Grow Your Textile Design Business

Join the thousands of artists who are sharpening their skills using our informative articles, workshops and our private design community, The Textile Design Lab

The Textile Design Lab

Members of this tight-knit community are continually improving their craft, learning new techniques, staying informed with the most up-to-date styles, and making their artwork more profitable.

Free E-Course

Found Patterns: Nuts, Beans, Grains & Seeds


Images via: (Clockwise from top left)  “bean market masaka1_lo” by Neil Palmer (CIAT(cropped from original),  “Untitled“ by Funky Tee (cropped from original),  “Nuts” by Mariya Chorna (cropped from original),  “Road-side Pulse” by Meena Kadri (cropped from original),  “546 seeds from 1 sunflower!” by David Swart (cropped from original) “chia seeds” by Stacy Spensley, (Center image)  “_MG_8042” by babbagecabbage (cropped from original)

History of Surface Design: William Morris

Series on the history of surface design by Julie Gibbons.


William Morris (1834-1896) is best known these days as a designer of sumptuous patterns for textiles and wallpaper, but he was so much more than that.

Also known as a writer and poet, translator, social activist, printer and dyer, Morris originally trained as an architect and had early ambitions to become a painter.

His patterns for textiles and wallpaper were revolutionary at the time, and quite at odds with the fashion for illusion and exaggeration.  They were distinctive for their soft, flat colours, their stylised natural forms, their symmetry and their sense of order. He created structure through his designs by building strong, rhythmic and fluid lines from the shapes of leaves, vines and branches, and he frequently superimposed  the main pattern over a smaller, recessive background pattern to fill the design space.

In fact, the structure of the design was a fundamental for him. “No amount of delicacy is too great in drawing the curves of the pattern, no amount of care in getting the lines right from the first can be thrown away, for beauty of detail cannot afterwards cure any shortcoming of this.”

PO - william morris 1Clockwise from top left – Acanthus wallpaper; Bird & Anemone textile; Double Bough wallpaper; tile design; Rose & Thistle textile; Marigold wallpaper {Image credits – all images from }


Morris grew up in England, the son of a wealthy middle-class family. While at Oxford, he became good friends with artists from the Pre-Raphaelite group, including Edward Burne-Jones and later, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. This group was dedicated to reforming the arts, and upheld the virtues of Gothic and medieval styles for their rich colour and abundant detail. The Pre-Raphaelites’ ideas profoundly informed Morris’ views on art.

Around 1860 he engaged his friend and architect Phillip Webb to design a new house for him and his wife, Jane Burden. Then, together with some of his Pre-Raphaelite friends he furnished and decorated the new abode. It was such an enjoyable experience that they decided to set up their own company in London supplying a range of domestic furnishings – embroidery, tableware, furniture, stained glass and tiles (initially called Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co – later simply Morris & Co). It was also because of his inability to find wallpapers that he liked enough for his own home that Morris turned his hand to designing his own, and these were added to the company catalogue.

His aesthetic was influenced by his political viewpoint as well. An outspoken socialist, Morris spoke and wrote on the subject throughout the course of his life and was quite influential in the history of Socialism in England. Socialism in art translated for him as the equality of art, craft and design, the value of good craftsmanship, and the idea that good design should be available to everyone and not just the wealthy. In reality, those ideas couldn’t work together within a capitalist society and this became an increasingly painful philosophical struggle for him, when it was clear that his workshop’s beautifully handcrafted goods could only be afforded by the wealthy bourgeoisie.

Morris had a deep respect for craftsmanship, and besides researching, using and promoting traditional methods of dyeing and printing, he was instrumental in reviving a number of old techniques such as block printing. He also utilised techniques from other cultures; the most important of these was the indigo discharge method of the East, which he used often and admired it for its crispness and detail. He also rejected the harsh chemical of aniline dyes, preferring the richness of natural vegetable dyes.

PO - william morris 2Clockwise from top left : The Strawberry Thief textile; Pimpernel wallpaper; Vine wallpaper; Christchurch wallpaper; Jasmine wallpaper {Image credits – all images from }


In between his political speaking engagements and his work with Morris & Co, he found time to work with a colleague translating Icelandic folklore tales and medieval English texts, as well as write numerous poems, collections of short stories and novels. Morris founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891, which produced a masterpiece of book design – an illustrated edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. At the time of his death, he was remembered most widely for his writing, especially the acclaimed utopian fiction, News from Nowhere.

His textile designs continue to be incredibly popular and many of them remain in production today.

Launching a Product Line with Suzie Erlank

Suzie Qu02-smallEach month in The Textile Design Lab we welcome an industry expert who offers training in their area of expertise. For the month of November our guest expert has been Suzie Erlank, the founder of Suzie Qu Textile Design. You can read more about Suzie in our interview here.

In today’s excerpt from her 19-page training PDF, Suzie discusses aspects of her journey with her Suzie Qu product line, such as choosing a print method for her fabrics. In the full version available in The Textile Design Lab Suzie goes into greater depth on how she chooses the layouts of her prints on her products, things to take into account when pricing a product, and touches on ways of promoting your brand. We hope you enjoy this free excerpt!


Since studying and working in London I have had a great interest in surface pattern design and product or clothing working together as one; this is probably one of the reasons why my path has pulled me in this direction of hand crafted goods.

Where you start on your journey of designing, brand building or product making and where it takes you can change, and the best way to be good at what you do is to practise it.

This tutorial will be touching on my journey through some of the fundamentals that need to be considered when putting designs together, and putting product into production and processes you come across.


SuzieQu Icon


When having the studio built in 2010 the focus was on surface pattern design. A brand (Suzie Qu) and the rest would follow. I knew my starting point was to make a collection of designs for Suzie Qu.

Having the designs is a product in itself.

But where do you go from here?

How are you going to produce your designs onto fabric?


Print Process

Wet printing or digital printing–these are your main two options.

Digital here in South Africa is still fairly expensive and there is little competition with only a very few companies printing on natural cloth.

If you decide to try some of your designs with digital printed fabric a suggestion would be to try the same design in different colour ways in A4/A3 sizes as well as some of your other designs–you can have many samples on one meter of fabric. Also trying a couple of different fabric base cloths is a good idea as this can also make quite a large impact on your end design.

Starting a fabric collection is something to consider carefully as it can be an expensive avenue to take, but if you are extremely interested in going down this path a good way to subsidise the costs is to design for private clients.

I would like to stress that if you are considering putting your designs onto fabric it is a huge plus point if you are situated near to a print house for various reasons from sampling to roller bed manufacturing.

Monitoring the printing process done by a print company is almost essential, especially for quality purposes. Many textile designers have conveyed this as an issue that you have to be particularly aware of.

This wasn’t a possibility for me.

abbbWet printing (flat bed screen printing) was the path I took for several reasons, one so I could control the printing process in different ways since I enjoy screen printing, as well as achieving a lovely graphic feel which would work well with my style of designs.

Suzie Qu launched with fabric samples. Tracy, a marketing friend, helped by guiding me on having a small launch which worked extremely well. It gives you a goal, a deadline to work, an end as well as a beginning. The general public, interior designers & retailers bought the fabric I was printing but the biggest problem was printing meters. The set up I had made was not suitable for this type of production which made the decision to print cushions and panels instead. It was controllable and a better turnaround time for clients.

One of the advantages of having a printing space is you can easily try different colour ways in your designs and get the most amazing combinations of colour hues which can make your design even more sellable–colour is an extremely important process for the success of a design, and trying this process freely is great.


Download your free excerpt of Suzie’s training here to continue reading about her experience launching her product line. You can access the full 19-page training and all of our Textile Design Lab courses and members-only content by joining today.

Follow Us

About Us

At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and private design community, The Textile Design Lab.