A while back, I accepted a commission to make a gazillion tiny plush koi fish for wedding favors. I had worked out all the details, what they were supposed look like, how big, what color, etc., and then I got stuck. I didn’t know what to make them out of. Normally I use felt for my little plushies, but I needed something with a particular fish scale pattern. After an exhaustive search I hadn’t found anything that fit and I was actually starting to consider ways to paint the scales on. Then in a moment of brilliance, I remembered hearing about an awesome sounding website called Spoonflower a few months back. Spoonflower offers custom printed fabrics and the minimum order size is less than a yard. I have to admit, once I remembered this I was thrilled to have an excuse to try it out. The idea of being able to get exactly what I wanted without all the searching was pretty fantastic. So I whipped up the pattern I needed and ordered me some fabric. A week or so later, and ta-da! My fancy fabric showed up in the mailbox.
I have to say it’s pretty satisfying getting something that you designed yourself. Also, I still have a childlike delight for getting things in the mail. All in all I am very pleased with this purchase. I ended up ordering my fishy pattern in three different color themes on quilting weight cotton. The fabric feels good and the colors turned out perfect (I did make sure to use their recommended color palette). So far it is working out great for my little koi. Now I can finally get going on this project!
If you been unable to find that particular pattern you want or fancy yourself a budding textile designer, you might give it a try. For the Photoshop users out there, here is a handy tutorial for making a pattern tile-able. I’ve also made a little diagram of how a pattern fits together. I know it’s pretty obvious, but I find it easier if I have a visual reference. I would also suggest that if you are making a tile-able pattern, start filling in the edges first. Once all the edges match you can fill in the middle however you want. And if you just enjoy making patterns, you can make your designs available to the public and you get a small commission for each sale. Just remember folks: if you are creating a pattern, respect intellectual property rights! Don’t “borrow” copyrighted material even if it’s just for you. There is so much license free material out there, so you have no excuse.
If all that is too scary, you can also browse through the tons of cool designs for sale that other people have contributed. One of the other things I’ve seen on there that looks really fun is patterns for dolls, plushies, masks, and other goodies printed directly on the fabric. You purchase the “project” and it’s sort of like getting a kit. All you have to do is cut it out and sew it together.
Now that I’ve thoroughly geeked out about this, I do have to say it has some drawbacks. It is a bit on the pricey end. I spent a while lusting after all the pretties Spoonflower has to offer because I couldn’t quite justify spending that much on a whim. If I hadn’t had this commission, it probably would have been a lot longer. I don’t often use the types of fabric they offer. It’s definitely a useful high-quality product, all the fabrics are organic natural fibers too, but unfortunately at this point in time it’s not something I see myself using very often. Of course window shopping is free so I will continue to long even if I don’t need any of it.