Over the last week or so, several blogger/designers have been posting about their design process, giving a little behind-the-scenes look into how their work comes to be. I always love those types of posts and decided to get in on the fun by showing you one process that I use to design my textile prints.

First of all, I have a big inspiration board in my studio where I tack up swatches and images that I come across in magazines, catalogs, you name it. Anything that has a great color combo, texture or motif that I find inspiring goes on this board. (BTW, if you are distracted by that green felt pokey thing, and why wouldn’t you be, it’s fabulous, I wrote about it here.) Sometimes I pull things down and actively look at them but most of the time they are just in my daily background making me happy. That’s my *input*, or at least a portion of it. Now let’s look at the *output*…

…my doodling. I have lots of notebooks and sketchbooks and none of them are fancy. I like spiral bound pages because then I don’t feel inhibited or psyched out by the permanence of a bound book. Most of the images above are mindless doodles with no agenda, I didn’t sit down to design fabric, for example. When I do have an idea for a fabric print, my doodles are almost never more than a thumbnail concept, meaning I don’t often polish a hand drawn sketch to completely describe my idea. They are usually just an indication of an idea to help me remember what I was thinking when the idea struck.

Take this little bird, above. At some point I drew this idea on the corner of a sticky note to tell myself that I wanted to do a print with birds flowing in and out. I was probably in the kitchen and drew it on the corner of the grocery list. At some point the teeny scrap made it upstairs to my studio!

Then one day when I decided I had a little time to design a print, I pulled it out and sketched a few leaves and birds, first in pencil and then with marker. (Even at this point I don’t polish them up too much.) I scanned them into the computer and brought the sketch into Illustrator. I never use any sort of auto-trace hoo-haw, I trace it with the “pen tool” using a mouse. I don’t know why I don’t use a Wacom tablet, I just mouse it. For the varied line weight (thick and thin) around the bird, I make 2 sets of lines and push and pull them until I get them how I like ’em.

Once I have my elements set, I delete the scanned sketch and start playing with layout and color. I try things linear, tossed, complicated, simple, etc. For this print, named Flutter, I wanted to have the birds visually blend with the leaves in a flowing layout. Now comes the really hard part. For me. The repeat. (That’s the layout that makes the elements repeat continuously across yards of fabric.) For years I worked in the children’s apparel industry as a designer. I know all about repeats, how they’re done, what’s good and what’s not. But now to actually DO ONE myself is a major undertaking and my biggest challenge. It requires absolute precision or it looks like crap and costs money to fix! The pressure! So…there’s usually some crying involved, stomping around, emailing designer friends to give me tips. And then…I finally get it. Ahhhhh…..

The result! My first strike offs in two colorways on my organic cotton sateen. This print is (hopefully) part of my next print collection once I design a few more prints to go with it. The color is not represented well in this photo, but I’ll probably tweak it some anyway.

So, that’s just one of my little quirky ways of designing prints. When it comes to designing sewing patterns and creations for my shop, the process is of course completely different and maybe a post for another day.

If you would like to see the “process” posts that inspired mine, follow the links to these talented people!

Patricia, Jan, Michelle, Jessica, Jenean