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The design process behind my fabric

People often ask me where I get my inspiration for fabric design. I am inspired by nature, architecture, antique fabric and wallpaper, and so much more. But a lot of my design inspiration comes from other art. There are design archive companies which cater to fabric and wallpaper designers. They have thousands of pieces of art that they, themselves, have collected to show to designers.

At the Starbucks in Kyoto
At the Starbucks in Kyoto

I have just recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Japan where I met with the artists who work with me on my fabric collections. I also went to the printing facility that prints my fabrics. I try to go periodically to personally touch base with the people who work with me and to also look through their design archives.

On my most recent trip, I looked at more than 10,000 pieces of art in two days. I was getting bleary eyed! When looking at each, it is important to look beyond what is actually there. I look for interesting textures, motifs, backgrounds. Sometimes, something with really high contrast or bold electric colors catches my eye even though I would never use it as is. I look for parts of the design that I can manipulate to turn into something else.

Jinny with art2For instance, Chelsea, my most recent fabric collection, was inspired by designs that I selected on a previous trip to Japan. Let me show you an example of how this design worked for me.

Original floral design
Background design only

The first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful flowers on this more than 60-year-old piece of art. The second was the design in the background. Notice that there is too much separation between the flowers and the background making it a bit difficult to use in quilting. I also didn’t like the white dots on parts of the design.

Studying the design, I decided to make two fabrics from the one piece of art with  one being a separate fabric of just the background.  For the other, I eliminated the white dots and brought the value of the colors closer together.

I do most of this work in Photoshop and then send what I have done to the design studio. They make any corrections that I cannot do on my computer and send it back to me. Once I have the designs complete, I do the colors on my computer and send it back to Japan so they can prepare the art for printing.  Here are photos of three of the final fabrics in the collection

fabrics and backgroundsMost exciting for me is to finally have the designs the way I like them. I then work with the digital images to create a quilt using that collection. I will talk more about designing fabric in upcoming blogs.

Chelsea both colorways
Chelsea quilt in blue and pink granite

4 thoughts on “The design process behind my fabric

  1. Hi Ginny,
    Wow, that is an incredibly exciting process. I’ve been quilting for 20 years, and am just beginning to learn the design process and love it.
    The art catalogers – who cater to designers with the inspiring photos – do any of them post on websites for the beginning designer, like myself?
    My husband and I just spent 3 weeks in Italy. I found myself taking gazillions of photos and making little sketches. I am designing my first quilt top from inspirations in a small town we visited and loved in Italy called, Ostuni for the Michael Miller Challenge at QuiltCon.

    1. That is exciting that you are designing, good luck, we would love to see what it looks like when it is all done. At the moment we are not aware of any art catalogers who post online to the public.

      1. If you hear of any, please let me know at
        We traveled in Italy in the early fall, and I photographed and sketched many patterns and inspirations. That has been a good inspirational start. Thanks again for your response.

  2. Hello, Jinny.
    I try to study quilts that I think are successful and figure out what makes them work, and alternatively, study quilts that aren’t as successful (in my eyes) and figure out why they don’t work. So would be helpful to me if you could explain what you mean by the statement that the fabric had “too much separation between the flowers and the background” making it difficult to quilt? Thank you!

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