How to Design and Print Your Own Fabric

Our April meeting was held at Ready Set Sew in Chattanooga.

Our April meeting was held at Ready Set Sew in Chattanooga.

Custom, digitally printed fabric is a hot trend in the quilting world. If there’s one message people took home from our April meeting, it’s that creating your own design is easy! Anyone can do it, and everyone should try.

You don’t need fancy, expensive computer software to make eye-catching designs. As our own Ann Hurley and Karen Downer showed us, old-school tools like graph paper and wood blocks can make magic, too.

To start, it helps to know a few principles of design.

Many of us learned about those last year with artist Durinda Cheek, but for those who missed out, Ann began her presentation with a refresher course on several key aspects. (Members can see a copy of her presentation and handout on the Member Resources page of our website.)

When you’re designing fabric, Ann says balance is most critical principle of design. Patterns can be symmetrical, asymmetrical, or radial. You should also pay attention to emphasis, movement, contrast, variety, and unity.

Ann Hurley created this design with a wood block and paint.

Ann Hurley created this design with a wood block and paint.

Next, build the base of your pattern.

There are a couple of ways to do this: hand printing and digital printing.

Ann loves to create designs using paint, wood blocks, stencils, stamps, and more. She showed us a simple Art Nouveau-style motif she made by painting select portions of a block print.

You can also use a computer to make graphic designs, and there are loads of software options available. If you don’t to buy an expensive program like Adobe Illustrator, try GIMP — it’s a free and open-source image editor.

Can you repeat that, please?

Once you’ve made your base design, it’s time to transform it. There are several ways to create a pattern repeat:

  1. Straight match, where the pattern is duplicated equally in both vertical and horizontal directions.

  2. Half drop, where the pattern is staggered or offset vertically.

  3. Half brick, where the pattern is staggered or offset horizontally.

  4. Mirror, where the pattern is reflected horizontally or vertically.

Ann showed us examples of each. Click any of the images below for a closer look.

Let’s print!

Karen Downer painted her design by hand on graph paper (left) before she converted it to a digital file to print on fabric via Spoonflower (right).

Karen Downer painted her design by hand on graph paper (left) before she converted it to a digital file to print on fabric via Spoonflower (right).

Even if you start your design by hand, websites like Spoonflower make it easy to digitize and customize your creations. (Check out this great tutorial on how to create a seamless repeat from a drawing!)

Following Ann’s instructions, Karen was able to print several pieces of fabric with a pattern she created by painting graph paper with watercolor pencils.

Using a scanner, she transformed the motif into a JPEG, which made it easy to manipulate using Spoonflower’s online platform. The website offers five repeat styles, and you can even tweak the scale of your design after you upload it.

Once you’re happy with the way it looks, you can print your pattern on more than 20 different fabrics: everything from quilting cotton to minky. Spoonflower even makes it possible for you to sell your design if you’re so inclined.

We hope you walked away with the knowledge and confidence to design your own fabric. Give it a whirl, and let us know how it goes!

May Meeting

Please join us back in our regular location at Christ United Methodist Church for our May 11 meeting.

During the program, which starts at 10 a.m., we’ll examine how to use transparency as a design element in modern quilts. Visitors and potential members are always welcome, we hope to see you there.

Handcrafted Happy Hour

Our next after-hours event is Tuesday, May 14, and we’ll be checking out a new venue: WanderLinger Taproom, located at 1208 King Street in downtown Chattanooga.

Bring some handwork or a sketchbook and enjoy a beer with fellow fiber enthusiasts! Join us any time between 4-7 p.m., you’re welcome to come and go as you please. The taproom does not serve food, but you can bring your own or order takeout from a nearby restaurant.

Set It Free Challenge Quilts Due Soon

There’s just over one month to go before we reveal the results of our Set it Free Challenge. In February, 21 people swapped fat quarters of fabric to use in the creation of a modern quilt of any size.

Finished quilts will be unveiled at our June meeting during a festive potluck party. As you work, feel free to share progress photos on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #setitfreechallenge. Here’s a look at what some of our members are making.

Show and Tell