Archives for posts with tag: fabric
Lizzy House e-book

Lizzy House e-book

Earlier this week I was reading the fabulous True Up blog and saw that fabric designer Lizzy House had released a new e-book called ‘How to Enter the World of Textile Design: For the Quilting Industry’ ($25 US).  I nearly choked on my baked potato (yes, reading blogs while eating lunch – again!).  This is exactly the kind of book I’ve been looking for.  In January I  made a plan to start designing fabrics this year, and while I’m still at the beginning stages, I know that eventually I’ll be trying to design a fabric line that gets taken up by a manufacturer.

I immediately sent myself a reminder email to buy the e-book as soon as I got home… but after about 10 minutes of trying to do work and still thinking about the book, I decided to buy it right away.  Transaction went well, download not so great, thanks to my work computer not having enough memory for anything bigger than 10MB (the e-book is about 275MB, so it takes a while to download and needs a lot of space free).  Extremely frustrated by the piddly amount of memory on my work computer, I emailed Lizzy herself to see whether I could still download it onto a different computer (my own, much more trusty laptop – yeah, the one with six keys that don’t work but which still has never caused me a minute’s trouble with available memory).  Lizzy replied very quickly and assured me that she’d guide me through downloading the e-book at home if I couldn’t do it with the link I’d saved.  As it happened, the link did work and I  managed to download the e-book right away when I got home (after what seemed like an interminable afternoon waiting to get home) – but thanks, Lizzy, for being so willing to help!

The book was everything I’d hoped it would be.  First of all, it looks beautiful – some great photos, lovely colour combinations and nice design – but of course, the content is what’s most important and it really was exactly what it said in the title.  Lizzy gives an account of her own experiences breaking into the textile design market, and then some very clear guidelines about how to put together a fabric collection.  ‘Anatomy of a collection’ was the most useful section for me personally, because I haven’t gotten as far as getting ready to present a collection (another really useful section), but I know that as I continue experimenting with design, I’ll have those points in mind so I know what to work towards.   I was pleased to see that a lot of things I’ve noticed about fabric collections but never really taken the time to analyze fully (especially in the Colour section) were confirmed for me in the e-book – it’s as if Lizzy has written them all down and made very clear.  My only small niggle was a few typos/correctable mistakes.

All in all, though, it’s a winner.  I was so engrossed in my reading that I nearly finished the book in one evening – until I was told very sternly, for about the fifth time, to go to bed!

I’d highly recommend this e-book to anyone who’s interested in knowing how the quilting industry works, and who is planning on submitting their designs to manufacturers.  There’s no design instruction – it’s assumed that you’ve already gotten familiar with that part yourself, which is clear and obvious from the title.  There are plenty of great books about design.  This one’s about the industry, and I’m really glad that someone wrote it, because I don’t think this information is readily available.

I’m really looking forward to referring to Lizzy’s book over and over again.  I’ll certainly be looking at fabric collections with a new eye from now on.  Especially the 200 metres’ worth of fabrics we’ll be using for the V&A’s Patchwork Social, which I’m in the middle of planning right now!  (YES!  I figure that since Sue Prichard has mentioned it in her blog, I’m allowed to talk about it on mine now… sometimes I think I have the best job in the world.  More about the Patchwork Social in a future post.)

Old chair

Old chair

When we moved into our new place in April, my husband’s family kindly gave us four dining room chairs that they’d had in their attic for 10 or 15 years.  The gray seat covers were a little the worse for wear – a few food and water stains, plus natural ageing, had made them look pretty tired.  We put some nice cushions on them to make them look prettier, but my plan had always been to repaint and recover them.

The repainting will have to be done some other time, but I’ve had the recovering fabric for ages now – my sister bought me Alexander Henry’s home-dec weight ‘Heath’ fabric in red for my birthday – so I finally got around to doing the first two out of four chairs last weekend.

My first tip: if the chairs are old, then when you’re removing the screws that attach the seats to the bases, replace them with new screws.  The old ones will be rusty.  Before we got the chairs my father-in-law had to re-cut one of the seat shapes because it had broken, and when he screwed it back onto the chair he used new screws.  Nice touch. Even though you can’t see them, it makes a difference.

Second tip: a flat-head screwdriver and a pair of pliers will help you get the old staples out when you’re removing the old fabric.  Wedge the screwdriver under the staples and press up just slightly – not too much, because this puts a lot of strain on your wrist.  Use the pliers to do most of the work and pull out the staples.  Depending on how old your chairs are, the staples may be rusty enough to break in two right in the middle, so you may have to pull out a lot of pieces.  Again, don’t strain your wrists!  There are a lot more staples than you’ll expect – there were about 100 in each seat on my chairs – so don’t do the staple removal all in one day.  It takes much longer to remove the old staples than to put the new fabric on the seat.

Staples

Staples

Third tip: the chair manufacturer may have added some plastic while stapling the original fabric to the seat.  I wondered why there was so much plastic, then realized it must be because the weave of the original seat fabric was quite loose – probably they didn’t want the threads to get pulled out of place by the staples, so the plastic piece was to smooth the surface down so there was less chance of catching the threads.  It also might be to protect the fabric from the rust the staples will eventually get.  Don’t be surprised by the plastic – but if your new fabric has a finer weave and you doubt your chairs are going to withstand much rust-inducing damage (like spilled drinks, maybe) then you don’t have to include a layer of plastic when you’re putting the new fabric on.

Tip 4: Use the old fabric piece from the chair seat as a template for the new one, but cut yours bigger.  The ones on my chairs turned out to just be squares, which is what I suspect will happen on most normal-sized dining room chairs.  That’s fine, but the manufacturer cut them the smallest size possible so as not to waste material.  I don’t like wasting material, but I do like having some leeway to work with, so I cut my new fabric several inches bigger on each side.  That way, I could staple it to the chair seat a little closer to the middle – thus covering up all the ugly holes the removed staples had just left, and stapling them to an area slightly closer to the centre of the seat, which was untouched and intact.

Tip 5: Pull the material as taut as possible and put a staple in the centre of each side and then in each corner so that the material is stretched as much as possible right away in all directions.  Then go back and fill in the gaps.  I certainly didn’t use 100 staples in one seat like the manufacturer originally did – I probably used around 40, spacing them out judiciously.

New chair

New chair

Tip 6: Your old chair might have come with another piece of cloth that was stapled on top of all the other stapling just to hide all the mess on the underside of the chair.  You don’t need to add this to your newly-recovered chair, unless you’re a perfectionist.  Just staple all the fabric in such a way so that nothing hangs down from the underside of the seat.  Unless small children are going to crawl under your chair and notice (and care) that your chair undersides are not perfectly beautiful, skip it.

It only took about 10 minutes to staple the new fabric onto the chair seat, and our house looks completely different with just one small change.  I’m looking forward to repainting the chairs, too – that will really make a huge difference!

Here’s a sneak preview of a quilt I’m making for my sister’s birthday.  I’ve nearly finished with the patchwork (both sides – it’s double-sided because I couldn’t decide what fabrics she would like best!), and I’m estimating the basting, quilting and binding will take another 2 weeks – so it’ll be done just before her birthday.  Too bad she lives in Canada and it’ll get there late!

It needs ironing, as you can see.

One side of the double-sided surprise birthday quilt

One side of the double-sided surprise birthday quilt

I finally finished the quilt I’d been making for the last 5 months… it only took 5 more hours of work!  I can’t believe I had it in the house so long and didn’t realize that there was so little left to do on it.  The holidays certainly helped me find 5 hours in a row to finish it up.  We’ve been sleeping with it for the past week, and although it isn’t as thick as I thought it would be, it certainly is comfortable.  I was worried about the bottom layer, because it was newly-bought cotton and it was very stiff until after about six washes.  The top never worried me – most of it is my husband’s old shirts, cut up!  A new use for old and beloved clothing.  And since it’s still the holidays, I’m already on a second quilt project…

Finished quilt on bed (on top of regular duvet)

Finished quilt on bed (on top of regular duvet)

I stumbled across two awesome do-it-yourself sites in the past week, thanks to some of the great bloggers out there.  The first one is Ponoko, which allows you to do what I’ve always wanted to do: design something and then have someone else laser-cut it for you from wood, Perspex or felt.  When I was making jewellery, I wanted to experiment with creating patterns from wood, but I couldn’t find a maker who would laser-cut them for me.  Problem solved with Ponoko!

The second site is Spoonflower, which allows you to print your own fabric designs.  I squealed with excitement when I saw this one.  My other wish is granted!  I’ve always wanted to create my own fabric, and even took a textile design course, but making the design is more important to me than actually producing the fabric, and although I loved doing it, I was always kind of disappointed with my results.  I wanted something that looked like it had been professionally printed.  I can’t wait to try this out, but I need a few weeks to come up with a good design.  See the Flickr Spoonflower Fabric Design Pool for some great designs by Spoonflower users.

One of my Ponoko Christmas ornaments

One of my Ponoko Christmas ornaments

I placed my first order with Ponoko today – a set of four Christmas ornaments I designed myself.  They’re going to be cut from red-tinted perspex.  I can’t wait to see them!  I had to teach myself Inkscape (an open-source vector drawing program, kind of like Adobe Illustrator) to make them, so the designs are rudimentary, but this is just a practice run for some jewellery designs that I’ll be making.  I’ll be teaching a 2-day course in jewellery design at the V&A in May, and we’ll be producing our designs with Ponoko.  The only disappointing thing is that shipping my ornaments to the UK is going to cost more than producing them – quite a hefty sum.  I think it’s worth trying out the service, though, and if I like the results my challenge will be to work out how to use the greatest amount of surface area in order to keep costs down.  Awesome idea, though – I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time!

Japanese hair comb, 19th century

Japanese hair comb, 19th century

This weekend, the V&A is hosting Designerama!, an event to celebrate the opening of the new Sackler Centre for arts education.  The digital team (that’s me and two colleagues) are hosting the V&A Flickr Design Challenge.  We’ll be lending digital cameras to museum visitors and asking them to take pictures of their favourite objects that embody good design, then upload them to the Flickr group we’ve created.

I went around the museum today taking pictures of my favourites to upload ahead of time – like this Japanese silk kimono fabric and this short, squat silver teapot by Christopher Dresser.  We’re looking forward to finding out what other people consider the objects that represent good design.  I’m sure there will be countless definitions of what people actually consider good design.  How do you define good design?