Designing your own fabrics
There haven't been many posts lately, as most of my sewing time has been spent working on projects for a forthcoming issue of Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine and so I can't share any of the in-progress photos here yet, but I'm having a lot of fun - I can tell you that it involves some English paper piecing, some appliqué, and a lot of hand-quilting (the latter isn't actually integral to the design of the quilt, but why do something in a day when you can take three weeks over it? There are actually many reasons not to do that, and I often question my logic once I've started on something, but even though it's taking forever, I'm enjoying every moment of it). Anyway, with a lack of any photos of current sewing projects that I can share, I offer instead my daughter's bookshelf, which I think may almost be better! At the weekend when we were tidying her room she asked if we could order her books by colour - I'm not sure if she could have uttered a more perfect question at that moment. She is a creature motivated by such similar things to me - I actually did this to our bookshelves before we had children nearly thirteen years ago, but it was a short-lived arrangement (precisely one hour) as when my boyfriend, now husband, came in, he was aghast and insisted that I randomise them immediately. Have you ever tried deliberately randomising something? The effect that we ended up with was more of a staggered rainbow: pink, green, blue, white, black, pink, green, blue, white black. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't quite 'unrainbow' them and when friends visited in the following months they would look at the bookshelves askance and ask if we'd deliberately colour-ordered them and I'd sense my husband dying inside a little - it was a problem that was only entirely solved by moving house.
I also wanted to introduce my lovely new sponsor, Woven Monkey. Woven Monkey are an English fabric printing company, and for those familiar with America-based Spoonflower, it's a similar concept. Woven Monkey will print your own designs onto fabric for you and you can order as little as a fat quarter! It's not only fantastic for its potential for general sewing and quilting-making, but also for dressmaking as, aside from regular cotton, their other substrates include cotton sateen and cotton drill.
Woven Monkey aim to have your fabric delivered to your door within 7 or 8 days of your order being placed, which seems fairly impressive even to me, who suffers with a fundamental problem with delayed gratification.
You can submit designs from paintings, drawing or computer generated artwork. Woven Monkey have very kindly offered to print some fabric for me and I'll share the results with you once I've got myself together and created a design. I'm actually really excited by that element of it; I think I'd mentioned when I designed my new blog header at the start of January, that one of my aspirations for this year (absolutely not a new year's resolution) was to become more proficient using design packages - I've dabbled with Fireworks and Illustrator a little over the past few years, but I've been really yearning for total immersion. I actually decided to challenge myself by designing all the steps for the quilt pattern I've been working on for Love Patchwork & Quilting with Illustrator and ended up finding it almost as much fun as the sewing part, so I'm looking forward to trying to design something that I'd want on a piece of fabric using Illustrator, although I'm relieved that Woven Monkey have software that creates the repeat for you (even if it means challenging a lifelong banana phobia).
I think it's so exciting that a service which I've always envied America for having within a week's post away, is now available here in England (they also deliver within the E.U). If you use Woven Monkey, please do leave me a comment or a link to your blog - I'd love to see what fabrics you're having printed. In the meantime, if you'd like to read more about how Woven Monkey was born, you can find out here and if you'd like to put in a request for which other fabric bases you'd like to see them offering printing on next, you can add your suggestions here (personally, I'd like a silk crepe de Chine, as this is my favourite fabric for dressmaking and I find it's for dressmaking fabrics that I most struggle to find prints that I want to wear). Oh and one final thing, for those who like to know the details, Woven Monkey adapted their machines to use water-based pigment inks, so that your fabrics don't arrive laden with nasty chemicals.
UPDATE: Following Sophie's question in the comments to this post, I clarified with Woven Monkey that you really don't need any fancy pants software at all to design your own fabric - you can simply submit a scan of your own original artwork! Here's what Ed said when I asked him about how to go about doing this:
Yes, we can print directly from someone's scanned image. With most scanners you can increase the image resolution (in essence the quality), in order to meet our minimum requirements for DPI.
If you're uploading an image directly from a scan, it may be advisable to put it through a free photo editor, like picmonkey.com before using our service. This gives you the option to make alterations like brightening the image.
Just to clarify, in case you missed any of the points in the comments - you'd need to save your scan as a jpeg (which is fairly standard and probably what you'd save it as anyway). The DPI that Ed refers to means 'dots per inch' - this is basically how many dots will print out per inch of fabric - the more dots there are per inch, the more detail and definition is given to your image. Ideally, you'd want your image to be between 150 - 300dpi. You can order a test swatch of your fabric for £2.50 to check the colours and print quality of your image, so that may be worth doing before committing to ordering larger cuts of your fabric.