How to Create Your Own Indie Fabric Designs

How to Create Your Own Indie Fabric Designs

Create your own indie fabric designs and make the world a better place. One full of dresses and cushions featuring space owls. Oh, yes. Space owls.

You don’t have to be a professional to create a printed fabric. How many times have you seen stuff in the shops and thought: “yes, it’s true that I like owls. I do. But the owls on that dress are shop-bought owls. I want owls with googly eyes. I want crying owls and I want owls reading to each other, because owls should never be lonely. I want birds of the forest with crimson plumage and wonky wings getting squiffed on berries and falling out of trees.” Basically, you know what you want for your dress/cushion/curtains/whatever, and you think you could draw it, or get a friend to do it… but it’s not out there.

What do you do?

You think your own beautiful design thoughts, then hit the internet. The internet will turn your design dreams into a silky, cottony, twill-y, wallpapery reality.

First, consider your design. Repeating patterns work well. Arts and crafts genius William Morris is one of the great heroes of fabric design, and he managed to get his (very complicated) organic repeating patterns to look heart-achingly easy:

Wallpaper design by William Morris. Just… how does he even…

However, for your fabric design you may want something a little… different. Maybe your fabric will consist of the periodic table or endless rows of alchemical symbols. Maybe it will consist of Russian scrabble letters repeated over and over (you sexy thing).

Russian scrabble letters? Yes please.

If you can find something you love from the internet (or from a comic/vinyl album cover etc., because who wouldn’t want to have their body clothed in David Bowie’s beautiful face) then you don’t even need to worry about the design, so long as you’re happy with it and it works as a repeating pattern. If it’s just fabric for yourself, don’t worry about copyright. If you’re planning on selling the fabric, it’s better if you own rights to the design because you’ve created it yourself. Just to be on the safe side.

If you’re working with your own designs, think about creating a tile which will have shapes or figures with several variations so that it’s not immediately obvious it’s a repeating pattern. Getting shapes cut in half to line up with each other can be done but it requires extra thinking, so it makes life a bit easier if you have empty space around your tile’s border. This will make it much easier to repeat. The best thing to do is to scrawl some ideas in a square on a bit of paper, photocopy it and lay the tiles next to each other so you can see how they fit and if there’s anything you want to improve.

Finally, unless you’re familiar with fabric printing or would like to learn, you can just trot along to online stores who sell custom fabrics from independent designers and will let you make your own. The lovely Amanda (the very first Mookychick and a rather fine graphic designer) sourced It’s a place where you can buy fabric or wallpaper made by other very gifted indie designers just like yourself. Alternatively you can upload your own design and have it printed out on silk, on cotton, on twill, voile, canvas, sateen… there’s a pretty good variety of fabrics and you can print as much as you like.

If you’re a talented artist or seamstress who’s tired of working with the same designs, creating your own indie fabric (and maybe getting it touted as indie fabric of the week on Spoonflower or an equivalent site) could be a clever opportunity for you to get your name out there.

Just as importantly, it means you can finally sew that dress of your dreams. You know, the one with resplendent birds of paradise tottering about with wonky wings.

One of the many designs created by indie crafters at Spoonflower. This one’s for a Halloween cushion and is designed to be printed at one yard.