Interview with MaryJane Mitchell, Guest Expert for June in the Textile Design Lab

Me in my studio with Ahoy Matey FabricsMaryJane in her studio with her Ahoy Matey Fabrics – photo by Karen Krogh


It is our pleasure to introduce our guest expert for the month of June in the Textile Design Lab, MaryJane Mitchell! MaryJane has been designing textiles for the babies and children’s markets for over 25 years. She has a wealth of experience designing for home decor products for kids, apparel, the quilt market and sleepwear, and we are so excited to have her on board!

Within the Textile Design Lab MaryJane shares an exclusive tutorial with our students on designing for the babies and children’s markets. (Join us in the Lab to gain access to this tutorial!) Today we invite you to get to know MaryJane in our interview below. Enjoy!


Tell us a bit about your design background and career path. How did you become interested in textile design, and in particular, designing for children’s wear?

I graduated from Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles with a degree in Fashion Design. For my final collection at F.I.D.M. I created a children’s clothing collection. My daughter was three years old at the time, so I used her and some of her friends as models for the Collection. Since the experience of designing for children was such an inspiration to me, I went to work for a company that designed children’s home products, such as bedding and accessories. While working for this company, I decided I wanted to learn how to design textiles to use for the bedding I was designing.  I went back to school at night to enhance my knowledge of textile design so that I could design my own textiles. After completing the certification Program at Otis Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles, I was able to focus the skills I had learned, into developing 90% of the textiles for the company I was working for at that time. This was a great opportunity for me to design my own characters and collections and to have them shown in the industry. When I decided to go out on my own and free lance, I had an extensive background in designing fabrics for children and I also knew most of the fabric companies who were printing this type of collection.

MaryJane Mitchell guest expert interview on Pattern ObserverClose up of Ahoy Matey Toss – photo by Karen Krogh


What is a typical work day like for you? What are your favorite parts of your job.

My work day consists of managing many different projects. Typically, the night before, I make a goal list that spells out what I want to accomplish during the next day. This list can be different each day.

A typical list might look like this:

  1. Start gathering information for trends for next years season
  2. Make up trend boards for the Spring/Summer season for 2017
  3. Begin working on a new collection for the quilting industry using Forest Animals
  4. Finish up design ideas for fabrics for a new Baby Sleepwear Collection

My favorite parts of my work are finding the current colors and trends for the next season and then creating the characters and designs for what ever project I am working on. It could be a new fabric collection or other children’s products.Floral textile and King of JungleFloral Textile and King of the Jungle by MaryJane for Baby Funkoos Sleepwear


Tell us a bit about your design process. What media/design tools do you like to use? What are your go-to-sources for design inspiration? 

My design process usually begins by looking at children’s design trends and colors for the next season.  I love to go out and search my favorite children’s retail stores for current trends. This helps me see what trends are popular now and could be going forward.

For the past few years, I have been designing large children’s fabric collections for the Quilt Market, so it is important for me to attend at least one Quilt Market Show a year to see what other designers are doing.

Another trade show, that I make it a point to attend, is The ABC (All Baby Child) Trade Show in Las Vegas. This yearly show, which usually happens in the fall, is fabulous for showing the latest trends for the Children’s Market in both the apparel and home product industries. I also write for a Trend service called, Trendease and do an article every year on The ABC Show.

I also feel that you can get quite a bit of excellent information by attending Gift Shows. The Los Angeles and Atlanta Gift Shows are two of the most popular shows to attend because of the wide range of products shown. Seeing products from other industries can sometimes set a creative spark off and make you go in a direction you hadn’t thought of before. I am lucky to live in Los Angeles where we have great resources to tap into.

Once a year, I travel to Europe to observe what is trending in children’s stores and at the same time I attend the MoOD Show (Meet Only Original Designs) in Brussels. The print and pattern Trade Show, Indigo runs concurrently at the same time and is full of new designs to ignite your imagination.

The internet has some wonderful websites that also excite my creative spirit. Nowadays, you’ll find there are so many more readily available resources for inspiration, colors and design trends than ever before coming from the internet.

My favorite online information comes from the following resources:  Pinterest, The Pattern Observer website and their very informative newsletters, Print and Pattern Blog, Emily Kiddy’s Blog, lovelyindeed Blog, ColorCrush Blog,,, (they created a Kids trend report for apparel and stationery this year for 2017 that is fabulous and well priced),, and Design Options newsletters.  Children’s magazines Earnshaw’s review, Kids World, Kids Today and Baby & Children’s, give me a look into what is going on in the Industry, as well. European magazine resources for me are: Milk, PosterChild, Bambini, Kids Wear and Papier Mache.

Race CarMonkeyTextileRace Car Monkey Textile by MaryJane for Baby Funkoos Sleepwear


What are your current favorite print and pattern trends for kids and babies?

I still love the Forest Trend, the Boho Trend, Garden Trend and the Into the Wild and Magical trends using Unicorns, etc. The Gender Neutral Trend, that has emerged in the last year for kids and babies, is also one that I feel very enthusiastic about.  The Contemporary trend with cute sayings is gaining a lot of momentum. This trend shows a lot of hand lettering, which I love to do.


What are some of the challenges of designing for the children’s wear market?

Nowadays, the greatest challenge, I find, is pleasing both parent and child. In the past, the parent decided on what colors a child’s room would be and what a child was going to wear. In today’s world, children are making their own decisions, at a much earlier age, concerning color and trends. As a designer in this market, I have to try and find a middle ground in order to appeal to both the parents and the kids.


Who are your design heroes (past or present)? What about them inspires your or influences your work?

I adore, (I own all of her books), Tricia Guild. Her ability to see future design trends and colors are uncanny. The sister design team of Collier/Campbell is another beloved hero. I follow Sarah Campbell’s blog religiously and am amazed by how she consistently comes up with wonderful ideas and subject matter. The colors in her work are outstanding and she still creates all of her fabric repeats by hand.  Marimekko, the Finnish design company, has a very distinctive style and color palette that appeals to my minimalist side.  Finally, the two children’s clothing companies that I have recently fallen love with are Finn and Emma and Kid Wild.

The design heroes of the past that have greatly influenced me would include: Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, because he was so authentic, Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Train Textile and Carousel pony2Train Textile and Carousel Pony by MaryJane for Baby Funkoos Sleepwear


Over the course of your career, what actions or decisions have made the biggest impact on your design business?

The decision to follow my instincts and being true to myself has had the biggest impact on my design business.  Even though I have designed for other industries, I always seem the happiest designing for kids and babies. Children have the special quality of innocence and they do not pretend to be anyone else but themselves.


What would you consider to be your most proud achievement/greatest success so far in your design career? What are your goals for the future?

There are two things I feel most proud of: The watercolor design for the first baby bedding fabric collection for Disney’s “Classic Winnie the Pooh” and the other achievement is being an inspirational catalyst for other designers on their design journey.

The Winnie the Pooh project became a labor of love.  It went through many changes but in the end, the collection became the top seller in the market for eight years. The screen printing was exquisite. All 24 screens for the project, were Galvano screens, which produced incredible detail.

Helping other artists and designers find their way in the Textile Design Market is my second proudest achievement. It is a great feeling to see other designers succeed and to realize that I contributed in some small way by simply taking the time to listen to their concerns.

My future goals include designing more textiles for Kids and writing and illustrating Children’s books.


What advice have you received in your career that has stayed with you or influenced you? Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring designers trying to make their way in the textile design world?

I wish, when I first started out, I would have had someone tell me to “ be authentic to yourself, find something wonderful to do that makes you happy and make your career out of that.” The second bit of advice I would like to share is this: If someone asks if you can do something, even if you are not sure how to do it, say “yes” and then, go and find out how to do it.  Always push yourself to learn new skills!

Become a Textile Design Lab member to gain access to MaryJane’s tutorial on designing for the babies and children’s markets and all of our past guest expert tutorials and the other helpful e-courses and features of the Lab. Visit to learn more!


  1. I have known MaryJane for many years. We have worked together on a variety of projects. I go to MaryJane for advice when I have difficult new client or projects that are new to me. We also have a long standing plan to meet up at Trade Shows in LA to be up on the Trends. Mary Jane has been a Mentor and friend ever since we worked together way back when. I am so proud you chose her to share her Textile Design knowledge. She is the best of the best!

  2. W take part in one facebook group in which she contributes with lots of suggestions and updates, but I didn´t know she had such a huge experience. The bottom line is that she is very humble, what is a rarity and a lovely asset! You rock, girl!

  3. I’ve known Mary Jane since June of 1985. We worked together at a baby bedding company. She is such a wonderful person and a very smart business woman. When I started my business of converting piece goods in the early nineties, Mary Jane produced a few prints that was acquired by a very well known baby bedding company. It was a winner and a great start to be so proud of.
    I would recommend Mary Jane to any serious business person who wants to start and promote a line for boutiques or even large retailers.
    I’m proud to be MJ’s friend and I just adore her work and work habits.

  4. I am so awe struck by the lovely comments I have received here. I consider myself to have had amazing friends and co workers through out my years in the design business. Thank to all of you for taking the time to post, I am touched. MJ

  5. WOW! I adore your work, MJ! LOVE “ be authentic to yourself, find something wonderful to do that makes you happy and make your career out of that.”

  6. I always look forward to Mary Jane’s updates on the industry and love her fun designs as I also design for kids. Really loved this article and feel I know her even better now.

  7. What fun and beautiful designs! Full of life and color. Mary Jane has an enthusiasm and passion for life and now I can see that it is also reflected in her designs, which I had never seen before. She is obviously true to herself and it works beautifully!

  8. What a great interview with such a great designer! Love your work, Maryjane, and find your expertise invaluable! I’m a Swedish designer that came to surface design late in life and I’m now working with my first client of ecological children’s wear and bedding. Perfect timing! Thanks!

  9. Such a great interview. I was brought to tears when Mary Jane said “I wish, when I first started out, I would have had someone tell me to “ be authentic to yourself, find something wonderful to do that makes you happy and make your career out of that.”

    As a person in the first year of self-employment, reading this couldn’t have been more perfect. There are just certain things that want to come off the tips of my fingertips, and although I will change whatever the client needs, I feel diluted and squashed at times. This June, I’ve been taking more time to explore those things that are basically “me” on paper. And I’m never quite sure I’m doing exactly the right thing by following the blue sky. It sure does feel right, but are there customers out there?

    After this wonderful interview, I’m going to stay the course and find out.

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  10. Oh my god, Patti, I am so happy that I could help you find your way towards being authentic. I love your comments, how brave you are. Stay the course and let me know how you are doing every so often. MaryJane

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