Designing Fabric with Heather Ross--Lucky Me

Last week I hit the jackpot when it comes to being a craft book editor. I learned how to design my own fabric with none other than Heather Ross. We were working together on her next book, Heather Ross Prints, which we will publish in Fall 2012. While Weekend Sewing, Heather's first book, was a tour de force full of gorgeous, doable sewing projects, her next book will focus on all manner of crafts that can be made using fabulous repeating designs, hers (see sampling below) and your own (just keep reading). 

One of the first chapters in Heather Ross Prints is dedicated to teaching crafters how to make their own repeating designs using artwork of their making and/or choosing. Up until last week, this section of the book was making Heather and I feel both nervous (“How exactly will we do this?”) and excited (“It will be so cool if we can do this!”). So, once Heather had written her first draft, I printed it out, wrote out a million notes and questions, and headed downtown to Heather’s apartment. After being treated to an amazing homemade lunch—Heather is 8½ months pregnant, and so, according to her, lunch is a “big deal”—we sat down at the computer and started reviewing the manuscript.

About five minutes into the process, I turned to Heather and said, “I really think it would be most effective if I tried to create my own repeating design following your instructions…you know, to see if it works.” And so she handed over a sketchpad and said, “Sure, what would you like to draw?”

As she warned in her manuscript, this would be the scariest moment of the design process. What should I draw? Can I draw? These questions were running through my head. But before I committed to just drawing a simple circle or star, I thought, I’d like to try to draw my favorite animal: a bear. With some artistic tips from Heather regarding the shape of the nose and the hulk of the belly, I suddenly had a bear (shown below alongside Heather's bafflingly cute donkey.)

Once the sketch was done, we scanned it into the computer and Heather taught me how to turn it into an illustration. It was my first time drawing with a stylus, and true to another warning in her manuscript, it was pretty awkward. While coloring in my bear, I could not stop laughing every time I got near the “outline,” knowing that mine would be super wobbly. But after some practice, I got the hang of it and could make fairly controlled strokes.

After about an hour or so of coloring in the background, playing with different hues, and shading some areas of the bear, we saved the file and uploaded it to Spoonflower—a site where you can print your own designs onto fabric of your choosing and buy it by the yard.

Next we played with the repeating design.

Seeing my silly little bear design up on the screen felt so empowering. It was unbelievable that in just an afternoon, I was able to use my humble artistic skills to create a fabric design that I will proudly use to make pajama bottoms for the whole family next Christmas. How cool is that?

Having gone through the process myself now, I feel confident that this is something anyone can do, and I personally can't wait to sit down and do more. But for now, I should probably get back to the editing.

Thanks again, Heather!