design  I discovered that I was mistaken – this was not a simple design.  It took me about 4 hours to carve.

I used the block to print on some bamboo knit using bronze and gold inks.  For this print I measured out  the placement of each image carefully.  I offset gold prints every now and then to add some interest.  I really like printing on knits, you don’t really have to pin them down and if they have enough body, it’s easy going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I finished printing, I decided to make a simple dress using a much loved Vogue pattern (1250).  There are only 3 pieces to the pattern and I think it turned out well.  For my next adventure with block printing I have purchased a vintage wooden block from India.  I am thinking of incorporating this into a pre-printed design.  Stay tuned.

I create a toile

So I got this idea to juxtapose a French toile design against an abstract geometric.  I searched wallpapers and antique fabric until I found a toile print I really liked.  Then I copied the image into Illustrator and selected the portion that I liked best.  I needed to clean up the image a bit.  I added a geometric behind it.  Here it is printed on a piece of white silk shantung.  I cut out the geometrics from contact paper and printed them using dyes.  I then burned a screen with the main image and printed it over the geometric using black ink.  I’m not sure this was the best layout of the design.  It looks a bit sparse and I think there is too much white space. I probably should have printed the main image in each section…hindsight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to try printing a second version of the design using Spoonflower’s silk crepe de chine.  I went with a much smaller size of the design and did a drop repeat.  This was really easy to do using their site.  This time I think that the design is too dense.  Also the green and blue did not translate well.  I will need to experiment on the best way to calibrate my monitor.  I think the problem was that I used the color from my original artwork rather than trying to match the dye in the larger print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast forward…I finally got around to making something with these prints.  I got inspired when I saw this pattern from Style Arc and decided to give it a go. I used the screen-printed fabric for the body and the Spoonflower fabric for the front ruffle detail.  Since I didn’t have quite enough fabric for the dress, I narrowed the skirt and added a back zipper so that I could cut the back in two pieces.  I also needed to underline the dress because the fabric was too thin to support the front ruffle.  The ruffle is backed with a white silk chiffon to slightly disguise the back side of the print.  I kind of like the way the dress turned out.  I feel like I made the best of two not entirely successful prints.

Spoonflower

Checking out Spoonflower.  I am going to try using this service to create some prints.  The first one is a polka dot pattern using an architectural tree.  I created both a black and white version.  I used clipart for the trees and created the overall design in Inkscape.

I like it.  What I didn’t like is how the print looks on the cotton knit from Spoonflower.  The colors are sitting on top of the fabric and don’t look nice when the fabric stretches.  I made the Jalie Sweetheart top out of the fabric, which turned out well.

 

 

 

I tried again with this shoe print.  I scanned in a photos from a book I had on shoes and manipulated them using a series of effects in Photoshop.  I then arranged the shoes until I created something that I could make into a repeat pattern.  I’m sure there is a technique for this but it was just hit and miss for me.  I made the same blouse pattern as with the polka dot fabric.  I then decided to add some sequins to some of the shoes because I have a t-shirt with clear sequins and really like the look.  I hand sewed them on after I had finished the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottom line, Spoonflower seems to cater to the quilter crowd.  Most of their fabric is woven cotton, which is great for shirts or quilts, but I don’t really like it for most garments.  I like the cotton knit but really don’t like the way the prints look worn.  They use a technique similar to your home printer that deposits pigment on the top of the fabric but will wash out after a while.  However, they do have some built in tools so that you can create repeats and alter your designs after you upload them.  It’s also nice to be able to have all of your designs in one place.

They just got a silk fabric (my fabric of choice) so I will give it another try.