July 5, 2016

Class review: Designing fabric with Pattern Camp

With all the new ways to get fabric custom printed – Spoonflower, Sprout Patterns and MyFabricDesigns to name a few – I’ve been wanting to learn how to make really cool repeating patterns so that I could get my very own fabric made for garments. I don’t know about you but every time I get a fabric where I can barely find the repeat it blows my mind… but now I finally know how to do it. While I was at Craftcation I had a recommendation to take Jessica Swift’s Pattern Camp class (which I paid for) – and I loved it! If you get really into it, you can even sell your designs on sites like Spoonflower. So, I thought I’d share a bit about it with you today.

Pattern Camp is an online class run a couple of times a year – the next one is July 16/17th (registration closes July 15) – and it’s run as a weekend class if you want to do it live, or you can take the classes over time. Jessica Swift is an expert at making fantastic patterns, and she takes you through everything you need to know to make your own fabric (or stationery, or wallpaper or… anything else that can be printed).

Among other things, the class covers finding inspiration and building colour palettes (SO FUN), how to transfer an existing image or painting into vector artwork that you can then play with, and how to do various types of repeats in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop (there are also little intros to both programs if you’re not familiar). There are tons of tricks and tips in Pattern Camp which I never knew about, and have even helped me in when I’m designing my sewing patterns.

I started off by sketching some palm designs in my sketchbook, scanned them in, and then followed the lessons to do the clean-up and separate out the pieces.


Then the fun starts! I changed the sketches into vector images, and then using a few clever tricks, converted them into a form where you can really easily change all the colours (something which totally eluded me in the past).


Once I had the motifs I played with repeats – these were simple brick repeats. There are some very un-intuitive steps to do this, I must say… ‘magic squares’ and all. But once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. I printed the pink one on to a Sprout Patterns tote bag and have been using it tons.


Next up, I wanted to try something a bit more complicated, so I started with this image of a peony and used a different technique to turn it into a much more graphic design.


Then I used the more complicated half-drop repeat technique and after a bit of puzzling, figured it out. It gives an even more “natural” random-looking repeat. I’m printing up the left hand side blue one on a jersey from MyFabricDesigns to make an Appleton Dress and the green one onto a light cotton to make a secret upcoming pattern!


Finally, I used the possibilities of custom-printing to make a “colour-blocked” Breton stripe with the white block at the top. This time, I painted a water-colour stripe, scanned it in, and used Photoshop to make it into a continuous line that can repeat with no problems. You can see the final Concord t-shirt I designed with this fabric over on Sprout.


So, if you’ve been thinking about getting into fabric design I totally recommend Pattern Camp. In addition to all the excellent tuition there’s also a really active Facebook group where people get advice, share designs and there are monthly challenges to take part in. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them!

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3 thoughts on “Class review: Designing fabric with Pattern Camp

  1. Birgit says:

    Thank you for the recommendation, this looks like a great class! It has always puzzled me how to do these repeats… Love your designs! Can’t wait to see the finished garments with your peony designs 🙂

  2. pitchinwoo says:

    Thanks for writing about this I’ve always been interested in printing my own fabric, but had no idea where to start. Online workshop classes are a godsend as I live int he land of no sewing. 🙂

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