“Kimono Design: An Introduction to Textiles and Patterns” by Keiko Nitanai

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Kimono Design: An Introduction to Textiles and Patterns is a 300 page treasure trove of pattern inspiration, featuring kimono and other elements of traditional Japanese dress, both old and new. All of the designs featured in the book come from the collection of the Kyoto Antique Fabric Preservation Society, an organization founded by the book’s author, Keiko Nitanai.

The book is organized neatly by season–Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter–and gives fascinating descriptions of the origins, symbolism and historical use of motifs ranging from cherry blossoms to landscapes; swans to musical instruments; ships, fans, dogs, bridges, and everything in between.

The photographs in the book (many full-page) are breathtaking and show pattern, dye, and stitching in exquisite detail. But the tidbits of text that accompany the photos are equally as absorbing. One of the many interesting things I learned from my reading was the meaning behind a ubiquitous Japanese motif that I had always wrongly assumed was purely geometric/decorative. You will probably recognize asanoha immediately as it has been re-interpreted a thousand times over. Reading about the motif in Kimono Design, however, gave me an entirely new appreciation and curiosity for geometric designs that upon first glance may appear simply decorative, but in reality are infused with meaning and history. A humbling reminder to always dig a little deeper and not take a design at face value! Here is an excerpt:

“Before cotton was introduced to Japan in the seventeenth century, hemp was used to make paper and as a fiber crop for clothing. Many kimono designs portray hemp as an attractive plant, usually in the form of geometric motifs. For example, the hemp leaf pattern asanoha (from asa meaning “hemp” and ha meaning “leaf”) is made up of six diamond shapes representing the six pointed leaves at the top of a hemp stem, laid out to form a six-pointed star. The regular geometric pattern, while abstract, represents overlapping hemp leaves. The pattern, and its numerous variations, can be combined with other seasonal motifs or used as the main design on a garment.

Because hemp represents growth and good health, the asanoha pattern was often used on children’s and babies’ clothes and underwear in the hope they would grow up to be as strong as hemp. Kimono bearing the asanoha design can be worn all year round, not only in winter.”

Fascinating, no?

Whether you are seeking a dose of history with your surface design, or simply wanting to be visually stimulated and inspired, I highly recommend checking out Kimono Design. -Chelsea

Featured Designer: Jessica Jones

Retro surface designer prints

Jessica Jones is a graphic designer specializing in brand identity design and surface pattern design, and we just love her crisp and bold style! Jessica is drawn to graphic shapes and cheerful colors, and she is an admirer of midcentury modern and Scandinavian design–those aesthetics inspire a lot of my patterns. My prints are often used to upholster vintage-inspired furniture or in garments with retro style.”

Scandinavian fabric prints

“Besides surface design, I also create brand identities and logos for businesses. The process of distilling something complex into simple, symbolic shapes is a challenge I enjoy, and this shows up in my surface patterns as well as my logos. Reducing a flower or animal to its simplest form is really satisfying.”

Cloud print fabric pouch

Jessica grew up in Minnesota on a dairy farm, where she describes spending “lots of time drawing pictures and zero time milking cows. At the University of Minnesota I planned to be a science major but eventually ditched chemistry and calculus to get a Design Communication degree. First I worked at a corporate in-house creative department, then at a Chicago design firm. Eventually I left and started my own graphic design business.”

Jessica Jones Typography fabric

“For many years I ran a blog design and craft blog called How About Orange (www.howaboutorange.blogspot.com), and at one point, a reader contacted me asking if I could design a fabric collection for her to sell in her shop. I happily agreed to take a stab at it, and that project with J Caroline opened the door to other surface pattern work.”

Skunk and flower ribbon

Today I regularly design for Cloud9 Fabrics, Renaissance Ribbons, and various manufacturers who make products ranging from wallpaper to pots and pans to apparel. I’ve spotted my prints on products sold at Target, Nordstrom, Zappos, Land of Nod, and Modcloth. My favorite thing is seeing what people make with the fabrics and ribbons I design. It’s always a little thrill!”


Visit www.jessicajonesdesign.com to see more of Jessica’s lovely work. Enjoy!

A Fresh Bunch


These beautiful pieces came to us from A Fresh Bunch. A Fresh Bunch will be showing their work at Blueprint, a new show held in this month in NYC. The agency represents some of the most talented artists in the industry and it is a joy to share their work with you today.

“What started as a loose collection of designers looking to focus more on design than production and marketing has become a full-fledged art licensing agency called A Fresh Bunch. We represent women artists of all stripes from around the world, and we design for every type of product imaginable, though stationery and paper goods remain our strong suit. 

Having a stable of 15+ artists connected by technology allows us to work quickly and efficiently and balance work/life commitments more easily. Our entire team, as well as many of our artists, are moms and we love that we are helping them nurture their passion while also contributing financially to their families.”

Heading to Blueprint? You can book a meeting with A Fresh Bunch here. You can also find out more information on their website.






Pencil Parade Art Collective

Pencil Parade

Left: Betsy Siber, Right: Brooke Glaser


If you’re in New York for the next few days, the ladies of Pencil Parade Art Collective would love to meet you at Blue Print (booth #8, show #2, May 21-23rd) – it’s just a few blocks from Surtex! The four artists specialize in “hand-made artwork that will remind you of times gone by, contemporary bliss, and have you excited about future trends. Each artist brings their own style, but all have a passion for art that is feminine, fun and a little quirky.”

It is always inspiring to see artists come together to form a collective, pooling resources and offering support to one another to help get their work out there. While Pencil Parade members Betsy, Brooke, Katherine and Megan have yet to meet in person, “we’ve experienced the closeness of regular friendships since early 2015. We support each other in our art-making and have crazy jazz-hands when one of our four gets a win, and even give virtual hugs and support if we get overwhelmed.”


Left: Megan Dunagan, Right: Katherine Lenius


“After being together since taking online courses two years ago, we’ve crafted pattern and design portfolios that we are so, so proud of. We are taking a very scary, exciting, and intentional step of exhibiting at our first trade show, Blue Print in New York – but more importantly, we’ll be able to show our actual “yay!” hands and give real hugs in person. While we’re looking forward to a successful show, we’re mostly excited that art brought us together as friends.

We all are traditional artists, but we enjoy creating digital artwork as well as manipulating our painted designs into patterns and fun illustrations. Pencil Parade’s goal is to bring happiness and smiles to all who see our artwork – as well as help others broaden their design skills with helpful attitudes and online classes.”

Learn more at www.pencilparade.com, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Featured Designer: Jenny Edwards


Jenny Edwards is the talented designer behind the UK-based Jenny Lemon Pattern Co. We just love her fun and colorful florals and patterned products, and are delighted to announce that she will be exhibiting at Surtex this weekend! Read on to discover Jenny’s journey from web designer to surface pattern designer, and what inspires her lovely patterns:

When I became a Surface Pattern Designer, I was working in web design and creating patterns and prints was only a hobby I maintained on my long train commutes into London. As my design background started in this far more digital background, technology trends have also influenced the development of my style and so I naturally favour clean designs with modern colour palettes.

My illustration style is graphic and feminine, flowing from my lifestyle passions which are books, tea and cake (in that order). I often feel as though my highly romantic subconscious is battling through the logical top layer of my personality and so the designs you see reflect this. In my collections, there’s a lot of whimsical conversationals and dense, weaving florals contained in clean and graphic layouts.

A lot of the work I am presenting at Surtex taps into the narrative of nature but I think this comes from a very aspirational place because I actually grew up in the centre of an industrial town. As a result of this, my patterns are fairly abstracted from how the English countryside really looks because they’re shown through the lens of an urban girl who secretly wants to run away and live alongside nature.


Floral Mug

Everything about Jenny Lemon Pattern Co is rooted is sugary sweet Englishness and inspired by the many country tea shops my husband and I have discovered over the years. My big dream would be to have a physical brick and mortar shop selling my products, with a patterned tea shop adjacent for customers to relax in and a working studio above the shop. Licensing will hopefully play a big role in how my brand scales and so I’m super excited to be in the Design District at Surtex this year, presenting for the first time!


Flying Birds Throw Pillow

When I think, I think in pictures but I express these thoughts in visual stories. I come from a background in writing and moved to a career in design only after graduating from English & Creative Writing at university. The process of developing creative work in a collaborative workshop environment helped me learn how to process and implement feedback objectively and efficiently. As a designer led by story, I see beyond the design I am creating, to the identity it offers the person who will buy the final product.

I started designing under my brand name from day one as a Pattern Designer and I knew that growing my business was something I would have to invest many hours in. As I’m still starting out on my journey, I think the best tip I would give others is to keep learning and keep creating every single day – it’s the only thing that helps me to continue levelling up!


Visit Jenny this weekend at Surtex booth #3341, in the Design District. You can also view her work online at https://www.jennylemon.london/

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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.