This month we have the privilege to welcome Evonne Cook, founder of Clothesline Quilts, to the Textile Design Lab as our guest expert. She’ll be speaking to our members about vintage textiles and how she turned her passion for vintage quilts into a thriving business.
Evonne’s journey into the reproduction world began over 25 years ago when she opened a quilt shop. While running her quilt shop, Evonne began to design her own quilting patterns, and then began designing her own fabric collections which consist of reproductions of vintage fabrics and are produced in partnership with P&B Textiles.
It was an exciting opportunity to get to ask Evonne a few questions.
How did you become interested in vintage fabrics and in reproducing them for today’s consumer?
Antique quilts have always intrigued me, especially the fabrics within those quilts. And then there are the quilt patterns and how the quilters from the past were able to design and sew them without all the tools we have today.
In the beginning, I was not at all interested in reproducing vintage fabrics because I believed one would have to be an artist & be able to actually draw the designs. My interest in this process was piqued when Mr. Roby, an authority on old fabrics, called me about working with him. A Clothesline Quilts pattern design of mine had caught his eye and he explained how I could reproduce these vintage fabrics that I am so passionate about with the help of other artists and designers.
St. Louis Collection for P&B Textiles
What period of vintage fabric are you most drawn to? Why?
At this time I am concentrating on cottons (often of English and French origin) from quilts from the time period of approximately 1830-1890, an era that includes the Civil War. I have been very interested in the history of the Civil War and have designed two series of patterns, one based on 12 battles of the war and one on 8 generals of the Civil War.
What items other than quilts have you seen reproduction prints used for?
Reproductions are used for a lot of home décor, including curtains, dust ruffles, chair pads, table toppers/runners, tablecloths, appliqué on towels, etc. They are also used to sew all kinds and sizes of totes, purses, billfolds, cosmetic bags, luggage bags, kleenex covers, etc. The fabrics are also sold for clothing sewn for people who do reenactments of the battles and events of the Civil War. These reenactments are especially popular at the historical parks of the battle sites.
St. Louis Collection for P&B Textiles
For students interested in the reproduction of vintage American fabric, do you have any advice?
My journey into the reproduction world began over 25 years ago by opening a quilt shop; basically, this happened because I love the fabric and the art of quilting. From the quilt shop I began to design and write my own pattern line Clothesline Quilts. Again, this was because of my love of the fabric and quilting. So I believe you have to have a feel for and love of the fabric of that era. I’m sure that many students of textiles find that path in their educational studies; they do not have to go the long way as I did. So I say to nurture that love and keep on studying the textiles.
Throughout the years of owning and operating a quilt shop I attended many quilt markets held every spring and fall where we shopped for the fabric that we would eventually receive and sell at our shop. At these markets we were offered the opportunity to attend marketing workshops that helped us find ways to market the fabric and everything that went into quilt making. These markets were our inspiration—and, of course, the fabric itself was wonderful inspiration! So I think that attendance at such markets would be a very good opportunity for students to see how it all works and comes together.
Also, do visit the fabulous museums where old fabrics and quilts are displayed. The Shelburne in Vermont is one such museum and The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado is another. Really, there are many others throughout the US and overseas, as well.
Want to learn more about reproduction prints and collections? Join us for Evonne’s presentation in the Textile Design Lab on Tuesday, September 26. Join us here.
Autumn is upon us here in the U.S. and there is nothing cozier as the air starts to get crisp and the days start to get shorter than soaking up the warm palette of the season. Whether admiring the golden tones of a hay field, a swath of maple trees turning orange and red, or the rainbow of apples at an orchard, the fall landscape is awash with color inspiration that could inform your next pattern collection. Happy harvest!
All images CC0 Creative Commons via pixabay.com
Jane Lewis in her home office
On August 24, 2017 we lost Jane Lewis, one of the most talented and knowledgeable textile designers in the quilting industry. Jane had been battling lung cancer since 2015 and through all she had to endure she was still committed to her contributions to our industry. Her ability to inspire those around her through her work has never gone unnoticed or unappreciated. For those of us at Pattern Observer, we were particularly amazed with her work as an Art Director at P&B Textiles, and most recently, as an industry expert within Pattern Observer’s Textile Design Lab.
I first met Jane Lewis in 2005 when I applied for a freelance design position at P&B Textiles through Craigslist. P&B textiles was my first freelance client and working with Jane would forever shape my outlook and perspective on the industry.
- Knowing to tuck the end of my flower stems behind over motifs to give patterns more movement and flow… Jane taught me that.
- Knowing to always tilt paisleys to avoid straight horizontal or vertical lines within your repeat… Jane taught me that.
- Keeping freelance clients in the loop about the number of hours you had invested in a concept or repeat… Jane taught me that.
She taught me countless lessons on designing layouts, preparing patterns for production, and running a professional freelance business.
Jane truly loved the textile design industry and it always showed. She was so grateful to rise up and lend a helping hand to other designers. While at P&B Textiles she helped countless artists and designers craft brilliantly curated collections. She loved discovering new talent within the industry and helping designers find their way. This work and passion continued within her work in Pattern Observer’s Textile Design Lab and so many students have benefited from it. She was so passionate about the TDL community, attending our weekly art critiques, giving detailed feedback on our forums, and creating a guest expert training on Developing Quilt Fabric Collections. Her words and insights were cherished by everyone, and all who received them are better in their craft because of it. Yes, I’m biased, but I am sure of it.
Jane’s collection for Modify
There is no doubt that Jane was taken from this world too soon, but her positive impact and influence will live on forever. She will be there with us in every art critique and every quilting collection critique. Reflections of her will not easily fade.
Countless designers will continue to work through her TDL training and go on to create more impactful collections because of Jane’s thoughtful insight and guidance.
And now even more designers will have the opportunity to join the Lab. Soon after Jane’s passing her friends and family established the Jane Lewis Textile Scholarship to help students trying to learn the craft of textile design. We are pleased to announce that Pattern Observer will be matching all funds donated. We are still working through the details of how the scholarships will be distributed, but will be releasing more information in the future. It’s important to us that we take this process slowly and get it right.
In celebration of Jane’s life, we have posted Jane’s exclusive TDL training, Developing Quilt Fabric Collections with Jane Lewis, for all to download for free. Just click here to download.
Please share this training with anyone who you think might benefit and help us to celebrate Jane’s life and her impact on our industry.
I know so many of you worked with Jane and have similar stories to share. Please, open your heart up and share them so we can celebrate what she brought our community. Through her, we can all become stronger mentors to new designers and better designers in our individual pursuits.
Much love and gratitude,
Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash
As a society we have grown to a point where we naturally demand more. We want to go deeper, we want to explore, and we want to be entertained. We are looking for meaning and connection with the various ways that we invest in projects, possessions, and people. We crave stories and authentic connections.
You can easily find reports to confirm this that relay a common theme—we are a society that is now willing to spend more on experiences and less on stuff.
“Purchases of clothing and shoes as a share of discretionary spending has dropped. Instead, consumer spending on recreation, travel and eating out has been trending up for more than a decade” -Kevin Logan, U.S. chief economist for HSBC.
I LOVE this news. I love that people are buying less clothes and investing more in spending time with their friends and family. I love that we invest in experiences that open our mind to different cultures and new experiences.
But I have to admit, that as a designer – a creator of “stuff” – it freaks me out a little bit. This shift in how consumers are spending their money creates new challenges for all designers of “stuff.” Fortunately, with these new challenges comes amazing opportunities for growth as designers and makers.
How can we connect with buyers and give them the experiences they are craving?
Through stories of course.
“Everything needs to start with a story. When I work on a collection, the story will give the framework — the beginning, the content and the end,” -Sandra Choi of Jimmy Choo
TDL member Olu Vandenbussche tells stories through her patterns
For some designers, telling stories comes very easily. One of the most obvious ways of telling stories is by incorporating illustrated storylines within a pattern or collection. For example, you could create a character, such as a caterpillar, and create a series of patterns based upon this caterpillar’s life and her adventures. In one pattern she could be dancing amongst the leaves, in another pattern she could be on a boat sailing through a sea of watercolor stripes. You want to take the buyer through the life of the caterpillar, exemplifying the caterpillar’s personality and story through your artistic style and interpretation.
Tip: when creating a collection remember to use different layout styles and introduce new motifs to keep the buyers attention and make your collection more dynamic and entertaining.
Is your work less illustrative? If it is, don’t worry. Designers who have a less illustrative style can still tell stories through their work. A less obvious way to entertain and tell stories through your work is to choose a classic pattern style, such as a damask, and brainstorm ways to replace the expected motifs, usually flowers and leaves, with unexpected motifs or marks, such as brush strokes, dots, or quirky characters.
Designer Robin Fernstrom tells stories through traditional pattern layouts
Textile Design Lab member and Pattern Observer Studio designer Robin Fernstrom, is a master of this technique. She replaces traditional damask and mirrored layouts with whimsical characters such as bugs, sloths, and owls. I recently had the privilege of presenting her work to some of our clients and it was a joy to see them light up once they “discovered” the hidden motifs. “Ohhs” and “Ahhs” filled the room.
As you are developing your story consider who is buying your pattern or product. It’s important that we don’t get so wrapped up in storytelling that we lose sight of our audience and what they find entertaining and meaningful. A caterpillar’s journey isn’t an authentic story for all designers to tell and it is not going to be an entertaining story for all buyers to see. Think about the story that you want to tell and push yourself to tell it in a way that resonates with your customer.
Just like a writer guiding their readers through a storyline, consider how you are leading the customer through the collection or pattern layout. Will their eye start at the leaf motif and then discover the hidden graffiti texture beneath? Will they think they are looking at a dot pattern and then realize the dots are actually cat silhouettes?
Telling a story through your work, even in the most subtle ways, is just one way to shake up your design routine and create a deeper connection with clients and buyers. If you are ready to spice up your portfolio with new ideas I invite you to sign up for our free 5-day Design Shake Up. In this free design challenge I’m sharing the exercises and practices I use to stay creative. Even when life is hectic and busy with work, children, errands, and all the rest, the habits and techniques I will share with you always keep me inspired and creative. I know they will do the same for you. Grab your spot here.
Spirit, life, whimsical, endearing. These are all words that came to mind as I reviewed Grace Noël’s work for this post.
In 2012 Grace discovered the world of surface pattern design through Spoonflower and instantly knew she had found her passion. When I asked her to share her thoughts on this, she said, “It is the ultimate combination of my main interests: art, textiles, clothing, and décor, with some history thrown in there, as well. I’ve had several successes from entering Spoonflower’s weekly design challenges and have designed a collection of quilting fabric for Moda Fabrics, ‘With Glowing Hearts’ for Canada’s 150th anniversary.”
I feel that part of what makes Grace’s work so successful is her background as an interior designer. This is what was shared with us: “Every day I am surrounded by products and patterns and think about how they are used to create a personalized paradise of a home. There are so many surfaces that need art, and I am convinced I will never run out of ideas. There are innumerable opportunities to bring beauty into people’s lives through cheerful design.
“Every tiny detail of everything I see inspires my designs! That said, particularly nature and vintage items catch my eye. I create all of my designs by hand and then scan them into my computer and edit them in Photoshop to position the repeat and tweak the colours. In terms of medium, I use whatever best suits the mood I’m going for, so it can be pencil, marker, acrylic, or watercolour paint, pastels, and so on, or usually some sort of combination.
“My ultimate goal is to work full-time as a surface pattern designer from my home studio, producing designs for bolt fabric and wallpaper, apparel, and home décor products! Make Everything Beautiful!”
Grace speaks so passionately and that made it very exciting to learn more about her thought process and how her experience as an interior designer shapes her work. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, which I would like to share with you.
How has your experience as an interior designer shaped the way that you think about prints and patterns?
I see every surface as an opportunity for beauty. In the home, that is very important for surrounding oneself with layers of joy. The typical way to decorate is to stick mainly to neutrals or solids for the most permanent pieces in a room, and then add in colourful accents such as rugs, pillows, curtains, lamps, occasional chairs, and so on, that can be rotated out seasonally. So with that in mind, those accent items can be pretty bold or whimsical, and covered in patterns. That’s where my surface patterns come in! Scale plays a big factor in patterns within a room. If there is a bold large-scale floral on an duvet cover, then the sheets below could be in a coordinating calico. Variety and balance can pack a whole lot of patterns into a space without it being overwhelming!
The type of repeat affects what the design can be used on, as well. A directional fabric, for example, could be tricky to place on an upholstered piece because the lines are more difficult to match up, or may have a bit of a wiggle to them depending on how the fabric is stretched over the frame.
In terms of theme and colour for patterns in home décor, I’ve noticed that florals and geometrics are both popular, often in combination, and the colour blue is a common favourite. Birds are the most popular icon. Trend affects the specifics of pattern popularity, as in any other design-focused industry. While sourcing for décor items I do two things: 1) drool over the beautiful patterns and products that currently exist; and, 2) continuously dream up my own patterns and products that WILL exist…hopefully as soon as possible. I’m always hunting for unique items to bring a client’s personality into their space, so being able to design items that would suit that space is is a really satisfying prospect. It’s a very full circle creative process!
Do you envision a particular product or customer when you are designing patterns?
Yes, definitely, always! I usually have the product merchandised in the shop window of my imagination before I’ve even created the pattern! My brain automatically thinks in repeat and 3D. Often I have my favourite companies in mind. For example, a fresh and cheery collection of designs is for Cloud9 or Art Gallery Fabrics. A quirky retro pattern I envision as a dress for Modcloth, or a bohemian vintage floral full of lush colour is for an Anthropologie chair. Most of all, whatever I design is something that I would want to live with, because that is how I stay true to the creative style of my brand.
What are your favorite sources of inspiration for interior design?
Pinterest takes the cake. I also love décor magazines for when I feel like snuggling up with printed inspiration instead of my computer. I have several scrapbook binders in which I save pretty pages. Magazines and those scrapbooks hold a special place in my heart because that is what first got me interested in interior design. I remember reading them as a pre-teen, knowing I had found my career dream in the decorating industry, and feeling like my heart was going to burst with joy. I still have that heart feeling so clearly it’s still the right path! My favourite décor magazines currently are British Country Living, Country Homes & Interiors, and Flea Market Style. You can also often find me at thrift and antique stores and markets, which provide a wealth of varied inspiration and usually a chuckle too!
You can learn more about Grace at her website.