Black and White Fabric Designs

Spoonflower has a fabric design contest coming soon with a theme of black and white — the designs can only use black and white, no shades of gray allowed.

I’ve been playing with some of my photos of coneflowers, and converting them to look like pencil drawings.

Here are a couple of draft designs, both representing a fat quarter of fabric–22 inches by 18 inches.  This was my first attempt, but I think it’s a bit too busy, and some of the areas are too dark.

Here’s another version, with some of the elements taken out, and some of the lines lightened up a bit.  I like this one better, but I’ll probably rearrange the flowers a bit more.

I’ve also been working on a larger drawing to use in a quilt.  Here’s what I have so far.  My plan is to print this on white fabric and then add thread painting to get sort of a watercolor effect.

If you want to look at some great botanical art, check out and search on any keyword, such as coneflower.

More AAQI Quilts

I finished the last 3 of my recent batch of small quilts for the AAQI. These each started as photo that I took and then played with in Photoshop before printing on fabric.  I finished each of these using the stabilizer ‘frame’ that I described in this post.  There’s a size limit of 9 by 12 inches on the AAQI quilts, otherwise I’d have made the frames a bit wider for each of these quilts.

Pink Daisy was actually a plain white daisy in my back yard, but the magic of Photoshop let me change the color.  I had fun playing with different free-motion quilting patterns on each of the petals.

I took this photo of Delicate Arch at about 6 a.m. on a blazingly hot summer day at Arches National Park.  The sunrise was beautiful and it even made it worth getting up at 4:30 and hiking 1.5 miles uphill to reach this spot.

Purple Orchid is from a photo of an orchid that I bought at Home Depot for about $10 several years ago.  It bloomed spectacularly for quite a while, but it’s been dormant for a couple years now.  Guess it might be permanently dormant at this point.

The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm.  If every flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness. 

Therese of Lisieux

There are several ways of looking at Delicate Arch. Depending on your preconceptions you may see the eroded remnant of a sandstone fin, a giant engagement ring cemented in rock, a bow-legged pair of petrified cowboy chaps, a triumphal arch for a procession of angels, an illogical geologic freak, a happening—a something that happened and will never happen quite that way again, a frame more significant than its picture, a simple monolith eaten away by weather and time and soon to disintegrate into a chaos of falling rock.

Edward Abbey

Two New Small Quilts for AAQI

I was away at a quilt retreat for a few days this week with some amazing quilters.  A few of them have web sites, and they’re worth a look — Wendy’s art quilts, Stephanie’s wearable art, and Lois who’s known for rust dyeing.  We had a great time and all got a lot of work done.  I spent my time quilting/thread painting a number a small quilts and finished quilting six, but I left the binding/finishing work for after the retreat.

I’ve now completed the first two which I’ll donate to AAQI.  Both of these quilts started as photos that I took, edited in Photoshop and then printed on fabric.  I don’t particularly like binding quilts, especially small ones, so I thought I’d try some different techniques to see which I liked best.  For this first quilt, I took 1.25 inch strips of the purple fabric with fusible on the back (I used Steam a Seam since that’s what was handy).  I fused about a half inch to the front of the quilt and then turned it to the back and fused the rest.  (You can see more complete directions at Laura Wasilowski’s web site.)  I finished the binding with a double blanket stitch along the fused border.  Here’s Dahlia.

For the second quilt, I thought I’d give it a bit of a frame.  For this I used some Pellon Peltex 72 which is a very thick, stiff, ultra-firm stabilizer with fusible on both sides.  I started with a 9 by 12 inch piece of the Peltex and wrapped the orange fabric around it.  I then cut another piece of Peltex a half-inch smaller than the quilt and I used it to fuse the quilt to the orange ‘frame’.  I then satin stitched around the quilt.  I really like the end result — it’s stiff enough to hang on the wall, and the extra layer of Peltex behind the quilt gives it more dimension.  Here’s Daylily #2.

I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.
Georgia O’Keeffe

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.
A. A. Milne

Project Selvage – My Entry

Spoonflower and Michael Miller Fabrics got together to sponsor a fabric design contest, called Project Selvage.  The challenge was to design a fabric for baby boys.  The winner of the contest will earn a contract with Michael Miller to produce a collection.  The designs were due to Spoonflower by March 24.  I’m not sure, but it seems that there may have been over 1000 designs submitted (you can look through all these designs here.)  From these many designs Spoonflower and Michael Miller will select 75 semifinalists, which will be announced March 31, and then voting will start in order to narrow the field to 10 finalists.

I wanted to design something for this contest, but though I came up with dozens of possibilities, none seemed the least bit unique.  I was toying with the idea of blocks, and I remembered a couple quilts I made with an Escher-like pattern of blocks, which create an optical illusion.  Here’s one of the small quilts.

I thought this might be an idea I could work with, so I went to Adobe Illustrator and started drawing the shapes for the blocks.  I came up with this repeat pattern pretty quickly.

I liked the pattern, but thought it needed more, so I went into Photoshop and started adding letters on the blocks to make words, and then more words…I wanted to make sure I used all the letters in the alphabet.  I made a few other changes–changed the green block face to red and added a background.  Here’s the final entry, shown as a fat quarter.

This was a lot of fun to play with, but I’m not sure how this will do in the contest–this is definitely a large-scale design so it works for some things, but not for others, such as baby clothing.

I figured out how to make it more sell-able through Spoonflower if it doesn’t do well in the contest.  Since there are so many blocks in the pattern, it’s easy enough for me to personalize the fabric design by adding a name into the pattern.  The example below shows the pattern for “Michael” (white letters on red blocks).

Good luck to everyone who entered the contest–there are a lot of amazing “baby boy” designs.

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, “You’re tearing up the grass”; “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply. “We’re raising boys”.
Harmon Killebrew

Diaper backward spells repaid. Think about it.
Marshall McLuhan

Making a Repeat Pattern Look Less Boxy – Photoshop Elements

If you’re designing a repeat pattern in Photoshop Elements, there’s an easy way to make it look less boxy.  The trick is to have design elements which overlap the edges of the tile.

I started with this simple tile.  Each of the design elements is in its own layer in Photoshop.  The tile creates this repeat pattern — there’s clear space between the tiles.

Since each element is in its own layer, I can use the offset command (from the menu:  Filter –>Other –> Offset) to independently move each element.  You can play around with the level of offset to move any element so that it wraps around the tile horizontally, vertically or both.  When you input an amount of offset, a positive number will move the element right or down, and a negative number will move it left or up.  The big benefit of using the offset command is that you can draw/edit an individual design element in its entirety, and then later split it up across the edges of the tile.

Here’s a quick update to the original tile where I moved some of the elements (and also changed the size of some elements).  And here’s the resulting repeat which looks less boxy.

A couple things to keep in mind when using this.  The offset command shifts the entire layer in Photoshop Elements, so it works best if your overall design is in multiple layers which you can shift independently.  Any editing you want to do to your design is much easier to do before using the offset command.  If you want to edit a design after offsetting it, you will usually need to undo the offset before making the edits.

Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose — Charles Eames

How to Create A Half-Drop Repeat in Photoshop Elements

In the last two tutorials I showed how to make a seamless repeating pattern in Photoshop Elements.  In this one I’ll show a quick way to make half-drop repeats.  Half-drop repeats add a diagonal line to any pattern, such as the polka dots shown below.

1.  For this repeat to work, you really need a solid color in the background, and you don’t want parts of the image touching an edge.  I’ll start with this basic tile.  Its size is 200 pixels by 200 pixels.

2.  To create the half-drop, we need to add a duplicate tile and then offset it.  So, the first step is to double the width of the ‘canvas’.  This is done from the menu: Image –>Resize –>Canvas size, and then the box shown below pops up.  In the “new size” section, if you set the measurement to ‘percent’ (circled in yellow), then make the width 200 percent.  Alternatively, you can set the measure to ‘pixels’ and set the width to twice as wide as the current size.  In the “anchor”area (yellow arrow), click so that the box looks like that shown below.  This will put the original tile on the left side of your new canvas.

This is what the new canvas looks like in Photoshop.

3.  Next, duplicate the layer (from the menu:  Layer –> Duplicate Layer), and then offset this new layer.  From the menu:  Filter –> Other –> Offset.  For the horizontal offset, enter the full width of your original tile (200 pixels for my tile).  For the vertical offset, enter half of the original height of your tile (100 pixels in my example).  Shown below is the Offset dialog box and then the resulting tile.

4.  From this, you can define your pattern and create the repeat (see Tutorial 1, step 6 for directions).  This is the resulting repeat.

5.  One of the fun things you can do is add designs to the tile created in step 3.  Here I’ve drawn in some additional elements.  When I put this tile into a repeat, the new elements will repeat in a straight repeat while the original elements are in a half-drop repeat (compare the repeat of the blue star to the pink circle).  The repeat is shown below.

Also, with this method, you aren’t limited to creating half-drop repeats.  In step #3 you can specify the vertical offset to be any portion of the vertical size…1/3, 1/4, etc.

Here’s an example where I recently used a half-drop repeat.  Starting with the crazy Kauai rooster photos from the previous post, I removed the background and hand colored the birds in funky colors.  I call this Kauai Breakfast because it reminds me of breakfast on the beach in Kauai, surrounded by roosters and hens.

How to Create a Seamless Repeat in Photoshop Elements – Part 2

In part 1 I showed how to create a seamless repeat by editing the edges of a tile so that they line up properly when repeated.  There’s another useful way to disguise the edges, and that’s to add new images that go across the edges of the old tile.

1.  Here’s a simple example of this.  I’ll start with the tile below.

2.  Next is to”cut” the tile in half both horizontally and vertically and “paste” it back together.  This is done in Photoshop Elements using the Filter –>Other –> Offset command.  (See the previous post, step 3 for details of how to do this.)  Here’s the result.

3.  I could use the techniques from Part 1 of this tutorial to get the orange lines to meet at the edges so that the repeat would be seamless.  Alternatively, I could just cover up the orange lines with something that goes across the edges.  Here I drew a square to cover up the lines.

4.  Here’s what the two tiles look like in repeat.

Both techniques — fixing the edges and covering the edges — can be use to create a richer repeat pattern.  I’ll show this with the rooster image I created in Part 1 of the tutorial.  Here’s the repeat pattern after the edges were fixed.  The repeat is seamless, but there’s a lot of ‘blank’ background in the pattern.  I’ll fill this in with rooster and hen images from other photos.

1.  Start by opening another photo with an image you want to add to the pattern.  Here’s a second rooster photo, and I’m going to use the Quick Selection Tool to select only the rooster and not the background.

2.  After quickly selecting the rooster, here’s a screen shot where the dotted lines show the rough selection.  As highlighted by the purple arrows, there are some areas that need to be refined.

3.  Refine your selection until only the object you want to copy is selected.  The way to do this with the quick selection tool is to use the “Add to Selection”  and “Subtract from Selection” tools to nudge the selection line as needed (circled on the menu pictured to the right).  It can also be helpful to decrease the brush size when you’re trying to make fine adjustments to the selection.

4.  Once your selection is good, copy it to the clipboard using the Edit –>Copy menu command.

5.  Go to the file that has your original tile and use the Edit –>Paste command.  This will put your copied image into your file in its own layer, which is important so that you can move it around and change its size without changing the original tile.  Here’s a picture of the new rooster copied into the original image.

This would create the repeat pattern shown below.  Note how the second rooster image helps disguise the edges of the repeat tile.  (See Tutorial Part 1, step 6 for details of creating the repeat.)

6.  If you want to add more images, repeat steps 1 through 5.  Move the new images around to get an arrangement you like.  Here’s a version with 4 added images of roosters and hens.

And here it is in repeat.  As Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, sometimes less is more.

How to Create a Seamless Repeat in Photoshop Elements – Part 1

A key step in fabric design is being able to create a seamless repeat.  In this tutorial I’ll walk through a method to create a seamless repeat using Photoshop Elements (the steps are quite similar if you’re using Photoshop).

I started with this photo of a rooster (taken on a recent trip to Hawaii).  Note how the background is different in each of the 4 corners — this is what needs to be fixed to create the seamless repeat.  The photo on the right shows the photo in repeat, with the edges very distinct from one tile to the next.

1.  Open your file in Photoshop Elements.  Crop the image and make any adjustments you’d like to the photo.  The photo will be one tile of your repeat pattern.  It’s good for peace of mind to always create a duplicate layer just in case you mess up the photo too much and want to start over.

2.  Note the size of your image  in pixels (Image –>Resize –>Image Size).  For my photo, the image size is 1000 pixels by 750 pixels.

3.  In this step, we’ll “cut” the photo in half both horizontally and vertically.  This will show us where the edges and corners are mismatched and need fixing.  From the menu, choose Filter–>Other–>Offset.  In the pop-up box, divide the width of your image, in pixels, by 2 and type the number in the Horizontal offset box.  Then divide your image’s height by 2 and type the number in the Vertical offset box.

The result shows the photo “cut” up and pasted back together, and there are two clear lines through the middle vertically and horizontally where the photo doesn’t blend seamlessly.

4.  In this step we’ll fix these edges.  There are several different tools in Photoshop Elements you can use to make these edits, depending on your photo and your preferences.  There’s the clone stamp tool, smudge tool, and paint brush tool.  I used the healing brush tool.  Using a series of small fixes, I blended the two sides of each edge to remove the harsh transition.

In this photo, the edges all occur in the photo’s background, so there aren’t any really distinct features.  If you’re working with an image where there are distinct lines across the edges, these need to be fixed carefully so that the repeat ends up seamless.  Here’s the photo (or tile)  after all the edges were cleaned up.

6.  At this point, if you’re done with your image, or if you just want to see how it looks in a repeat, the next step is to define the repeat pattern. Do this from the menu:  Edit–>Define Pattern, and save it with any name you’d like.  Then, create a new blank file in Photoshop Elements.  Make sure it’s large enough to show at least 2 tiles both horizontally and vertically.  From the menu, choose Edit–>Fill Layer.  In the pop-up (shown below on the right) in the Contents section, choose to use Pattern from the drop-down list, and then select your new pattern from the Custom Pattern list, then click OK.

This tile creates the following repeat pattern, and the tile edges are pretty much gone.