Fabric Design — Gockoo’s Apple Crisp

One of Spoonflower’s recent weekly fabric design contests was to design a fabric using a recipe as part of the design.  I’m not much of a cook (my husband does most of the cooking, though I’ve mastered the NY Times No-Knead Bread), so I don’t have any go-to recipes.

As I thought about this contest, I remembered my grandmother’s hand-written cookbook from the 1930’s.  Gockoo (as we called her) wrote her recipes in a journal and added ones she found in newspapers or magazines, or ones she got from friends.  I found her recipe for apple crisp pudding and thought it would make a nice nostalgic print, especially since there were only a handful of ingredients in the recipe.

I started the fabric design by creating a 3×5 index card in Adobe Illustrator and then typing the recipe on the card using an old-fashioned typewriter font.

I assembled the ingredients for the recipe and took photos.  Below are some of the photos after I removed the backgrounds using Photoshop.

I only had 4 apples and the recipe calls for six, so I used the magic of Photoshop to create a grouping.  For the next step, I placed each of the photos in Adobe Illustrator to reduce its number of colors (better for printing and looks more like an illustration).

For example, I wanted to change the color of the cup of flour to blue rather than the teal in the photograph (I changed its background to pink so it would be easy to remove later).  I opened a new Illustrator document and used the command File==>Place to put the photo into Illustrator.

The next step is to convert the photo (raster) into a vector object (click here for an explanation of raster vs. vector images).  In Illustrator CS5 this can be done with the command:  Object==> Live Trace==> Tracing Options.  In the dialog box (shown to the right) I selected the mode of Color with a maximum of 8 colors.

This creates the color-reduced image (shown below).  The next step is to expand the Live Trace so that all the different bits are editable (command is Object==> Live Trace==> Expand).

Here’s what it looks like after the object is expanded.  All the blue dots represent points that can be edited in Illustrator.

The next steps are to remove the background and recolor the teacup.  Using the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow) I click on the pink area around the outline of the cup and press Delete remove the background.  I continue to do this for the pink area behind the handle of the cup and for any pink bits which remain.

To change the colors, use the command Edit==> Edit Colors==> Recolor Artwork, which opens the dialog box below.  By double-clicking any of the small color boxes, you can select a new color for the artwork.  In this example, I changed the greens to blues.

Once I’d changed each design element in Illustrator, I copied them into a blank Photoshop file to compose the arrangement. I didn’t want an exact half-drop repeat pattern, so I doubled up some of the elements, but not in a predictable repeat.  For the background I created a simple gingham pattern (see this post on creating plaids).

Here’s the final version of the design, showing one repeat unit.

And here it is showing multiple repeats.


Below is an 8×8 inch swatch of the actual fabric printed by Spoonflower.  The colors printed quite close to the design, though some of the blue shades ran together a bit.


Here’s a picture of Gockoo:

And her original recipe:

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